Color Blocking is the art of combining solid color squares and rectangles into a bold yet cohesive design. Its origins are usually attributed to Piet Mondrian, an artist who lived around 1900 and whose paintings were a collection of stark lines and flat, colorful blocks. The style resurfaced as a pop trend in the 1960s “Mod” fashion wave, which first emerged in the UK.
Inherent simplicity and inspired color combinations make Color Blocking perennially popular. It also lends itself especially well to patchwork, since the blocks of color are most often arranged on a grid pattern. Our pattern features 19 blocks in five different tones arranged in three striking rows.
As you can see in our sample photography, those 19 gorgeous blocks come together in a series of perfect points across seven intersections. Did you notice we are working with odd rather than even numbers? In Color Blocking, as in most design, exactly even amounts of everything tends to become boring and repetitive whereas odd quantities are more pleasing to the eye.
As a Janome America sponsored project, we were pleased to be able to use a number of different presser feet in the construction process. Remember, the right presser foot in your sewing space is like the right knife in the kitchen… it always makes things easier and better.
The main patchwork seams are ¼”, so we used the Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot in combination with the correct machine settings for a precise seam allowance every time. This combo is is important, and one of the reasons we rely on the precise functionality of our Janome studio machines. By combing the correct presser foot AND the correct stitch setting, you get the optimum seam.
We chose the Janome Overedge foot to finish the front and back panels. Our recommended fabric for this pillow project is a classic linen, which comes in a beautiful selection of rich colors and has an inherently fabulous drape and feel. But… linen also ravels like the dickens! The Overedge foot, standard on nearly all models, is a fast way to seal the raw edges.
And, of course, we used the Janome Concealed Zipper foot to insert the zipper. With all the beautifully straight edges of the patchwork, we wanted the pillow cover’s closure to be just as sleek and clean. Learning to insert an invisible zipper is a skill you can use again and again, and it’s easier than you might think. That said, if you simply don’t want to give it a try this time around, you can always skip those steps and close up the final seam, after inserting your pillow form, with careful hand stitching.
Speaking of the pillow form, we wanted a relaxed fit for our cover rather than taut and tight. We felt this was a better match to the soft feel of the linen. We started with a full size 20” x 20” down pillow form, but removed several handfuls of feathers. This allowed us to also pose our sample pillow with a classic “home dec karate chop” slouch.
Thanks again to Janome America for their support of this project and many of our other popular projects. If you’re ready for frustration-free sewing and want to find out more about the amazing Janome machines we use, visit their website, follow them on social media, and – best of all – visit a local dealer for an in-person test stitch.
Our Color Block Patchwork Pillow finishes at 20” x 20”.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot
- Overedge foot; optional but a good choice for finishing the cut edges of the panels
- Concealed Zipper foot; also known as an “invisible” zipper foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: Yardage is specified to the nearest standard cut. You may be able to get away with less if using fabric from your stash. Check the cut sizing in the Getting Started section below to determine exact amounts required. Our fabric is from the linen selection at Fabric Wholesale Direct.
- Fabric 1: ½ yard of 44″+ wide linen or similar fabric; we used a sage green linen
- Fabric 2: ¼ yard of 44″+ wide linen or similar fabric; we used a rose pink linen
- Fabric 3: ¾ yard of 44″+ wide linen or similar fabric; we used a rich ivory linen – Fabric 3 is also used for the solid back panel
- Fabric 4: ¼ yard of 44″+ wide linen or similar fabric; we used a dusty plum linen
- Fabric 5: ¼ yard of 44″+ wide linen or similar fabric; we used a warm gold linen
- 1¼ yards of 20”+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon ShapeFlex
- ONE 18” x 18” – 20″ x 20″ pillow form; we suggest a down or down alternative for the softest finish
NOTE: For this pillow design, we felt a relaxed fit yielded the best finish. That said, the final look is always up to you. For a very relaxed fit, look for a smaller form; for a tighter fit, go with the full size form. We used a full size 20” x 20” down pillow form, but removed about 20% of the feathers to achieve our best relaxed fit.
- ONE 18-20” invisible zipper
NOTE: The available size options for invisible zippers are rather limited at most retail outlets. We used a longer zipper (20-22”) and show in the steps below how to center and secure it within the opening and trim the excess.
- All-purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors and/or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
NOTE: All cuts are based on a standard width x height. If you decide to use prints instead of solids and select any directional prints, remember to pay close attention to their positioning within the patchwork grid shown below to insure you cut the width and height dimensions correctly.
- For all the cuts, we recommend using a cutting mat with a grid, a see-through ruler, and a rotary cutter for the best results.
- From Fabric 1 (the Sage Green in our sample), cut the following:
FIVE 4½” x 2½” rectangles
ONE 10½” x 8½” rectangle
ONE 10½” x 4½” rectangle
- From Fabric 2 (the Rose Pink in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 4½” x 2½” rectangle
ONE 10½” x 4½” rectangle
- From Fabric 3 (the Rich Ivory in our sample), cut the following:
FOUR 4½” x 2½” rectangles
ONE 10½” x 4½” rectangle
ONE 21” x 21” square
- From Fabric 4 (the Dusty Plum in our sample), cut TWO 6½” x 4½” rectangles
- From Fabric 5 (the Warm Gold in our sample), cut TWO 6½” x 4½” rectangles
- From the lightweight interfacing, cut TWO 20” x 20” squares.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Front patchwork assembly
- The pillow front is made up of three vertical rows. Gather all your cuts and lay them out on a clean, flat surface in order, following the grid shown above:
ROW 1: green, pink, green, ivory, green, ivory, green, ivory, green, ivory.
ROW 2: ivory, plum, gold, plum, gold
ROW 3: green, ivory, green, pink
- Start with the ten pieces for the first row and work from the top down to the bottom.
- Place the first two pieces (green and pink) right sides together. Pin together along their inside 4½” edges.
- Attach a Quarter Inch Seam foot. If needed on your machine, adjust settings for both the stitch length and needle position for a ¼” seam allowance.
- Thread the machine with thread to best match your fabric in the top and bobbin. We used an ivory thread throughout.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch together.
NOTE: The setting noted above is important, and one of the reasons we love the precise functionality of our Janome studio machines. By combing the correct presser foot AND the correct stitch setting, you get the optimum seam. Check your machine’s manual for specifics.
- Continue in this manner until all nine seams of the first 10-piece row are complete.
- Press each seam allowance open and flat
- Move on to rows two and three, piecing them together in the same manner.
- When all three rows are complete, stitch them together, working from left to right.
- Place the first two rows right sides together. Take the extra time to very carefully align your seams from row to row. This is what will insure the beautiful corner intersections on your finished pillow front. When all is precisely matched, pin together.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch together.
- Press the seam allowance open and flat, being especially careful to flatten each intersection.
- Stitch row two to row three in the same manner. Again, carefully press all the seam allowances open and flat.
- Flip over the panel to admire your beautifully matched corner points.
Prepare the panels for final construction
- Our recommended fabric for this pillow project is a classic linen, which comes in a beautiful selection of rich colors and has an inherently fabulous drape and feel. But… linen also ravels like the dickens! We recommend you finish the perimeter edge of your front panel with an overcast stitch or similar.
- We used our Janome Overedge foot, a foot that comes standard on nearly all models. It’s a quick, easy, and super neat finish for a cut edge.
- Once the perimeter edge of the front panel is finished, find one of the 20” x 20” interfacing panels.
- Place the interfacing panel on the wrong side of the front panel, centering it so there is an even amount of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all sides. Piecing can slightly alter the final size of your panel, which means your interfacing panel may be a perfect fit to the fabric panel or may have a small reveal all around. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Find the back panel.
- Place the front panel on top of the back panel. As mentioned above, piecing can slightly alter the final size of your panel, so now is the time to match the front panel to the back panel, trimming away the back panel to match the front so the edges of the two panels are flush all around.
- Once your back panel has been trimmed to fit (if necessary), finish its perimeter edge with your Overedge foot as you did with the front panel and fuse the remaining interfacing panel to the wrong side of the back panel.
NOTE: Another benefit of finishing all your perimeter edges is for the invisible zipper. A finished edge makes it less likely any stray fabric threads will get caught in the zipper once it’s in place.
Insert the invisible zipper
- Take the zipper out of its packaging and iron the invisible zipper along each side to uncurl the teeth. By doing this, you will be able to sew more accurately along the edge of the coil. Be sure to use the synthetic setting on your iron, otherwise you could melt the nylon teeth.
NOTE: We are providing a number of photos and steps here on inserting an invisible zipper, but the overall process is still summarized a bit. If you are brand new to the technique, take a look at our full technique tutorial.
- With an invisible zipper, you do not sew any portion of the seam prior to installing the zipper. This type of zipper is best installed with the two sides of the seam loose from each other. Place the two interfaced/finished fabric panels right side up on your work surface.
- A zipper has a right and wrong side, just like fabric. An invisible zipper must be placed right sides together with your fabric, working with one side of the zipper, then the other. We started with the back panel; you can start with either the front or back.
- Open the zipper all the way.
- The zipper coil should be lined up with the seam allowance. Our perimeter seam allowance is ½”.
- When using the center installation method, as you normally do with a pillow, your seam starts and stops ½” in from the raw side edge – in other words, you start/end at the width of your seam allowance.
- Place a vertical pin at this ½” point.
- Continue pinning with horizontal pins along the first side of the zipper.
- Attach your Concealed Zipper foot.
- Insert the top of the zipper into the appropriate groove on the foot.
- Starting at the vertical pin point, stitch from the top end of the zipper towards the base end of the zipper, removing the pins as you go. Stop ½” from the opposite side of the panel.
- Repeat to pin the opposite side of the zipper to the remaining panel (the front panel in our sample.) Remember, the right side of the fabric and the right side of the zipper are facing one another. This means the zipper curls a bit; that is correct.
- Pin all the way across.
- Stitch all the way across, starting and stopping ½” in as on the first panel.
- Close the zipper about half way.
Stitch the perimeter to finish
- Using your zipper as the “hinge,” fold the front panel and back panel right sides together. Pin across the top and down each side.
- Switch back to a standard presser foot.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across the top. Lock your stitch at the beginning and end of the seam. Reposition to stitch the first side seam. This should be the side in line with the top of the zipper.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch from the top corner down to the bottom corner. Back stitch a couple of times at the bottom to secure the top end of the zipper.
- Reposition to stitch the remaining side in the same manner. Again, back stitch several times over the closed zipper to secure the bottom end of the zipper.
- Trim away any excess zipper.
- At the two top corners, trim on the diagonal.
- Press the top and side seams open and flat.
- Press the bottom zipper seam open and flat as well.
- Open the zipper all the way and turn the pillow cover right side out.
- Gently push out the corners so they are as square and sharp as possible. A long, blunt tool works best for this, such as a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner.
- Press flat.
- Insert the pillow form through the zipper opening, fluff it out in the corners, and zip closed.
NOTE: Learning to insert an invisible zipper is an excellent skill you can use in a great variety of situations, however, if you simply do not want to attempt it, you could choose to skip the zipper insertion steps altogether. Instead, jump ahead to the final perimeter stitching and go around all four sides, leaving an approximate 10” opening along the bottom. When everything is pressed, insert the pillow form through the opening and hand stitch the opening closed with a careful Ladder Stitch.
Project Design: Anne Adams
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild