Make: DIY Leather Pillow

I have been thinking about making a leather pillow cover for ages. I love that aged, soft leather look. Leather only gets more beautiful as time passes and it can withstand assaults and life in general (pets, spills, food). Awhile ago, I saw this post by Mandi at Vintage Revivals for her rescued leather and cloth pillow but really wanted to try make a full leather pillow. I think I was a little crazy but thankfully it worked out. I also didn’t have a leather sofa to skin (I get the impression that second-hand sweet leather sofas are more common down in the US than here in Canada) so I used leather hide remnants instead! I took the leap and my DIY leather pillow cover turned out perfect. Like really amazing. I think this will be the first of many leather pillows that I make. The envelope style approach made this project fairly simple and less complicated than those with a zipper! I love my new DIY leather pillow:

Leather pillow tutorial

The pillow is super comfortable and isn’t too puffy or slouchy (I wanted a little of each). So far so good. Also – I didn’t feel like fussing with a zipper, so I chose to make an envelope (or fold over) pillow cover. Really simple and easy once I got the hang of how to use the sewing machine on leather (SLOW FOLKS. VERY VERY SLOWLY).

DIY leather pillow Row House Nest

Materials needed:

Leather sewing machine needles (3 for around $2)

Leather strength needles (mine were called ‘repair’ needles, 5 for $1.35)

Safety thimble ($1.20)


Pillow insert (20×20)

Measuring tape

Good scissors

Leather hide  (10-15 sq feet) from Leather Hide Store online

leather pillow materials needed Row House Nest


To keep costs down, I bought an inexpensive pillow insert from Ikea that measured 50 x 50cm (or 20 x 20″). This determined the size of leather hide I needed. Also – I wanted my leather to have some give to it and be a little slouchy, so I cut the leather a little larger. I followed a tutorial I found online for an easy envelope cloth pillow but modified it for working with leather. Basically it involved a more patience, swearing and a lot of thread breaking. As a note, I attempted to first use super strong thread that was recommended to me at the store… But I quickly discovered that the sewing machine was having none of it. Had to swap out the thick thread for normal thread. It worked fine but if I tried to speed things up, the thread would break. So patience. You need lots and lots of patience.

Nan with leather hide

1. CUT LEATHER TO SIZE AND SEW DOUBLE HEMS: So the cuts I made for my pillow were as follows: one piece measuring 20.5 x 20.5″ (1) and two pieces measuring 20.5 x 17.5″ (2). After I cut the leather, I took my two smaller pieces (20.5 x 17.5″) and on the short ends, fold down the leather 1″ and using your sewing machine, secure it in place (make sure you are folding onto the suede side (see below). Spending some a few dollars to buy the tools required for working with leather is essential! And go slowly! You don’t want to break your needle, the thread or your machine! Once you have sewed it in place, turn it down another inch. Now sew the double folded hem down.

sewing the leather for pillow

This is what that looks like:

sewing a double hemmed leather pillow

2. ATTACHING THE BEASTS TOGETHER: So here is the tricky part where no tutorials can help you. You need to sew this beast together…. And pinning it does not work. And your back will start hurting. Just stick with me. It’s worth it. Breath in and take a break. First lay out your leather pieces – big piece on the bottom. You want to place your leather pieces so that it is leather side in. (So you are looking at the suede). The above tutorial recommended over lapping the smaller pieces 4.5″ but I think I did more like 3-3.5″. This is where the train gets derailed because I could sew up the sides… And leather was falling all over place. I used two clips to help hold the leather in place. I went rouge and sewed the BOTTOMS first and not the sides. Crazy I know. But in some ways, it meant less floppy moving pieces. Remember to leave long tails (long threads, you can take care of those later). Also – I used a 1/4″ seam or so as recommended.

envelope leather pillow tutorial

I used the sewing machine as much as possible but there was just NO WAY the sewing machine was going to go over the double hem. So I used the machine to do the ends and some of the sides… Then I finished up the sewing by hand. YES BY HAND. With my trusty thimble. It felt nice to be all old timey except instead of being a serene old timey feminine lady sitting in her parlour, I was swearing in my living room. And complaining. James avoided eye contact with me for the whole time. I took my time finishing it. Once the sewing was complete, I turned it inside out (so suede in, leather out) and used a pencil to pop out the corners. Shove the insert in and DONE.

envelope leather pillow tutorial

We are all loving the new pillow! Nan included. It took some hard work & patience but now that it’s done, I feel like I could make 5 more.

envelope leather pillow tutorial

Disclaimer: The leather hide for this DIY project in this blog post was supplied to me by Leather Hide Store. That said, all words and opinions are my own. All images are also my own. Thanks to The Leather Hide Store for making this project possible!

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