Coffin Throw Pillows: A DIY Tutorial
Sure, they call it a “living” room, but that’s no reason to shy away from morbid touches. This tutorial will show you how to create an unconventional throw pillow in the shape of a coffin, complete with hardware.
Our project will result in a coffin-shaped pillow insert and a slip-on pillow case. (No zippers are involved, as zippers and sleeves are the Grady Twins of sewing.) This won’t be the simplest sewing project for an extreme beginner, but if you have a bit of sewing experience you ought to be fine. Just go slow, stay zen, and always (ALWAYS!!!) keep a seam ripper handy.
4-6 episodes of Elvira’s Movie Macabre
- 1 yard of fabric for the case – You can choose pretty much any fabric you want, but this pattern is designed for fabric that is NOT stretchy.
- 1 yard of fabric for the pillow – I am using cotton lining.
- OPTIONAL: 3 yards of piping – I’m using piping to highlight my edges and help define the shape of the pillow. If you decide you aren’t confident about piping it’s totally fine to skip it.
- 6 cloak fasteners
- A sewing machine – The project is still possible if you don’t have one available, but it will take SIGNIFICANTLY longer.
- A needle
- Straight pins
- A seam ripper – JUST IN CASE!!!
- A drafting ruler
- A pencil
- Paper – Special patterning paper does exist, but, because we aren’t running a professional dressmaking operation, just use the brown paper meant for packaging that comes in rolls. You can find it most places that sell shipping supplies (some branches of CVS, Staples, etc.)
- Paper scissors
- Fabric scissors – If you don’t have fabric scissors, a pair of brand new, never used, regular scissors from Staples or CVS will do.
- An iron and ironing board
Act One: The Pattern
Let’s dive right in to patterning. Don’t worry; we’re gonna talk our way through this. Our first task is to create a coffin-shaped sloper, which is essentially a stencil through which patterns are born. We’re going to start by drawing a straight, vertical line that is 18” tall. Once that’s down, you’re going to add three horizontal lines: a 5″ line at the top, a 10″ line 6″ down, and another 5″ line at the bottom. And then you are going to connect the dots. Observe:
And BOOM! Sloper.
Trace your sloper three times. You are going to create three pattern pieces. The first is a full coffin shape piece that you’ll get by just tracing the sloper with no alteration. The second is a little trickier. Measure down one inch from that horizontal cross line to create your new bottom edge. (We’re creating an overlap.) This is going to be the top portion of the back of the cover. The third piece is the bottom portion of the back of the cover:
Make sure that once you’ve finished drawing out each pattern piece you then draw that half-inch border around the edges. That’s to create seam allowance. You’re going to cut on the outside line.
Also of note: that solid line with the arrows I’ve drawn on each piece is called a grain line. When you lay your pattern pieces on your fabric, the grain line should be parallel to your selvedge, which is that finished edge along each side of your big piece of fabric. This will help keep your pattern pieces uniform (i.e. your stripes will all be going in the same direction, or the weave of your fabric won’t be going in multiple, odd directions).
Ok, now for the sides. Our sides are simple rectangles, all of which are 2½” tall. The top/bottom piece is 5″ wide. The upper side piece is 6½” wide. The lower side is 12¼” wide:
Once again, add your seam allowance.
Now that you have your paper pattern pieces all cut out you can move on to the pillow insert.
Act Two: The Insert
Lay out your pattern pieces on your fabric and pin them down. Because you are cutting two of each piece, feel free to fold your fabric in half (selvedge to selvedge) and cut both layers at once.
Once you have your pieces, pin your side edges together (with the underside of your fabric facing out), one at a time, in the appropriate order (first lower side -> first upper side -> top -> second upper side -> second lower side -> bottom…which loops into your first lower side). Sew, using your half-inch seam allowance. Press your seams open with an iron. (You should press your seams open after each sewing step as a general rule.)
Pin your first large, coffin-shaped piece. Match up your corners. It’s easiest to pin and stitch it down one side at a time.
Repeat with the second large, coffin-shaped piece, but this time, when you get to the end, leave a gap of a couple of inches. Your pillow is currently inside out. Turn it outside in and stuff it generously. Once you’ve stuffed your pillow, hand stitch the hole closed (a slip stitch is recommended but a whip stitch can work too).
Act Three: The Case
Essentially, you’re going to repeat the steps for the insert here, except with the fancy case fabric and a slight tweak to the pattern. You’re only cutting one of each of the coffin pieces, but two of each rectangle.
Let’s assemble the back first. Fold the bottom edge of the top piece over ¼”, then over again another ¼”. You want that raw edge hidden. Sew it down.
Now do the same thing for the top edge of the bottom piece.
To finish assembling the back, lay both pieces out and pin them together so you get your one inch overlap. The top edge of the bottom piece should match up with the corners of the top piece. The pins in the below photo are marking where you’re going to sew:
Stitch an inch between where those pins are pictured and your back piece is good to go.
Now you’re just going to repeat the sewing steps you did for the pillow insert, but using your cover fabric and your piping, if you’ve opted to go with piping.
Act Four: The Hardware
We’re so close to the end. Hang in there.
We’re going to make it so our cloak clasp “handles” are evenly spaced and balanced. Measure and divide to figure out where your handles will fall. The clasps I’m using are 2½” inches wide, so I’ve spaced them so that each is about two inches in from the side seam for that lower edge. For my top edge I shot for the center.
You may choose to attach the handles while the case is off the pillow, which would be the easier and, some might say, smarter route. I went “pillow in” for reasons I myself do not understand. Pin down your handles and then hand-stitch them down…then cram that insert into the cover and you’re done.
All images via E.K. Leimkuhler