The easiest way to finish a hooked pillow

July 13, 2011 3 comments | Updated April 9, 2021

Written by Cindi Gay

Hooked Pillow "Samson" by Cindi GayThis method is also the easiest way to finish a hooked piece for other construction such as a tote bag or the wool edges can be turned back around the edge of the rug for a “Show” finish. See other examples at the end of this post.

Here’s a video version:

Finishing a pillow can be extremely difficult if you try to stitch the pillow together with the hooking right at the construction seam. A simpler way is to move the hooking more to the center of the pillow so the actual construction is standard pillow making.

Use an attractive backing to finish a pillow

The goal is to move the hooking away from the edges where you will be sewing. Assuming you are hooking into an attractive backing, you can simply leave the background unhooked and sew up the pillow just as you would with any fabric. Loosely woven fabric of wool or other fibers can be used as a backing if the holes are large enough to pull the loops through.

How to finish a rug hooked pillow – Step by step

The method above cannot be used all the time because not all backings are attractive or fit your color plan. If they are, they are usually difficult to hook through. If you add sashing to your hooked piece, you not only make the final finishing much easier, you can hook in a standard backing and you avoid having your hooking hidden from sight as it disappears around the curved sides of the pillow. The best time to add the sashing is after you have the majority of the piece hooked, but before you get within an inch or two of the final edge.

You will need one strip of fabric for each side. The length of the strip is the length of the hooked edge plus twice the width of the sashing. A little too long is better than a little too short. The width of the sashing is determined by what you find attractive. A sashing as small as 1” will allow you to sew up the pillow seam on a sewing machine. Wider sashings look artsy and mimic the look seen in the mats of fine art shops. A wider sash also makes a small hooking appear larger without any extra work.

In addition to the sashing, you will need a piece of fabric for the pillow backing. It should be large enough to cover the hooked area and the added sashing. You may want to wait until you have the sashing attached before determining the final size of the pillow back.

The Steps to Finish a Rug Hooked Pillow:

    1. Determine the final finished edge of your hooking. Poke the lead of a pencil through the backing and using this hole as a guide draw a line on the reverse side. This will become the stitching line when you are ready to sew on the sashing. Draw this line on all four sides of the BACK of your piece. You may want to review the lesson: Drawing Straight Lines on your Backing.
    2. On the front, measure a seam allowance, such as 5/8” from the future finished edge (the line you transferred to the back of the backing.) Make this seam allowance line OUTSIDE the lines drawn in the previous step. Draw this line on all four sides on the FRONT of the backing. You should have plenty of room to do this because you are sewing on the sashing before you hook all the way to the finished edge.Finishing a rug hooked pillow step 1
    3. Lay the sashing on the front of the hooked piece along two sides, right sides together. Match the edge of the fabric sashing with the line you drew on the front. Pin securely. The sashing should cover your hooked area.

      How to finish a rug hooked pillow, step 2
      Pin on the first set of sashing
    4. Decide on the type of joint you want to make. The Butt joint is much simpler to construct and is often invisible if you use a spot dye or other textured fabric for the sashing.Sashing methods for rug hooked pillow finishingNote: Sew corner to corner only for a mitered joint. Sew the entire length for butt joint. See the drawing in Step 3.
    5. Turn the backing over and repin from the back. For a mitered joint, you will only need to pin between the stitching lines, or only along the future finished edge of your hooking. You will be sewing on the back side of the backing so you can keep the seam straight and you will need the pins accessible so you can remove them as you sew.
    6. Remove the pins on the front.
    7. With the wool on the bottom and the backing on the top, sew the seam in the ditch along the pencil line you made in Step 1. You can use a sewing machine or hand sew using a back stitch.
    8. On the front, flip the fabric out. Pin it or stitch it temporarily in place. If you are making a mitered joint, fold the unsewn edges of the fabric out of the way so they do not get caught in the stitching for the remaining two sides.
    9. Repeat Steps 3, 5, 6 and 7 for the other two sides.
    10. For the butt joint, cut off any excess sashing fabric. Finish hooking. For the mitered joint, fold back the sashing to create a 45 degree seam and hand stitch together, trim any excess sashing.
    11. Finish hooking.
    12. To complete the pillow, lay the backing fabric right sides together over your hooking. Sew all seams leaving a small opening to insert the pillow form or stuffing. Sewing rug hooked pillow together
      Be sure to stitch all four corners. Trim the corners. Turn right side out, stuff and hand stitch the opening closed.

Finish the edge of your hooking by zigzagging. You can let the edge of the backing extend to the edge of the pillow for extra strength.

Next steps:

Other examples using this pillow technique:

Finished as pillows:

Rug hooked pillow
House that Frank Built by Cindi Gay. I added a fancy top stitch around the edge.
Hooked pillow
Jackson as Puppy
Hooked pillow in progress
Rose with Monarch (pattern available on the patterns page) with the sashing in place and hooking in progress
rug hooked pillow
Notice how the sashing curves around the sides, not the hooking. You can see the entire hooked surface.

Finished as a tote bag

Rug hooked tote bag
Birches. Hooked as a requirement for Teachers’ Workshop. Did not want to go the expense of framing. Who doesn’t need another tote bag?

Sashing used as a show finish

Southern Woman. Notice how the hooking of her neck extends into the sashing.

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