Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sewing 101: Project #1 / Simple Pillow Sham

Now that you know how to use your sewing machine and how to make seams and hems - you are finally ready to sew something!

A pillow sham with an envelope opening in the back is a super simple, fast and easy first sewing project.  Beyond that, throw pillows are a staple of interior decoration and can be used almost anywhere (on couches and chairs, beds, benches, etc).  By creating your own, not only are you practicing your newly acquired sewing skills, but you are also on your way to being able to customize your space yourself!

The following are instructions for a standard euro-size throw pillow (26"x26"); however, once you understand how to do it, you will be able to alter the design to fit whatever size or shape of pillow you want to make!


- Basic sewing machine
- 1 meter of 54" wide fabric of your choice (I suggest starting with a cotton print)
- 1 small spool of thread (colour to match the main colour of your fabric)
- Fabric scissors
- Straight pins
- Measuring tape
- Pencil
- Meter/yard stick (optional)


STEP 1: Measure and Cut

If your fabric is fairly wrinkled you may want to iron it first. When you're ready, lay out 1 layer of your fabric on a smooth, flat surface (floor, table, etc), wrong-side up (printed side down).  

a) Pillow Front: 
Starting at the corner of the fabric, measure 27" vertically and use your pencil to place a mark on the fabric.

Starting at the same corner of the fabric where you measured vertically, measure 27" horizontally and use your pencil to place a mark on the fabric.

Starting at your 27" vertical mark, measure 27" horizontally and use your pencil to place a mark.

Check to make sure your mark is in the right place by starting at your 27" horizontal mark and measuring 27" vertically.  It should be on, or close to the mark you have made (if not alter it until it is).

Cut out a 27" x 27" square of fabric according to your marks.
(If you want, you can use a meter/yard stick to draw a line connecting your marks and then cut along your lines but I usually just eye ball it and try to cut as straight a line as possible - it doesn't have to be perfect).

This will be your pillow front:

Q: I want to make a 26"x26" pillow why am I cutting a 27"x27" square?
A: You have to cut your fabric slightly larger than what you want your finished product to be to allow room for the seam when it is sewn (called "seam allowance").  I generally recommend using a 1/2" seam, so you would need to cut your fabric 1/2" longer than the size of your pillow on either side (1" total).  Thus, we cut a 27"x27" square to create a 26"x26" finished product.

b) Pillow Back (Envelope Opening)
Starting at the corner of your remaining fabric, measure and mark 27" horizontally, and 21" vertically.

Starting at your 21" vertical mark, measure and mark 27" horizontally.

Check to make sure your mark is in the right spot by measuring 21" vertically from your 27" horizontal mark.  You should be on or close to your mark.

Cut out a 27"x21" rectangle of fabric.

Repeat the process one more time, or lay the piece you have just cut out on top of your fabric and cut around it to create another piece of the same size.

These 2, 27"x 21" rectangles will form the pillow back and the envelope opening.

Q: I understand that these pieces need to be 27" wide to fit with the pillow front, but why are they 21" long?
A:  To create the envelope opening in the back we need these two pieces to overlap sufficiently in order to conceal the pillow form once stuffed into the pillow sham. We divide the 27" length in half (13.5") and then add a good couple of inches to ensure sufficient overlap (in this case 6.5" = 20"), and then add an additional 1" to the length for the hem allowance - thus giving us a final length of 21".

STEP 2: Hem Back Pieces

Using the instructions found in SEWING 101 on hemming to hem one 27" edge of each back piece.

Fold edge down 1/2" and iron.
Fold over again and iron.
Sew with a straight stitch.
Repeat so you have 2.

 STEP 3: Pin Front to Back Pieces

Lay the pillow front out on a smooth, flat surface right-side up (printed side up). 

Take one of the back pieces and lay it on top of the pillow front right-side down with the hemmed edge toward the middle of the pillow front.  Align the outside edges of the pillow back piece with the pillow front piece.

Take the remaining back piece and lay it right-side down on top of the other side of the pillow front piece with the hemmed edge toward the middle (should overlap the other back piece).  Align the outside edges of the pillow back piece with the pillow front piece.

Pin front and back pieces together around the outside edges.

STEP 4: Sew Front and Back Pieces Together

Using a straight stitch, sew the edges of the front and back pieces together creating a 1/2" seam, removing the pins as you go.

Watch this little video to learn how to sew around corners:

When finished, secure the seam around the outside edges with a zig-zag stitch.

STEP 5: Finishing

Turn pillow sham inside out, pushing out the corners.

Stuff the pillow sham with an appropriately sized pillow form and use to decorate wherever you want!


  1. I love that fabric! Your tutorial is supremely easy to follow! Thanks for sharing! Have a great weekend! Kelly xoxo

  2. just tried this! so simple and great success. Thank you for the tutorial. I am new to sewing so my question is when you say -" 1 meter of 54" wide fabric" what does that mean? I made a mistake when I had my fabric cut and had to downsize my pillow

    1. I am so happy to hear that you tried this and were successful!

      What I mean by 1 meter of 54" wide fabric is this:
      54" is the width of the fabric off the bolt. Typically most fabric is either 44" or 54" wide and then you can get as much length as you need (in this case 1 meter). You can use fabric that is more narrow (ex: 44"), but you would just need to get more length to compensate for the lack of width (ie: 2 meters). I hope that makes sense!

      :) Abby

  3. Great tutorial here!
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  4. I made mine tonight! Great instructions!! Thanks!

  5. Hi quick question! Was 1 meter (54" width) of fabric enough for making the cover of one 26" Euro sham? Sorry just asking coz I'm afraid to run short! Thanks. ☺

  6. Can you explain how to created bed bath linen and how do design it.

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  9. Excellent information provided thanks for all the information. I must say great efforts made by you. thanks a lot for all the information you provided.
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