We’re always thinking about new ways to use all the great decorative stitches available on our Janome studio machines. This pillow features them in a unique way that makes ordinary piping pop. You start with jumbo half inch piping, which requires a wide fabric strip as a wrap. This fabric strip becomes the base for two rows of bold decorative stitching. We used the full 9mm stitch width available on our Janome Skyline machine. When wrapped around the piping cord, these stitches create a striking embellishment that beautifully frames the entire pillow.
The front of the pillow continues the decorative design, but more subtly. A delicate blanket stitch appliqués four triangle accents to the simple base patchwork.
If you are new to either technique, we do have extended tutorials on both decorative stitching and appliqué. Check them out for tips and techniques that can help you get the most professional results.
The stitching is the star of this pillow, so look for a trio of solid fabrics that blend well with one another but don’t detract from the decorative thread work. One light and one dark tone works well for the simple front patchwork. The dark tone is then used for the envelope back.
For the best look to the piping’s decorative stitching, we recommend a darker fabric with light thread. On the front, to achieve the more muted look, use a thread about one shade deeper than the darkest of your two fabrics.
Our piping fabric is cut on the bias then interfaced. This interfacing provides a bit of stabilization to the lightweight quilting weight cotton so the decorative stitching is as crisp and clean as possible. Yes, the interfacing does cancel out some of the benefit of the stretchy bias cut, but not all. There’s still enough ease within the strip to allow a smooth curve around each corner of the pillow.
We recommend adding a layer of batting to both the front as well as the back for a super smooth finish.
Our pillow finishes at approximately 20″ x 20″, excluding the piping, which adds approximately 1″ overall.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Satin Stitch foot; good for both decorative stitching and appliqué
- Zipper foot; for piping application
- Walking or Even Feed foot; optional but helpful for thick layers – or engage your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the AcuFeed™ Flex system we use on many of our Janome studio machines
- Quarter Inch Seam foot; optional but helpful for some precise hemming
- Embroidery needle; recommended for the appliqué and decorative stitching
- Denim needle; recommended for stitching through the multiple layers
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: Our recommended fabrics are solid colors so the yardage requirements given are based on not needing any excess for directional cuts or fussy cuts. In addition, height and width are not given below in the Getting Started section for the same reason. If you are working with directional or patterned fabrics, you may need additional yardage, and when cutting, simply remember the cuts are all vertical.
- 1 yard of a darker color of 44″+ wide quilting weight fabric for the pillow front and back; we originally used Kona Cotton Solids by Robert Kaufman Fabrics in Candy Green
- ⅓ yard of a lighter color of 44″+ wide quilting weight fabric for the pillow front; we originally used Kona Cotton Solids by Robert Kaufman Fabrics in Eggshell
- 1 yard of a third coordinating color of 44″+ wide quilting weight fabric for the piping; we originally used Kona Cotton Solids by Robert Kaufman Fabrics in Charcoal
- 2½ yards of ½” piping cord** (also called welt); we use Conso cotton piping in a size #8
NOTE: **At these larger sizes, we found two distinctly different sizing methods. Some companies used the diameter of the cut end, which is this case is ½”. Others used the circumference, which for our sample is 1½”.
- ¾ yard of 45″+ low loft batting
- ¾ yard of 20″+ wide lightweight interfacing; we used Pellon Shir-Tailor
NOTE: The interfacing strips will be pieced to fit the finished length of piping.
- ½ yard of fusible web; we used Pellon Wonder Under
- ONE 20″ x 20″ pillow form; we used a Soft Touch 20″ x 20″ pillow form by Fairfield
- TWO ¾” – 1″ buttons; we used two dark charcoal gray buttons
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- Contrasting thread as described above for the piping and appliqué
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Tape measure
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Seam sealant, such as Dritz Fray Check
- From the darker fabric for the pillow front and back (Candy Green in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 21″ x 14″ rectangles for the back panels
TWO 21″ x 7″ rectangles for the front patchwork
ONE 9″ x 9″ square for the front appliqué
- From the lighter fabric for the pillow front (Eggshell in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 21″ x 9″ rectangle for the front patchwork
ONE 9″ x 9″ square for the front appliqué
- From the piping fabric (Charcoal in our sample), cut enough 3¼” strips on the bias to equal a finished length of 81″.
NOTE: If you are new to working with bias strips, take a look at our tutorials on Basic Bias Binding for Piping and Continuous Bias Binding.
- From the interfacing, cut the following:
TWO 2″ x 21″ strips
Enough 3¼” strips to equal the binding length or approximately 81″.
NOTE: We cut FOUR 20″ (WOF) strips, which does only equal 80″, but that’s fine as just the very ends of the fabric bias strip will be interfacing-free and those ends will be trimmed away/folded under when finishing the piping.
- From the batting, cut the following:
ONE 21″ x 21″ square
TWO 11½” x 21″ rectangles
- From the fusible web, cut TWO 8″ x 8″ squares.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Front patchwork and appliqué
- Find the two 9″ x 9″ squares.
- Center a fusible web square on the wrong side of each fabric square. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- With the fusible web adhered, trim down both of the 9″ x 9″ squares to 7½” x 7½”. To do this, trim down three sides, then pull away the fusible web’s paper backing prior to trimming the final side.
NOTE: The reason for the trimming as well as the two-step process to remove the backing is to keep all the edges of the fabric as clean and sharp as possible. By adhering and then trimming back to the final size, it insures the fusible web truly goes all the way to all the edges. Peeling back the paper prior to the final cut eliminates picking at the true edge and possibly causing the fabric to fray. As an additional prevention against fraying, you can place a dot of seam sealant at each point of each triangle.
- Cut each square down the center to create two matching triangles.
- Set aside these triangles.
- Find the three front panels. Align a dark panel to each 21″ side of the center light panel. Pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch each 21″ seam.
- Press each seam allowance together and towards the outer panel.
- Fold the completed front base panel in half horizontally (the three patchworked panels are vertical) and press to set a light center crease line.
- Unfold right side up so the horizontal crease line is visible.
- Find the two dark triangles (Candy Green in our sample). Place the triangles in position at the center of the patchworked panel. The long, straight sides of the two triangles are facing one another and are 2″ apart.
- The outer point of each triangle is aligned with the front panel’s center crease. Lightly pin to hold the exact position of the triangles.
- Press in place, activating the fusible web.
- Re-thread with the appliqué color thread in the top and bottom and set up your machine for an appliqué stitch. We used a Blanket Stitch and the Satin Stitch foot. Our stitch length and width were both set to 2.5mm.
- Stitch around all three sides of both triangles carefully pivoting at the points. If you are new to appliqué, check out our tutorial for helpful tips and techniques.
- Find the two light triangles (Eggshell in our sample). Place these triangles in position overlapping the outer points of the dark triangles. The long, straight sides of the two triangles are facing one another. Each long edge should be ½” from the patchwork panel seam.
- The outer point of each triangle is aligned with the front panel’s center crease.
- As above, lightly pin to hold the exact position of the triangles, then press in place to activate the fusible web.
- Using the same thread and the same machine settings, appliqué these two triangles in place.
- Find the 21″ x 21″ batting square. Place the completed front panel right side up on top of the batting panel. Machine baste the layers around all four sides. Set aside.
NOTE: Our photos are close-up to show the stitching precision. The beauty photographs within the project introduction can help you see the placement of these four triangles from an overall perspective.
- Find the two back panels, the two batting rectangles and the two 2″ interfacing strips.
- Along one 21″ edge of each back panel, press back the raw edge ½” (if you are working with a directional fabric, this should be the center overlapping edge of each panel).
- Slip the interfacing strip into place, butting one side against the crease of the ½” fold.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing strip in place, re-pressing the ½” edge at the same time.
- Fold back the edge an additional 2″, creating a wide hem. Press in place.
- Unfold the hem on each panel. Place a batting rectangle against the wrong side of each panel, align the inside edge of the batting along the 2″ inner crease line of the hem. The other three sides of the batting rectangle should be flush with the fabric panel. Trim the batting to match the fabric if need be.
- On each back panel, refold the 2″ hem over the batting and pin in place. Run two lines of topstitching to adhere each hem. One should be close to the inner folded edge, the other should be ¼” from the outer edge. We used thread to match the fabric, lengthened our stitch, and switched to our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot.
- Mark one panel for two buttonholes. Find the exact center, top to bottom, of the panel. Measure 4″ above center and 4″ below center. Following the manual for your machine, create a machine buttonhole at each of these marked points.
- Place the plain back panel right side up on your work surface. Place the buttonhole panel on top of the plain panel. Overlap the center hems until the stitching aligns and the width and height of the combined panels are both 21″.
- Insert a pin through the center point of each buttonhole to mark the plain panel.
- Handstitch a button in place at each marked point. We used thread to match the fabric.
- Button the two panels together and set aside.
- Find the 3¼” bias cut fabric strips, the 3¼” interfacing strips, and the piping cord.
NOTE: If this is your first time making piping, see our tutorial, How To Make And Attach Your Own Piping.
- Stitch together the 3¼” fabric strips to create the 81″ finished length.
- Starting at the center of the finished strip, place the interfacing strips on the wrong side. Butt the interfacing together end to end to cover the entire strip.
NOTE: As noted above, we ended up with about ½” of un-interfaced fabric on each end, which was fine, but try not to leave much more than that. The job of the interfacing is to provide a more stable surface for the decorative stitching.
- Fold the interfaced strip in half, wrong sides together, and press to set a light center crease. Unfold right side up so the crease line is visible down the center.
- Set up your machine for your chosen decorative stitch and re-thread with contrasting thread in the top and bobbin. We used our Satin Stitch foot again. Our stitch width was set to the maximum 9.0mm and the stitch length was 0.3mm.
- Using the center crease line as the guide for the edge of the presser foot, run the decorative stitch the entire length of the fabric strip. Go slowly and carefully; it’s important the stitches stay even and straight.
- Repeat to run a second line of stitching to the other side of the center crease line.
- Normally when making your own piping, you simply wrap the fabric around the cord, baste and go. This is fine when you’re working with plain fabric thay can shift a little without notice. For this project, it’s important the lines of stitching stay straight with the center crease along the top edge of the piping all around. In order to achieve this, we did additional basting.
- First, wrap the fabric around the cord, carefully aligning the raw edges and checking several times along the length of the cord to make sure your stitching is even on each side. Pin in place. Then, machine baste in place close to the raw edges.
- Re-thread if necessary with thread to match the piping fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Switch to a Zipper foot and run a second line of machine basting as close as possible to the cording.
- Find the pillow front, which should have the batting layer basted in place.
- Starting in the middle of bottom side and with approximately 3″ loose at the beginning, pin piping to the right side of the front panel, aligning the raw edges of the piping with the raw edge of the front.
- When you get back around to your starting point and have the end pinned in place, use a seam ripper to peel back the fabric of that 3″ loose section to expose the cording underneath.
- Trim the end of cording so it exactly meets the end of the pinned-down cording.
- Fold under the end of the loose fabric to create a clean edge and overlap by about ½”. Try to match the decorative stitching if possible.
- Still using a Zipper foot, machine baste in place all around. Be especially careful to keep a smooth curve around the corners.
NOTE: Again, if you’re new to working with piping, check out our tutorial for tips on cutting, joining, applying, and finishing.
- Trim back the excess fabric at each corner.
Double stitch to finish
- Place the pillow font and back right sides together, aligning the raw edges all around and sandwiching the piping between the layers. Pin in place.
- Because of the extra-thick piping, we recommend two seams.
- If possible switch to a Walking foot and a Denim needle. You can also engage your machine’s built-in feeding system, such as the Janome AcuFeed™ Flex system we love. If the feature is available on your machine model, move the needle position as far left as it will go.
- Stitch around the entire perimeter of the pillow cover, using an approximate ¼” seam allowance.
- Remove the pillow cover from the machine. Attach a Zipper foot. Stitch around the entire perimeter once more, this time running the seam as close to the piping as possible.
- Clip the curves.
- Unbutton the pillow back and turn the pillow cover right side out. Push out the piping all around. Use a long, blunt-end tool, such as a knitting needle or chopstick, to smooth out the corners.
- Insert your pillow form through the envelope opening and fluff it out into the corners.
- Button the pillow closed.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild