Tuesday, May 1, 2012

DIY Project: Revamp Your Accent Pillows

Before: green pillow in back.  After: orange pillow in front.
I like to change things up a bit now and again but I don't want to spend a bunch of money in the process either.  I'd been looking for weeks for some new throw pillows just to add a little pop of color in my living room but I couldn't find what I really liked for the price I wanted.  So why not jazz up the pillows I already have instead of paying more money for more pillows?  For this tutorial I'll show you how to make sham style pillow covers for your accent pillows.  This is an easy tutorial, but you may want to read through all the steps first to familiarize yourself with it first.

You will need:
  • fabric, enough to cover your pillow(s)
  • scissors
  • pencil
  • straight edge, I used a wooden paint stick
  • tape measure
  • straight pins
  • needle/matching thread or sewing machine
  • your pillow(s) you want to cover
First you want to measure your pillow.  Mine measured 17"x17".   The pillowcase I'm going to show you is a wrap around style like a pillow sham cover.  After measuring your pillow add 2" to the height then double your width and add  10" so you have plenty of overlap material.  Since my pillow is 17"x17" as I mentioned earlier I want my fabric piece to measure 19"x44".

Measure out your fabric that you need and mark with dashed lines
Connect the dashed lines with a straight edge for accuracy

With your measurements in hand, plot out your dimensions on your the non-printed side of fabric using your ruler, pencil and straight edge.  It easier to measure along the entire piece, making a dotted line and then use the straight edge to connect the dots.  This helps keep your lines straight.  Before you start cutting double check along your lines that they are the correct measurements!  Also be sure to cut as straight as you can so everything lines up well.
Be careful to cut straight along your line

After you cut your fabric, you'll want to mark your hem lines 1" from each edge on the non printed side of your fabric.  Do the same thing as you did to mark your fabric.  Using your ruler and pencil measure in 1" along each edge using dashed lines and then connect them using a straight edge.  Make sure to double check your measurements or else your hem will be crooked if it's off.  This is also why it's super important to cut your fabric straight!

Mark your hem line 1" along all 4 edges

After marking your hems and double checking that they're straight, fold over about a 1/4" of fabric.  Make sure your straight pins are handy as well.  This will prevent your hem from fraying.

Fold the fabric over just a little

Next fold over again up to your hem line that your marked.  Pin the hem in place.  Do this for the top and bottom or the two sides.  Don't do this for all four sides at once, you need to sew two opposing sides at a time or the hem will look funny.  Make sure to keep the hem the same thickness as you go.

Fold the fabric again up to the hem line that you marked out
Secure your hem with a straight pin

After pinning the opposing hems, fold your fabirc in half and make sure the hems are straight and line up.  If not, go back and re-pin the areas that don't line up to straighten them.  Do this until each side is straight.

Make sure your hem is straight by folding your fabric in half

Once you are satisfied that your hem is straight, begin sewing them with a basic hem stitch.  I don't have a sewing machine, nor do I know how to use one so I just did mine by hand with a needle and thread (I'm nutty I know).  My grandmother taught me well to sew by hand but if you are unfamiliar here is an easy to understand site with the basic hand stitches (and how to end them) I use in this tutorial.  Look for the Blind Hem Stitch.  If you have a sewing machine by all means use it!  Here's how to do the stitch on your machine.  If doing this by hand make sure to keep your stitches uniform and neat or else it will look terrible on the outside of your pillow case.  Remove your straight pins as you go.

Secure your hem with a blind hem stitch, keeping the stitches uniform

Once you finish stitching your hem in place on the first two sides, do the same with the other two.  Remember to fold over about a 1/4" first then fold over again to your hem line, securing with straight pins as you go.  It may be a little tough to fold over where your hem overlaps from the adjoining side, but make sure it's straight!  Again, fold your fabric and half and compare the hems you pinned.  Fix any place that doesn't line up.

Fold over 1/4"

Fold again to your marked hem line
Secure with pins

Start sewing the last two hems.  Make sure to keep your corners square, your hems straight and your stitching uniform.  Use a few quick stitches to keep your corners tidy.

Keep your corners square and secure with a few quick stitches

With all four edges done, place your pillow in the center of the fabric.  Your pillow should fit perfectly without too much slack on the top and bottom of the fabric.

Place pillow in center of fabric

After making sure your pillow is centered, fold over one side of the fabric.  Make sure to fold it snug, but not too tight or it will be difficult to put your pillow in when done.

Fold over one side

Now fold over the other side, again making sure it's snug but not overly tight.

Fold over other flap

Line up your edges and smooth the fabric over the pillow to keep everything straight.  Using your pins, secure the bottom of the case all along the open end and also up the folded over seam to keep your case together.  Take care not to pin the case to the pillow.

Secure one end with pins and also along the seam up the middle

Very carefully remove the pillow through the open top of the case.  Smooth the fabric out and make sure it's square.  Pin the top opening of the case.

Carefully pull the pillow out and secure the top with pins as well

Now you'll want to stitch the open top and bottom seams using a slip stitch so the stitch is invisible from the outside.  If you don't know how to do this, again refer to this handy guide and look for Slip Stitch.  I'm not sure if you can do this on a sewing machine, but it's really easy to do by hand and is fairly quick as well.  Make sure to keep your stitching tight but not so tight that it cinches the fabric.  If you do it too loosely, then your fabric will gap.  Remove your pins as you sew.

Sew the open top and bottom seams with a slip stitch and keep them tight

When you come towards the middle where your overlapping flaps are, secure them in place by snagging a little of the fabric every other stitch. 

Secure the inner flap by snagging a little fabric every other stitch

Once you've sewed the top and bottom you're all done!  Remove all your pins if there's any you have missed.  Now insert your pillow into the case like you would a pillow sham.  You're done!  Well you're done with one at least!

All done and Kaylie approved!
Now if you have have more pillows you can make new covers for them too!  You can also alter the steps a bit too and make a whole new pillow if you prefer.  Instead of making it long enough to overlap, just sew three sides using the slip stitch, and stuff with poly-fill before you sew it shut!  I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!


  1. Amazing how some new pillows (or covering) can freshen up and add so much to a room. Thanks for sharing....

    1. Yes, it made a huge difference and they're easy to remove and wash too!


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