I Can’t Go to Paris, so I Made a Pillow Instead

Hello, lovely sewists! Carla here, to show you how I made this simple but sharp-looking flanged pillow sham, with  an envelope back opening.

When the new Destination Paris fabrics arrived in the shop, I knew I needed some of them to make new occasional pillows for my living room. And since my husband is a geographer, I knew he would love the City Map fabric. Showing an illustrated map of Paris, this fabric is suitable for a simple construction that lets the fabric be the star of the show. For the backing fabric I chose Couture from the Grunge Basics line. The distressed, painterly look of this fabric paired perfectly with the focus fabric.



3/4 yard fabric for the pillow front

1 yard fabric for the pillow back

Thread for sewing –I used Mettler Metrosene in a medium grey

Thread for topstitching–I used King Tut by Superior, 962 Pumice

80/12 universal needle

90/14 topstitch needle

Pins, snips, ruler, rotary cutter and mat, marking pen, tool for turning corners (a wooden iron or a Purple Thang), starch, and a tailor’s ham for pressing.

IMG_1219Coffee is always on my sewing supplies list.

Cutting Instructions:

Pillow front: cut one  27″ square

Pillow back: cut one  15-1/2″ x 27″ rectangle

cut one  18″ x 27″ rectangle


Sewing Instructions:

1.) Finish one  27″ edge of each rectangle, using the edge finish stitch of your choice.  I used my 2A Overlock foot and the overlock stitch on my machine, plus the Mettler thread and the universal needle.  (My fabric was not directional, so it didn’t matter which edge it was.)  After you finish the edge, turn under and press a 1/2″ hem.


Note: If you are using a directional fabric on your back, or planning to fussy cut,  you should  lay it out first to figure out which side will be  your opening and which will be part of the flange edge.

2.) Change the presser foot to your regular sewing foot. I used the #34  Clear Reverse Pattern foot. I like being able to see through it! Stitch down each turned hem a scant 1/2″ from the edge, making sure you catch the fabric underneath.


3.) Change the presser foot again, to the #10 Edgestitch foot. I absolutely love this foot. It allows you to give a professional, finished look to your project. Taking your 15″ wide rectangle, edgestitch down the length. It’s not necessary to do this to the other rectangle, as the edge won’t show.


(I know, the pictures are showing the edgestitching first, then the hem, but it’s more efficient to do it the other way!)

Press all stitching.

4.) Using the 27″ square as a guide, lay your rectangles on top. (We’re not stitching back and front together at this point–this is to help with the back construction.) Place the narrower rectangle, right side down, first. Then place the wider rectangle, right side down, next. It will overlap your other rectangle. When you’ve got them lined up to match your front square, pin the rectangles together where they overlap at the top and bottom, and also down the length of what will be the opening.


5.) Back at the sewing machine, sew the rectangles together along the top and bottom edges, where they overlap, using a 1/4″ seam.  Next, you’re going to sew about 4-1/2″ down from the top, stitching on top of the stitches you’ve already done. See photo below!


I stitched down both lines of stitching, shortening my stitch length down to 1.5 when I reached the end, rather than backstitching. It needs to be strong, because it has to hold when you stuff the pillow form inside. Do this at both ends of your back piece.  Press.

6.) Pin the back piece to the front, right sides together, and sew, using a 1/2″ seam.  Press. After the first pressing, trim the seam allowance to 1/4″ inch. Trim the corners.


7.) Now, unpin the opening of your back, and put your tailor’s ham inside the pillow. Use it to press all the seams, pressing the seam allowance to one side. This seems like a lot of extra work, but believe me, the result is worth it! The photo below shows my pillow with the ham inside it.


Turn you pillow right side out, using your wooden iron or Purple Thang to make sure corners are poked out properly, and press again, first with the tailor’s ham inside, then flat.


8.) Back at the sewing machine, thread your machine with the topstitching thread of your choice, and change your needle to the topstitch needle. Using the #10 Edgestitch foot, edgestitch all sides of your pillow. Make sure you have your machine set for needle stop down, if this function is available. This way you can turn at the corners without losing your spot! Press.

9.) Next,  you’re going to sew a square in the center. This is the part that seems scary to people, but don’t worry–it’ll be great! You can mark your pillow front in whichever way works best for you. You can use a chalk marker to draw your square, which will be 3″ from the edge on every side. I chose to measure 3″ down from my top right corner, pinned it, and started sewing from there, using a piece of masking tape to mark the 3″ from center of the needle.


10) Press your stitching, unpin the back, insert your pillow form, and enjoy!