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Pillows are always the perfect fast and easy project, and outdoor pillows are no exception. For the second project in our Weekend Wonders with Fabric.com series, we designed a great trio of pillows in easy care outdoor fabric selections: there’s a 24″ x 24″ jumbo pillow, an all-around 20″ x 20″ pillow and a comfy 12″ x 20″ lumbar pillow. By choosing an indoor/outdoor pillow form, polyester cording for the piping, outdoor thread, and plastic buttons for the back closure; you’ll have a set of great-looking, long-wearing pillows that can live outside for the entire season. Quality indoor/outdoor fabric (like you’ll find at Fabric.com!) is mildew, stain and water resistant, which makes it perfect for outdoor settings as well as to use indoors in sunny rooms. It’s fade resistant for up to 500 hours of direct sun exposure.

If you are new to working with outdoor fabrics, take a look at the tutorial we did awhile back: How To Work With And Select Outdoor-Safe Fabric. Our friends at Fabric.com have one of the best selections of outdoor fabrics we’ve found anywhere. You can choose from popular designers like Tommy Bahama, Waverly Sun N Shade, Richloom and Premier Prints. We chose a selection of coordinating fabrics from Suburban Home and Swavelle/Mill Creek. Many of these designs are close to, if not exactly the same as, pillows you’ll see at retail for much, much more. In fact, we spotted a pillow made from a nearly indentical print to the Swavelle/Mill Creek Glamis Spa fabric we used at the popular One Kings Lane website. The original price of the virtually identical pillow was $140! Yowsa! You can make it for a fraction of that… plus, it will be unique to you and likely better quality. That’s not just a Weekend Wonder, that’s Weekend Wonderful!

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

We created our pillows as a set of three and so were able to mix and match the fabrics, using scraps from the main cuts for our piping cuts. Below, we’ve given you supplies to make each pillow independently. You’ll end up with a little extra fabric, but we all love a little extra fabric!

Pillow One: 24″ x 24″

Pillow Two: 20″ x 20″

Pillow Three: 12″ x 20″

Supplies needed for all pillows

  • Coats Outdoor Living thread to match fabric
    NOTE: This thread is profiled in the Outdoor Fabric article. Regular thread will succumb to the elements much more quickly, so it’s a good idea to use a specialty thread.
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

Pillow One: 24″ x 24″

  1. Cut ONE 25″ x 25″ square
  2. Cut ONE 25″ high x 15½” wide rectangle
  3. Cut ONE 15″ x 25″ rectangle
  4. Cut TWO 2″ x width of fabric (WOF) strips
  5. Cut a 104″ length of cording

Pillow One: 20″ x 20″

  1. Cut ONE 21″ x 21″ square
  2. Cut ONE  21″ high x 13½” wide rectangle
  3. Cut ONE 21″ high x 13″ wide rectangle
  4. Cut TWO 2″ x width of fabric (WOF) strips
  5. Cut a 96″ length of cording

Pillow One: 12″ x 20″

  1. Cut ONE 13 high x 21 wide” rectangle
  2. Cut ONE 13″ high x 12″ wide rectangle
  3. Cut ONE 13″ x 13″ square
  4. Cut TWO 2″ x width of fabric (WOF) strips
  5. Cut a 90″ length of cording

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Square pillows

Our pictures show construction of the 20″ x 20″ pillow. The steps are the same for any square pillow.

  1. Find the ½” wider back rectangle.
  2. Along one inside edge, make a 1½” double turn hem. To do this, fold back the raw edge 1½” and press. Fold back an additional 1½” and press again. Pin in place.
    NOTE: Outdoor fabrics press best with a lower heat. You can sometimes simply finger press them into place.
  3. Top stitch the hem in place close to the inside fold.
  4. Find the other back rectangle.
  5. Along one inside edge, make a ½” double turn hem. To do this, fold back the raw edge ½” and press. Fold back an additional ½” and press again. Pin in place. Top stitch the hem in place close to the inside fold.
  6. Set this narrower hemmed panel aside.
  7. Place the wider hemmed panel right side up on your work surface.
  8. Mark the placement for your buttonholes centered side to side and top to bottom within the hem. Make sure you are using an easily erasable/removable fabric pen or pencil or pins.
  9. For our 24″ x 24″ pillow, we marked our five buttonholes from the top edge as follows: the first one at 4″, the second one at 8″, the third one at 12½”, the fourth one at 17″ and the fifth one at 21″.
  10. For our 20″ x 20″ pillow, we marked our four buttonholes from the top edge as follows: the first one at 4″, the second one at 8½”, the third one at 13″, and the fourth one at 17″.
  11. Following your machine’s instructions, make the buttonholes.
  12. When you cut the buttonholes open, cut in a little from each edge towards the center. This is better than trying to cut them open with one action, which often leads to cutting into the buttonhole stitching.
  13. Find both finished panels. Overlap and adjust them to yield the correct finished width and height. The buttonholes should be on top; the narrow hem on the bottom.
  14. Pin the two panels together.
  15. Working as close to the raw edges as possible, tack the overlap together to secure and create one piece. It will be easier to work with one piece instead of two later when you stitch front to back.
  16. Place a pin at the exact center point of each buttonhole. Make a mark on the opposite panel at this pin point. These points are where you should sew on the buttons.

Rectangle pillow

  1. This rectangle pillow is constructed in the same manner as the square pillows, but the first hem (made on the square piece) is a 1″ double turn hem rather than 1½”. The hem on the opposite piece is still a ½” double turn hem.
  2. And, we marked our three buttonholes from the top edge as follows: the first one at 3″, the second one at 6½”, and the third one at 10″.

Make and add the piping

  1. If this is your first time making piping, see our tutorial, How To Make And Attach Your Own Piping
  2. Stitch together your 2″ strips to create the length indicated in the Getting Started section above (104″ for the 24″ x 24″ pillow, 96″ for the 20″ x 20″ pillow, 90″ for the 12″ x 20″ pillow).
  3. Wrap the fabric around the cord. Pin close to the cording to hold it in place.
  4. Using a zipper foot or regular foot, sew close to the cording to create your fabric covered piping.
  5. Find your pillow front piece.
  6. Starting in the middle of one side, pin piping to the right side of the front piece, aligning the raw edges of the piping with the raw edge of the front.
  7. Clip the cording at the corners to allow it to curve around the corners nicely.
  8. Start stitching about ½” from the raw end of the piping (to facilitate a clean finish). Stitch all the way around. When you are about 1″ from the starting point, stop and lock your stitch.
  9. Remove the project from the machine.
  10. Lay the piping aginst the fabric so it is flat and smooth. Cut away the excess fabric and piping leaving about a 1″ tail.
  11. With a seam ripper, peel back the fabric to expose the cording underneath.
  12. Trim the end of cording tail so it exactly meets the end of the sewn-down cording. Fold under the end of the loose fabric to create a clean edge. Lift up that little bit of the start of the piping you left loose at the beginning, and wrap this folded end under and around, overlapping about ½”.
  13. Stitch in place, matching your seam line.
  14. Again, if you’re new to attaching piping, check out our tutorial for tips on joining and finishing.

Assembling the layers to finish

  1. Find your front panel with the piping stitched in place and your back panel with the two pieces tacked together to act as one.
  2. Make sure the back panel is unbuttoned.
  3. Place the finished front panel on your work surface right side facing up.
  4. Place your finish back/button panel on top, right side facing down. Your piping is sandwiched in between the layers.
  5. Carefully align all the raw edges and pin in place.
  6. Using your Zipper foot, stitch together through all layers around all four sides, using a ½” seam allowance, which should be as close to the piping as possible. Go slowly and make sure your layers stay flat.
  7. When your seam is complete. Turn the pillow cover right side out through the back button opening. Push out the piping all around. Use a long, blunt-end tool, such as a knitting needle or chopstick, to smooth out the corners.
  8. Insert your pillow form through the envelope opening and fluff it out into the corners.
  9. Button the pillow closed.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild

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