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Animal Appliqué Pillows: Baby Shower Power Gift

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Sometimes it seems like invitations for baby showers come in waves, and continuing to come up with clever and popular gift ideas can be tough. This adorable pillow pair is one of our "Baby Shower Power Gifts." The basic piped pillow pattern is fast and simple and the animal appliqués are super cute. It's a design that will stay a favorite long past nursery days. With a nod to Laura Elizabeth Richards, we have to share the poem that inspired our cute appliqué shapes. It's one my sister and I have had firmly stuck in our heads for years: "Once there was an elephant, who tried to use the telephant. No! No! I mean an elephone, who tried to use the telephone." Click to read the full Eletelephony poem. HA! Now it will be stuck in your head for years.

We offer free downloadable patterns for a friendly elephant and a graceful giraffe. If you are clever with paper and pen, you can draw additional shapes and expand your zoo to include a whole host of critters. For easiest appliquéing, remember to keep curves large and smooth and avoid tiny points.

We have excellent step-by-step photos below, showing how we made and attached the piping. We don't always go into such detail, since we also have a great piping tutorial, but every now and then, we like to remind you just how easy it is to create your own binding and piping. 

You can certainly buy pre-packaged trim, but making it yourself gives you optimum flexibility in your fabric choice as well as a broader choice of widths. As we like to say, "Want it? Make it!"

The pillows finish at 16" x 16" excluding the piping. 

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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NOTE: Supplies shown below are for TWO coordinating pillows, because the giraffe and the elephant are best friends and prefer not to be separated.

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  • ½ yard of 44"+ wide solid fabric for the pillow fronts; we recommend a light color that will allow your appliqué to stand out
  • ½ yard of 44"+ wide print fabric for the back of the elephant pillow AND the elephant appliqué
  • ½ yard of 44"+ wide print fabric for the back of the giraffe pillow
  • 1 yard of 44"+ wide print fabric for the accent piping on both pillows; we are cutting on the bias, which requires more fabric, you can certainly choose a straight cut to conserve fabric – you will need approximately 68" of 1½" wide strips for each pillow
  • ½ yard or scrap (you need a piece at least 8½" x 11", 16" x 16" is better so you can best center the design) of 44"+ wide print fabric for the giraffe appliqué: we used a scrap from the piping fabric; if you want the same look, consider buying 1½ yards of the piping fabric to allow enough for cutting the giraffe
  • 3¾ yards ¼" cotton piping cord
  • 1 yard of 20"+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing
  • 1 yard of 20" + wide paper backed fusible web for the appliqué
  • TWO 16" x 16" pillow forms
  • All purpose thread to match fabric for both construction and appliqué
  • See-through ruler
  • Tape measure
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins

Getting Started & Template Download

  1. Download and print the Elephant and Giraffe Templates, which have been bundled into ONE PDF to make the download easier.
    IMPORTANT: These two templates are both one 8½" x 11" sheet. You must print the file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on each page to confirm your printout is to scale.  
  2. Cut out the templates along the solid lines.
  3. From the fabric for the pillow fronts, cut TWO 16" x 16" squares.
  4. From the fabric for the elephant pillow back and the elephant appliqué (Gray Huevos in our sample), cut the following:
    ONE 16" x 16" square for the appliqué
    ONE 12" wide x 16" high rectangle for the Overlap Panel
    ONE 14" wide x 16" high rectangle for the Underlap Panel
  5. From the fabric for giraffe pillow back, cut the following:
    ONE 12" wide x 16" high rectangle for the Overlap Panel
    ONE 14" wide x 16" high rectangle for the Underlap Panel
  6. From the fabric for the piping, cut enough 1½" wide strips to equal 68" in length for EACH pillow (136" total); remember, if you are brand new to working with bias binding and piping, check out our full piping tutorial prior to starting
  7. From the fabric for the giraffe appliqué , cut ONE 16" x 16" square.
  8. From the lightweight fusible interfacing, cut TWO 16" x 16" squares.
  9. Cut TWO 68" lengths from the cording.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Animal appliqué

  1. Cut two pieces of the paper back fusible web; each should be large enough to completely cover the chosen appliqué shape.
  2. Following the manufacturer's directions, fuse the web to the WRONG side of the 16" x 16" square of each appliqué fabric.
  3. Flip both fused squares right side up.
  4. Pin a template to each fabric square. Cut out the two animal shapes.
    Click to Enlarge
  5. Peel away the paper from the cut shape to reveal the fusing.
  6. Find the two pillow front squares and the two squares of lightweight fusible interfacing.
  7. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse an interfacing square to the wrong side of each pillow front square. All raw edges of both layers should be flush.
  8. Place an animal appliqué in the center of each pillow front square. When perfectly positioned, fuse in place.
  9. Thread the machine with thread to best match the appliqué fabric in the top and bobbin.
  10. Appliqué the animal shapes in place using a short length zig zag stitch (sometimes called a "satin stitch") all around the outer edge of the animal.
  11. Be sure the center of the zig zag stitch is centered directly over the cut edge of the animal template. Also be sure the zig zag stitch length is very short - almost like a buttonhole.
    NOTE: If you are new to appliqué, check out our full Appliqué Tutorial for additional hints and tips. 

Hem and assemble the back panels

  1. On each Overlap Panel, fold back and press one 16" edge ½", then fold and press an additional 3". Edgestitch in place along the inside folded edge to create a 3½" clean finished hem.
    NOTE: If you are new to hemming, check out our technique tutorial: How To Make A Simple Hem.
  2. On each Underlap Panel, fold back and press one 16" edge ½", then fold and press an additional 2". Edgestitch in place along the inside folded edge to create a 2½" clean finished hem.
    NOTE: In both cases, if you are working with a directional fabric, make sure you are working with the two 16" edges that will overlap at the center back of your pillow(s).
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  3. Take both pieces and overlap the hems to yield the correct finished width (16" in our sample). The opening should be centered along the back of the pillow. Pin the hems together at the top and bottom edges.
  4. Working as close to the edges as possible, stitch just across the overlap to secure and create one piece. It's easier to work with one piece to stitch front to back.
    Diagram

Round all the corners

  1. On each of the raw edge corners of the Overlap Panels, the Underlap Panels, and the four raw edge corners of the two front animal appliqué panels, cut the corners into a curve.
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  2. You can draw your curve onto a piece of paper and pin it to each corner, or you can trace around an object that has a similarly-sized curve (a small drinking glass, for example).

Cut and join the bias strips for the piping

  1. On your cutting surface, lay out flat the fabric you've chosen for the piping. It should be right side up with the selvage running along one side.
    Diagram
  2. The selvage is the woven edge of your fabric where it was originally attached to the loom. The fabric's pattern does not continue onto the selvage, but there is likely to be some information printed there that identifies the manufacturer or designer.
  3. Fold the fabric back diagonally so a straight edge is parallel to the selvage.
  4. Press the fold. You will use this crease as a guide to mark your parallel cut lines.
  5. Use a straight edge to make parallel lines 1½" apart.
    Diagram
  6. Cut along these lines with good, sharp shears or a rotary cutter and straight edge.
  7. You need approximately 68" of piping to go around each pillow. You will likely need to join strips to make one a final strip that is the required 68" long. To do this, take two of your strips and place them right sides together at right angels to one another.
  8. Stitch straight across with a ½" seam allowance.
    Diagram
  9. Lay flat, press the seam allowance open, and trim off the overlapping edges.
    Diagram
  10. Add strips in this manner as necessary until you have one long fabric strip that is at least 68" length. If you are using new fabric cuts, you should only have to stitch together two pieces.
  11. Repeat as needed to create two strips, one for each pillow, each 68" long x 1½" wide.

Insert the cording

  1. Place one 68" bias strip right side down on a large flat surface.
  2. Lay one 68" length of piping cord in the center of the strip.
  3. Fold the fabric over the cord, keeping the cord centered and matching the raw edges of the fabric.
    Diagram
  4. Pin to hold in place.
  5. Carefully move to your sewing machine and adjust the piping so the raw edges line up on your seam allowance marking, and the cord extends to the left of your foot.
  6. Using a Zipper foot, stitch slowly along the folded strip, staying very close to the cord and keeping your seam allowance as consistent as possible. Remember to remove any pins as you go.
    Diagram
  7. Cut one end of the cording close to the raw edge, so it has a sharp, flat end.

Stitch the piping to each pillow back

  1. Pin the piping around all four sides on the RIGHT side of each back panel (the overlapped panels you edgestitched together above). The 68" length should be enough to go all the way around and to leave an approximate 2" tail free at each end.
  2. Start at the middle of what will become the pillow's bottom edge, and pin around all four edges until you return to your starting point.
  3. Clip the seam allowance around the curved corners to help ease and make the fabric lay flat. Clip up to the line of stitching, but not through it. The little cuts give the otherwise rigid line the flexibility to curve.
    Click to Enlarge
  4. Start stitching about ¼" - ½" from the raw end of the piping (to facilitate the clean finish outlined below). In other words, make sure you have a tail free at the start.
  5. Using a Zipper foot, baste the piping in place, removing the pins as you go. Remember, you are stitching around a curve, so you'll need to gently ease the fabric as you go. This means it might ripple slightly. That's okay

Finishing the piping ends

  1. Continue sewing your piping in place until you are back to where you started. Using the "tails" you accounted for at the beginning, cut off any excess piping so you have about an 1" to work with.
  2. With a seam ripper, peel back the fabric to expose the cording underneath.
    Click to Enlarge
  3. Trim the end of cording tail so they two ends butt together. Fold under the tail end of the loose fabric to create a clean edge, adjusting and wrapping this folded end under and around the head end so it overlaps by about ½".
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  4. Stitch in place, matching your original basting line.
    Click to Enlarge
    NOTE: Remember, if you are new to piping, we have that great Piping Tutorial you can review.

Finishing the pillows

  1. Place your pillow back panel and your pillow front panel right sides together, matching the raw edges all around.
  2. Using a Zipper foot, stitch a ½" seam around all four edges of the pillow, staying as close to the piping as your foot will allow.
  3. You can also backstitch around each corner to reinforce.
    Click to Enlarge
  4. Using the envelope opening on the back, turn the pillow covers right side out. Push out the corners from the inside to make nice, rounded corners on the outside. Use your finger or a blunt-edge tool, like a large knitting needle, chopstick or point turner
  5. Insert the pillow form through the envelope closure and fluff out the corners.

Contributors

Project Concept: Alicia Thommas 
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Gregory Dickson

Section: 

Comments (2)

mssewsavvy said:
mssewsavvy's picture

How adorable! Another great one knocked out of the park! Please tell me the fabric line used and hopefully my friend Google can find some available out there. Thanks 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@mssewsavvy - Thank you! The original fabric is from the Michael Miller Fabric Citron/Gray color "family" collection, however, it is an older collection that is no longer readily available. We didn't list specific fabric alternatives, becuase you can really use any fabrics you'd like -- even scraps.