Home Decor Sewing School | How to Make a Pillow Sham
Last month, I kicked off a new series called Home Decor Sewing School! While I certainly don’t consider myself an expert sewer (trust me, I am far from it!), there are skills and tricks I’ve learned and mastered over the years that have allowed me to quickly and easily make perfectly customized and unique things for our home. (And making things myself is precisely how I achieve unique decor and styles in our homes over and over again on a tight budget!) Last month we tackled piping, and this month, I am going to show you how to make a pillow sham! Even for the most inexperienced sewer, this is a great project to master (because it’s translatable to other projects and spaces) and only requires a few straight lines! Let’s get started!
While my goal with this series is to break down some basic home decor sewing techniques and projects so that you feel confident making your own home decor, this month’s tutorial may have had a slightly selfish purpose. Remember that adorable floral fabric I used to cover the dresser a few months back? Well…I couldn’t stop thinking about it after I removed it from the dresser and was desperate for a way to work it into our own home. A scrap was literally sitting on our bed when I realized it worked SOOO well with our other bed pillows AND it brought in a much-needed accent color. I went to the store the very next day to buy enough fabric to make some pillow shams for our bed! So I get new pillow shams out of the deal, and you get a snazzy new sewing tutorial! We all win!
Pillow shams, at least the kind I am going to show you today, are essentially envelope-style pillowcases (which means they have an overlapping opening in the back to insert the pillow). To give these pillow covers a bit more presence and qualify them as “pillow shams,” they have a flange around the perimeter…which is essentially that 2″ border you see around the pillow’s edge.
These flanges are nothing to be scared of…in fact, you will be shocked to see how easy they are to achieve! And the result is a professional-looking pillow sham that will add layers and interest to your bedding arrangement!
Materials & Supplies
You don’t need anything fancy to make your own pillows shams, just some basic sewing supplies and your favorite fabrics! While home decor fabrics often have a bit more weight to them (allowing your flanges to sit up a bit straighter), you really can use any cotton or home decor fabric you love! Here is what you need to make a basic pillow sham (NOTE: quantities will differ based on the size and quantity of shams you’re making!)
- Pillow Front Fabric (How much you need depends on how big and how many pillows you are making. Refer to the cutting guide below to determine how much fabric to buy.) This fabric is from Hobby Lobby.
- Pillow Back Fabric (This fabric can be the same or coordinating with the front fabric. Again, how much you need will depend on how big and how many pillows you are making.) This fabric is from Hancock Fabrics.
- Coordinating thread
- Disappearing fabric pen (THESE are my absolute favorite!)
- Cutting tools (both a rotary cutter and scissors come in handy!)
Cutting the Fabric
The first step will be to determine your measurements based on your pillow size and desired final look. One of the BEST things about making your own pillow shams, besides picking the fabrics, is that you can make them as big or as little as you want them. If you want a grander look, make larger flanges, if you want them slight, make small (or no) flanges. Use the equations below to determine your fabric cuts. (NOTE: the example used here is for a standard bed pillowcase with a 2″ flange. Be sure to adjust the measurements based on your pillow size and desired flange width.)
Once you’ve determined your measurements, cut one front piece and two back pieces. A long, clear ruler and rotary cutter make this a breeze! (TIP: on the back panels, use a pin to mark which sides are the “height” and which sides are the “width,” as these measurements can often be quite close and hard to keep straight.)
Hemming the Back Panels
Set your front panel aside, as we’re going to start by hemming one side on each of the two back panels. On one “height” side of one of the back panel pieces, fold over the edge 1″ and iron in place.
Fold the edge over again another inch, iron and then pin in place down the edge.
Using a sewing machine, sew a straight line 1/8″ from the hem edge to secure the hem in place.
Repeat the same hem process on the second back panel. When done, you should have two back panels each with a single hem on one side.
Assemble the Pillow Sham
With the two back panels hemmed, it’s time to assemble your pillow sham! Yep – already! Start by placing your pillow front panel RIGHT SIDE UP on your work surface, as shown.
Next, place the pillow back panels RIGHT SIDE DOWN onto the pillow front, aligning all the raw edges. (NOTE: the hemmed edges of each panel should be toward the center.)
The two hemmed edges should overlap about 8-10″, and all the other raw edges should line up with the pillow front panel.
Next, pin all the way around the pillow sham. (TIP: be sure to pin all the layers together where the two back panels overlap to ensure you catch the inside panel in your stitching!)
Using your sewing machine, sew a 1/2″ seam all the way around the pillowcase. You don’t need to leave any openings…go ahead and sew all four sides shut!
At the corners, you can either drop your needle down, pivot and keep sewing OR sew right off the edge, trim your threads, rotate and start sewing again. My Mom taught me to do the latter as it makes for stronger corner seams. Whichever method you choose, be sure to carefully clip the corners with a sharp scissors to reduce bulk once turned right-side out.
Speaking of right-sides out, it’s time to flip the case out! Open up the envelope backing made by your two overlapping back panels and pull the pillowcase through the opening.
Press out the corners and smooth all the seams flat.
Sew the Flanges of the Pillow Sham
The last step in making your pillow sham is to sew the flanges to create a nice border around your pillow. Start by ironing out your pillowcase and making your seams nice and crisp. I recommend pinning all the way around the pillow to keep all the layers together as you sew the flanges.
Next, you are going to use a disappearing fabric pen to draw a box around your pillowcase, on top of which you will sew to make the nice border on your sham. Using a ruler, measure in your flange size from the outside edge on ALL four sides. (NOTE: At this point, your pillowcase is likely quite a bit bigger than your pillow. Besides adding a decorative detail, the flanges also create a tighter case for the pillow to sit in. As such, the rectangle you draw with your pen should roughly equal the actual size of your pillow.)
Next, top-stitch around the pillowcase (though all layers), following the line you just drew. This time, you will need to drop your needle and pivot at each corner to make clean angles.
To finish, use an iron to remove the pen marks and reveal a nice border created by your stitch lines!
Lastly, insert your pillow through the opening in the back…
…and place on your bed!
Making custom pillow shams is something I have done for years. Not only do I love that it allows me to bring in different fabrics other than the ones that come with my bedding, but they are such a quick and simple way to refresh our bedroom display for the seasons! I know I say “quick and easy” a lot…but I promise…this one really is a quick and easy one! Both these shams together took me about an hour!
I bought the floral fabric on sale (for about $10 total) and had the grey fabric on hand, so this Spring “refresh” in our bedroom cost me about $10 and 1 hour of time! And THAT’s why I love knowing how to sew my own items!!!!
I hope you found this tutorial helpful and feel emboldened to give this pillow sham project a try! Be sure to leave me requests for other home decor skills and projects you want me to cover in this series in the comments below. And if you make any projects with these (or any of my!) tutorials, share on social media using #THIHMmademedoit
Hope you’re week is off to a great start! I’ll be popping back in a little early this week…check the blog tomorrow for a special Mother’s Day project.