Finishing Pillows: Ladder Stitch Tutorial

I recently finished the pillows from With Thy Needle and Thread’s Keeper of the Pins.

The original chart shows the pillows finished with rick rack. A lot of people like to put trim such as rick rack on their pillows. Me, I like things plain most of the time. I display most of my stuff with antiques and vintage items so the plain pillows, I think, just look better. It’s all a personal preference.

After watching a lot of flosstube, I’ve also learned that many people don’t feel comfortable with making pillows…It’s not that they are hard to make…it’s just that many are not comfortable with how they put in the stitches to close the pillow opening. I thought I’d take some pictures as I made my pillows to show you how my mom, many years ago, taught me how.

I start out by trimming the pieces to the size I want. In general, I don’t like a lot of border showing so cut them all about 3/4″ from the stitching. I put interfacing on the back of all of my pieces. I sadly can’t tell you what type. I just go to the quilt shop and tell them I want the interfacing that’s used to make T-shirt quilts.

I put the interfacing on the back of the cross-stitching pieces and the fabric I am using for the backing.

I use a combo of fiberfill and crushed walnut shells to fill my pillows. I only use the fiberfill in the corners of the pillows. I also use it at the opening to keep the crushed walnut shells from spilling out as I’m sewing the opening shut.

What people do wrong when they sew an opening shut is just grabbing a bit of fabric with the needle on each side as I am showing below. If you do this, you will see the stitching and you won’t like the results.

A ladder stitch is much nicer and makes a cleaner finish. I take my needle and insert it into the backing fabric and take up about 1/8″ of the fabric moving horizontally. Then I bring my needle to the linen side and again insert my needle into the fabric, moving about 1/8″ forward horizontally.

Before long, your stitches should look like this. Can you see how they look like a ladder?

You can pull your thread and the opening will come together like this…

Here is the opening completely closed. You can’t tell it from the sewing stitching.

Here is a Youtube video done by someone else that shows you how. In our case I only used one strand of thread and only take up about 1/8″ of fabric. I’m sure she is doing her video using not match thicker thread so viewers can see her work better.

You can save a lot of money and time by finishing your own pillows and you’ll love the results if you learn to do the ladder stitch. It’s not hard…it is slow stitching but in my opinion, totally worth it.

One last look at all my finished pillows…

Many thanks to my mom for showing me how to do that. I was trying to think how long ago that likely was. I’m guessing 40 years ago. I’m sure glad I learned when I was young. With a little practice, you’ll be a pro in no time at all.

6 thoughts on “Finishing Pillows: Ladder Stitch Tutorial”

  1. It’s such a cute little pillow! And I love the one with the red pin cushion and all of the different buttons too! Some of the directions got cut off of the ladder stitch tutorial. I know how to do it, but others may need all of the written instructions.

    1. What a cliff hanger! Just getting to the details and then…oops! Jo, if you can restore the directions, could you please let us know how you tie off the thread without it showing? That has been my issue. Thanks!

  2. Oh dear, I am totally confused by the directions. But, I love how your finish looks. I also love how you choose the perfect backing!

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