How to Add Decorative Touches to Your Home

How to Make Decorator Pillows

A variety of pillows on sofa, chairs, floor, or bed makes a room both comfortable and relaxing, and pillows can also provide lively spots of color, texture, and pattern. It's easy to make your own.


  • Tape measure
  • Tailors chalk or pencil
  • Scissors
  • Straight pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Zipper foot
  • Sewing needle
  • Steam iron
  • Ironing board


  • Fabric
  • Thread
  • Pillow form
  • Piping or cording
  • Zipper
  • If desired, string and tassel

Time: 1 to 2 hours


Pillow forms come in numerous sizes and shapes, and generally fall into two categories: tailored, with squared corners and boxy shapes, or casual softer-looking, often made with soft materials. The easiest pillow covers to make are the casual type, using the square pillow form sometimes described as a knife-edge shape.

Making a Simple Knife-Edge Pillow

For the simplest knife-edge pillow, measure and mark two pieces of fabric to the size of the pillow form, plus a 5/8-inch seam allowance all around. Pin the two pieces together, right sides together and straight-stitch all around the edge on a sewing machine; leave an opening large enough to insert the pillow form. Backstitch to reinforce the ends. Press the seams open, clip the corners and turn the cover right side out. Insert the pillow form and hand stitch the opening closed.

Making a Pillow with Piping or Cording

For a tailored look, add piping or covered cording around the edges of the pillow; buy ready-made piping or cording to match or contrast with the cover fabric.

Starting in the middle of one side, and working on the right side, pin the piping or cording all around the edges of the pillow top. Place the cording with its tape or seam allowance toward the edge of the fabric and the finished cording toward the center, with the stitching line 5/8 inch from the edge of the fabric. Clip into the seam allowance of the cording at the corners so it will lie flat.

Using a sewing machine with a zipper foot, stitch the cording into place along the stitching line, all around the pillow top. Be careful not to stretch it. Where the ends of the cording meet, open up the cording for about 1 inch. Trim the end of the cord to butt into the other end of the cord, where the piping starts; trim the fabric cover to overlap the other end of the cording about 1/2 inch. Fold the trimmed fabric edge under 1/4 inch and fold the free end of the cording around the starting end, so that the cords butt together and the folded edge covers the joint. Stitch across both ends and about 1 inch beyond the joint; then backstitch to secure the piping.

To put the pillow together, pin the top and bottom pieces together, right sides together and cording in between. Using the zipper foot, stitch the two pieces together, following the line of stitching that holds the cording in place; leave an opening large enough to insert the pillow form. Backstitch to secure the ends of the seam. Remove the pins, press the seams open, trim the corners, and turn the cover right side out; insert the pillow form and hand-stitch the opening closed.

Making a Pillow Cover With a Zipper

To make a cover easier to remove for washing or cleaning, insert a zipper in one side seam. Use a zipper about 3 inches shorter than the side of the pillow -- if the finished pillow will be 15 inches square, for example, use a 12-inch zipper. After attaching cording to the pillow top as above, mark a space on one edge of the pillow top, the length of the row of zipper teeth. Stitch the two ends of the seam, backstitching at the markings for added strength; leave the marked-off area open.

Set the sewing machine to the longest stitch length and machine-baste the open section of the seam where the zipper will go. Spread the two fabric pieces apart and press the seam open. On the wrong side, lay the closed zipper face down against the basted section of the seam, laying the zipper teeth slightly away from the side that's corded. Pin it into place.

Using the zipper foot, stitch across one end of the zipper tapes, along the tape on the side away from the cording -- stay close enough to the teeth to catch the edge of the seam beneath the zipper -- and across the other end of the tapes. Then fold the fabric on the side with the cording away from the zipper. Sew the other tape of the zipper to the seam allowance only of the pillow top and cording, stitching close to the teeth of the zipper. Remove the pins and the basting threads holding the seam closed. Place the cover pieces together, right sides together, and pin them. Stitch them together around the other three sides, as above. Press the seams open and trim the corners. Turn the pillow cover right side out, open the zipper, and insert the pillow form; zip the opening closed.

Making a Harem Pillow

To make a harem pillow, make a knife-edge pillow without cording; use a zipper 5 inches shorter than the side of the pillow. On the inside of the cover, tie the corners firmly with string to form 2-inch ears; then turn the cover right side out and insert a soft pillow form. For extra plumpness, use a form a little larger than the cover. If desired, attach tassels to the corners of the cover; sew the cord of a tassel into the seam at each corner before you tie the corners.

Now that you know how to make pillows, learn how to make a matching bedspread next.