How to Make a Small Pillow by Hand




Introduction: How to Make a Small Pillow by Hand

About: I like making things like books and I also like cooking.

I like to use up fabrics, trims, and notions from my stash. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a whole hoard of goodies to choose from! So for this project, I chose a pretty floral quilter’s cotton for my pillowcase fabric and a coordinating cuff from polka dots. Sheeting, poly cottons and poplins are probably more ideal fabrics for bedding (especially for faces to rest against). But I couldn’t resist the roses! I’m sure my daughter won’t mind. I also discovered some pretty lace, ric rac and braid that worked together well. You could use ribbon too.

Step 1:


– fabric for the pillowcase and coordinating fabric for the cuff. Cut these to size using a cutting mat, cutting guide (ruler) and rotary cutter (or a big flat surface and a measuring tape). The dimensions are as follows;

Pillowcase top – 21 inches of fabric length x 23 inches of fabric width

Pillowcase back – 21 inches of fabric length x 31 inches of fabric width

Pillowcase cuff (from coordinating fabric) – 21 inches of fabric length x 9 inches of fabric width. – 21 inches of trims like lace, ric rac, and braids that work well together.

– scissors

– sewing machine and overlocker (serger)

– iron and ironing board

Step 2:

Lay your piece of lace right side up, on the right side (width) of the pillowcase top. Take your cuff and lay it carefully over the lace so that the fold faces the base of your fabric.

Step 3:

Pin all four layers together (base fabric, lace, and two cuff layers).

Stitch the layers together. I used my four-thread overlocker (serger), which creates a straight seam stitch, as well as finishing the edges at the same time. You can also stitch the layers together on your sewing machine first. Then finish the seam with your overlocker (serger) or with a zig zag stitch afterwards. Be sure to use a smaller seam allowance, no more than 3/8”. And be sure not to stitch over your pins, but remove them as you go.

Step 4:

Press your seam towards the body of the pillowcase so that it rests under the lace (be very careful with your iron heat settings if your lace or trims are polyester based).

Flip it over and gently press the lace down flat (use a press cloth if necessary). Lay out your trims to decide the best way to pin and stitch them.

Step 5:

I pinned my ric rac over the seam line first.

Then I pinned my braid in place. Using complementary threads, stitch down your braid with the sewing machine. Use a stitch length suitable for the project. If it’s too small, it may create puckering through your layers. I stitched the right side first, then the left. I used my clear sewing machine foot (sometimes called an appliqué foot), so that it was easier to see what I was doing. And I used the foot edge as a stitching guide for straighter seams.

Step 6:

When you’ve finished, your pillowcase top should look like this.

Step 7:


First we’ll need to hem one edge of the fabric width. This will form part of the fold that we tuck our pillow into. Take your pillowcase back piece and press over a 3/8” fold on one side of the width of the fabric. Fold it over the same again and press flat. Pin the hem down for easier stitching and use a straight stitch on your machine to hem the fabric. Be sure your threads (especially your bobbin) are coordinating colours! At this stage, I like to sew a care tag in the seam.

Step 8:

Give everything a quick press and we’re ready to put it all together.

Step 9:

Lay your pillowcase base ‘face up’ on a flat surface. Lay your pillowcase top ‘face down’ over the base piece (so right sides are facing together). Be sure to match up the left hand edges. The right side will have an overhang. Pin the top, bottom and left hand edges together neatly.

On the right hand side (or opening of your pillowcase), the base piece will have a large overhang (about 12cm or 5”). Take that piece and fold it over the edge of the pillowcase top, so that you are covering the cuff. Pin the sides of the overhang down (by replacing any pins you’ve used to pin the pieces together underneath). At this point, make sure that your folded fabric sits exactly over your decorative cuff underneath and that there is no gap.

Step 10:

Using your sewing machine, stitch together the seams on three sides. Start at the top right of your pillowcase (we’re stitching the fold down here too).

Continue down this seam, pivot about 3/8” from the base, stitch again, pivot again at the next corner, and then stitch up until you reach the other end of the fold. I used a smaller stitch length at this point and a 3/8” seam allowance. Overlock (or serge) your edges, to give a neat finish. Here’s a close up image.

Step 11:

We’re almost there. Fold back the overhang and flip the pillowcase right way out. Give your seams a gentle press. Check your iron temperature and don’t forget to be careful of your trims!

Step 12:

Pop in your favourite pillow and you’re ready to go!

Step 13: Finish


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    5 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Gorgeous! Looks professional :)


    4 years ago

    This is SO well done! Thanks for sharing this! Do you run and the etsy shop?


    Reply 4 years ago

    No but my I use to know someone who worked there and they gave me the photos.

    That Redhead
    That Redhead

    4 years ago

    Beautiful work and photos! Brava!