How To Make a Pillow Sham (an Embroidered Pillow Sham)

Let me start by wishing you a Happy New Year.  I hope this post finds you well.   I know I have been missing in action since Summer.  School began, and I found myself embroidering almost everyday until my children went on Christmas Holiday.  It’s a good thing that I don’t have one of those blogs that get sponsored by brands that expect a post or two a week.  They would fire me. 

On to the topic…

Last year (Christmas that is) I found myself with the idea that I would give personalized throw pillows for gifts for a few lucky ones on my list.  I thought that it would be an easy gift that I could personalize with an embroidery design, family name, initials, etc…  I thought all I would need to do was to go to Hobby Lobby and pick a “ALREADY” made throw pillow sham/cover, come home and embellish it with a design suited for my recipient….EASY- PEASY, LEMON -SQUEEZY right????  WRONG!!!  All of the “already” made throw pillow sham/covers/sleeves’ openings were along the bottom edge and did not allow the pillow case to fit on the hoop of my machine in the direction that allowed my design to maximize the area on the pillow.  I’m not sure if that makes sense but I needed the design going horizontal in my hoop but the opening of the pillow was going to allow the design to be embroidered vertically on the machine which would have resulted in a design being limited in size.  I wanted to use the largest size of my designs.  My largest hoop measures something like 12″wx8″h. 

There WENT my idea of giving personalized pillows as gifts to a few folks on my list…or at least I thought. My husband suggested that I SEW a pillow sham so I could embroidery it prior to stitching the case together.  I am not sure if I have ever told y’all that I do NOT sew.  I can sew a seam in a koozie but to actually have to make something with my normal sewing machine is NOT something I can do.  I can not sew detailed instructions from a pattern. Well, that is not totally true…..I kind of can.  I JUST DO NOT LIKE TO SEW.  However, in this situation, I was either going to DIM (do it myself) or think of another gift.  The easiest solution this time was DIM with a little help from a few Pinterest tutorials in which if  you follow me on Pinterest, you can view them. Those tutorials were GREAT, but none of them gave me the steps that I needed to add an applique. I do not know about  y’all,  but I NEED the step by step visuals of EACH STEP.  At Christmas time, I did not have any brain function to engineer all of this together.  SO…..  I add those extra steps in my tutorial below for you (and I’m not going to lie when I state that this is for ME TOO for future pillow gifts).

I also need to stress that I AM NOT A SEWER FOR HIRE.  I made (and will make) pillows for my gift recipients.  THIS IS STRICTLY A TUTORIAL FOR YOU TO MAKE YOUR OWN PILLOW.  I can applique it for you if you don’t embroidery, but you will need to bring me the material marked with the center. 


1/2 yard of fabric of choice

3/8 or 5/8 double-sided hem tape

pillow insert (I used 16×16) 

fabric marker (disappearing/magic/dissoluble)

embroidery design of your choice

The given..scissors, needles, sewing machine, embroidery machine, thread, straight pins, fabric for applique, stabilizer,  possible iron

 To make a case for a 16″x16″ pillow the goal is to have a 15″x15″ pillow sham/case/cover. 

If the pillow insert was 18″x18″ the goal would be to have a 17″x17″ pillow sham.

All sides should be 1″ smaller than pillow so that the pillow is nice and “tart” in the sham.

A half a yard of material will work for one pillow as long as your insert doesn’t exceed 18″.

 Trim your yard of fabric to 38″x16″. TIP: I keep it folded as I trim it 16″ wide.

Then it could be kept folded as you cut the folded piece to 19″ so when you open it up, you have 38″ long.


Then to keep the short edges from fraying and to aid in the making of a hem, I prepare the edges to be hemmed with the double-sided hem tape.

I used the 5/8″ tape. It also comes in 3/8″. ( If you use the 3/8″, you may need to cut your material down to 37″x16″.)

Run the tape along the short edges and peel away the backing.

Fold your edge with the 5/8″ tape over so you have a partial hem keeping the hem the 5/8″ of the tape.

I hope that makes sense???…..FOLD OVER 5/8″ don’t fold it over more than the width of the tape.

Do this to both short sides of the material/fabric. 

The tape will stick to your fingers. Be patient!!

Just remember it’s not super glue…LOL!!

Once I have both short edges folded over with the tape, I fold the edges over one more time so my raw edge will be sewn under.

I keep this fold 5/8″ too.

I press this fold with the iron. It would not be necessary but I like to keep the fold in place the best I can without adding another strip of tape.

A few straight pins would hold it in place too.

Once your hems are folded, stitch them with the sewing machine. 

My machine is marked with measurement so I can use them as a guide.  I stitched at the 5/8″ marking. 

Time to fold the short side to create the envelope type back so the center for the embroidery can be determined. 

Please note that the material should be right side facing down as you begin to make these folds because the next few steps is in preparation to find and mark the center for the embroidery.

 The fabric should now be somewhere between 35″ and 36″ long with 35″ being ideal.  With it being 35″, that allows for a 15″ front and the back of the sham measuring 10″ in towards the center to create the envelope type back. 

Here is a diagram.  I hope this helps make it clearer for you.  You may find that your material is a pinch longer than 35″ so you may have one fold at 10″ and the other 10″-11″. The goal is to leave about 4-5″ on each side once you over lap them.  I have labeled the next photo for hopefully a better visual. 

My fabric was a little longer than 35″ so when I folded it in to get 15″ wide, I had an edge folding in 11″ and the other edge folding in at 10″.  This left me with a 6″ overlap and 5″ on one side and 4″ other other.  The ultimate goal is to leave 4-5″ from the overlap to the edges of the pillow.   This will allow for your pillow insert to fit in nicely and then lay nicely without a large gap in the pack. 

Now to mark the  center.

Now that the sides are folded in to create the back of the sham, the pillow shame is measuring 15″x16″

(Remember we cut our fabric 38″w x 16″h when we started so now that is hemmed and folded we have 15″x16″). 

To mark the center, simply fold the fabric in half.  Now the fabric is 7.5″x16″.  If your using a cutting mat with measurement on it like I did, mark the center at 8



I add a few more dots along my centers with my fabric marker to help me hoop the fabric in the hoop straight. 

I also had to put an arrow with my marker to show me which way is the top.** 

** This will only matter if your folded back pieces are not an exact 10″.  Mine were 10″ and 11″ so that will matter when go to sew my sides together after it’s embroidered. 

Hoop and embroidery the design. 

Depending on the fabric a piece of “No Show” cut away stabilizer may need to be added.

  This fabric was a thinner cotton so I floated a piece of it between my fabric and tear away stabilizer. 

The sides are ready to be pinned so they can be sewn.  In this step, the right side of the fabric should be facing up. 

The top of the pillow will be folded back first.  It will overlap the bottom of the pillow on the backside of the sham so it must be folded first. 

 I like to use a yard stick to help me fold. 

This is also the step that was important for me to note which one was folded back at 10″ and which one was 11″.  ASK ME HOW I CAME TO THIS IMPORTANT DISCOVERY!!!!  You might notice that in the previous two pictures the designs are different. I’m sure  you know why….   You will get to see my blooper in the final picture of the deer silhouette pillow.  For my pillows after the deer, I made sure the folds were even, and/or I pinned it both ways:

with the top folded back at 10″ and looked at it from the front to see if the design was centered. 

 with the top folded back at 11″ and looked at it from the front to see if the design was centered. 

My goal here is to save you from bloopers, but you may not have any since  you may be a better “sewing engineer” than I am.

Once the folds are folded back with right sides together, pin it in place. 

I pinned at the hems of the overlaps. 

The sham is ready to be stitched

Remember I made mention of my sewing machine having the measurement guidelines? I am sure all machines do. 

I have owned two in my sewing life in which both had the guidelines.  

These seams should be sewn at 4/8″ (aka 1/2″).  If a 1/2″ seam is sewn on both sides, it results in a 15″x15″ sham.  

 It is also a good idea to do a reverse stitch over the hem areas. 

There will be a lot of tugging at these points so reinforcement will be beneficial. 


I trimmed the seams with pinking shears to limit fraying.

Now the sham can be turned inside out…over to the right side. 

It is ready for the pillow insert. 

 It will need fluffing (also known as a beating of the pillow) to fill out the sham.

It was a blessing that the blooper pillow was MINE! I really don’t mind since most things in nature aren’t perfect and as far as my husband…..

he has not even noticed that our bed has a new throw pillow on it. 


Any questions….LOL!!! Please feel free to comment or email me. 


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