Fabric weaving packs a powerful color punch! To create this playful pair of pillows, look for a collection with a great variety of color and petite motifs (we originally used Flea Market by Lori Holt for Riley Blake Designs). You’ll start with just one 40-piece jelly roll bundle, and with clever seaming and slicing, end up with two entirely different, yet completely coordinated 20” pillows. Thanks to sponsor, Janome America, we show you two different ways to stitch-in-the-ditch to create the decorative accents across all the rows.
If you are new to working with pre-cuts, a Jelly Roll usually has forty 2½” x 42-44″ strips of fabric from within the same fabric collection. These forty strips are layered, rolled up tight, and tied with a bow. Moda Fabrics originally coined the term, Jelly Rolls, but it has become almost generic to the size even though other manufacturers use a variety of terms; Riley Blake Designs calls theirs “Rolie Polies.” Although the width of these pre-cuts is always 2½”, the length can vary slightly based on the fabric collection’s actual WOF (width of fabric). For more information about pre-cuts, take a look at our article that gives you an overview of basic names, sizes, shapes, and more.
Our woven pattern was specially designed to use all forty strips in a standard roll to create both pillow tops. You’ll stitch two strips back to back, slice each sewn strip in half, use the print on one side when weaving one pillow top, then flip over the strip to weave the second pillow top. We provide lots of easy-to-follow instructions and illustrations to show exactly how we planned our two weaves to get a pleasing blend of color and design.
The icing on the cake is the decorative stitching that accents each and every row of the woven design. It’s a subtle touch, but still adds a real flair to the finish. We recommend using the same thread color on both pillows to help tie them together.
Our machine for this project was the Janome Continental M7 Professional, a top-of-the-line powerhouse that has the largest sewing space available on any home use sewing machine. This wonderfully big bed space was very helpful when adding the decorate stitching. We could keep the entire top nice and flat as we worked. Janome has expanded this line since we first published this project; check out the new M6 and M8.
Each pillow top is created with 20 fabric strips, so that’s a lot of stitching. The good news is, with the proper presser foot, it’s an easy and accurate process. We elected to use a Blind Hem foot for our decorative stitching because it is a presser foot that comes standard on nearly every sewing machine. However, there is an optional Ditch Quilting foot that can be used as well. Because of the slightly different angle of its flange, it can be even simpler and more precise. We used the Blind Hem foot on one pillow and the Ditch Quilting foot for the AcuFeed™ Flex on the second pillow. Both performed well. As you move through the instructions below, look for our video showing both presser feet in action.
The pillow back has a classic envelope closure in a natural linen. We added a tiny accent flange in the same fabric as the front weaving as well as a button loop. You can, of course, choose any fabric for your pillow back, but with all color happening on the front, we recommend keeping the back more neural.
For more information about the Janome Continental Professional line as well as all the cool presser feet we used, visit the Janome America website or contact your local Janome America dealer to see it and sew with it yourself!
Both our pillows finish at approximately 19½” x 19½” — and yes, you can still use a standard 20” pillow form. Today’s pillow forms are almost always a bit smaller than they say, plus – in general – a tight fit of the form inside the pillow cover gives a more professional look to the pillow overall and the corners in particular.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot; optional for precise seaming
- Satin Stitch foot; optional for standard stitching
- Blind Hem foot; for decorative stitching along each row
- Ditch Quilting foot; an alternative to the Blind Hem foot for decorative stitching
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 40 coordinating 2½” x 42” Jelly Roll strips; we originally used Flea Market by Lori Holt for Riley Blake Designs (they call their 40-piece, 2½” x 42” bundles “Rolie Polies.”
NOTE: Most full Jelly Roll bundles contain 40 strips; you could also mix and match your strips from a variety of bundles or cut your own strips from scraps. In addition, although the width of these pre-cuts is always 2½”, the length can vary slightly based on the fabric collection’s actual WOF (width of fabric).
- Coordinating scrap or layer cake square for the back accent flanges – you only need two 1” x 20½” strips; we cut and seamed our strips from a 10” x 10” Layer Cake square from the same Flea Market collection
- 1 yard of 50”+ wide mid-weight linen or similar for the back panels; we originally used a 53” suit weight linen in natural
- 1¼ yards of 20”+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Shape-Flex
- TWO ⅞” – 1” buttons, we recommend a two-hole button over a shank button for a flatter finish
- TWO 20” x 20” pillow forms; we recommend pillows with a down or down alternative filler/blend for a flatter finish; you don’t want a super “puffy” pillow form for this project as it will distort the weave
- All purpose thread to coordinate with fabrics
- All purpose thread in an accent color for the decorative stitching; we used turquoise
- See-through ruler
- Iron and ironing board
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
- Sticky notes or dots for labeling the strips
- Your favorite tool for turning tubes; there are lots of options from point turners, to hemostats, to a standard safety pin — our favorite is a hemostat; check out our tutorial on using one for turning
- WEAVING SURFACE: Apx. 25” x 25” foam core board or cardboard – something you can easily pin into — plus a scrap of muslin, smooth cotton, twill or similar with which to wrap the board. We used a square of cardboard layered with wool felt then wrapped with standard quilting cotton. The surface must be able to withstand some heat. Press the fabric when done wrapping.
- Separate your 40 strips into four sets of 10. This process might take a bit of trial and error. You want to separate your colors into a pleasing blend. With our Flea Market collection, we found it worked best to layout all the strips within one color range (yellows, oranges, and reds) in one direction (either vertical or horizontal) and then all the strips within the opposite color range (blues, greens, and aquas) in the opposite direction.
- Play around with the order to make sure you are not only varying the color but also the look of the motifs; for example, don’t put all the florals side by side, mix them up with a geometric. Below are four images that show you the exact horizontal and vertical rows we used for each of our pillows.
- Once you have all the rows figured out, label them 1 – 10 for each pillow.
- Pair up the 10 horizontal rows for Pillow 1 with the 10 horizontal rows for Pillow 2, giving you 10 sets of two strips each. Repeat to pair up the vertical rows, yielding another 10 sets of two strips each. You’ve now used up all 40 strips from your jelly roll. We pinned together each of our pairs and then placed a sticky note to each to further help keep track.
IMPORTANT: For each pillow, the top and bottom horizontal rows and the outermost right and left vertical rows will have only one side of their “tubes” sewn. These outer edges are the perimeter of the pillow and so will be sewn all around when attaching the front woven panel to the back panels. It’s very important they are left unsewn so this final perimeter seam is flat and even. Keep track of these rows when stitching your strips together!
- From the scrap or layer cake for the back accent flanges, you’ll need just TWO 1” x 20½” strips. If your scrap is 20½” or longer already, simply slice your two strips. We used a 10” x 10” layer cake and so cut several strips at 1” and seamed them together with ¼” seam allowance to yield our two 20½” strips.
NOTE: If seaming strips, this is a good time to use (and practice) our technique for creating Continuous Bias Binding Strips. It’s a cool quilting technique that allows you to fold, seam, and cut a fabric tube to quickly produce long narrow strips, neatly sewn together.
- From the linen for the pillow backs, cut the following:
TWO 20½” x 16½” rectangles for the underlaps
|TWO 20½” x 6½” rectangles for the overlaps
TWO 20½” x 2½” strips for the facings
TWO 1¼” x 3” strips for the button loops
- From the lightweight fusible interfacing, cut TWO 20” x 20” squares.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Sew and turn all 20 sets of strips
- Place each pair of strips right sides together. All raw edges should be flush.
- Using a Quarter Inch Seam foot, stitch one long side.
NOTE: Many of our Janome studio machines, such as the Continental M7 we used for these samples, have a special setting for a super precise ¼” seam.
- Press this first side seam flat to “set” the seam.
- Open up the two strips flat and right side up with the seam allowance to one side. Press down the length of the strip.
- Flip over the sewn pair so it is now wrong side up but still flat. Press the seam allowance in the other direction down the length of the strip. This extra pressing allows the fabric to “know where to turn” and produces a very clean edge.
- Bring the strips right sides together again and stitch the remaining long side with a ¼” seam allowance.
- On this second side, simply press the line of stitching flat to “set” the stitches.
- Repeat with all 19 remaining pairs of jelly roll strips. When stitching the strips, remember to always stitch in the same direction along each side. This helps keep the finished layers extra flat and smooth.
IMPORTANT: We mentioned this above, but are repeating it here because it is very important to keep track of the four pairs that have one side unsewn. For each pillow, the top and bottom horizontal rows and the outermost right and left vertical rows have only one side of their “tubes” sewn. These outer edges are the perimeter of the pillow and so will be sewn all around when attaching the front woven panel to the back panels. It’s important they are left unsewn so this final perimeter seam is flat and even. Keep track of these rows when stitching your strips together!
- With all 20 strips sewn, turn them all right side out. There are many ways to turn a narrow tube; one of our favorites is to use a hemostat.
- You can also use a tube turning tool set or even just a classic safety pin and string.
- Press all the right-side-out tubes super duper flat, making sure the seams are running straight down each side edge.
- Trim away any printed selvedges and then cut each strip in half. Your “halves” should all be approximately 22” depending on the original starting length and how much, if any, selvedge you trimmed away. As long as each strip is at least 20½”, you’re golden. In the photo below, you can see one standard strip and one of those all-important “edge strips” with its one unsewn side.
- You should now have 40 two-sided strips.
Weaving the strips
- Set up your weaving surface. As mentioned above, we used a thick cardboard layered with wool felt and wrapped with a heavy, smooth cotton. You want something that can handle some heat.
- Center a square of lightweight interfacing fusible side up on your weaving surface.
- Collect the 20 strips for your first pillow: 10 for the vertical rows, 10 for the horizontal rows.
- Lay down the vertical rows first.
- Remember to make sure the outermost right and left edges are the strips with the unsewn sides.
- Lay down the 10 horizontal rows.
- And, at risk of beating you over the head with the same message, remember to make sure the unsewn edges of the top and bottom strips are facing out. It’s super important these unsewn edges are along the outside perimeter of the panel.
- Weave the horizontal strips over and under the vertical strips.
- To help keep things stable as you weave, pin the bottom of each vertical strip into your weaving surface. Then, pin the starting end of each horizontal strip to hold it steady as you go over and under. When you get to the end of each horizontal strip, pin that end into the weaving surface.
- When all the weaving is complete, start at the middle of panel and un-pin the ends of the center vertical strip. Gently tug on the strip to make sure it is centered top to bottom and as flat as possible, then re-pin in place. Move across to the right and then across to the left, adjusting each vertical strip. Not only should the strip be centered and flat, the strips should butt together with no space showing between them, but also without any overlap. Repeat to adjust the horizontal strips from the center up to the top and down to the bottom.
- When you are happy with the snugness and smoothness of your weave, press well to activate the fusing on the interfacing beneath your fabric.
- Flip over the entire panel and press again from the back side to further insure the weave is secure.
- Flip over the remaining strips and weave pillow #2.
- Re-thread the machine with a full spool of contrasting thread in the top and a full bobbin of bobbin thread in the bobbin (wow… lots of “bobbins” there!).
- Select a decorative stitch. We used stitch #48 on our Janome Continental M7. You want a stitch that is not too dense or busy and that has a nice swing left and right. As with any decorative stitch, practice first on scrap fabric to get the stitch width and length looking good. We adjusted our stitch length to 2.5 and the stitch width to 8.0.
- This image from back of one of our finished pillow tops gives you a good look at our stitch spacing and settings at one of the intersections.
- Attach a Blind Hem foot.
- Starting at the center top of the pillow, place the foot onto the woven panel so the flange of the Blind Hem foot drops directly between the two strips to either side of this center point. Drop the needle and sew, gently guiding the fabric to keep the flange in this same groove from top to bottom.
- Stitch all the vertical intersections first, moving from the center out to the right and then from the center out to the left. Then reposition and stitch all the horizontal rows from the center to the top, then from the center down to the bottom.
- Depending on your fabric choice, the finished weaving can be quite busy, so to insure you’ve really stitched all your rows, flip over the panel to make sure everything is complete.
- When done, trim away the ragged outer edges so the panel is 19½” square. The edges are “ragged” because the act of weaving uses up some of the length of each strip.
NOTE: In the photo above, you’ll notice a line of “stay stitching” around the outer edge of our panel. This was something we tested as an added measure of security for the perimeter of the panel. However, because the final perimeter seam is just ¼”, the stay stitching was somewhat visible after turning right side out and required a lot of picking out – not our favorite pastime and probably not yours either. Between the fusible interfacing and all the decorative stitching, your panel should be just fine without this stay stitching step.
Choosing your decorative stitching foot
- We elected to use a Blind Hem foot for our decorative stitching because it is a presser foot that comes standard on nearly every sewing machine. However, there is an optional Ditch Quilting foot that can be used as well. Because of the slightly different angle of its flange, it can be even easier and more accurate. We used the Blind Hem foot on one pillow and the Ditch Quilting foot for the AcuFeed™ Flex on the second pillow. Both performed well. Check out the video below to see both in action.
Create the pillow back
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the back panel fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set for quarter inch seam. Attach a Quarter Inch Seam foot.
- Find the 1¼” x 3” strips. Fold each strip in half lengthwise and press to set a center crease. Unfold wrong side up so the crease line is visible, fold in both long sides to meet in the middle.
- Re-fold along the original crease line, enclosing the raw edges within the folds. Press again. Edgestitch along the folds to secure.
- Fold the strip in a loop. It is sized to allow the button to slip through, but the loop should be barely visible behind the button once in place.
- Find the two 1” x 20½” flange strips.
- Press each strip in half, right sides together.
- Find one set over overlap and underlap back panels.
- Place the 20½” x 6½” overlap panel right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place a flange strip across the bottom edge of the overlap panel. Pin in place.
NOTE: If using a solid linen or similar as we suggest, there is not an “official” top or bottom, simply pick one.
- Place the button loop at the exact center on top of the flange strip. Pin in place.
- Using a ¼” seam, stitch across the panel, securing the flange strip and the button loop.
- Find a 20½” x 2½” facing panel. Press back one 20½” edge ½”.
- Align the opposite raw edge of the facing panel across the bottom edge of overlap panel, right sides together, sandwiching the accent flange and button loop between the layers. Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch across through all the layers.
- Bring the facing around to the back of the overlap panel, which allows the flange to pop out along the edge and brings the button loop down. Press well.
- Topstitch across the panel at 2¼” in from the finished flange edge to secure the facing hem in place.
- Find the 20½” x 16½” underlap panel for this first set of back panels.
- Along the top edge (remember, you get to choose top and bottom if using a solid panel), fold back the raw edge ½” and press well.
- This type of closure is vest with a very flat finish; we didn’t want a bulky double turn on the underlap panel. But… linen loves to fray, so we needed a stitch that would secure and finish in one step. We used a triple stitch zig zag, utility stitch #11 on our Janome Continental M7 with a 5.4 stitch width and a 1.0 stitch length.
- Attach a standard or Satin Stitch foot.
- Stitch across the hem, making sure the swing of the zig zag cross the raw edge of the fabric.
- Repeat to prepare the overlap and underlap panels for the second pillow.
Layering front to back to finish
- Place a finished woven pillow top right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Fold a finished overlap panel in half to find the exact center at the button loop. Place the overlap panel right side down on the pillow top. Align the center point of the woven top with the exact center of the overlap. The top raw edges of the pillow top and the overlap panel should be flush. Pin in place, flattening out the overlap panel across the top.
- Once pinned in place, check again to make sure the button loop is at the exact center of the woven rows. The back panels will be slightly wider than the woven top panel. This is correct.
- Find the underlap panel. Place it right side down on top of the existing pillow top and overlap panel layers. The bottom raw edge of the woven pillow top and the bottom raw edge of the underlap panel should be flush. Pin in place.
- Cut a small round of interfacing. Feel through the layers to “find” the button loop. Place the interfacing circle at this point and fuse in place. It will help reinforce the button.
- As mentioned above, the back panels will be sightly wider than the top panel. This is correct. You now have all your layers in place: top panel, then the overlap panel, then the underlap panel. Pin all around.
- Re-attach the Quarter Inch Seam foot and re-set for a quarter inch stitch.
- Place the project under the foot with the pillow top facing up. This is important because you need to use the raw edge of the pillow top to determine your quarter inch seam allowance.
- Stitch around all four sides, pivoting at the corners.
- When sewn all around, trim the excess fabric from the back panels flush with the pillow top.
- Because this is a narrow seam allowance and both the cotton pre-cut strips and the linen back panel fabric are prone to raveling, we strongly recommend finishing the seam allowance all around. We used a standard zig zag stitch on all four sides. Remember to switch back to a standard presser foot or a Satin Stitch foot prior to finishing your seam.
- Repeat to attach the back panels to the second pillow top.
- Turn the pillow covers right side out through the open overlap.
- Use a long, blunt tool, such as a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner to gently push out all the covers so they are nice and sharp.
- Hand stitch a button in place on each of the back underlap panels.
- Press well from the front. Steam is particularly helpful to nicely flatten all the front weaving and stitching.
- Insert the pillow form through the back overlap and fluff out into the corners.
NOTE: Yes, you are inserting a 20” pillow form into an approximate 19½” pillow cover. Today’s pillow forms are almost always a bit smaller than they say, plus – in general – a tight fit of the form inside the pillow cover gives a more professional finished look to the pillow overall and the corners in particular.
- Button closed.
Project Design: Anne Adams
Sample Creation: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever