I have recently been approached by a few people asking if I knew anywhere that sells cheap sewing machines. I can’t help but ask what they mean by ‘cheap’. As you know, everybody has their own idea of the term ‘cheap’. An amount that is considered cheap to one, may be thought of as expensive to another.
The best beginner sewing machine, in our opinion, would be a sewing machine that is not overly complicated. By that I mean a sewing machine that doesn’t necessarily have hundreds of bells and whistles. Like the Brother Innov Is NV550SE for example. – A computerized sewing machine with 429 utility and decorative stitches, 3 lettering styles etc.
The fantastic thing about making an envelope cushion cover is that it is so simple. In fact it only takes two hems, two folds and two sewn edges to complete the finished item.
One tool frequently used in sewing is an Overlocker – In this tutorial, for the benefit of those who don’t have an Overlocker, I will show you how to make an envelope cushion cover without using one.
Things You’ll Need:
- Tape Measure
- Sewing Machine
- Cushion Pads / Inner
How to make an Envelope Cushion Cover without an Overlocker.
Looking at the list above, although you will need them all, the first thing we want is our cushion pads. You could manage without having it to hand, but at the very least we need to know the size. For the purpose of this tutorial, I will use the very common 17″ x 17″ (45 x 45 cm).
Once we have the size of our cushion pad, the next question to answer is – How many cushion covers will I be making? – We need to know this in order to calculate the amount of fabric we will require. For this example, lets say I’m making four.
Calculating cushion cover fabric
So we know the size of our cushion pads, and we also know how many we would like to make. Now, before we can calculate the amount of fabric we need, there is one final question – How wide is the fabric we are thinking of using.
You may already have your fabric and need to calculate how many cushion covers you can make from it. Or, maybe you are calculating how much you will need before you purchase it. If your case is the later, I highly recommend taking a look at Terry’s Fabrics, they have an excellent range at very competitive prices.
Anyway, back to the task at hand. The fabric I have chosen for my cushion covers has a width of 60″ (150 cm).
Now for the Maths… Obviously, we want to cover both sides of the cushion pad. Also, because we are making a envelope cushion cover, we need to create an overlap. I recommend at least a 6″ (15 cm) overlap. Then we need to allow for seams and a couple of hems.
To calculate for the length of fabric for one cover:
- First we need to double the width of our cushion pads.
- Next we add sufficient fabric for our overlap.
- Then we allow for two hems.
Putting that in to figures: 17 + 17 + 6 + 2 = 42″ (45 + 45 +15 + 5 = 110 cm).
So for each envelope cushion cover, we need a piece of fabric that is 42″ (110 cm) long.
To calculate for the width of fabric for one cover:
Things you will need to make a pillowcase:
- Measuring tape
- Sewing Machine
Making a pillowcase in its basic form involves only two hems and two seams. You can’t get much more simple than that.
Step 1: Cutting your fabric to size.
To make a pillowcase we first need to measure and cut our fabric to size. In the UK, the standard pillowcase size is 29.5 inches x 19.5 inches (75cm x 50cm). This would be the finished size we are aiming for. When cutting our fabric we need to allow for hems and seams.
So, with our fabric on a flat surface, we cut a rectangular panel that measures 68 inches x 21 inches (173cm x 54cm). Now I do realize that the length does seem rather long but all will make sense as we progress to make a pillowcase.
Step 2: Sewing the hems.
Now that we have our fabric cut to the correct size, we need to sew the hems at each end. In this ‘make a pillowcase’ tutorial, I have given a hem allowance of 4 inches (10cm).
So now, with our fabric folded in half length ways, measure in 2 inches (5cm) form each end, and put in your marker pins.
Open out your fabric so it’s face down and at one end, fold your fabric back to form a crease level with the two marker pins.
Place a few pins along the crease to hold it (or iron it if you prefer). Now fold the cut edge down into the crease to form another crease and complete the hem. Pin (or iron) along the second crease and remove the pins (if used) from crease 1. Next, do the same again the other end.
Once both ends have been folded and pinned, we can stitch them in place removing any pins as we go.
Step 3: Sewing french seams.
While writing this guide on how to make a pillowcase, it dawned on me that very few, if any, of my readers would be likely to have an Overlocker (what’s that?). So I have decided to show you how to use french seams to make a pillowcase. Don’t panic if you don’t know what french seams are, just read on.
Now, although the way you make a pillowcase with french seams is different, it does eliminate the need for an overlocker. Anyway… enough waffle, let’s get on with the task at hand.
So, fabric folded length ways then, measure in 5 inches (13cm) from one end and put some marker pins in both layers. Your getting good at that now aren’t you! 🙂
Open your fabric out with the face down. Then, as we did with the hems, fold the end back to form a crease level with your marker pins. Pin or iron in to place.
Now, taking the hem at the other end, fold your fabric in half so that the edge of your hem is also level with your marker pins. Smooth out any wrinkles, pin along the cut edges and remove the marker pins.
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Next, sew along the cut edges you just pinned, sewing about half an inch in from the edge and removing the pins as you go. (If you’ve never made anything using french seams before, you may be thinking – “Hang on a minute… if I sew it like that, the cut edge will be on the out side.” – Well, Don’t worry… things will become clear in just a moment.)
After sewing along both edges, just have a quick double check that all pins have been removed. Then, with our ‘almost pillowcase’ laid out flat, trim off the cut edges on both sides, about a 1/8 of an inch (3mm) way from your stitches.
Taddaaa!!… (Oop’s sorry, we’re not ready for that yet.)
Now turn your ‘almost pillowcase’ completely inside out. Next we need to iron the seams on either side. Getting the seams pushed out nice and straight while ironing, can prove to be a bit tricky. Luckily though, I know a little tip that can help.
To be honest, personally, I love my sewing machine. I don’t mind the odd bit of sewing by hand, but it’s definitely a case of the less the better. Maybe it’s because I’m not very quick at hand sewing, or because I have an awful habit of jabbing myself with the needle.
How to Sew – Learn to Sew with a Sewing Machine
Obviously there are some things that need sewing by hand like hemming trousers and skirts. Unless that is, you happen to have a Blind Hemming Machine. That would be a subject for another time though.
Learning how to sew with a sewing machine (a standard one), is relatively easy. The vast majority of things can be made this way,and it really isn’t all that complicate.
Sewing – The First Things You Need to Know
Some of these are obvious, some maybe not so much. The first thing is that the most common stitch by far, is the straight stitch. This type of stitch is used on literally everything made through the craft of sewing.
The second most common stitch, would be the zigzag stitch. For example, around the edge of the faithful old buttonhole, look closely, and you will see a compact form of zigzag stitch. They also appear in combination with the straight stitch, to create the Overlocker stitch
When you want to learn how to sew, it may seem rather daunting. Fear not though, it’s really not all that complicated. Just take a look at any of the fabric items around you. I can pretty much guarantee that they will be made up of just two things – Seams and Hems.
These are were two (or more) pieces of fabric join together.
These are found at the edges and formed by folding and stitching the fabric in place, to form a neat edge.
So there you are. Putting those few things together gets you well on your way in your quest to learn how to sew.
Here at We’re in stitches, to help you further along your way, we have put together some easy sewing projects. They will show you step by step how to sew a range of soft-furnishings including pillow cases, cushion covers and curtains. So be sure to check them out!
On the other hand, if you have managed to land here from afar, you may want to check out Steps 1-3 to find out what we did first!
Step 4: Cutting your fabric to the correct length.
First, unfold your fabric on to a flat surface. Obviously, if you are making curtains that are quite long, you may not be able to unfold the whole length. Don’t worry, just unfold as much as you can. Next, we need to make sure that the cut end is a straight cut. If not you will need to cut off as little as possible to straighten it up.
Now this next bit is where things differ depending on whether you have chosen plain fabric, or patterned fabric, to make curtains with.
Measure down the side of your fabric. When you reach the finished length you require for your curtains, put a pin at the edge. Now add another 8 inches (20 cms) and put another pin at the edge. (This extra measurement is for the top and bottom hems). Now, Double Check your measurements! 🙂 Once you are happy that you have measured correctly, cut straight across the width of fabric just after the second pin, and remove both pins. Right… that’s one piece done. Now… do that again… and again until you have the correct number of widths required to make curtains the size you need.
Making curtains with Patterned Fabric:
If you are making curtains from a patterned curtain fabric, it’s recommended that you do something called ‘Pattern matching’. Basically, this means that we need to ensure the pattern will line up when we join two lengths together. The process for cutting patterned curtain fabric is similar to plain, except we need to allow for the pattern repeat.
So first, take note of what the pattern looks like along the top cut edge of your fabric. Now, as with plain fabric, measure down the side of your fabric. When you reach the finished length you require for your curtains, put a pin at the edge. Now add another 8 inches (20 cms) and put another pin at the edge. Next, we need to look below the second pin to find the point in the pattern that matches the top cut edge. This can be a little tricky depending on the pattern so be sure to find the correct point. When you find it, put another pin at that point. The fabric between the second and third pins can now be removed.
Now, the pattern along your new ‘top edge’ should be identical to the one along the cut edge you started with. It is?… Great… Now remove the pins and repeat that process until you have enough widths required to make curtains the size you need.
That’s it, your fabric should now be cut to the correct length. If you are making curtains with linings, simply follow the ‘Making curtains with plain fabric’ part above to cut your lining fabric to the correct length.
What about the curtain width?
That’s a good question. Many curtains may be wider than one width of width of fabric, but not as wide as two. For example if you are making curtains that are 182cm(72″) wide. This would take approximately one and half widths of 137cm(54″) wide fabric.
The good news is that we don’t really need to be quite so fussy here. The odd few extra centimetres or inches, won’t make a very big difference to the gather of your finished curtains. That said though, we do need to ensure we have enough extra width in our fabric to join it and allow for hemming the sides.
For the rest of this ‘How to make curtains guide‘ we will stay with our example above. We will be making curtains that are approximately 182cm(72″) wide and we will be using 137cm(54″) wide fabric.Now obviously one width of curtain fabric isn’t going to do the job. As mentioned above it will take about one and a half widths. Here’s how to work out how much extra fabric we will need.
First we take our 72 inches and add the extra measurements we will need for joining and side hems. So that’s 72 + 4 inches for side hems + 2 inches (1 inch per piece of fabric) for joining purposes. That gives us with a total width of 78 inches. Now simply deduct 54 (one width of fabric) from 78. Therefore we need an extra 24 inches in order to make a curtain that is 72 inches wide.
Personally, I wouldn’t be too fussy. I would just cut one length of fabric down the middle giving me a piece 27 inches wide. As mentioned earlier, making curtains a few inches wider will make very little difference to the gather of your curtain. Also it saves a little time having to cut down the length of your fabric twice (once for each curtain you make).
Next – Step 5: Joining your curtain fabric.