How to Finish Needlepoint Pillows Like a Pro
Transforming a stitched and blocked piece of needlepoint into a pillow with well-shaped edges is a beautiful way to display your needlework. While you may want to take a specialty needlepoint project to a professional trained in textile finishing techniques, you can easily learn how to do it yourself at a fraction of the cost for simple projects like a pillow cover. If you know how to work a sewing machine with a basic running stitch, with just a few additional supplies, you can conquer your fear and turn your hand-stitched needlepoint pillow top into a gorgeous home decorating item.
About Backing Fabric
The most important decision to make when finishing a needlepoint pillow is the type of fabric you will use to make the pillow back. The material should complement the stitched needlepoint and be sturdy enough to withstand the wear and tear the average decorative pillow gets.
Medium weight firmly woven fabrics like corduroy or cotton velveteen are excellent choices for backing material. Lightweight fabrics are too thin and cannot support the stitched needlepoint—especially needlepoint worked on single thread canvas with wool yarn. These fabrics tend to rip these situations. Conversely, heavyweight upholstery fabrics are too stiff and hard to sew and turn.
Once you've decided on a fabric, you're ready to learn how to sew a needlepoint pillow.
If you choose to use a pillow form instead of fiberfill, choose a form that is one size larger than the finished pillow in order to properly fill the pillow.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Sewing machine
- Sharp hand sewing needles
- Sewing shears
- Straight pins
- Finished needlepoint, blocked
- Fabric for pillow backing
- Lightweight muslin for inner lining
- Decorative cording or trim
- Pillow form or polyester fiberfill for stuffing
- Heavy-duty sewing thread
Backing Fabric and Inner Lining
To prevent the needlepoint canvas from unraveling as you work with the muslin lining and fabric backing, sew around the edge.
- With the sewing machine, and working as close as possible to the stitching without touching the needlepoint, sew around the blocked needlework.
With scissors, trim the excess canvas within 1/2 inch of the worked design around all four outside edges to prepare the pillow front. This 1/2 inch is your seam allowance.
- Using the trimmed needlepoint piece as a template, pin the right side of the needlepoint to the right side of the fabric backing. Cut out a pillow back in the same size as the pillow front.
- Remove pins and set the needlepoint aside. Pin the backing fabric to the muslin and use it as a template to cut out the inner lining.
Pin the inner lining to the wrong side of the needlepoint and baste around the entire piece within one canvas thread of the stitched areas.
Add Edging: Decorative Trim or Cording
With the right side facing, pin the decorative trim or cording around the edges of the finished needlepoint.
- Baste around the pillow front as close as possible to the needlepoint stitches to tack the cording in place, overlapping the ends. Turn to the wrong side to check for skipped stitches and make sure the decorative trim is secure.
Set the sewing machine for heavy-duty sewing and change presser foot or lower feed dogs as needed to stitch through several fabric thicknesses. Sew an additional row or go back over the previous row of stitching to hold the trim in place.
Sew the Pillow
Place the right sides of the pillow front and back together.
- Using a running stitch, begin stitching in the ditch along the bottom edge, one inch from the corner closest to you. When you reach the next corner, place the machine needle in the "down" position, pivot the fabric and stitch in the ditch along the next edge.
Repeat until you are back at the bottom edge, stitching one inch from the final corner. You will now have an open area along the pillow's bottom edge that's large enough to insert the pillow form or stuffing.
- Clip the corners to within 1/4 inch of the machine stitching line—do not cut through the machine stitching line.
Clipping the corners reduces the bulk, eliminating rounding for a more professional-looking finish.
Turn the pillow covering right-side-out, gently pushing the corners outward.
- Place the pillow form or fiberfill into your needlepoint pillow cover. If needed, add some extra pillow filler or fiberfill to smooth out any loose places.
- Fold the remaining open ends of the needlepoint front and fabric backing to the inside so that no raw edges are showing. Slip-stitch the openings together by hand to complete your pillow.
Fluff out the pillow and place it on display.