Pillow Tutorial with Envelope Backing

I love making quilted pillows to give as a present or to add some seasonal decorations to the house– they are easy to make, relatively quick for a handmade item, and always appreciated by the recipient. After making numerous pillows this holiday season I wanted to share my way of making an envelope backing. I’ve always struggled with zippers and I have found this method to be quick and hassle free.

First you need to determine the size of the pillow and make your pillow top. I like my pillows to be firmly stuffed so I make the pillow the same size as the pillow form, if I buy a 16” square pillow form then both my front and back will measure 16” exactly. If you like your pillow to be a little looser then you can make your front and back a half inch larger than the form.

I typically start with a quilted pillow front. I used a simple patchwork pattern then layered it with a piece of cotton batting and muslin for the back. I quilted it with straight lines then cut the final product down to a 16” square.

Next you will need to cut two rectangles from a coordinating fabric that you want to use for the backing. The width of the rectangles will match the pillow width, in this case it is 16”. You will need to do some math to figure out the height – I take the width of the fabric divided by two, then add 3.5 inches. For a 16 inch pillow you will want 11.5 inches as the height (16/2=8, 8+3.5= 11.5). Below is a chart for some of the most common sizes.

Pillow Size Backing Pieces (cut 2 pieces per pillow)
12” square 9.5” x 12”
14” square 10.5” x 14”
16” square 11.5” x 16”
18” square 12.5” x 18”
20” square 13.5” x 20”

Once you have the rectangles cut you will need to take a long side of the piece and fold it over approximately ¼” (this doesn’t have to be an exact measurement, you can eyeball it).  I spray the fold lightly with Magic Sizing and iron it. You will need to fold it over one more time so the cut side of the fabric is hidden.


Using a matching thread you will need to topstitch the fold down close to the fold side. You will do this on one long side of each rectangle.

NOTE: If you have directional fabric you will need to make the fold on the top side of one rectangle and the bottom side of the other.

Now it is time to sew the pillow together. I like to have a binding on my pillows, I think it really adds to the pillow and helps it stand out. If you are adding a binding then follow the directions below with the right side of the pillows both facing out (wrong side together). If you are not adding a binding then you need to sew the pillow right sides together and then turn the pillow the right side out.

Place the pillow top right side down on your work table.

Place one backing rectangle on the bottom of the pillow, right side up, with the sewn seam edge in the middle of the pillow. Next add the other rectangle piece, right side up, with the sewn seam edge in the middle.

Pin the pieces together along the edge.

Sew a ¼” seam around all four edges of the pillow. Your pillow is almost done now, you just need to add the binding!

You can finish the pillow any binding method of your choice. I use 2 ½” inch strips for my binding, machine sew to the front of the pillow, and hand stitch it to the back side. If your pillow is 18” square or smaller you will need two strips cut the width of the fabric, any pillow larger than that will likely need 3 strips.

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Christmas Pillows

I’m so excited that I finally finished my Christmas pillows this year! Every year I have big plans to decorate and make things for the holiday but I always run out of time.

I started these pillows last year with the remnants of two jelly rolls that I had, Robert Kaufman’s Holiday Flourish Silver and Winter’s Grandeur 3. Since I like for everything to match I wanted to make similar patterns from each fabric line and needed some simple patterns that I could make with the 2 ½” strips. I decided to make two pillows from each fabric set, one using a Dresden Plate pattern and the other with squares creating a patchwork pillow.

The Winter’s Grandeur pillows came together easily, that jelly roll had a lot of colors and prints and I also had the majority of the roll leftover. For the patchwork pillow I cut 64 – 2 ½” squares and just started chain piecing them in a random fashion, I made eight strips with 8 squares each. Once the pillow top was sewn together I decided to quilt the pillow using my standard grid quilting.

I always use a thin, cheap muslin for the back of my quilted pillow tops. Since it will be on the inside of the pillow and never seen I don’t want to use any of the good stuff! To make the grid quilting pattern I just line my walking foot up with the seam of each strip and sew a straight line, you could always sew with a curved stich or a zigzag to add some variation to the pillow. I find this method to be a quick and easy way to quilt.

I’ve always loved the Dresden Plate quick block but had never made one before. I have the Easy Dresden Tool by Darlene Zimmerman and just followed the directions from the ruler. I took ten different prints from the jelly roll and made two wedges from each print. Since I have a need for everything to be symmetrical I laid these out in the same pattern before I started sewing them together. Luckily, I was able to find a red and gold print fabric from my stash that was big enough to use as the middle circle!

The silver Holiday Flourish material was a little harder for me to figure out. I only had about half the jelly roll left and there wasn’t as much variation in the colors and prints. I decided a scrappy patchwork may not work since there were so many silver and white prints so I decided to use a Bargello pattern and alternate the silver and white with every other strip. I also quilted it using the same grid method. I really liked the way this one turned out.

When I made the Dresden Plate from this fabric I had the same issue, you need twenty wedges but the math didn’t seem to work with only three main colors – silver, red, and black. I didn’t have much of the black material left so decided to just go with red and silver for this one, alternating every other piece. I also had a cute red and silver print in my stash and was able to fussy cut a star to be the center print. I didn’t quilt either of the Dresden Plates since the straight line method wouldn’t have worked and I’m not very good at free motion – I need a lot more practice in that area!

I actually had a hard time deciding on the background material for this pillow, it was between the black and silver print.

I really liked the black print since it made the block stand out more but was worried it wasn’t very festive. The silver definitely has more of a Christmas feel to it but I thought it blended the block too much. I ended up posting a poll on Instagram, it was a close call but the silver won by 2 votes. In the end I was glad I chose the silver since it fits in better with the gold background on the other pillow. Thanks for everyone that voted, I really appreciate the input!

I finished all four pillows with a simple envelope backing and standard binding. I’m absolutely in love with all of them and have them displayed on my entry table. I’m glad that I finally finished a Christmas project with enough time to enjoy them before the holiday!