Frequently, when I tell people that I make things with a sewing machine, they respond by telling me that they don't know how to sew. Many of them even have sewing machines, but they find them too intimidating to use. So, to all of you people out there, if you can drive a car, you can sew. You might need a little help threading your machine, but if it came with directions, and you'll be able to figure that part out. As for the "driving," you steer the fabric with your hands, and press the "gas pedal" on the floor to adjust your speed. Now, let's make a throw pillow.
You can make your throw pillow with no zipper, which is even easier than the one I'm going to show you, but if you have a DOG like mine (see above) who thinks all things soft and squishy are for her sleeping comfort, you're going to want to wash your pillow now and then. I think it's easier to wash the case and the stuffing separately, so that's why mine has a zipper.
1. Cut your fabric into a large square, or as I did, into a rectangle that is a square when you fold it in half. (One less side to sew!)
2. Fold fabric or match fabric if two separate squares with the right (Good) sides together. If your fabric is striped, you'll want to line up the stripes as much as possible, and pin the edge opposite the fold.
3. Using a very large stitch size, sew down this edge. Take the pins out as your sewing machine gets close to them... you can break your sewing machine needle if you sew over them. You can live dangerously by not using pins or by trying to sew over them, as I sometimes do, but I wouldn't recommend it for a beginner... and watch out for your fingers. There's really no need for them to get too close to that needle, unless you want to see what if feels like to sew over your finger, as I once did.
3. Flatten out your seam - you're going to put the zipper on it, lining up the zipper teeth right over the seam.
4. Place the zipper in the middle of this seam, and mark with a pencil on the fabric where the beginning and the ending of the zipper will be.
5. Using a smaller stitch, go back to the sewing machine, and reinforce with another line of stitching in the places where your zipper will NOT be. The edges of my fabric are about 18 inches long, and my zipper is 12 inches long, so I reinforced about 3 inches of the seam on each end.
6. Now, put your zipper back on the fabric, and pin it down.
7. Now, I always have a problem sewing around the lump that is the zipper pull, and here's how I deal with that problem. I sew the bottom half of the zipper on both sides first.
8. Then I push the zipper pull down the zipper far enough so that I can sew the top half of the zipper on each side.
The picture above shows the zipper pull halfway down the seam, after I finished sewing each side.
I'm sure the Project Runway alumni have a much more professional way to do this, but this is what I found to be the easiest way. Before I discovered this method, I used to have sections of my zipper sticking out of the finished product like errant bra straps. Unsightly.
9. Now that the zipper is in place, unzip it carefully. Where the zipper opens, cut the large stitches you first sewed. You can use a pair of sharp scissors, or a seam ripper. Most sewing machines come with a seam ripper. It's a little gadget that looks like a mini envelope opener - a small hook with a sharp edge on the inside curve. Slide it along the seam and WALLA - consider your seam ripped.
10. Match up your remaining sides, pin and sew them.
11. Snip off most of the corners, taking care not to cut through the stitching where it crosses to make the corners.
12. Pulling through the unzipped opening, turn your pillow casing so that the right side is now facing out.
13. Stuff with stuffing.
14. Zip closed.
15. Let your dog sleep on the pillow.
You now know how to sew. :-)