Let me just start by saying that since I discovered my sewing machine bit the dust, I’ve done a lot more sewing by hand. In fact, more sewing by hand than ever in my entire life! I also have a few projects in limbo, as well, that I’m not going to attempt to do by hand because they would take forever and I’m already up into the wee hours of the night finishing my projects because it’s the only time I can get anything done!
Secondly, this is the first time I’ve ever painted on fabric and I am so hooked! I love the look of paint on the burlap; such a unique look of rich paint on the rugged texture of the burlap.
So anyway, I just wanted to preface that although I would never have chosen to hand sew these pillow covers over whipping them out on my machine, I think they probably turned out better because of the unique materials I used.
The couch we bought for our living room in September came with two throw pillows that match on one side and on the other side they’ve got this weird design that is nothing like my style. Despite them being brand new, these pillows have been an eyesore to me ever since, so with this project I’m happy to say I eliminated that problem!
I’m just going to list the specific things I used in this tutorial, but obviously your materials will vary depending upon what you use, so tweak it accordingly. I made two of these pillow covers. Also, they’re very simple pocket-style covers that you can slip your pillows into. I do this instead of sewing my pillows into covers because it is the fastest, simplest way to not only make the covers, but also to remove them for washing or switching to other covers.
Burlap material, cream color
Burlap garland, medium brown color/4 inches wide (This was actually some of the same garland I used for Christmas decorating.)
Lace, white color/flat/3 inches wide
Ribbon, black/sheer/1 inch wide
Battenburg Lace, (This I found at an antique store—Judah is often my date on these outings—and never in my life have I seen lace of any kind so reasonably priced! I bought the collar and cut it in sections to use for these pillow covers. I also bought two more lace pillows for a steal of a deal at the same store! I love exploring antique shops and finding awesome stuff I can repurpose!!!)
Black acrylic paint
Stippling brush (this is just a stiff brushing perfect for stenciling…you can also buy stenciling brushes, but I’ve found they are more expensive and not noticeably better)
Stencils for painting your design (These Fleur de Lis stencils are perfect with my French vintage theme!)
Heat n’ Bond adhesive iron-on tape
Regular sewing needles
Black embroidery floss thread
Black standard thread
Cream standard thread
Cream Perle cotton thread
1. Measure the size of your pillow and add 3/4 of an inch for the seams on each side; my pillows were 18 x 18 inches. My burlap squares for the front of each pillow cover were 19.5 x 19.5 inches. I allowed a bigger seam allowance because burlap is very different than other fabric and unravels very easily. Since I was hand-sewing these, I thought more of a seam allowance was a good idea since the length of my stitches would be bigger than if I was sewing them on my machine.
2. Then cut 4 pieces of burlap for the pockets of the pillow covers on the back. My pieces were 19.5 x 15 inches, which allowed for the 3/4 inch seam allowances.
3. On one 19.5 inch side of each of the 4 smaller pieces of burlap, fold down the edge about 1/2 inch, iron it, fold it down again and iron it, then stitch it to create a nice clean edge. My stitches were about 1/4 inch in length and I used the Perle cotton thread to do this.
4. Take your 19.5 x 19.5 inch squares of burlap and, on at a time, decide where you want to place your painted stencil design(s). Secure the stencil with your hand or tape. Stenciling on fabric works best when you stipple the paint on; take a basic craft paint brush and instead of using brush strokes, dip your brush in the paint and tap the brush up and down within the stencil to create your design. I didn’t completely saturate the fabric within the stencil because I wanted it to look a little imperfect.
5. When the paint on your fabric is totally dry, decide where your burlap garland will go. Use the Heat n’ Bond adhesive to attach the garland to the square. Heat n’ Bond will not attach the burlap garland extremely securely to the burlap fabric, but it will hold it in place so you can add the next layers (which will be secured by sewing).
6. Add your lace on top of the burlap garland (or wherever you want it!). Secure it in place with straight pins. Stitch with the black embroidery floss and a tapestry needle on both edges of the lace. Begin and finish with a double knot to secure floss well. My stitches for this part were about 1/2 inch in length.
8. Now decide where you want your Battenburg lace to go. Pin it in place. Using your cream standard thread and regular needle, sew the lace onto the burlap. I sewed very tiny, nearly invisible stitches to secure the lace. This was the most time-consuming part, but this Battenburg lace is what makes these pillows pop, so it was absolutely worth it!
9. You’re now ready to sew the back pocket pieces to the finished front pieces. Place the front of each pillow right side up. Take one pocket piece and place it right side down with the unfinished 19.5 inch edge lined up on the bottom edge of the front piece. Take the other pocket piece and place it right side down with its unfinished 19.5 inch edge lined up on the top edge of the front piece. Pin all three pieces together.
10. Using a tapestry needle and your cream Perle cotton thread, stitch along all 4 edges, leaving 3/4 inch seam allowance. My stitches were about 1/4 inch in length.
11. Carefully trim the burlap on the corners. Turn the pillow covers right side out, taking care to gently push the corners out with the eraser end of a pencil or something similar.
These were pretty time-consuming to make and hand-sew, but it was a fun end to my days and I’m super excited about the end result!