We were pondering a pillow one day, as we are often known to do, when a thought struck us. “This poor little pillow’s so plain,” we mused. “It needs a new look, a fresh take, a … new wardrobe!” Thus was born a Sew4Home exclusive: the Pillow Jacket. It’s like an outfit for your pillow. The jacket slips over a complimentary fabric-covered pillow to create a new and unique, layered look. This pinafore version of the Pillow Jacket makes an adorable nursery accent.
We love how a Pillow Jacket can give one simple throw pillow the flexibility to mix and match fabrics and create a virtually endless variety of combinations. Change out the base pillow’s jacket to match a room’s new color scheme, to freshen up your decor for the change of seasons, or just because it’s fun to play dress up.
Our pinafore pillow is shown in a nursery setting, and does make a very pretty picture. However, we used standard sewn-on buttons, which means the pillow isn’t a good choice for older babies and young toddlers (the everything-goes-in-the-mouth stage). Consider it a decorating accent to keep out of reach of children, or substitute appliquéd fabric circles for the buttons.
We originally used the Andalucia collection by Patty Young for Michael Miller Fabrics, but any two coordinating fabrics will work great.
Pillows are always a good project when you’re new to sewing. To make this a perfect beginner project, we’ve added extra tips, links, and techniques throughout.
We created another pillow jacket for our Romantic Bedroom Retreat, featuring soft velvet bows.
Our pinafore pillow finishes at approximately 16″ x 16″.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ½ yard of 45″ wide fabric for inside pillow front and back panels
- ½ yard of 45″ wide fabric for pillow jacket and straps
- ⅝ yard of eyelet or similar trim: we used a 4″ white eyelet
- ½ yard of wide rick rack in coordinating color to jacket print
- ONE 16″ x 16″ pillow insert
- TWO ¾” – 1″ buttons for jacket straps; we used 1″ black buttons – as mentioned above, you could substitute felt circles for the buttons to remove a choking hazard
- All-purpose thread to match fabrics
- See-through ruler
- Tape measure
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- From the fabric for the inner pillow, cut the following:
ONE 17″ x 17″ square for the front
TWO 12½” wide x 17″ high rectangles for the back panels
- From the fabric for the pinafore, cut the following:
TWO 4″ x 17″ rectangles for the top bands
TWO 10″ x 17″ rectangles for the bottom panels
FOUR 3″ x 15″ strips for the suspenders
NOTE: We suggest folding your pinafore fabric in half lengthwise to make a folded piece 22½” x 18″. Then you can line up all your pieces and make fewer cuts. If you have a strong directional pattern as we did, make sure all your pieces are running the same way.
- Trim the rick rack to 17″.
Beginner Technique: Create a Test Buttonhole
- Before you make a buttonhole on your actual project, it’s a good idea to make a test buttonhole to make sure all of your settings are accurate.
- Measure the size of your button from one side to the other (the diameter).
- Calculate the size of your buttonhole, using this formula: diameter of button + ¼”. In our sample, our chosen button measures 1″ across, so the buttonhole will need to be 1″ + ¼”or 1¼”.
NOTE : If you have a thick or oddly shaped button, you will need to make your buttonhole slightly longer.
- Using your chosen button, and following the buttonhole instructions included in your sewing machine’s manual, stitch a buttonhole on a scrap of test fabric.
NOTE: For additional tips on creating the perfect buttonhole, read our tutorial, How to Make a Buttonhole on Your Sewing Machine.
- Test that your chosen button fits well through your sample buttonhole. If the buttonhole seems too snug, you’ll need to make the buttonhole slightly longer. Make any adjustments to the buttonhole, stitching a new sample if necessary.
- Write down the settings that worked best for your buttonhole, for use in the project below.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the inside pillow cover
- Find one of the pillow back panels. Along one 17″ side, fold back the raw edge ½”. Press.
NOTE: Our envelope overlap on this pillow is designed to go across the width of the pillow. If you have a directional print, pay attention to which side you’re hemming so your motif is running the right way on both panels.
- Fold back an additional 1½” and press again.
- Edgestitch along the inner folded edge to make a clean double-turn hem.
- Repeat these steps with the second pillow back panel.
- With both panels right side up, overlap the hems to yield the correct finished height (17″ in our sample). Pin the hems together.
- Working as close to the edge as possible, stitch the sides of the hems together to secure and create one piece. It’s easier to work with one piece when stitching the front of the pillow to the back.
- Place the pillow front right sides together with the pillow back.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, sew around all four sides, pivoting at the corners.
- Trim all four corners.
- Using the envelope opening on the back, turn the pillow cover right side out. Gently push out the trimmed corners from the inside to make nice, square corners on the outside. Use your finger or a blunt-edge tool, like a large knitting needle, chopstick or point turner.
- Insert the pillow form through the envelope closure and fluff out the corners.
Create the trim for the pinafore
- First you need to create gentle gathers in the eyelet trim.
- Create a gathering stitch across the top, keeping your stitches within ½” of the edge of the trim. Remember, do not lock your stitch at the beginning or end and leave long thread tails.
- If you are new to gathers, you may want to run a second row of basting about ¼” from the first. You’re less likely to break a thread if you’re pulling two strands.
- Gently pull on the top threads to gather the eyelet trim to 17″. This is a very soft gather. If you’d prefer a more dramatic ruffle, start with a longer length of eyelet.
NOTE: For more on this technique, see our tutorial on Machine Gathering.
- Find the rick rack. Pin it over the eyelet trim so the center of the rick rack falls exactly ½” in from the top edge of the eyelet trim. Be very exact with this step; otherwise the rick rack won’t be positioned correctly when you attach it to the pinafore.
- Baste the rick rack in place, running the stitches just above the center of the rick rack.
NOTE: Why above? Because by stitching just above the center, when you eventually stitch the ruffle/rick rack to the pinafore, you can use a standard ½” seam allowance and it will go down the exact center of the rick rack but won’t expose the stitches that attached the rick rack to the eyelet because they are above the ½” seam line.
Create suspenders for the pinafore
- Find a household object with a curve that measures about 2″. This will provide a template for creating the curved ends of the suspenders. We used a spool of thread.
- Following the template, draw a curve on the wrong side of one end of two of the 3″ x 15″ suspender pieces. The curve should be positioned ½” from all the raw edges.
- Place a suspender piece with a drawn curve right sides together with a plain suspender piece, aligning all edges. You should have two pairs.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch these pieces together. Sew down one side, then along the drawn curve at the end of the piece, and up the other side. Leave the opposite end of the piece open for turning.
- Trim the curves of each sewn end.
- Turn each suspender right side out and press flat.
- Set your sewing machine to the buttonhole settings you identified above. Using your test buttonhole, mark the placement of the buttonhole. It should start about ½” up from the bottom of the curve.
- Create the buttonhole in each suspender piece, following the instructions in your machine manual.
Assemble the pinafore
- Create a simple hem along one long edge of each of the two 4″ x 17″ top band pieces. To do this, fold under ½” along one 17″ edge and press. Then fold under an additional 1″ and press again. Stitch the hem down, sewing close to the inner fold.
- Find one 10″ x 17″ pinafore bottom panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Find the eyelet/rick rack trim. Place it right side up on top of the fabric panel with the top raw edges flush.
- Finally, find one of the hemmed pinafore top panels. Place this panel right side down on top of the eyelet/rick rack trim. The top panel’s raw edge should be flush with top raw edge and the hemmed edge should be facing down. Pin in place through all the layers.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across the top through all the layers.
- Press the top panel up and press the trim down against the bottom panel. This completes the pinafore front. Set it aside.
- Find the remaining 10″ x 17″ bottom panel piece. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface. Along the top raw edge, measure in 3″ from each side. With your fabric pencil, make a vertical mark at each 3″ point. The outer edge of each suspender will line up here. The top raw edge of each suspender should be flush with the top raw edge of the fabric panel. Pin each suspender in place. You can also hand or machine baste each suspender in place for extra security.
- As above, layer the remaining top band right sides together with the bottom piece, sandwiching the suspenders between the layers. Pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the layers together. Double stitch over the suspenders ends for extra security.
- Press the top panel and suspenders up. The suspenders will lay over the the top panel.
- With right sides together, pin the pinafore front to the pinafore back, aligning all the edges. It’s particularly important the top hemmed edges are perfectly aligned front to back. The eyelet/rick rack trim will be sandwiched in the middle. Make sure the suspenders are up and out of the way.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. You are securing the raw side edges of the eyelet trim within the side seams. The top hemmed edge remains open.
- Clip the corners, turn pinafore right side out, and press.
- Finally, you’ll need to test the pinafore’s fit to place the buttons in the correct locations. The position will vary based on the fluffiness of your inner pillow. Put the pinafore over the inner pillow.
- Pull the suspenders up and over to the front of the pinafore, laying them across the front top band.
- On the front of the pinafore, Place a pin through the center of each buttonhole to mark the locations for the buttons underneath.
- Remove the inner pillow and stitch the buttons in place.
- Slide the inner pillow back into the pinafore and button up the suspenders.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Heather Tucker