Sewing a pillow- Part 1


Now that I have run out of furniture to work on, I have some time to devote to other activities.  This past week I decided to brush up on my sewing skills.  To be clear, I am not a “real” sewer. There are some truly talented seamstresses out there.  I am definitely not one of them.

I can sew very basic things like pillow covers with a zipper or curtains or simple quilts.  However, I have nowhere near the skills of perfection required for true, concise and accurate sewing.

Truth be told, I learned most of my sewing skills by watching You Tube videos and by just being willing to completely screw something up.  If I mess up, then I use the seam ripper to take out the stitches and I start again.

Also, I think it is important to note that I use a heavy duty sewing machine.  It has made all the difference in the world!  When I sew, it is usually with very heavy upholstery grade fabric. Denim, canvas, grain sack bags, hemp and heavy linen are examples of fabric I use.  For years I tried to use a conventional sewing machine and found things just got so bound up.  I can’t tell you how many needles I broke!  Now, I use a Singer Heavy Duty sewing machine that is very basic but extremely durable.  It’s perfect and I love it. This is not a promotional post. I am just sharing this with you because I truly find it makes a huge difference in my ability to sew thick and heavy fabrics.

Recently, while cleaning out our closet, Mr. Sky Lark House came across a pair of jeans that he no longer wanted.  They were in a pile to donate when I picked them up and realized these jeans were made of such a soft yet durable denim.  The jeans were worn and perfectly broken in.  So, I decided they would be perfect for the back of a pillow.



I rustled around in my fabric stash and came across an old canvas US Mail bag.  I asked Mr. SLH if he would like me to make a US Mail pillow. He said yes! The canvas mail bag will be the front of the pillow.

For this pillow I wanted to try something different.  I wanted to add cording or piping around the perimeter of the pillow.  It just adds such a nice touch of quality to pillows and slip covers.

However, adding piping can complicate the sewing process because you have three layers you are now connecting: the pillow front, the piping, and the back. Furthermore, with sewing – everything is inside out.  That is to say, you sew with all the “right sides” facing in.  So, figuring out how to incorporate the piping can get confusing.

To start off the project, I cut apart the jeans and patched together different sections.  This will be the back of the pillow. I wanted the pillow to be about 22 inches in length and about 18 inches in width.  After cutting out various pieces of denim, I pinned them together to see how it would look, and then I sewed them all together.




When cutting apart fabrics, if possible, I try to use pinking shears. They prevent the fabric from unraveling and keep the edges neat.  Pinking shears create the little zig zag edging shown in the photo above.

Here is a photo of the “right side” of the pillow panel with all the denim pieces stitched together.


After I had patched together the back of the pillow, I started working on creating the piping. Using the remaining fabric in the jeans, I created long strips of fabrics about 3 inches wide. I sewed all the strips together to create one long piece of skinny 3 inch fabric.


You will notice that my strips are not perfect in width.  That’s ok, you will see why.

Next, I used some cotton cording I had and put it in the center of the skinny strips. Switching out to the zipper foot on my sewing machine, I then sewed the three inch strips around the cording to cover it.


The finished piping is shown below.



When the piping was complete, I trimmed the front of the postal bag to incorporate into the pillow. I noticed that the length of the postal bag was a bit short for the size of the pillow I wanted, so I stitched in some antique hemp cloth to the top of the postal panel.

When I had the front, the back, the piping and the zipper – I pinned everything together. This is helpful so that before I stitch anything together, I can see if everything lines up and if I have attached everything in the right manner.  (More than once I almost sewed the piping on the inside of the pillow.)



All of this took the better part of an afternoon.  It took longer than anticipated because I had to keep fixing my mistakes and redoing my stitching.  This isn’t a pillow I would sell.  It’s a piece that I am working on to improve my skills and learn new techniques.  However, I am writing about it because I believe it is important to pursue something knowing it won’t be perfect. This is how we grow as individuals.  It forces us outside our comfort zones and that is how we get better at whatever we are pursuing.

Check back next week, and I will post the final result.  I will summarize my biggest challenges and what I would have done differently.

Thank you for stopping by the blog today.  I always appreciate that you take time out of your busy days to see what is going on in this corner of the world.

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