Sometimes, a very special fabric collection sometimes deserves very special shapes! We’ve created a pair of dimensional pillows in Neptune and the Mermaid. One is a brand new triangle pillow with pretty patchwork on one side and a custom octopus appliqué on the other side. Its pillow pal, completing the ocean theme, is our classic Starfish pillow. Make one or make them both. The brilliant colors and interesting shapes would be perfect as beach cabin décor or as toss pillows in a sunroom or covered patio.
We’ve had so much fun working with the Neptune and the Mermaid fabric collection, especially fussy cutting our favorite motifs to create a unique, personalized look. For the triangle pillow, we chose one of the gorgeous mermaid designs as the center focal point, sounded by a mixture of complimentary prints.
The back is where our handsome octopus lives. He’s just about a foot tall, which not only gives him a bold presence, but also allows the curves and points of his tentacles to be as large as possible for easier cutting and appliquéing.
Complete steps are shown below for how we did our raw edge appliqué. But if you’re brand new to this technique, you may want to review our How to Appliqué Like a Pro tutorial prior to starting. In addition, because of the twists and turns of those eight legs, it’s a good idea to practice first on layered scraps to get into the swing of things. You’ll see our notes on how you can use a free motion quilting foot for pucker-free stitching.
There are helpful diagrams that clearly outline the piecing steps for the pillow top. And, of course, we show you the exact fabrics we used from he Neptune and the Mermaid collection. If your favorite retailer doesn’t carry Neptune and the Mermaid, let them know you’d like to see it. You may even be able to request a special order.
A free pattern download is included below for all the triangles that make up the front patchwork on the triangle pillow as well as for the octopus appliqué template. The triangles themselves are unique sizes, and we also provide the rounded corners. Using patterns for these insures the final patchwork comes together perfectly. The Starfish pattern is available as a free download from its original project page.
The Starfish Pillow is a Sew4Home classic. For this version, we omitted the buttons, but it would be easy to add them to the side with the more petite motif: Salt and Sea in Magenta. Displayed together, they’re a great set with a fun, beachy feel.
Our Triangle pillow finishes at approximately 15½“ high x 22” wide including the piping. Our Starfish Pillow finishes at approximately 18½” in diameter.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot
- Free Motion Quilting foot; optional for the appliqué
- Zipper foot
- Walking or Even Feed foot; optional but helpful when working with the multiple layers – or engage your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the Janome AcuFeed™ Flex system, which we used on our Janome Skyline S7
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: Our yardage recommendations for the featured Neptune and the Mermaid fabric include extra to allow for the specific fussy cutting shown in our samples, such as centering the mermaid motif as the focal point of the triangle pillow.
- 1 yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton (Fabric A in our design) for the main triangle pillow back and triangle pillow front patchwork; we used Song of the Siren in Aqua from TokyoMilk presents Neptune and the Mermaid by Margot Elena for FreeSpirit
- ½ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton (Fabric B in our design) for the triangle pillow front patchwork, including the large focal point triangle with the fussy cut mermaid motif; we used Lost Atlantis in Aqua from TokyoMilk presents Neptune and the Mermaid by Margot Elena for FreeSpirit
- ¼ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton (fabric C in our design) for the triangle pillow front patchwork; we used Floral Reef in Navy from TokyoMilk presents Neptune and the Mermaid by Margot Elena for FreeSpirit
- ½ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton (fabric D in our design) for the triangle pillow piping; we used Anthemoessa in Aqua from TokyoMilk presents Neptune and the Mermaid by Margot Elena for FreeSpirit
- ⅝ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton (fabric E in our design) for one side of the starfish pillow; we used What Would Poseidon Say? in Pink from TokyoMilk presents Neptune and the Mermaid by Margot Elena for FreeSpirit
- ⅝ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton (fabric F in our design) for the second side of the starfish pillow as well as for the octopus appliqué on the triangle pillow; we used Salt and Sea in Magenta from TokyoMilk presents Neptune and the Mermaid by Margot Elena for FreeSpirit
NOTE: If doing both pillows and following our fabric recommendations,⅝ of a yard is enough for both the octopus appliqué as well as one side of the starfish pillow. If just doing the appliqué, you can use just ½ yard.
- ½ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton for the back panel of the triangle pillow’s front “quilt sandwich;” we used a solid green quilting cotton from our stash – it won’t show, so you can really use whatever you have on hand
- 1 yard of 45″+ wide fusible fleece; we used Pellon Thermolam
NOTE: Each pillow takes approximately ½ yard.
- ½ yard of 17”+ paper-backed, fusible web for the octopus appliqué; we used Pellon Wonder Under
- 2¼ yards of ½” (size 5) piping cord for the triangle pillow piping
- ONE large bag of polyester filler; we used one 32-ounce bag of Poly-fil premium fiber fill, this is plenty for both pillows
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
Getting Started and Pattern Downloads
NOTE: Cutting and assembly instructions are shown below only for the new Triangle Pillow. Link here for everything you need for the Starfish Pillow.
- Download and print out our FOUR Triangle Pattern sheets (one sheet for the center large triangle, one sheet for the three different small triangles, and two sheets for the octopus appliqué), which have been bundled into one PDF to make the download easier.
IMPORTANT: Each page is ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on each page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
- Cut out each pattern piece along the solid line.
- Butt together (do not overlap) the two pieces that make up the large triangle and the two pieces that make up the octopus template, aligning the arrows printed on the pieces. Tape together to create the full pattern/template.
- Using the triangle patterns, plan a fussy cut for each triangle so it has a nicely centered design. This is especially important for the large center triangle.
- From Fabric A (Song of the Siren in Aqua in our sample), fussy cut SIX triangles using the Small Triangle pattern. We fussy cut our triangles to avoid the divers, instead focusing the cuts on the smaller “bubbles.”
NOTE: The back panel will be cut from this fabric later, using the assembled front panel as the pattern.
- From Fabric B (Lost Atlantis in Aqua in our sample), fussy cut ONE large focal-point triangle using the Large Triangle pattern, and SIX small triangles. As shown on the drawing above, you will use all three Small Triangle patterns: the Rounded Top (cut 1), Rounded Left/Right Base (cut 2), and the Small Triangle (cut 3).
NOTE: We fussy cut all the small triangles to capture a rose motif within each. Remember when cutting the Rounded Base corners that you will need to cut one with the pattern facing right side up and the second with the pattern facing right side down in order to get one right base and one left base. PLUS: both Lost Atlantis and Anthemoessa feature lovely floral motifs; you could cut from both for the small triangles if desired.
- From Fabric C (Floral Reef in Navy in our sample), fussy cut NINE triangles, using the Small Triangle pattern.
- From the Fabric D (Anthemoessa in Aqua in our sample), cut enough 2⅜“ wide strips on the bias to create a finished strip at least 75″ long.
NOTE: If you are new to working with piping and/or bias strips, take a look at our full piping tutorial prior to starting the project.
- As with the back fabric panel, the quilt backing panels and the fleece panels will all be cut later, using the assembled front panel as the pattern.
NOTE: As mentioned above — Cutting and assembly instructions are shown only for the new Triangle Pillow. Link here for everything you need for the Starfish Pillow.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the front patchwork
- Arrange all the cut pieces to match our pattern. This will allow you to pick up the pieces in the correct order as you sew together the rows.
- Pin together the five pieces that make up the center bottom row (step 1 in the drawing above).
- Place the first two triangles together along their inner raw edges. Pin together. As is normal when working with triangles, the top points will extend approximately ¼”. This is correct.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance stitch together.
- Assemble the next two triangles in the row in the same manner, then pin the fifth triangle to this second sewn pair.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance stitch together.
- Pin the sewn pair to the sewn trio to complete this first row.
- Stitch together, using a ¼” seam allowance and press gently. You are working with pieces cut on the bias that can easily stretch and distort.
- Pin the assembled center bottom row to the base of the large feature triangle (step 2 in the drawing above).
- Stitch together, using a ¼” seam allowance, and press gently.
- In the same manner, assemble the seven triangles that make up the left side (step 3 in the drawing above). This includes the left rounded base corner and six small triangles.
- Pin this row to your assembled center section (steps 1 and 2). Stitch in place, using a ¼” seam allowance.
- To complete, assemble the nine triangles that make up the right side (step 4 in the drawing above). This includes the right rounded base corner, the top rounded corner, and seven small triangles.
- Pin this row to your previously assembled section (steps 1, 2 and 3).
- Stitch in place, using a ¼” seam allowance.
Cut the remaining panels and assemble into quilt sandwiches
- Using the assembled top panel as a pattern, fussy cut ONE from Fabric A (Song of the Siren in Aqua in our sample) and TWO from the solid cotton.
- Again using the assembled top panel as a pattern, cut TWO from the fusible fleece.
- Place a fusible fleece panel on the wrong side of the patchwork front panel and the Fabric A back panel. The edges of both layers should be flush all around. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Pin a solid backing panel to both the fused front and back layers to create a “quilt sandwich” for each.
- Baste together each layered sandwich around the perimeter. We used the AcuFeed™ Flex system on our Janome Skyline S7
Quilt the front triangle
- Find the exact vertical center of the front triangle, which should run directly through your large triangle motif.
- Using a fabric pen or pencil, draw in a vertical guide line at this center point.
NOTE: As always, when working on the right side of the fabric, make sure you’re using a marking tool that will easily wipe away or will vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
- Re-thread the machine if necessary with thread to best coordinate overall with your patchwork in the top and bobbin. We used aqua. Lengthen the stitch.
- We suggest using a Walking or Even Feed foot or engaging your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the Janome AcuFeed™ Flex system, which is what we used on our Janome Skyline S7.
- Stitch along the center guide line.
- Attach a quilt guide bar and set to 1¼”. Stitch parallel lines of quilting at this interval to the right of center and then to the left of center.
- When complete, you should have 17 rows of vertical straight line quilting across the pillow top.
NOTE: If you do not have a quilt bar option, you can simply draw in all 17 parallel guide lines with a fabric pen or pencil.
- Find the appliqué template, which should be assembled into the full drawing. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Cut a piece of fusible web to fit over the entire drawing.
- Place the fusible web FUSING side UP, PAPER side DOWN on top of the drawing.
- Using a Sharpie® or similar, carefully trace the outline of the octopus onto the fusing side of the fusible web.
- Roughly cut around your traced octopus; you just want to remove excess, the cut doesn’t have to be exact.
- Find the appliqué fabric (Salt and Sea in Magenta in our sample). Place it WRONG side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the traced octopus FUSING SIDE DOWN on the fabric.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Carefully cut out the octopus along your drawn line.
- Find the back quilt sandwich. Place it right side up on your work surface.
- Peel away the paper backing from the cut-out octopus.
- Center the octopus on the right side back quilt sandwich, positioning is as shown in the drawing so the head of the octopus is leaning slightly to the right.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the appliqué fabric in the top and bobbin. Shorten the stitch length.
- Carefully stitch around the entire outer perimeter of the octopus. We used our Janome Free Motion Quilting foot, but kept the feed dogs in the Up position. Working at a medium speed, this allowed us to stitch through all three layers of the quilt sandwich with no puckering.
NOTE: You may have your own favorite method for raw edge appliqué, and should, of course, use that. If you are brand new to appliqué, you can review our tutorial prior to stitching: How to Appliqué Like a Pro.
Create and attach the piping
- If this is your first time making piping, see our piping tutorial for tips on how to make it and attach it.
- Pin together your 2⅜“ bias strips to create a finished length of at least 75″.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best matching the piping fabric and re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Stitch together, using a ¼” seam allowance. Press each seam allowance open and flat.
- Wrap the fabric around the piping cord, right side facing out. Pin close to the cording to hold it in place.
- Using a Zipper foot, machine baste close to the cording to create your fabric covered piping.
NOTE: If your sewing machine allows, move the needle all the way to the left so you can get nice and tight against the cording.
- Pin the piping onto the right side of the pillow front, aligning the raw edges and easing around the corners.
NOTE: Since you cut your strips on the bias, the piping should curve nicely around the three rounded corners of the triangle, but you can also cut a few slits into the flange of the piping to help it to bend around, however, be sure not to cut into your stitching. For more information, check out our tutorial: Sewing Smooth Curves Every Time.
- To join, cut back the piping cord to butt together end to end.
- Trim away any excess fabric, fold under the end of the fabric strip, and overlap the junction. Pin in place against the pillow front.
- Machine baste the piping in place all around.
NOTE: These steps are summarized; if you are brand new, take a gander at our piping tutorial prior to starting.
Assemble and stuff to finish
- Place the front and back panels right sides together, sandwiching the piping between the layers. Pin well all around, leaving a 3-4″ opening along the bottom for stuffing.
- Because of the thicker layers front to back, the piping, and the unusual shape of the pillow, we suggest a two-step finish.
- First, machine baste all around, starting and stopping at either side of the opening. We suggest using Walking or Even Feed foot or engaging your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the Janome AcuFeed™ Flex system, which is what we used on our Janome Skyline S7.
- Switch back to a Zipper foot. Sew around the pillow again, remembering to lock the seam at either side of the opening. This time around, your goal is to get your stitch as tight up against the cording as possible. This should be an approximate ½” seam allowance but may vary slightly narrower or wider.
- Clip the curves and grade the seam allowance.
- Turn the pillow right side out through the opening. Using a long blunt tool, such as a knitting needle, chopstick or point turn, gently smooth out the three rounded corners.
- Stuff the pillow, working from the farthest corners towards the opening. If you are need to pillow stuffing, check out our tutorial for helpful tips and tools.
- Hand stitch the opening closed. Use tiny stitches, hiding them behind the piping.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild