Have more Xtra EZ fun with our happy pom pom pillow. This Learn To Sew series is targeted at those of you just getting into the joy of sewing. But it’s also great for the experienced ones among you who are looking for great beginner projects to use to pass along your skills. All three of our Xtra EZ pillows would be wonderful to make with children who are learning to sew. The articles have additional steps to shed light on cutting skills and other sewing basics. Plus, each teaches specific techniques that will be valuable for future projects. For this pillow, you’ll learn the tools and tricks to apply a simple trim, how to sew a center tufted button, and how to square-up your fabric.
If you’re following along with all our Xtra EZ articles, you’ll notice we repeat some steps from project to project. This is so each one can stand alone as a full and independent beginner project.
Our pillow finishes at 16″ x 16″. Our recommended cuts are a bit larger than we sometimes specify for our S4H pillows. This is because a bigger cover is easier for a beginner. If you’d prefer a tighter fit for your pillow cover, reduce the cuts below from 17″ x 17″ to 16″ x 16″.
Try the Pony Tail Bolster to learn how to add professional topstitching and create a super skinny tie. Or, try the Easy Nine Patch Pillow to learn a simple quilt block and an envelope style back closure.
We originally used fabric from the Love & Joy collection by Dena Designs for FreeSpirit Fabrics. This is an older collection that is no longer readily available. We found another pretty aqua combination in Retro Florals by Michael Miller at Hawthorne Threads. It’s a popular fabric and we show two other colorways to consider.
Sewing Tools You Need
The feet we used:
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ½ yard of 44-45″ wide cotton
- 2 yards of standard size pom pom trim; we used red ¾” poms, purchased locally
- ONE 16″ x 16″ pillow insert; we used a Fairfield Home Elegance pillow insert
- All-purpose thread to match fabrics and button
- See-through ruler; we recommend a 12″ quilter’s ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Tape measure
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
- Upholstery needle
Cutting tips for beginners
- When you have the right tools, every project is easier…. and more precise. This is especially true for beginners, but is really great advice for us all. We recommend all cutting be done with a rotary cutter, cutting mat and a see-through quilter’s ruler (we used a 12″ quilter’s ruler for this project).
- Fold the fabric in half so the selvedges match. Fold again so the selvedge is parallel with the center fold and the fabric is smooth and even. Place the folded fabric on the cutting mat so the center fold is aligned with a horizontal gridline on the cutting mat.
- Next, you will “square” the fabric. To do this, align the ruler with a vertical gridline close to one side. Using the rotary cutter, trim away this ragged edge.
- You need two 17″ x 17″ squares for the pillow. This will be done in two steps. First, with the fabric still folded as above, place the ruler 17″ from the trimmed end of the fabric, using your cutting mat’s gridlines as your guide. Align the ruler to the appropriate vertical gridline at the 17″ point.
- Cut with the rotary cutter.
- Unfold the 17″ strip you just created. Re-fold it so the two cut edges are aligned. Place these cut edges along a horizontal gridline on the cutting mat. Your piece is 8½” high as folded, but is wider than needed.
- Square the end. To do this, align the ruler with a vertical gridline close to the selvedge end. Using the rotary cutter, trim away this edge.
- Place the ruler 17″ from the trimmed end of the fabric, using your cutting mat’s gridlines as your guide. Align the ruler to the appropriate vertical gridline at the 17″ point.
- Cut with the rotary cutter. Unfold. You now have two, perfectly squared 17″ x 17″ pieces with which to work.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Pom pom trim
- Place one 17″ x 17″ square of fabric right side up on your cutting mat.
- Find the pom pom trim.
- Normally, we would simply have you run the trim around the perimeter of the square, overlapping it at the middle on one side. However, using this method does require a little more skill at the corners to make sure the poms are centered and you can still make a nice square corner. So, for our “Xtra EZ” version, we recommend you secure the trim as four individual lengths.
- Place the trim along one side of the fabric square. Center the trim so when you measure ½” in from the side, that point falls between two poms. This is where your seam allowance will run.
- Each pom is attached by a loop of yarn to the trim’s insertion tape. There is a space between the poms. This is the space you are centering above, and this is where you will make your cuts.
- Pin the trim in place. The trim’s insertion tape is flush with the raw edge of the fabric and the poms are facing the center of the fabric. Once pinned in place, trim away a pom at each end so you have a clean corner for the ½” seam allowance.
- Machine baste this length of trim in place, staying as close to the poms as possible. We used our Standard presser foot. You could also use a Zipper foot if that allows you to more easily get in close to the poms. It’s important that neither the poms nor the little loops that attach them get caught in the basting seam.
- You can see in the photo below how close close the seam should be to the poms.
- Using the same steps, pin and then stitch the next length of poms in place.
- Repeat two more times to finish the pom trim. You now have nice square corners. The ends of the trim will overlap into a cross at each corner; this is fine, it will be cut away later.
Layering to finish
- Place the plain square right side up and flat on your cutting mat.
- Place the pom pom trimmed square right side down on top of it, aligning all four raw edges and sandwiching the poms between the layers.
- Pin around all four sides, leaving an 8″ space along one side. This opening will be used to turn the cover right side out.
- Stitch around all four sides of the pillow. You will use an approximate ½” seam allowance. We say “approximate” because for this type of pillow, rather than relying on the seam allowance makings on the machine’s needle plate, you’ll sew with the side to which you stitched the poms on top – so you can see the seam line. Follow along this seam line, staying about ⅛” inside (⅛” to the left) of the seam. We used our Standard foot. You could also use a Zipper foot.
- The best method for stitching is to start at one side of the 8″ opening. Lock your seam to start, stitch to the corner, pivot and continue around the pillow, pivoting at each corner, finally stopping and locking your seam to finish at the opposite side of the 8″ opening.
- You need to pivot at each corner. To do a standard pivot, stop ½” from the end of the fabric (or, in this case, stop ⅛” to the inside of the seam you’ve been following) with your needle in the down position. Lift up the presser foot. Pivot the fabric 90˚so the next side of the pillow is positioned in front of the needle. Drop the presser foot. Start stitching toward the next corner.
NOTE: As an option, you can backstitch around the corner (yes, that means you’ll pivot again). These extra stitches at the pivot point reinforce the corner, which helps when turning the cover right side out.
- Trim each corner diagonally to remove the bulk, being careful to not cut into your seam.
NOTE: For more information on pretty corners, take a look at our tutorial: Stitching & Clipping Corners Correctly.
- Turn the pillow right side out through the opening. Gently 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 or a chopstick.
- Press in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Thread the regular hand sewing needle with thread to match the fabric and sew the opening closed, using a slip stitch.
- Use a tape measure to find the center of each side of the pillow. Mark this point with one or two pins.
- Thread the upholstery needle with doubled thread to match the button. Take a couple of stitches at the center point on one side. It’s helpful to secure the thread around the pins; you can easily pull away the pins when done.
- Push the needle through, making sure it comes out the opposite side at the exact center point.
- Pull the thread tight. Repeat a couple of times until the thread seems secure and the pillow has a nice depression on each side.
- With the remaining thread, add a button to each side. Go back and forth from one side to the other until both buttons are secure.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler