Sew up a pretty bench pillow to make your entryway or window bench prettier and more inviting! Read on for my free tutorial for sewing a 16’’ x 38’’ bench pillow complete with DIY piping. I’ll share my secrets for making your pillow smooth, plump, and pretty, plus where to find all of the fabrics and materials that I used.
This blog post has been converted to an optional PDF that’s optimized for printing. Find it here. The Bench Pillow tutorial and instructions are included in the blog post below and are totally free to read, print, and sew! Just hit CTRL +P on your computer to print. The Optimized for Printing PDF download for $2 is totally optional.
Sewing your own bench pillows can save you money, plus you will be able to coordinate fabrics to your home decor and make a pillow that’s exactly your style!
This cushion is made from a store-bought pillow form that comes in a standard 16’’ x 38’’ size so you can’t go wrong. You can also adapt this tutorial for making a piped pillow cover for any size pillow form. I’ll share tips for doing that too.
This pillow tutorial includes step by step instructions for making your own DIY piping. Why? Let me count the reasons…
Piping adds a professional touch to any pillow and makes it look so glamorous
Piping hides any waviness or mistakes, trust me!
If you make your piping yourself you can make it any thickness you want AND use coordinating fabric
Store-bought piping is handy, but it doesn’t come in exciting prints
So you CAN leave the piping off of this bench pillow, but I hope you don’t! My tutorial makes it fast and easy to create and sew on.
For most fabrics, you’ll only need one yard to make this pillow. I fell in love with this gorgeous floral panel print that I saw at my local quilt shop (Quilts and Lace). It’s called Wild Beauty from QT Fabrics. Because the printed design ran lengthwise on the fabric, I had to get 1 1/8 yards so I would have enough for the width of the pillow. As a bonus, I have enough of that print leftover to make another pillow.
If you are using non-directional fabric, you can make the entire pillow with 1 yard of fabric or purchase 1/2 yard for the front and 1/2 yard for the back. That also means if you choose ready made piping, then you can make a beautiful new pillow with just one yard of fabric.
1/2 yard of fabric for the pillow front
1/2 yard of fabric for the pillow back
a 16’’ x 38’’ pillow form (this size can be found in quilt shops, craft stores, and on Amazon)
3 1/2 yards of ready-made piping trim or:
1/2 yard of fabric for making DIY piping (or a fat quarter – see more information in ‘Cutting’ below) and
3 1/2 yards of 1/4’’ cotton piping cord (size 2 – also found in quilt shops, craft stores, and on Amazon)
Tip: If you are using quilting cotton fabric to make this pillow, then I highly suggest using fusible interfacing to give the fabric more body and help it look smooth and professional. I used Pellon SF101 woven fusible interfacing. This interfacing comes in 2 widths: 20’’ wide (you’ll need 2 1/4 yards) and 60’’ wide (you’ll need 1 yard).
For the pillow front, cut one fabric rectangle 16’’ x 38’’.
For the pillow back, cut one fabric rectangle 16’’ x 38’’.
Tip: If you are using a different sized pillow form, cut your front and back fabric pieces the same size as your pillow form. Because of seam allowances, after sewing the pillow cover will end up a little bit smaller than the advertised size of the pillow form. That’s okay because all store bought pillow forms are loosely stuffed and the the pillow cover needs to be a bit smaller or the pillow will also look loosely stuffed and floppy.
For the piping, cut 5 strips of fabric on the bias as seen in the diagram above. The strips should be 2’’ wide. If your piece of fabric is larger than 1/2 yard, you may need fewer than 5 strips (you’ll need 115’’ of 2’’ wide bias trim in all).
To save fabric, use my video tutorial for making bias trim from a fat quarter – when you cut it only 2’’ wide, you’ll have plenty!
Make the DIY Piping
1. Sew the bias cut strips together at an angle to make at least 115’’ of bias trim.
Press the seams open.
2. Wrap the bias trim around the 1/4’’ piping cord at one end. You may use clips to hold the piping in place as you start sewing, but you don’t need to secure the entire length before getting started sewing.
3. Attach the zipper foot (or a piping foot) to your sewing machine. This will help you sew as close to the cord inside the piping as possible.
Using a long basting stitch, sew the piping cord inside the binding strip, sewing as close to the piping cord as you can.
Work slowly and try not to stretch the fabric.
Sew the Piping to the Pillow Front
Tip: Cut pieces of fusible interfacing to match your pillow front and back fabric rectangles, and fuse the interfacing to the back of the fabric pieces. I use interfacing whenever I use quilting cotton fabric for home decor projects because it makes my pillows look so much more professional!
1. Use pins or clips to secure one end of the piping to the bottom right corner of the pillow front rectangle. You do not have to pin the piping all the way around the fabric rectangle, but it helps to have it pinned as you begin.
2. Sew the piping around the edges of the pillow front, still using your sewing machine’s zipper foot or piping foot.
Sew on top of the previous stitching that you used to make the piping.
3. As you approach each corner of the fabric piece, cut into the piping all the way to the stitching (try not to cut the stitching).
This cut in the piping should be 5/8’’ before the corner of the fabric.
Then, when you reach the cut in the piping, stop with the needle down.
Turn the fabric and piping and continue sewing the piping around the pillow front, sewing on top of the previous stitching.
4. Before sewing piping to the last side of the front piece, stop so you can trim away some of the cord inside of the piping where you started.
Pull out some of cording (it will make the piping gather as seen above) and cut off about 2-3’’. Smooth out the piping – the end of the cording should be about 5/8’’ away from the corner.
This will help the piping at the corner lay flat where it intersects.
5. Now finish sewing the piping to the last side of the fabric rectangle. Let the piping cross over itself at the corner. If you trimmed away some of the cording inside, it will lay smoothly.
6. Pull out and trim away some of the cording inside the remaining end of the piping too. This will make it easier to sew the pillow front and back together.
Then trim the ends of the piping even with the fabric rectangle.
Sewing the Bench Pillow Together
1. Place the pillow front and back pieces right sides together and pin all the away around the edges.
Pin with the pillow front on top.
2. Sew around the pillow cover, sewing on top of the stitching lines from attaching the piping. This will ensure that your piping is nice and tight and you can’t see any stitching lines on the finished pillow.
If you are able to sew a tiny bit to the left of the stitching line to make your piping even tighter, do so.
Leave an opening on one short end of the pillow that is about 10’’ long. This means that you’ll start on one short end and sew for only about 2 1/2’’ before turning the first corner.
Finish on that same short end by sewing for about 2 1/2’’ after turning the last corner and then backstitching to secure.
3. To reduce bulk, trim away the extra fabric at the corners.
4. Turn the pillow cover right side out. Push out the corners and press the cover if it has become wrinkled.
Turn the pillow over to the back. Turn the raw edges on the back to the inside by 5/8’’ so that the fold lays flat against the piping. Press.
5. Insert the pillow form through the opening. Work slowly to get the pillow form all the way inside the cover with the pillow form pushed into the corners of the cover.
Note: in the photo above you can see a zipper. That’s the zipper on the pillow form, not a zipper that I sewed in.
Pin or clip the opening closed. Since you pressed a nice folded edge in the pillow opening, it should be easy to line up the folded edge with the piping.
6. Hand sew the opening closed using a ladder stitch.
Enjoy sharing your beautiful bench pillow for everyone to admire!
Now that you are an expert with piping, try making my Clamshell Bag – you can’t go wrong with this one!
As always, I love seeing the things you create with my free patterns and tutorials. Please share a photo to Instagram and tag me @sewcanshe or #sewcanshe so I can take a look.
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