Here’s another fun project we did in our booth at the recent CHA Craft Super Show in Anaheim. Again, this completely proves neither lack of space nor limited time are sufficient excuses for not making your own home décor. The other lesson from this tutorial is how a clever bit of geometry can transform a plain square pillow into a much more interesting pieced pillow. Start with a square and slice it into pieces, then put it all back together again. The only thing to remember is to add ½” to each piece anywhere there’s going to be a seam. As I always say, after all the time I spent hating math in school, Mrs. Martinsen was right, I do use it all the time!
Sewing Tools You Need
- Any Sewing Machine (we recommend the Janome DC2010)
Fabric and Other Supplies
- All our pillows were made from scraps we had on hand, but if you want to purchase fabric, ½ yard of 45″ wide fabric is plenty for any one fabric choice. See our Fabric Choices list below to see exactly which fabrics we mixed and matched.
- 12″ x 12″ pillow insert: one per pillow or one small bag of fiber fill per pillow: we used pillow forms for all but the “Matched Squares” pillow – that one was stuffed with fiber fill.
- Lightweight paper for drawing pillow front and pillow back pattern pieces
- All purpose thread to match
- Contrasting thread for topstitching on “Diagonal” pillow style (optional)
- See-through ruler
- Measuring tape
- Fabric pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Straight pins
Our Fabric Choices:
Diagonal Pillow #1:
- Center panel is Amy Butler’s Nigella in Ritzy Stripe – Forest.
- Side triangles are Amy Butler’s Nigella in Water Lotus – Forest.
- One side is Amy Butler’s Nigella in Water Lotus – Forest, the other side is Amy Butler’s – Nigella in Ritzy Stripe – Forest.
Diagonal Pillow #2:
- Center panel is Sandi Henderson’s Farmer’s Market in Henna Garden – Turquoise.
- Side triangles are Amy Butler’s Nigella in Wood Fern – Forest.
- One side is Amy Butler’s Nigella in Wood Fern – Forest, the other side is Sandi Henderson’s Farmer’s Market in Henna Garden – Turquoise.
Matched Squares Pillow:
Front and back are made up of two squares each of:
- Paula Prass’ Flights of Fancy in Tiled Garden – Summer (red and blue) and Paula Prass’ Flights of Fancy in Tiled Garden – Ocean (yellow and turquoise).
Fussy Cut Pillow:
- Panel is cut from Amy Butler’s Nigella in Primrose – Pewter.
- Both sides are Sandi Henderson’s Farmer’s Market in Henna Garden – Turquoise.
All our pillows are 12″ x 12″ finished. Our standard directions for cutting patterns for an envelope pillow are as follows:
To do a plain front/back pillow with a slip stitch closure, you simply cut two “Pillow Fronts” as described above, because your front and back are identical.
Cutting the pieces for a Diagonal pillow
- Start with a 13″ x 13″ square. Make three folds: in half one way, in half the other way, and diagonal. Fold and press so you can see your crease lines.
- From your center point, measure 3″ in each direction and make a positioning dot. Move up and then down the diagonal crease, measuring 3″ to the left and 3″ to the right and make additional dots. Use your see-through ruler to connect the dots. Cut out the center panel pattern piece along the drawn lines.
- Make another 13″ x 13″ square, and again make three folds as you did above.
- From your center point, measure 2½” to one side and make a positioning dot. Move up and then down the diagonal crease, measuring 2½” to the same side and make additional dots. Use your see-through ruler to connect the dots. Cut out the side triangle pattern piece along the drawn line.
- Using your two pattern pieces and your chosen fabrics, cut one center panel and two side triangles for each pillow front you wish to make.
- For the back pieces, as shown above, you need two pieces of fabric to make your envelope closure. Each piece should be cut to 10½” x 13″. We used coordinating pieces to our front fabrics.
NOTE: If you’re using a directional print, be careful about which direction you cut each fabric. When the closure is finished, the two hemmed 13″ sides will overlap; you don’t want one pattern going one way and one the other, it’ll make you a little dizzy.
Cutting the pieces for a Matched Squares pillow
- Each square needs to be 7″ x 7″ to account for seams and finish at 12″ x 12″. Use a transparent paper to make a 7″ x 7″ template so you can use that to fussy cut your fabric.
- The front and back of this pillow are identical, so you need four 7″ x 7″ squares of the first fabric and four 7″ x 7″ squares of the second fabric. Two identical fabrics just from different colorways are the best option for this design.
Cutting the pieces for the Fussy Cut pillow
- The front of this pillow is simply one 13″ x 13″ square with a dramatic fussy cut.
- The back is two 10½” x 13″ matching panels.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Stitching steps for the front of a Diagonal pillow
- Pin one side triangle to one side of the center panel, matching raw edges along the longest side.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch together.
- Press your seam allowance towards the side on which you’ll be doing your top stitching. You can top stitch on either the center panel or the side triangles.
NOTE: It’s up to you which fabric you think will look better with the top stitching (or on which fabric the top stitching will best show up). For our samples, the top stitching looked best in the side triangles for Diagonal Pillow #1 and in the center panel for Diagonal Pillow #2.
- Repeat to stitch the other side triangle to the opposite side.
- Re-thread your machine with contrasting thread and top stitch approximately ¼” from your sewn seam.
- Press the finished front cover flat and set aside.
Stitching steps for the front of a Matched Squares pillow
- This pillow front is all about matching up patterns, so ‘slow and careful’ are your buzzwords.
- Take two coordinating squares and line them up along one side. Pin in place. Check often as you’re pinning to make sure your patterns are lining up exactly.
- Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance.
- Repeat to stitch together another pair of coordinating squares.
- Take your two finished two-square panels and pin them together along one 13″ side. Again, be super-duper careful as you line them up and pin. Of course your initial seams need to match, but you need to checking to be sure the pattern remains aligned.
- Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance.
- You now have a completed front that measures 13″ x 13″. Repeat the steps to create a matching back.
Stitching the backs and finishing your pillows
- For the Matched Squares pillow, you simply line-up your front and back pieces right side together and pin all around, leaving just a small opening to insert fiber fill – or a slightly larger opening if you’re stuffing in a pillow form.
- As above, pin and check … pin and check … pin and check to keep your patterns aligned as best you can along each edge.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch all around, back tacking at either side of your opening. Clip corners and turn right side out.
- Stuff with fiber fill or insert pillow form. Slip stitch opening.
- For all the other pillows, which have an envelope back, collect your cut back pieces and separate them into their appropriate pairs.
- For each pair, take one of your pillow back pieces, and turn under the right side of the fabric ½” along the entire width of the piece (the 13″ side in our sample). Press
- Fold under an additional 1½” and press.
- Edgestitch along the folded edge to make a clean double turn hem.
- Repeat Steps 6-8 with the other back piece.
- Take both pieces and overlap the hems to yield the correct finished height (13″ in our sample). Pin hems together.
- Working as close to the edge as possible, stitch the sides of hems together to secure and create one piece. It’s easier to work with one piece to stitch front to back.
- Place your newly completed pillow back piece and your pillow front piece right sides together, matching raw edges all around, and stitch a ½” seam around all four edges of the pillow, making sure to back-tack three to four stitches at each corner to reinforce the seam.
- Trim all four corners of the pillow.
- Using the envelope opening on the back, turn the pillow covering right side out. Push out the trimmed corners from the inside to make nice, square corners on the outside. Use your finger or a blunt-edge tool, like a large knitting needle.
- Insert the pillow form through the envelope closure and fluff out the corners of the pillow covering evenly.
Other machines suitable for this project include the Baby Lock Natalie A-Line and the White W750.