How to Make a Pillow Sham – Part 1

Here is Part I of the tutorial for making a pillow sham that I promised you.
Update: Click HERE to view Part II.
This pillow is part of the group of pillows that I made for the bed in my master bedroom.
I’ve seen a lot of tutorials for making different designs of throw pillows, but I’ve seen very few for making a pillow sham.  At least not where I’ve been looking anyway. ;o)  So – I thought I’d try my hand at putting a tutorial together.  I hope it comes across ok since this is my first attempt at one.
If you’re interested in learning how to make a pillow sham, please don’t be intimidated by the length of this two part tutorial.  They are not difficult to make at all.  If you can take a few measurements and sew a straight (or semi-straight!) line, you can make a sham by following these easy steps.
I’ll go ahead and warn you – the rest of the pictures were taken in my workroom, so the background isn’t all that pretty – that is unless you consider a well used work table, sewing machines, fabric racks and other workroom stuff pretty. ;o)
First up – cutting and assembly of the front of the sham.
I used four fabrics:
the main fabric for the pillow sham
white lining
fabric to cover cording (the cording fabric is not included in the picture – bad blogger!)
To begin, measure one side (not all the way around) of the pillow that will be going into the sham, from one side to the other (for the width) and from the top to the bottom (for the height).
Using your measurements, calculate the size of the pieces that you need to cut.  I’m making a sham for a king size pillow.  Here is my calculation for the size of the fabrics that I need to cut for the front of the sham:
36″=width of the pillow
              6″=for a 3″ flange on each side
                         +1″=1/2″ of seam allowance on each side
                              43″=width of fabric piece to cut for the front
 27″=height of the pillow
                             6″=for a 3″ flange on the top and bottom
                          +1″=1/2″ of seam allowance on the top and bottom
                             34″=height of fabric piece to cut for the front
In other words – I need to cut the fabrics for the front of the sham at 43″ wide x 34″ high.  I need to cut three pieces of fabric this size – the main fabric, the white lining and the batting.  I’ll explain why I’m using batting and white lining a few sentences down.
Layer all three of the cut pieces in this order:
main fabric on the bottom – face (or right) side of the fabric down
the batting in the middle
the white lining on the top.
The layers will look like this:
Now let me stop right here and explain a couple of things.  Do you know what a flange is on a pillow sham?  I can show you a picture better than I can explain it:
See the flat part that surrounds the puffiness where the pillow is?  That’s the flange.


The other thing that I want to explain is why I am using a piece of batting.  I’ve found that adding a piece of batting to the front of the sham is the only thing that has enough stiffness to keep the flange from flopping over when the pillow is standing up.  I don’t like a floppy flange!  You can skip the batting if a floppy flange doesn’t bother you though.  
The white lining is added to act as a barrier so that the batting won’t get snagged when inserting the pillow into the sham.  If you decide not to use batting, you can skip this too (although I think it makes a nicer finished product when it’s lined).
Sew the layers together on all four sides using a basting stitch.  How do you like my old workhorse industrial machine?

The next step is to apply the already covered cording.  There are many places on the web to find directions on how to cover cording, so I won’t go into the details about how to do that here (but don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions).

As you can see in the picture, the cording is applied to what will become the front of the sham.  It is turned so that the raw edge of the cording fabric is lined up with the raw edges of the other fabrics.  Simply sew the cording on using a basting stitch.  You’ll want to leave a few inches unattached at each end for joining the cord.  We’re just basting everything together right now, so at this point it isn’t necessary to get your stitches as close to the cording as possible.

Once you’ve basted the cording to the front of the sham, return to the beginning and end of the cord.  Clip open the stitches from when you first covered the cord and pull back the fabric to expose the cord itself.  It should look like this.

Cut about an inch of each end of the cord so that it will roughly half of it’s original width.  Lay the two cut ends side by side, overlapping each other.

Now wrap the layers of fabric back around the cord.  Turn under the raw edge of the top layer of fabric so that you won’t be left with a raw edge.  Sew the loose ends of the cord to the sham fabric.

And done!

Let me tell you that it took me a few tries to really get the hang of this.  I might have gotten itchy and sweaty and huffed a lot from being frustrated trying to get the layers of fabric to lay correctly.  I couldn’t do it at the sewing machine either.  I had to take everything to my work table, glue all of the layers in place with fabric glue and wait for it to dry before I could sew it.  Just go slowly and most importantly, be patient with yourself.

This is a good place to stop part 1 of the tutorial.  You’ve cut all of the pieces for the front, basted them together and applied your covered cord.  Great job!  In part two, we’ll cover the cutting and assembly of the back and do the final assembly of the sham.

Update:  Click here to view Part II of the tutorial


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  1. Great tutorial, Suzy! I’m so far behind in “blog-snooping,” so I just took a look-see of your beach house. Wow, what transformations you made! I love all your softer colors.

    I was one of those who was anxiously waiting to see how you “dressed” your bed. Amazing! I had to laugh, though, because my hubby would have had the same responses about the pillows!
    🙂 CAS

  2. Great tutorial. Love you sewing machine. Is that a special foot for sewing the cording? I am anxiously awaiting part two. Hugs

  3. Gypsy Heart says:

    Great job! You are very tenacious I have to say. Not sure if I will attempt this or not but I’m thinking about it…and looking forward to Part 2.


  4. Hi everybody. I’m glad you like the tutorial. Part 2 will be up Monday morning early. And yes it is a special foot for cording that you see on my machine. Pat – I hope you go for it!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for using the time and effort to write something so interesting.

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  6. ~ ~ Ahrisha ~ ~ says:

    Now, I know what to do about my floppy flange. You are a geneus! I’ll be ripping my pillow apart and doing it with batting. Thanks.
    ~ ~Ahrisha~ ~

  7. Stephanie says:

    I love all of your pillows!

  8. I found this tutorial just when I needed it! Thanks SO much Suzy! Can anyone contribute on when I could quilt this fabric? I want a HEAVY sham, so am planning on putting batting on front and back. I’m thinking the quilting should be done on front and back after the 3 layers are sewn together (main fabric, batting, lining) Then front and back of the sham would be put together and completed as usual. I also wouldn’t need the cording. Any ideas would be most appreciated. I subscribed today and am looking forward to many, many wonderful ideas.

    1. Hi Kathy. Nice to meet you! I think you’re right – I would quilt the front and back (all three layers) before joining them together. Let me know how it turns out!

  9. Crystal Strade says:

    Can I just use binding, like on a quilt?

    1. Use binding to do what? Sorry, but I’m not sure what you’re asking about.