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Black & White Pillow Pile: Squares & Stripes

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One of the most classic decorating palettes is black and white. It never goes out of style and is anything but 'basic.' The combination can look crisp and casual or sophisticated and stylish. Black is a color that anchors and grounds; in fact, any room will benefit with a bit of black to add definition to its focal point color. We have a whole week of beautiful black and white pillows for you, starting today with our extra-large Squares & Stripes. Its dramatic pinwheel center is achieved with clever cutting and careful seaming.

The Janome 3160QDC machine we recommend for this project is a fairly new model in the Janome line and features their Superior Plus Feed System. We loved using it because the feeding is so precise, we didn't ever have to worry about keeping our top and bottom layers feeding in unison. That meant perfect pattern matching every single seam. Check it out!

Our thanks to Michael Miller Fabrics for providing us with an awesome selection of fabrics from their brand new Black and White Collection. Look for it in stores or online for your Spring sewing, including from our friends at Fat Quarter Shop.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • 5/8 yard of 44-45" wide fabric for pillow front: we used Michael Miller's Two by Two Stripe in Black
  • 3/4 yard of 54" wide fabric for pillow back, piping, and buttons: we used a lightweight linen in oatmeal
  • 1½ yards cotton cording: our size was called 8/32"
    NOTE: CreateForLess.com carries a good selection of piping cord
  • Two 1½" covered buttons: we used a covered button kit
  • Small scraps of batting for button
  • All purpose thread to match your fabric
  • Button or carpet thread
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins
  • Tape measure
  • Temporary spray adhesive
  • Regular hand sewing needle
  • Long upholstery hand sewing needle
  • Curved needle (optional)
  • 20" x 20" pillow form (or fiber fill for stuffing)

Getting Started

Before you begin to cut your squares for the pillow front, measure your stripe. The fabric we used has 2" wide stripes. So, we thought about how big our squares needed to be and remembered the ½" seam allowance we planned on using.

Our cut squares are 11" x 11", because... we wanted to end up with 10" x 10" squares when sewn for a 20" x 20" finished pillow. And, we want our stripes in the center of the pillow to create a ‘pinwheel' effect of intersecting solid black. That means we need to measure ½" over from the black stripe into the white stripe to determine where to start to cut our squares.

We only needed to be concerned with where we cut the width (even though it's a square) because of the vertical stripe and the fact we are rotating each square a quarter turn.

  1. Cut four identical 11" x 11" squares from the black and white stripe fabric, paying attention to the stripe as described above.
    NOTE: It might help you to make a transparent 11" x 11" paper pattern so you can exactly place the squares on the fabric and get a perfect ½" starting width within the white stripe.
    Click to Enlarge
  2. Cut one 21" x 21" square from the pillow back fabric (oatmeal linen in our sample).
    NOTE: When working with linen, it tends to stretch a bit due to the loose weave. Be sure to use caution when handling.
  3. Cut two 1½" x width of fabric (WOF) strips from the pillow back fabric (oatmeal linen in our sample) to cover the cording.
    NOTE: We only needed two strips to go around the pillow because of the 54" width of the linen we used. In case you use a narrower fabric, you need to multiply the length of one side to make it around the pillow. So, it's 4 x 20" = 80". But, it's always a good idea to have extra at the beginning and end to join them. For a 20" x 20" pillow, we recommend you cut enough strips to make 88" of piping.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Place the striped squares on a flat surface. Rotate the squares a quarter turn each way to match our sample.
    Click to Enlarge
  2. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew the top two squares at the center seam.
    NOTE: Be sure to sew with the VERTICAL stripe on top so you can tell you are sewing right between the black and white stripe. It's a nice, straight line to follow.
    Click to Enlarge
  3. Press the seam toward the vertical BLACK stripe. If not, you will see the seam through the white.
  4. Sew the bottom two squares in the same manner as the top two.
  5. Again, press the seam toward the vertical black stripe. But this time it should be in the opposite direction as the top squares.
  6. Place the top and bottom sections right sides together to complete the ‘pinwheel' look in the center.
    NOTE: It's helpful to align and pin the seams at the center so the seam allowances are ‘nested' together. This helps keep the seam straight at the center.
  7. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew the top and bottom together to complete the front of the pillow. Press seam open. Set aside.
    NOTE: We found it helpful to sew from the center out to either side to make sure our stripes were lined up perfectly and to get the effect we wanted in the center of the pillow. Plus, we flipped the pillow over from one side to the other, so we could keep an eye on that fine line between the black and white stripes .
  8. Fold the 21" linen square in half and in half again to create a center point. Press along the folded sides of the line to create a crosshairs in the center for the button placement. Set aside.


  1. Wrap the 1½ strips around the cotton cording and stitch in place to create the piping to go around the pillow.
    NOTE: If you've never made piping before, follow our tutorial: How To Make and Attach Your Own Piping .
  2. Starting in the middle of one side, sew the piping to the pillow back with a piping foot, ½" from the raw edge.
    NOTE: We're lucky enough to get to use all these great specialty feet from our Signature Sponsor, Janome . If you don't own one yet, a piping foot is a great investment for your machine!
  3. Optional: If you're new to piping, you can hand baste the piping to the pillow back before stitching. It gives you a bit more stability.
  4. Pin the front to the back, leaving an opening (approximately 9") for stuffing.
  5. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew the around the pillow, starting and stopping at the opening.
    NOTE: If sew from the back, you can follow in your original piping stitching line.
  6. Insert a 20" x 20" pillow form (or stuff with fiber fill).
  7. Slip stitch pillow seam opening by hand to complete.

Fabric covered buttons

  1. Using the pattern that comes with the button kit, cut two small circles from the pillow back fabric and the batting.
    NOTE: If this is your first time using fabric covered buttons, see our tutorial: Button Kit Covered Buttons .
  2. Lay the fabric circle, right side down, on a protected flat surface (we simply used a paper towel to protect our table). Lightly spray with adhesive.
  3. Lay the batting circle on top of the fabric circle. The light adhesive will help hold these layers together. Spray again with adhesive to help adhere to the button.
  4. Using the button holder that comes with the kit, cover the button with the prepared fabric circles.
  5. Hand sew the covered buttons to the front and the back at the exact center.
    NOTE: Remember when we pressed a crosshairs on the back side to position the button? You can use this now to confirm your button position.
  6. To make sewing all the way through the pillow easier, BEFORE you try to sew on your covered buttons, use a heavy-duty button or carpet thread and a long upholstery sewing needle, and stitch back and forth through the exact center of your pillow. This compresses the pillow filler and makes a nice little dent in the middle of your pillow where you can then stitch your buttons. Stitch on one button and then the other; don't try to stitch them both on at once. If you're still having challenges, try a curved sewing needle.

Pillow Back

Click to Enlarge

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Editing: Jodi Kelly



Comments (4)

dcaruso said:
dcaruso's picture
I love these pillows. I have just made striped drapes for my living room and was wondering what kind of pillows to make. These will be perfect. Thank you.