How to Make an Envelope Pillow with a French Seam

If you regularly read this blog, you may have noticed that I’ve had an obsession with pillow-making.
 
While the topic of pillow-making has been completely covered here, I didn’t want to move on without creating a pillow tutorial for the absolute beginning sewist.


I’ve created a very-simple-anyone-can-do-it tutorial to teach absolute beginner’s the very basics of sewing while stitching up an envelope pillow.
 
With this pillow, I’m also including instructions on how to interface fabric and how to sew a French seam. Both of these techniques will be invaluable to your future sewing.

Best of all, you will be amazed at how easy this is!


Let’s get started:

Supplies:

16” x 16” Pillow Form (Joanns/Hobby Lobby/thrifted pillow)
 
1/2 yard of 100% Cotton Fabric (quilting weight) {I’ve used 2 Quilting Fat Quarters}
 
1/2 yard fusible Woven Interfacing(Optional)
 
Pins and Pin Cushion
 
Water Soluble Marker
 
Sewing Gauge
 
Yardstick
 
Sewing Machine

Iron (with steam setting)

Scissors
 
Optional (but really useful) Items:
 
Rotary Cutter, Quilter’s Ruler, Self-healing Mat
 

How to Sew a Pillow 1

Pre-Project Steps:

A.  You will need to be familiar with your sewing machine.  Have it threaded in a complementary color thread with a new needle (80/12).

You may want to sew a few practice seams on some fabric scraps before moving forward.
 
If you struggle with this step, check out YouTube for video instructions specific to your sewing machine.
 
3

B.  Another pre-project step would be to wash, dry, and press your fabric.  You NEVER want to work with wadded up, wrinkled fabric.
 

How to Sew a Pillow 2
How to Sew a Pillow 3

STEP 1:  Find the Fabric Grain Line

I’ve done a separate tutorial here that gives you detailed instructions.  This step is essential when sewing with wovens.
 

1b

STEP 2: Cutting Out the Pillow Front

Cut a square from your fabric for your Pillow Front that is 1″ greater in length and 1″ greater in width than the pillow form. I cut out a piece that is 17″ x 17″ since my pillow form is 16″ x 16″.
 
{HINT} If you want your pillow form to fit more snugly, then decrease each measurement by 1/2”.
 
Be sure the Pillow Front is square using the methods I’ve shown in this tutorial.

How to Sew a Pillow 4
How to Sew a Pillow 5a

Step 3: Cutting Out the Pillow Back:

Since this is an Envelope Pillow, you are going to need a piece that is a little bit wider for your Pillow Back.

To make the envelope part, follow this simple formula: Take your pillow form dimensions and add 1″ to the length and 5″ to the width.

For our pillow, that means cutting out a piece of fabric that is 17″ x 21″ {because my pillow form is 16″ x 16″ and 16 + 5 = 21}.

If you want your pillow form to fit more snugly, then decrease each measurement by 1/2”.

How to Sew a Pillow 6

OPTIONAL STEP: Adding Interfacing

Most quilting-weight fabrics cost around $5-$10 per yard while décor fabrics cost around $20-$$$$ per yard.
 
A good way to make an inexpensive quilting-weight cotton act like a décor-weight fabric is to interface the back. Doing this will make your inexpensive fabric feel like an expensive fabric.
 
I prefer a fusible woven interfacing {like Pellon SF101} which can be picked up at Joann’s or Hobby Lobby.
 

Interfacing

The product comes with instructions, but all you need to do is set your iron to wool/steam. Place the fusible side of the product onto the wrong side of your fabric.  {HINT} Cut out the interfacing 1/4” smaller on each side and it will fit the fabric better.
 
Press (with steam) for 10 seconds, working across your fabric until the interfacing covers the back of your fabric.

How to Sew a Pillow 7

Step 4: Cutting Pillow Back in Half 

Once you have your Pillow Back cut out, flip it so the wrong side is facing up.  Find the middle of the 21” side; this will be 10.5″ from the side.  Draw a cutting line down the middle with a water soluble marker.

How to Sew a Pillow 8

Next, cut the Pillow Back in half on the cutting line. This will leave you with two pieces that are 17” x 10.5”

How to Sew a Pillow 9

 

Now, you have all of your pillow pieces cut out.

How to Sew a Pillow 10

Step 5: Finishing Edges of Pillow Back

You will now need to finish the edges that form the ‘envelope’ for your Pillow Back before attaching the Pillow Front to the Pillow Back.

You are going to create a double-turned hem, like you find on most jeans.

Fold the long edge (the side that is 17″) under 1/4″ and press.

How to Sew a Pillow 11
Now, fold over the same edge a second time and press.  Doing this encloses the raw edge of the envelope portion of the Pillow Back.  That’s how simple it is to make a double-turned hem.
 
Repeat on the other Pillow Back piece.
 
How to Sew a Pillow 12

Stitch down the folded edge of both Pillow Back pieces using a 2.5mm stitch length.
 

How to Sew a Pillow 13

You now have two Pillow Back pieces that are 17” x 10”.  When you assemble the pillow, the two finished edges will overlap to form the envelope.
 

How to Sew a Pillow 14

How to Sew a Pillow 15

About French Seams

We are about to attach the Pillow Front and the Pillow Back pieces using a French seam.  This type of seam encloses the raw edges and gives you a finished look on the inside as well as the outside.  It is also extremely durable because it is double stitched.

Normally, when you attach seams together you place your fabrics Right Sides together.  Then you stitch a seam and turn the fabric.

This gives you a clean edge on the outside of your project and raw edges are on the inside of your project.

How to Sew a Pillow 16
How to Sew a Pillow 18
How to Sew a Pillow 17a

A French seam is different because it encloses the raw edges and creates a ravel-proof seam.  This is done by stitching the seam twice.

Begin by pinning your fabrics Wrong Sides together.

How to Sew a Pillow 19
Stitch together using a 1/4” seam allowance.
 
How to Sew a Pillow 20

Fold the seam allowance to one side and press.

How to Sew a Pillow 21

Refold at the seam line, but this time put the fabrics Right sides together.

How to Sew a Pillow 22

Stitch together using a 3/8” seam allowance.  This will allow you to enclose the first seam and will prevent any ‘whiskers’ from showing on the front of your project.

How to Sew a Pillow 23b
How to Sew a Pillow 24

If you are new to sewing, you may want to practice this method before continuing.

Step 6: Attaching Pillow Front and Pillow Back 

On a flat surface, lay out the Pillow Front with the wrong side facing up.  With wrong sides together, lay the left Pillow Back piece on top of wrong side of Pillow Front, matching the left corners.  Pin to hold.

How to Sew a Pillow 25

Next, with wrong sides together, lay the right(hand) side of Pillow Back on top of Pillow Front.  This piece will overlap the left side of Pillow Back.
How to Sew a Pillow 26

Using a 1/4” seam allowance, stitch around the entire pillow, backstitching at the overlaps.

Carefully remove pins as you stitch.  You do not want to sew over pins.

How to Sew a Pillow 27

When you come to each of the corners you will want to stop sewing, drop the needle, and raise the presser foot.

How to Sew a Pillow 28a
Pivot the fabric around the corner, lower the presser foot, and continue sewing until you reach your starting point.
How to Sew a Pillow 29

Carefully, clip the fabric from each corner to allow for less bulk when turning.  Be careful not to cut into the seam allowance.

How to Sew a Pillow 30

Turn pillow inside out with Pillow Front and Pillow Back pieces now facing right sides together.

Press the seams flat and pin along the 3/8” seam allowance.  Stitch a 3/8” seam around the pillow’s perimeter; be sure to pivot at the corners.

How to Sew a Pillow 31

Can you believe that this is the inside of our pillow cover?

How to Sew a Pillow 32

Turn the pillow cover right side out.  Push out the corners with something that has a blunt tip, like a knitting needle or chop stick.

Press the entire pillow cover until it lays flat.

How to Sew a Pillow 33

How to Sew a Pillow 34

Slip the pillow form into the envelope opening in the back.

How to Sew a Pillow 35
Simple and chic!
How to Sew a Pillow 36
The possibilities are endless…
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Comments

  1. Wow Leslie what a thoroughly detailed tutorial! Can you believe, I’ve never sewn a French seam in my life? Maybe now is the time!!!!

  2. p.s. Male pumpkin flowers bloom daily! No females yet…

  3. Nice tut, love the French seams…makes items look finished and not made in Home Ec class! Have a great week ahead :)

  4. How nice of you to give such a detailed pillow tutorial for the sewing newbees. It helps build confidence with a successful project. I’m crazy about pillow making too!

  5. Very pretty, and your tutorial is excellent. Thanks for sharing at our Handmade Tuesdays party.

  6. Hi Leslie: Thank you for sharing this step-by-step post–I appreciate it!

  7. I’ve made bunch of pillows, but I didn’t know about adding interface to the back of the fabric. Thanks so much for sharing that!!!

  8. This was a fantastic tutorial! I’m excited to try french seams now :o)

  9. What a thorough step by step process. Looks great! Thank you for posting on Saturday Show and Tell. I can’t wait for what you’ll be posting this week, hope to see you back!
    -Mackenzie
    http://www.cheeriosandlattes.com

  10. Great tutorial! Thanks so much! Shared it on my blog!

  11. Hi, I’m new to sewing but have started making cushion covers using silk. This tutorial is great, the only bit I’m confused about is where you have said “Begin by pinning your fabrics Wrong Sides together”. Which two pieces are these? It looks to me that they are the back pieces but this is confusing? Sorry to be thick!

    • Thank you for this great question ~ I always want to clarify instructions. The “Begin by…together” applies to Step #6 when you are attaching the pillow front to the two pillow back pieces. Because the Back is in two pieces, you will attach one side of the back Wrong Sides Together AND then the other side of the Back Wrong Sides Together. Then, follow the rest of the directions. Let me know if you need more clarification.

  12. I’m also confused about the part that says “Begin by…together”. Sorry to be doppy but I don’t understand your explanation of “attach one side of the back”? Please could you give further clarification, I’m still confused! Thank you!!

    • French seams are a two-part process. Most fabrics are attached ‘right sides together.’ With French seams, you attach ‘wrong sides together’ first, then turn the fabric so the seams are then ‘right sides together.’ Try the method on some scraps first and you will see how this process works.

  13. What a great way to teach French seams – I intend to add this (along with the piping tutorial) to my sewing lessons for my granddaughter. I am having so much fun reading your older blogs. I always learn something and find such useful info.

    • I’m thrilled to know that my tutorial will be used to pass sewing on to the next generation. Thanks for sharing this :)

  14. Thanks for the detailed tutorial! I have been wanting to make some pillows like this and now I have no excuse. Your explanation is fantastic.

  15. This is a great tutorial for beginners like me! Thank you for taking the time to explain it (and take photos) step-by-step.

  16. Love. This. I love making pillows – this is great! Thanks so much for linking up to the “Best Of The Weekend” party! Stay tuned for the next party this Fri. eve – I’m ramping it up “a couple of notches”!! In the meanwhile, I am pinning this!! :)
    xoxo

  17. Fabulous tutorial! I’ve pinned it. That french seam looks really nice. I’ve been wanting to make some envelope pillows. Thanks for sharing with us.

  18. This was a wonderful tutorial. I linked to it in a recent post, so I wanted to share that post with you. Our little blog is getting some good traffic from this post, so I hope the traffic love is heading your way as well.

    Again, thanks for sharing this amazing tutorial!

  19. This is a great tutorial – I’ve always wondered what a French seam is. Can’t wait to try this technique! Thanks!

  20. I’ve just ordered a sewing machine and I have been reading and watching all the tutorials I can find. Thanks so much for making this one for beginners. I’m excited to try it out!

  21. Rosiane says:

    Gostei muito do seu post !!! Continue postando coisas úteis , é muito bacana !! Fique com DEUS.

    Rose, Espírito Santo – Brasil

    In English:

    I really enjoyed your post! Keep posting useful things, is very cool! Stay with GOD.

    Rose, Espírito Santo – Brazil

  22. Hi Leslie! Thank you so much for the great tutorial. I made my first of two pillows yesterday and it came out really well! I’d like to add a caveat for other beginning sewers that if your seams are greater than 1/4″ on your first part of the French seam (mine were a little crooked in some places), then trim them down so they’ll fit inside the second seam. After I trimmed and restitched the second seam it looked great! Thanks again, and can’t wait to try the skirt next!

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