I love pockets and I like to add pockets to the back of pillows that I make for kids. Depending on how old the kids are, they can use them for tooth fairy pillows or to hold secret treasures, even letters to Santa and small toys. How about tucking in a gift card to Toys-R-Us or Babies-R-Us? I also make my kid pillows “mom friendly” with removable covers (shams) so that they can be turned inside out and laundered…just in case!
Here’s my not-so-brief tutorial on adding a pillow pocket sham.
IMPORTANT: Please read the supply list and directions all the way through before starting.
- Sewing machine w/ zigzag (overcast stitch is not req’d but great to finish the seams)
- Machine needles for sewing through multiple layers.
- Buttonhole foot or attachment for sewing buttonholes (optional)
- Rotary cutter,
- Straight Ruler w/ 1/4” markings
- Curved ruler or compass for drawing curves.
- 8 1/2” x 11” piece of paper (I use graph paper for patterns)
- Buttons or Velcro (optional)
- Greeting card envelope opened up flat about 5 & 1/2” wide by 9” long (see picture below)
Fabric for pillow back– measure the height and width of your pillow front and add 3 inches to the height, divide that measurement by 2 and cut two pieces of fabric that measurement. EXAMPLE. Your pillow is 20 inches wide x 15 inches high (15 + 3 =18) Divide 18” x 2 = 9”. Cut two pieces of backing that are 20” wide x 9” high
Fabric for pocket: I won’t go into the directions for string piecing since everyone has their own method of doing it. Whatever fabric you choose, you’ll need a piece of fabric that is about an inch longer and wider than your card envelope and a piece of lining fabric the same size. A fat quarter is plenty big enough.
1. Trace your open envelope on a piece of graph paper. I like to put a weight on the envelope and use a ruler to trace around it. Using the ruler mark the center line of the envelope. Be sure to draw in the fold lines too.
2. See the bottom of the envelope that I drew. I didn’t want a V-shape which would have been hard to turn after sewing, so I used my curved ruler to draw a curve on the end.
3. Draw a 1/4 inch seam allowance around all of the edges of your pattern and cut it out.
4. Pin your pattern to the strip piecing fabric and lining and cut both out
5. Sew the envelope and lining together right sides together. I started on one long edge and left about a 2 inch area unstitched so I could turn it right side out again. .
6. Turn your envelope inside out and trim the corner and points, then clip the curved seam allowance every 1/2 inch. I used a wooden points turner to push out the points and then press, press, press. You can stitch up the opening you left for turning either by machine or hand.
7. Remember the fold lines on your pattern? Well now’s the time to fold your fabric pocket using those lines as a guide and check the fit. See mine on the right? I miscalculated and didn’t leave enough room at the top of the pillow back (more on that later in the tutorial). Just make sure yours fits and you still have 2 1/2” between the top of the envelope and the top of your sham. I could have moved mine down closer to the hem, but I’d already added the buttonholes.
8. If you’re going to add a button closure or Velcro to your pillow pocket now is the time to do it before you attach it to the pillow back. I added a buttonhole because I have a lot of cute buttons that I want to use up!
I’m not jumping ahead here, I just forgot to take a picture of my pocket BEFORE it was attached to the sham but if you want to “oooh” and “ahhh” now go right ahead, LOL.
9. Fold up each long edge of the two back pieces 1 1/2 “ inch and press. You can finish the raw edges with a zig zag or overcast stitch if you want to or you can fold the raw edge under another 1/4 inch. Now stitch a hem close to the finished edge. If you’re adding buttonholes do it now before we attach the back to the pillow front.
10. Center the pocket on the top half of your pillow back and pin it as shown below with the flap OPEN. Using a water-soluble marker draw a faint stitching line where the fold line for the pocket flap is and stitch through the flap and the pillow back.
11. Now stitch the sides and bottom of the pocket to the pillow back making sure that the pocket is straight and centered on the pillow back. (Hint: I fold both the pillow back and pocket in half to find the center and mark them with a pin and then line up the pins).
12: Pin the pocket flap down and match up the two halves of the pillow back so that the top portion overlaps the bottom. Now baste the two halves together about 1/2 inch from the end, just to make them easier to handle.
13. Pin the pillow back to the front (right sides together) and check the fit, make any adjustments. Make sure that the pocket flap is pinned down and isn’t caught in the seam allowances. Now stitch the front and back together using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
14. Trim corners and turn right side out. Remove the basting stitches. Using an edge guide to top stitch through all layers about 2 inches from the edge. Make sure not to catch the pocket in your stiches or you won’t be able to open it. Sew on your buttons or Velcro, if you’re using them, insert a pillow form and…Voila, you’re done!
Take a look below. I didn’t have enough room between the top edge and my pocket to top stitch so if you look closely you can see where I had to stop the top stitching skip over the pocket area and then start stitching.again.
I call this pillow shape a “lozenge” pillow. It’s like a neck roll only FLAT. I made a custom insert for it but I used a standard purchased pillow form for the Santa pocket pillow shown above.
Need ideas? You can make some cute pillows with the pre-printed panels, orphan blocks or coloring book applique. Try different sizes and shapes for your pillow too, like round or heart shaped or how about a large pre-printed doll panel?. Whatever you use as a pattern for your pillow can be used to make the custom pillow insert to fit inside and fill it out.