How to Make a Throw Pillow Cover with Recycled Jeans
A quick survey
What do you do with your old worn out jeans?
After years of tossing out my husband's old blue jeans, I decided I'd make something out of them rather than add more trash to the local landfill.
I always seem to have old jeans laying around the house and there is a reason for that. My husband needs jeans with a 32" inseam and they are just a tad too long for him. So, after a while, the hems get badly torn. They are too damaged to donate to an organization and I can never say no to more fabric.
My solution to this dilemma is that I make things out of them, and one of my favorite things to make is this throw pillow cover. It adds a nice casual touch to my living room sofa, and it matches almost any décor. Because it is an envelope style pillow cover, it is easily removed from the pillow form for washing.
This pillow makes a great gift for a student heading off to college in the fall. Put a few pens and pencils in the pocket, maybe even a few dollars, wrap it up and you are set!
Making this is really easy and almost anyone with a sewing machine can do it. Just follow these step by step photos and instructions and you'll have your own throw pillow cover in no time.
Throw pillow cover
The following instructions and measurements make one throw pillow cover that fits a 14" by 14" pillow form.
If you want to use another size pillow form, there is a table provided for cutting measurements.
Need a pillow form?
Types of pillow covers
There are three types of pillow covers.
- Envelope - These covers can be easily removed and have an overlapping flap on the back side that is open.
- Zippered - These covers have a zipper on one side which allows for easy removal and washing.
- Stitched - These covers are sewn over the pillow form and cannot be removed.
- One 14" x 14" pillow form
- Old jeans - at least one pair, depending on the size
- Scissors - Use good fabric scissors. Jeans are hard to cut through.
- Seam ripper
I use a quilter's ruler, a cutting mat and a rotary cutter to cut the jeans down to the size needed, but this pattern can still be used if you don't have these items.
You'll also need a sewing machine and thread.
Disassemble the jeans
Before beginning, make sure your jeans have been washed and pressed.
Using a seam ripper and scissors, disassemble the blue jeans.
The best way to do this is to split the jeans in half.
Take apart the inseam first. Then cut the center of the jeans, from the crotch to the waist, along the zipper line in the front and the center seam in the back.
Press open the two halves.
Cut out the fabric pieces
For this project you'll need the following size fabric pieces:
- One piece 14 1/2" by 14 1/2". The pillow form is 14 inches and the 1/2 inch is for the seam allowance.
- 2 pieces 14 1/2" by 11".
Note that the pieces are almost the same size as the pillow form. You don't want to have a cover that is too large or it will be baggy.
Lay your ruler on the fabric and determine where you want to cut. I use the leg seam as a guideline and center it so the seam shows on the pillow cover.
Using a rotary cutter, carefully cut out the pieces.
To get a pocket, use a seam ripper to remove one from the jeans. Set aside until ready to use.
Cutting measurements for common pillow forms
Pillow form size
Front measurement (cut one piece)
Back measurement (cut two pieces)
12" x 12"
12 1/2" x 12 1/2"
12 1/2" x 9"
14" x 14"
14 1/2" x 14 1/2"
14 1/2" x 11"
16" x 16"
16 1/2" x 16 1/2"
16 1/2" x 13"
18" x 18"
18 1/2" x 18 1/2"
18 1/2" x 15"
Prepare the back of the pillow cover
To prepare the back of the pillow cover, you will need the 2 pieces of fabric that were cut 14 1/2" by 11".
- Take one of the pieces and fold over one of the long 14 1/2" sides.
- Fold it over approximately 1/2".
- Press and pin.
- Sew down the folded edge, staying close to the cut edge, not the fold. Remember to backstitch at the beginning and the end.
- Repeat with the second piece of fabric.
When sewing denim
Denim is a thick fabric so when you are using your sewing machine remember to use the correct needle and thread.
Pin back of cover
To get the back of the pillow with the envelope opening, you'll need to do some pinning.
- Take the two smaller pieces of fabric that have the one finished edge.
- Lay one of the pieces, right side facing up on a cutting board. The sewn side should be farthest from you, with the long (14 1/2") unfinished side closest to you.
- Lay the other piece, right side facing up, on top of the first piece. The finished edge of this piece should be closest to you.
- Adjust the 2 pieces so that the square they form measures 14 1/2" by 14 1/2", the same size as the front piece.
- Pin the pieces together on the right and left sides, where they overlap, ensuring that they will not slip when sewn.
- Set aside.
Sew the pocket on
Pin the pocket on the right side of the piece of fabric that you previously cut 14 1/2" by 14 1/2". Place it wherever you like it best.
Sew around the outer edges of the pocket, backstitching at the beginning and end. Remember, if you want a working pocket, don't sew across the top.
After you put the pocket on you can also add other embellishments to the front of the pillow. A special patch or some pretty ribbon make a nice addition.
Pin the pillow cover together
Matching up all four sides, pin the front piece of fabric, that has the pocket on it, to the pieces that make up the back.
The fabrics should be right sides facing each other.
Pin around all four sides.
Sew cover together
- Sew down each of the four sides of the cover, backstitching at the beginning and the end of each side. Make sure to get all the layers of fabric.
- You may think you need to leave an opening to turn the cover inside out, but remember that there is an opening on the back side for this.
- Snip each corner on the diagonal.
- Flip inside out and, using a pointed tool, push the corners out so they are sharp. Don't use a tool that is too sharp and don't push too hard or you could puncture the fabric. I use a blunt pencil or a letter opener, but there are sewing tools you can purchase.
- Fit the pillow form in the cover and you are finished.
Upcycle jeans and make this cute pillow
Brief history of denim
Denim was originally worn by Italian sailors from Genoa in the 1500s and was known as the "bleu de Genes". Nimes, France tried to replicate the fabric, but failed. Their product was called "de Nimes". Hence the english words Blue Jeans and Denim.
In the late 1800's, during the gold rush, Levi Strauss brought denim to the United States. The pants quickly became popular because of their durability.
The rest is history, as they say. Today, blue jeans are worn throughout the world.
I love this throw pillow cover and so does everyone else who sees it. My daughter's friends have already put in a couple of requests for a few.
One thing that is so great about it is that, even though I made this one out of recycled blue jeans, it can easily be made out of another fabric. The pattern is also easily adjusted to fit any size pillow form you may have on hand.
An old pair of brightly colored jeans or a torn pair of khakis would look really cute. A pretty gingham blouse that no longer fits would also be nice.
The next time you have a pair of old jeans that are headed for the trash bin, make this pillow cover instead. You'll love it!
© 2013 Claudia Mitchell