Hi! Is anyone still out there? I know I haven’t posted in forever. I’ve done some garment sewing (countless muslins and am almost done with an Emery dress) but haven’t completed anything. Mostly, I’ve been busy with work and not feeling the sewing mojo. Until the time came for new throw pillows.
Over the past few months there’s been a lot of talk on sewing blogs about whether sewing saves you money. For garments, my opinion is mostly “no”. There’s just too much cheap, disposable fashion out there. If your skills are such that you can sew high quality construction with good fit and nice fabrics, then it’s good value to sew your own and have it fit like a glove (compared to high end RTW). I will take a long time to get to that level. I have a lot of thoughts on this topic – maybe a blog post for later.
I know this picture is odd – the sofas are so long I couldn’t get both in the same shot downstairs
Anyway, home decor is one area I’m guessing most people would save money by sewing for themselves. I know I did. We got two new sofas this spring. Both are super long –102” – and a basic taupe color. I bought them thinking how easy it would be to sew and change pillows whenever I felt like it. Ha. So foolish. This simple throw pillow idea turned into quite the project. The problem is the quantity of pillows needed. You can see in the picture that the room and sofas are big – lots of pillows and multiple fabrics needed! I wanted at least four relatively large pillows for each sofa made from at 3-4 fabrics that complemented each other. They had to be cool colors to match our trim/sofa/walls, the brown had to be super dark like our rug, and no gold! (We just got rid of two gold sofas and I was sick of it!) I also wanted bold color or graphic prints – nothing fussy or traditional. All those requirements combined meant I couldn’t find enough coordinating options at Target or Pottery Barn or wherever. I do have some additional pillows from Target and Home Goods – they’re just not pictured here. Pillows everywhere!
After much frustrating fabric shopping online and an overwhelming fabric showroom, I stopped by Calico Corners to get some ideas. Out of all their books and my ridiculous criteria, I only found a few sets of fabrics I liked together. I would find two here or two there but I needed four that worked together. Since I love blue and green, I went that route. We planned out a few striped, a few patterned, and a bunch of solids with trim. The fabrics were pricey so I requested quotes for fully completed pillows covers and the fabric alone. I already had the pillow forms. The cost for 10 pillows with trim and welting? $1200!!! I about died.
So, that meant I was sewing. I ordered the striped velvet and teal Moroccan patterned yardage from them and called it a day. I special ordered the solid colors at Joann while on sale with a friends and family coupon. I had to live without the fringe trim and make my own welting. All in all, I probably saved at least $800!! Actually, I never would’ve paid that quote even if I couldn’t sew. But, it’s pretty cool to get similar pillows for much, much, much less. I should’ve had more savings but I ordered too much fabric.
Figuring out the fabric needed was tough due to the welting cord. I knew I needed to make bias strips. But how much fabric for the dozens of yards of cord? When the fabric is $40-$50 a yard, you want to be right! I finally found a link on McCall’s quilting site that was wonderful. It tells you how much fabric is needed depending on the width of the strip and the length required. It provides directions and a video for making continuous bias strips from a piece of square fabric. Check it out – it’s very helpful: Continuous Bias
I made several mistakes but now that I’m farther away from it, it’s not worth even writing about. There are some tips I learned worth noting:
The construction wasn’t hard. It was time consuming because I had to hand sew both sides of ten zippers – my sides never matched up properly using the machine and invisible zipper foot.
When making the welt cord, cut the bias strip wider than you think you’ll need. Most tutorials tell you to cut the width equal to the diameter of the cord plus twice the seam allowance. That would work with thinner fabrics but not upholstery weight. You can always trim it back but sewing along the cord with a too-small seam allowance is a PAIN. Add an extra 1/4”.
I had better luck cutting the fabric the size of my pillow form. Some tutorials will tell you to cut it 1/2” -1” larger than the form. I think that would be too loose, especially for down inserts. It will be even smaller once it’s sewn but that’s ok (mine was an inch smaller after 1/2 SA on each side.) You want it to be stuffed in there. For a couple pillows, (the ones without the welt) I went back and made them even tighter.
I bought a book which was helpful and will be even better if I try more ambitious styles. Sew Sensational: Pillows
The first covers I sewed were made from the solid brown fabric. I figured my mistakes wouldn’t be as visible. It was a good move. I learned to put the zipper and the cord join on the same side – that way you can hide them both based on how you position the pillows. Once I had a couple covers under my belt I knew the pitfalls and did the remaining sets assembly line style.
Take time thinking about which sides you want to match and on which sides you want the zipper. If there are stripes, you’ll have to match your zipper with one color and plan your cutting around that.
Overall, I’m happy with how they turned out. I finally have some color in the family room. My stripe and pattern matching was so-so and really good, depending on the pillow. I can live with that. My corners aren’t quite sharp on the welted pillows but that won’t keep me up at night either. I can rest easy thinking of the crazy money I didn’t spend on custom pillows and feel satisfied I at last made something for the house.