When I was in high school, I was really into this Live Journal community called “T-Shirt Surgery.” It still exists – see? Basically, t-shirt surgery involves taking a big old t-shirt and turning it into something cute, like a sassy halter top or a studded vest or something. I thought it was the coolest thing ever and desperately wanted to be a part of such a hip movement, so I begged my mom to buy me a sewing machine. After a lot of obnoxious pleading, she obliged, and I was soon stitching pink satin ribbon ruching into the sides of every heinous Goodwill shirt I could get my little high school hands on. It was just adorable.
Like many of my adolescent hobbies, my t-shirt surgery phase was not terribly long-lived. But! I still have my sewing machine, and I still use it. Except now, I cut up throw pillows instead of neon XXL shirts that say “Dad’s It and That’s That.”
This pillow is from West Elm. I bought it because I liked the pattern and it was on clearance, but it was larger than all my other throw pillows, and it was stiff and uncomfortable.
This one is from One Kings Lane. I love the watercolor look and the colors. But again, it was stuffed with poly fill, which I’m just not into.
I felt brave a couple weeks ago, so I decided it was time to put my surgeon’s mask back on. The first step to dismantling a fabric item is to rip the seams open with – you guessed it – a seam ripper.
It was unbelievable how much poly fill was stuffed into these pillows. I pulled it out and saved it for a rainy day. It’s currently taking up a lot of space in two garbage bags in my office closet.
I wanted to make two pillow covers from each existing pillow, so I bought some basic Kona cotton in solid contrasting colors from Joann. The colors were good, but the fabric was a bit thin, so I lined it with white muslin.
It’s generally a good idea to make your pillow covers a little smaller than the inserts so that they’re not loose and saggy. I made mine 19″x19″. For this size, you need a 20″x20″ square for the front, and two 13″x20″ pieces from the back. That gives you an extra 3″ on each back piece for the overlap. My Kona cotton and muslin were 44″ wide, so I only needed half a yard of each per pillow.
As long as you’re making a cover that’s the same size or smaller than your original pillow, you should have plenty of pretty fabric to cut your front square. Just be careful with that seam ripper!
After I cut my fabric, I pressed, pinned and sewed a half-inch hem on one long side of each 13″x20″ piece. You want the fabric to look nice where it’s going to overlap. A seam gauge is your best buddy for the pressing and pinning part.
Then, I laid my pretty 20″x20″ piece of fabric face-up, and laid the two hemmed 13″x20″ face-down on top of it.
Next, I sewed all the way around the square, leaving a half-inch seam allowance on each side. (That’s how you get the finished product to 19″x19″.) This part is easy, so don’t be a dummy/sloppy sewer like me and let this happen.
You’ll also notice that I don’t have a full half-inch on every side, because I didn’t cut a perfect square. Did I mention I’m not great at this?
Let’s just switch colors and look at one of the pillows I didn’t screw up, OK? (For the record, even if you do make this mistake, you won’t be able to tell once the pillow cover is turned inside-out. So don’t worry ’bout it.)
So anyway, the back should look like this.
And the front will look like this.
Don’t forget to sew back and forth a few times at each corner to make sure they’re super-strong.
I like to cut the excess fabric off with pinking shears to avoid fraying.
Then, you just turn the whole thing inside-out, using a chopstick to poke out the corners if necessary, and shove your pillow insert into it. (I always buy the Ikea Fjadrar down inserts for $6.99. And I don’t want to know how they get those feathers, so please don’t tell me.) Easy!
I actually think I like them better with the contrasting solid on the back, instead of the pattern on both sides.
So now, because they have down inserts, they’re super soft and comfy, and I can finally karate chop them. I like doing that. Don’t judge me.
Plus, I have a matching pair of each, which really calms my inner crazy person.
Speaking of my inner crazy person, please don’t look at my icky sofas or my carpet. I’m super self-conscious about how gross they are. Just humor me and DON’T LOOK.
Would you ever cut up a throw pillow just to sew it back together again? Or am I a total whack job?