Julie Herman from Jaybird Quilts shows us how to make a basic pillow today (the foundation for the rest of our tutorials all month long!). Once you’re comfortable with the basic pillow, she shows you how to step it up a notch by finishing your pillow with binding. Enjoy today’s tutorials, and use your new skills to “wow” everyone with your entry in our Great SMS Pillow Contest!

Pillows are a great simple project that can be made from start to finish in no time! While you can make a pillow and stuff it I suggest using a pillow form. Pillow forms are available at most quilt shops and hobby shops and take one step out of the process!

Some pillow forms have a non-woven cover.

Others have a woven cover. Not all pillow forms are made equal and you should be able to see the quality in construction through the packaging. In general you get what you pay for. Personally I prefer the non-woven cover pillows that fall in the middle of the price range.

Better quality pillow forms have a zipper closure. This allows you to add or remove filling if you want to make the pillow more or less stuffed. It also helps if you need to spot clean the pillow form.

One of the simplest pillows you can make doesn’t even have any quilting! It has just a few steps and you can easily make it in under an hour. I’m going to show you a 14” Pillow.

How to Make a Basic Pillow
For my pillow I started with a big bold panel print that I found at IKEA.

I used a large square fussy cut ruler (16.5″ Creative Grids Square) to determine what part of the panel I wanted on my pillow. I marked the 14.5” measurements.

Rotary cut out the piece you want to use for the front. For my 14” pillow form I cut my square at 14.5”.

Use a coordinate fabric for the back and cut out two rectangles 14.5″ x 10″.

Here is a table of common pillow form sizes and corresponding front and back measurements:

Iron ¼” on one long side over and then over again to encase raw edges. Pin in place.

Using matching thread topstitch this seam down. Repeat for second back piece.

Place pillow front right side up.

Place first back piece right side down as shown in photo with the finished seam down towards the middle.

Place second back piece right side down as shown in photo with the finished seam up towards the middle.

Place pins around the outside to hold the three pieces in place.

Use a ¼” seam to sew all three layers together.

Stop when you get ¼” away from the corner. If your machine has a needle down function use it to pivot the pillow cover 90Ëš. If your machine does not have a needle down function carefully pivot the pillow cover without pulling much of the thread from the bobbin or the needle.

Continue sewing all the way around the pillow form.

Trim off the excess bulk in the corners.

You can also add some extra stitching for strength in the corners if you want.

Remove all of the pins and turn the pillow cover right side out. Insert pillow form and you are done!

      Many people like their pillows to be a bit more stuffed. This can be achieved in a few simple ways.


      1. Add more stuffing into the pillow form.


      2. Sew using a ½” seam instead of a ¼” seam. This will cause the pillow cover to have a tighter fit over the pillow form.


    3. Use different measurements. For example instead of cutting a 14.5” square for a 14” pillow you could cut a 14” or 13.5” square. This will give a similar result to method #2. How different you choose to make your measurements is up to you, but I personally suggest not changing them more than 10%.

I suggest you try each method and decide what works for you. Personally I use #3 the most often.

Finishing a Pillow with Binding
How many orphan blocks and partially made things do you have lying around near your sewing machine? If you are anything like me it’s more than you want to admit! Leftover blocks and partially made things make great pillows and help you use up your random bits. You can take a stray block and put borders on it to bring it up to size for the pillow form you have.

For the second pillow I’m going to show you how to finish your pillow with binding.

For this pillow I used a leftover coin strip from another project, put a frame around it, and quilted it with a grid pattern. I’m using a 14 x 28 pillow form and made my pillow front 13.5” x 26.5” so that it would be a snug fit.

Make a pillow top and quilt it as if it was a mini quilt.

Note: This method of finishing a pillow with binding works best when the front of your pillow is quilted. If the front is not quilted the binding doesn’t have as much to hold on to and it can be hard to hand stitch without showing through the front.

After quilting I basted around the “mini quilt” and trimmed it to size.

I use muslin as the backing for my “mini quilt” so that there is not bare batting when the pillow is finished.

The assembly here is very similar to pillow #1 but not identical. Since I’m going to finish this with binding I don’t have to assemble the pillow inside out.

Place quilted front right side down. Place first back piece on top with the wrong sides together as shown.

Note: With square pillows I always orient the back sections horizontally across the pillow. With rectangular pillows I always make the open section line up with the smaller side regardless of the pillow’s orientation.

Add the second back piece also with the wrong side down as shown.

Pin to hold the 3 layers together.

Set your machine to a long straight stitch.

Use a walking foot to baste the three layers together all the way around using a scant 1/8” seam. Remove pins once this is complete. After this step your pillow cover is assembled and you could put the pillow form in it even thought your raw edges are showing. If you are at all concerned about fit now is a good time to test it out before taking all the time to put the binding on.

Make enough binding to go around the pillow cover. I show step by step how to make binding in this post on my blog.

Here is a chart that shows how much binding you’ll need for each pillow. In general I use bias binging but I do use straight of grain on many of my more decorative and less daily use pillows.

Put the binding on your “mini quilt” that now has the back pieces basted on. I show step by step how to attach the binding to your quilt, or pillow in this case, on my blog.

Wrap around to the back and hand stitch in place. I show the method I use for hand stitching binding as well as how I finish off my corners in this post.

Take your time with the binding and it’ll be a great addition to your beautiful pillow!

The fabric in the second pillow is Metro Market and Remix by Ann Kelle for Robert Kaufman. Border is Kona Crush by Robert Kaufman.

This tutorial was created for Sew,Mama,Sew! Pillow Month and is not intended for any other distribution. © Tutorial written by Julie Herman. For more information visit http://www.jaybirdquilts.com/.

Enter our Pillow Contest! Create a pillow this month and enter to win some fabulous prizes.

You can also comment on any post this week for your chance to win one of these great prizes below, courtesy of Robert Kaufman Fabrics:

1 fat quarter pack of Betty Dear, 5 Kona Cotton color cards, 1 fat quarter pack of Night & Day in the Summer Colorstory, 10 sets of 5 Kona charm packs