Hey there. A day later than I thought. The creek didn't rise, but there was an impromptu dinner guest and a half day of school complete with a rollerskating party. By the end of yesterday, I was wiped. I feel great this morning, though. So grab a cup of coffee, or tea, and get ready because here we go....
As far as I see it, when it comes to pillows, you can make one out of any kind of fabric you like. Sweet, huh? The two most common choices are quilting cotton and upholstery weight/home decorator fabrics.
Quilting cotton is a great choice. It comes in prints and solids and averages about 42" wide. You can easily make two 16" square pillows out of one yard. It's also an affordable choice - from $5 to $10 a yard, you can get a lot of bang for your buck. It's also washable which is a huge plus for pillow covers that might be laundered a lot. The drawback? Quilting cotton is fairly light weight. It won't hold up as well as upholstery weight or heavier home decorator fabrics. If your kids play pillow fight with the throw cushions, it might not be the best choice.
Upholstery weight/Home decorator fabrics are just that - upholstery weight and intended for decorating the home. They are heavier than the quilting cotton and, while often 100% cotton, they might be made of other fibers including linen, wool, rayon, nylon, etc. They range in width from 54" to 60" and can be found fairly easily - my JoAnn's has a decent selection and there are also fabric stores for decorators just like there are for quilters. You'll find all kinds of different prints and colors including many with large scale repeats. If you are a careful cutter, you can get 2 or 3 16" to 18" pillows from a yard to a yard and a half. Things to think about: Many of these fabrics are dry clean only. The bigger width and heavier weave also indicates a bigger price tag - most home dec fabrics start at $18 and go up from there. Also, if the fabric has a big repeat, you may have to buy more yardage to match the pattern.
While these two choices are the most common, there are lots of other fabrics to consider. Canvas, cotton duck and denim are great heavy weight fabrics that come in a variety of solids and some prints. These are wonderful for seat cushions and floor pillows because they hold up to extra wear and tear. Apparel fabrics such as cotton shirting and wool suiting make great pillows. They are light weight, come in great plaids and checks which often gives them a more masculine feel. Corduroy is a fun choice too - it would add immediate texture to your project. You can get all fancy and use silks, velvets and satins, too. These fabrics look and feel luxurious and a little goes a long way. Wool felt is a wonderful choice for colder months. Because it doesn't unravel, you can leave cut edges unfinished. For kids and pets, fleece is a great choice. With so many bright colors and a plethora of patterns to choose from, you can certainly find a fleece for anyone on your gift list. Cotton jersey is a great choice for something soft and smooth. It's also a great choice if you want to layer it and try your hand at reverse applique. If you are a knitter or crocheter, think about taking yarn and making your own fabric for a pillow. You could work up a square or a rectangle and back it in fabric to make a unique pillow. Think cables, granny squares, etc.
So now that you have my run-down on pillow fabrics, here's my bit on how to fill those pillows. You can buy pillow forms or use some kind of stuffing. Pros and cons? Of course.
Pillow forms are pre-made pillows that you purchase to put into the pillow cover you sew. You can find them with different types of filler - down and poly being the most prevalent. They also come in various sizes - generally starting at 12" squares and going up to 22" or bigger. You can find circular, rectangular and bolster-shaped forms as well. They work really well if you want to remove your pillow cover for washing or swapping out at different seasons. At the big craft and fabric stores, you'll most likely find poly-filled forms. They start at around $5 and go up in price, depending on size and filling, from there. Down pillow inserts can be found at home decorator fabric stores. Which you choose is really a matter of preference. Down is generally the squish-iest, but there are some poly-filled pillow forms that mimic down well. My suggestion is to give the different forms the squeeze test to see which you like the best. If you have pillows around your house that you no longer love, think about using those as pillow forms for your new covers. Also, don't forget to keep your eye out for sale pillows at discount stores. Often you can find large pillows on sale for less than the cost of a new pillow form. It's a great way of reusing and recycling. If your pillow is an odd-shape or size, you probably won't be able to find a form to fit it. Stuffing is your best choice.
Stuffing or filling comes can be found in just about any craft store. Most often, it is made of polyester and is appropriately called poly-fil. Stuffing is also made from wool, bamboo and some eco-friendly choices. Look around to see what you can find - each material has a different feel. To stuff a pillow, you take small handfuls of filling and slowly fill the pillow to the desired firmness. You can also use stuffing to make your own pillow form. Using muslin, or another inexpensive fabric like an old sheet, sew a pillow the same shape and size as the pillow cover. Stuff the muslin pillow, sew it shut and then use that as a form. Easy, peasy, huh? Stuffing is a great choice for little pillows or ones with an odd-shape.
Finally, I should probably mention foam. Sold in different thicknesses and densities, it's a really good choice for chair seat cushions, window seats and the like. You can buy it at fabric and craft stores and often you need to cut it to size. An electric carving knife is the best tool for this. You also will need to wrap it with some kind of upholstery batting, most likely made of dacron. Before you go this route, it might be worth some research to see if a local upholsterer will cut and wrap the foam for you, especially if the foam needs to be thick and has any kind of curve.
Overwhelmed? I hope not. I just want to give you as much info as I can to get going. Questions? I will do my best to answer any in the comments. Back later today or tomorrow with ideas for closures and a bit about sizing. I'd be happy to talk trims - piping, fringe, etc. - if you all want me to. Just let me know.