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We love sewing by machine! It’s fast, it’s easy, and when you have great machines like the Janome models in our S4H studios, it’s almost effortless. But it doesn’t mean you can’t whip out the hand needle and thread now and then. A few well-placed hand-stitched accents add a unique decorative touch. Today’s lovely lumbar pillow features rows of simple running stitches in three coordinating colors of embroidery floss. 

By adding a bit of batting behind the fabric, the finished look has a sweet, vintage feel. Against a rich quilting cotton, it’s the perfect understated embellishment. It doesn’t distract from the beautiful fabric, instead adding just a small, special element that takes only a few minutes to include.

The pillow features a bold feature fabric front and back along with a coordinating accent fabric. We recommend a dramatic color combination that echoes the bright floss stitching. For more information on mixing and matching, check out our tutorial: Top 10 Designer Tips for Blending Colors and Prints.

We originally used two fabrics from Amy Butler’s Alchemy, an older collection that is no longer readily available. But, the options in bold and beautiful quilting cottons is nearly endless – with new collections added every season.

We added a sleek invisible zipper to our pillow cover, but it is optional. You could opt to simply hand stitch your opening closed. If you are brand new to invisible zippers, do not fear them… they can actually be easier than traditional zippers! We have a full invisible zipper tutorial you can review prior to starting the project.

Our pretty pillow finishes at approximately 12″ x 20″.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • ⅝ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton fabric for the main front and back panels back
  • ¼ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton fabric for the front and back accent strips back
  • ¼ yard of 44-45″ wide medium-weight fusible interfacing
  • ⅝ yard of 44-45″ wide low loft batting
  • One 12″ x 20″ pillow insert
  • 1 skein EACH of three colors of embroidery floss that coordinate with your fabric for the vertical hand stitching accents
  • Hand embroidery needle – with a large eye and a sharp point
  • 9″ invisible zipper – optional
  • All-purpose thread to match fabric
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle if not adding a zipper

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for the main front and the back panels, cut ONE 19″ wide x 25″ high rectangle.
  2. From the fabric for the front and back accent strips, fussy cut ONE 4″ wide x 25″ high strip.
    NOTE: Cut carefully to insure your motif is in a perfectly straight line. We carefully centered the medallion motifs in our original fabric.
  3. From the fusible interfacing, cut ONE 4″ x 25″ strip.
  4. From the batting, cut ONE 19″ x 25″ rectangle.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Place the interfacing strip on the wrong side of the fabric accent strip. Both layers should be flush all around. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
  2. Pin the batting to the wrong side of the main fabric panel. Both layers should be flush all around.
  3. Place the main fabric panel right side up and flat on your work surface.
  4. Pin the accent strip to the left side of the fabric panel, right sides together, aligning the 25″ raw edges.
  5. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch together the two panels.
  6. Press the seam allowance towards the main panel
  7. Topstitch the seam allowance in place, staying ¼” from the seam within the main fabric panel.

Hand Stitching

  1. Measure and mark lines to follow for the hand quilting stitches. You can mark with pins (our choice) or you can use a fabric pen or pencil to draw a line to follow. If you choose this route, just be sure the marking will easily wipe away or disappear with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
  2. Start your measurement from the topstitching line between the accent strip and the main panel. Measure 2″ out from this line and mark a vertical line. Measure 2″ from this marked line, and mark a second line. Continue with 2″ intervals. You should end up with EIGHT marked lines. The final line will be 2½” from the right raw edge, giving you enough extra for the side seam allowance.
  3. Find the hand embroidery needle and cotton embroidery floss.
  4. Use an entire length of the six-strand floss; the hand stitching needs to be done with ONE continuous length. You want a nice, chunky weight so the hand stitching is visible, so you could even double the floss if you’d like.
  5. Knot the end. Hand stitch, using a simple running stitch, following your marked lines. The stitches themselves should be about ¼” with approximately ⅛” between each stitch.
  6. Alternate the colors across the front. Our colors alternated as follows: Jonquil, Charcoal, Dark Blue, Jonquil, Charcoal, Dark Blue, Jonquil, Charcoal.
  7. Knot of the ends when you finish your stitch line. We left our tails a little long so we could adjust the last stitch or two if they didn’t exactly match up front to back along the bottom seam line.

Optional zipper and finishing

  1. If you would like to insert an invisible zipper, now is the time to do it. It should be centered within what will be the bottom seam of the pillow.
  2. If you are new to invisible zippers, check out our tutorial.
    NOTE: If you prefer not to insert a zipper, you will simply leave an 8-10″ opening within the bottom seam for turning, then hand stitch the opening closed when done. This means your finished pillow will need to be spot cleaned as the insert will not be able to be removed without ripping out the seam.
  3. Unzip the installed zipper half way.
  4. Fold the stitched panel right sides together. Make sure you carefully align the accent panel seams. And, as mentioned above, carefully align your hand stitching as well. Pull out the final stitches and adjust if necessary to make sure the lines match up perfectly.
  5. Pin along both sides and the remainder of the bottom seam to either end of where you ended your invisible zipper seam.
  6. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the sides and bottom.
    NOTE: Remember, if you are not using a zipper, leave an 8-10″ opening in the bottom seam.
  7. Turn right side out through the open zipper.
  8. Using a long, blunt-end tool, such as a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner, gently push out the corners so they are nice and square.
  9. Insert the pillow form and zip closed.
  10. Again, if you opted not to insert a zipper, carefully slip stitch your opening closed instead.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild

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Carol Harlan
Carol Harlan
6 years ago

Do you sell the butterfly

Do you sell the butterfly fabric. It’s beautiful. 

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