We’re always on the lookout for designer trends in retail shops, online, magazines, and more. It was during a recent search that we spotted a number of pillows with dense panels of decorative stitching, as well as many featuring embroidery accents and tassels. It was a style that had a bit of a boho feel but with a more elegant spin. Thanks to the power, precision, and flexibility of our Janome studio machines, we knew we could pull together all these trends into one fabulous pillow.
We used the Janome Skyline S9, a sewing and embroidery powerhouse that allowed us to use just one machine for both the decorative stitch panel and the embroidery accents as well as all the construction.
This entire Janome Skyline series is one of our favorites, but this is the only Skyline with the combination of sewing and embroidery. It even includes Wi-Fi capability that makes it easy to send embroidery designs from an iPad or computer straight to the machine. There is also a complete set of iPad apps that allow you to customize your embroidery: AcuDesign, AcuEdit, AcuMonitor, AcuSetter, and AcuSketch. Visit your favorite App Store for more details on these, click through to Janome for more details, or best yet — visit a local Janome dealer for a complete demonstration.
All our stitch and motif selections are outlined below, but one of the beauties of this project is getting to pick your own favorites. It’s what makes decorative stitches and embroidery so much fun: practicing and testing to find the options you love most.
Of course it’s fun – but it’s also important! In order to get the very best look, experimenting with different stitch combinations and varying width and length is critical to achieving a professional finish.
We recommend a décor or upholstery weight fabric for the proper stability, in a darker solid color so the lighter color thread designs really pop. And although some color variation in the weave of the fabric can make for an interesting background, steer away from heavy textures; a smooth surface is best for this type of embellishment.
If possible, use a down or down alternative for your pillow insert. This not only lets you get that cool “karate chop” shape so popular with interior designers, it is also softer and flatter. You don’t want a “poofy” or chubby pillow form – it would distort the pretty embellishment.
The finishing touch is the four, two-tone corner tassels. Making your own tassels is easier than you might think. We summarize the steps below and include a link to our full step-by-step tutorial. We added some extra flair by bending in braided accents in a second color.
Our thanks to Janome America for sponsoring this tutorial. To stay up-to-date on all the news from Janome, visit their website and/or follow the creativity on their blog, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
Our pillow finishes at approximately 20” x 14”.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot – if combining decorative stitches and embroidery motifs as we did, you do need a machine with embroidery capability - we used the Janome Skyline S9
- Satin Stitch foot; optional for decorative stitching
- Quilting Guide Bar; optional for setting distance between rows of stitching
Fabric and Other Supplies
The amounts shown below are for ONE 20” x 14” pillow.
- ½ yard of 54”+ décor weight solid fabric; as mentioned above, we recommend a darker fabric that will allow the stitching to pop, and although a bit of subtle color variation in the weave of the fabric is nice, we would not recommend a heavily textured fabric as that will impact the smoothness of the decorative stitching
- ½ yard of 20”+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; optional – our fabric was heavy enough that we did not need to further smooth the finish after stitching – if your fabric is lightweight, a layer of interfacing on the wrong side of the front panel after stitching can help smooth out any ripples in the fabric; we recommend Pellon ShapeFlex
- ½ yard of 20”+ wide tearaway stabilizer or similar as recommended in your machine manual for the decorative stitching and embroidery; we used Sulky Tear Easy
- FOUR skeins of pearl cotton floss for the main tassels in a color to match the decorative stitching and embroidery; we used a light ivory to blend with the pale taupe thread
- TWO skeins of pearl cotton floss for the tassel accent braids in a color to match the fabric; we used brown
- ONE 20” x 14” pillow form; we recommend a down (or down alternative) filled option for the best look to the finished pillow
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- Heavyweight thread in a contrasting color for the decorative stitching and embroidery; we used a 40wt cotton in light taupe
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Tape measure
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- 3” piece of stiff cardboard to help create the tassels
- Hand sewing needle
- Label dots or similar for marking embroidery position; optional
- From the main fabric, cut TWO 21” wide x 15” high rectangles. Save all scraps to use for practicing your decorative stitches.
- On the back of both panels, use a fabric pen or pencil to draw in the ½” seam line along all four sides.
- From the tearaway stabilizer, cut ONE approximate 20” x 12” rectangle – you want a large enough piece to cover the main area of decorative stitching and embroidery.
- If using the optional lightweight fusible, cut ONE 20” x 14” rectangle.
At Your Sewing Machine
Plan the main decorative stitching block
- Our pillow features one line of decorative stitching along the top and bottom of the main panel, running approximately 1” in from the seam line.
- In addition, there are 11 lines of stitching forming the main decorative block. The exact stitches you choose and the width at which you stitch them will determine the final size of your decorative block. Our stitches were all set to their maximum width – for most, this maximum was 9mm, for some, it was 6mm. Our final block finished at approximately 4”.
- When planning your stitches, testing width, length, and spacing is critical. We recommend stitches that can enlarge to a bold stitch width of at least 6mm - 9mm. It will look best to alternate dense stitch patterns with more open patterns. In addition, repeating stitches is a good idea – too much variety can lead to a “circus” feel. You want an elegant look to the panel. As you can see in the list below, there are only four different stitches within our 11 row panel. And our rows are very close together – just 1/16” to 1/8” is recommended.
- Do not begin the stitching on your main panel until you are 100% sure of your stitch selection, settings, and distance between rows.
- On our Janome Skyline S9, the stitches we chose were as follows:
Top and bottom accent stitch: Appliqué stitch 2
11 panel stitches (from bottom to top):
Appliqué stitch 8
Heirloom stitch 1
Heirloom stitch 10
Heirloom stitch 1
Appliqué stitch 8
Heirloom stitch 14
Appliqué stitch 8
Heirloom stitch 1
Heirloom stitch 10
Heirloom stitch 1
Appliqué stitch 8
Stitch the main decorative stitching block
- Thread the machine with the contrasting thread you chose for your decorative stitching in the top, and a bright colored all-purpose thread in the bobbin. You don’t need to wind much onto the bobbin; it is just for basting a visible seam line.
- Pin the stabilizer over the main stitching area of the pillow front panel.
- With the wrong side of the panel facing up (the stabilized side), baste all around the panel on the drawn ½” seam line. Then, re-set and stitch a parallel basting line along the top and bottom of the panel (the 21” sides) 1” in from the stitched seam line.
- Replace the bobbin thread with the contrasting thread; in other words, both the top and the bobbin should now have the same heavyweight contrasting thread.
- Flip over the panel so it is right side up, which means the brightly colored basting lines are now visible.
- Start along the bottom of the fabric panel, stitching the bottom accent line first.
- Set up your machine for decorative stitching and select your first stitch. Use the inner basting line, the line 1” in from the basted outer seam line, as your guide. Our stitch was approximately ½” from this guideline.
- Stitch the first row.
- For ALL rows of decorative stitching, start and end the stitching within the ½” seam allowance. This helps insure there will be no gaps; you want the decorative stitching to disappear into the side seams.
- If possible, attach a Quilting Guide Bar and set it it for 1”. The first row of the main decorative stitch block should be approximately 1” above the initial accent line of stitching.
- If you do not have a Quilting Guide Bar, you can draw in ALL your stitching guide lines with a fabric pen or pencil or you can simply use markings on your presser foot as a guide.
- Stitch each line in the block in the same manner...
- ... moving to the next drawn line, moving the Quilting Guide Bar or using the presser foot to keep your distances even across the entire front of the panel.
- Stitch in the same direction for each row, which means you will re-set each time. And remember, as stated above, start and stop the stitching with the side seam allowance.
- We also recommend using a Start/Stop button control rather than your foot pedal if you have this feature on your machine. This guides the fabric evenly and at a steady pace, which gives you a beautiful finish. Although you may think you are delivering even pressure with your foot pedal, it's very easy to drift into a sporadic slow-fast-slow pace, which can put stress on the fabric and thread and cause the stitches to form less perfectly.
Create the upper area embroidery motifs
- When the main decorative stitching block in complete, press lightly. Lay the panel right side up and flat on your work surface. Place a tape measure along one side in order to plan the placement for the embroidery motifs.
- Following your manual, re-set the machine for embroidery.
- Choose your embroidery motif. You want a very simple element in a single color. We recommend a finished size of approximately 1”. Our motif is actually the letter “O” from within the Skyline S9 built-in Bauhaus alphabet, enlarged to its maximum of 120%.
- You could also search through your machine’s built-in embroidery designs for a very simple flower or a small medallion. Again, the key is a simple design that will stitch out well in one color.
- Determine the placement for the embroidery motifs. We used standard office label dots to help us get the best look. Draw crosshairs on the circles and then place them on the fabric.
- These dots are easy to stick and re-stick to get things just the way you want.
- As with the decorative stitching, the exact size and placement of your motifs may vary. We stitched seven motifs, one row of three and one row of four. The two rows are offset. There is approximately ½” between the main decorative stitching block the bottom of the first row. And, there is approximately 3½” from the top of the decorative stitching block to where the upper accent line of stitching will be. The drawing below will help show you how we positioned our seven motifs.
- Select and prepare to hoop the front panel. The Janome hoops come with a handy grid insert to make positioning easier.
- Use the grid to align the center motif at the center of the grid.
- When aligned, remove the grid and remove the first placement sticker.
- Stitch the first motif.
- Move to each position and stitch the motif.
- When all the motifs are complete, tear away the stabilizer.
- Replace a small strip of a stabilizer behind the basting guideline for the final upper line of decorative stitching.
- Re-set the machine from embroidery to decorative stitching. Choose the proper stitch and sew this final row in the same manner as above for the previous rows.
- Remove any visible basting stitches.
Square up the pillow, stitch the perimeter, and insert the pillow form
- With this much stitching, there will definitely be some shrinkage in your fabric panel once everything is complete.
- Measure along the top of the panel…
- … and the bottom panel to confirm how your panel may have changed. You can see that we lost about ½” along the heavily-stitched bottom of the panel.
- Re-draw the outer sewing line as needed so the pillow is once again square all around.
- Pin the front panel and the back panel right sides together.
- Re-thread with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Stitch around all four sides, leaving an approximate 10-12” opening along the bottom to insert the pillow form. Remember to pivot at each corner and to lock the seam at either side of the opening. Clip the corners.
- Turn the cover 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-end tool, like a large knitting needle, chopstick or point turner.
- Insert the pillow form through the opening and fluff the corners into position.
- Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Pin closed.
- Thread a hand sewing needle with thread to best match the fabric and carefully slip stitch the opening closed.
Create and add the tassels
- Find all the elements for the tassels. We used a full skein of the lighter color floss for each tassel, but 1-2 skeins of the darker accent floss is plenty to create the accent braids for all four tassels.
- Unwrap one skein of the light color floss. No need to undo the whole skein. Just find the tied ends and make sure that tied section is at the bottom of the tassel.
- Find the 3” cardboard template. Wrap the skein around the cardboard template as many times as possible. Set aside.
- Find the dark floss. Pull out a long length.
- Use six strands – three doubled strands, just as it comes off the skein, to braid. Knot at the top to start, holding the strands together.
- Braid the entire long length. You want your finished length to be about 12”.
- Using the hand needle and thread, knot the braid at about 6” to keep if from unraveling.
- Continue braiding until you have the full, approximate 12” length. Knot at the bottom with the needle and thread.
- Knot again in the center (at about 6”) so you have a knot to either side of the 6” mark.
- Snip into two 6” lengths. Be careful with your cut, you need needle-and-thread tie-off knots to either side of the cut so the braids will not unravel.
- Add a final needle-and-thread knot just below the original top knot. Then cut off that top knot.
- Find the cardboard template with the light color skein wrapped around it. Lay the two braided lengths over the top of the wrapped skeins so the braids make an “X” at the top as shown in the photo below.
- Cut an approximate 12” ddoubled strand of the dark floss for the upper tie. Insert this under the loops of the skein at the top and pull the ends up.
- Knot the tie ends at the top. Slip the tied loops off the cardboard template.
- Cut one final length of the darker floss at about 24”. Wrap this length around and around the loop bundle approximately ½” down from the top. This creates the "head" of the tassel. You can wrap around as many times as you’d like, but eight to ten wraps is a good average.
- When you’re finished going around and around, thread the end of the floss through a large eye needle and make a standard knot; it can be buried within the strands of the wrap. Pass the needle through the head of the tassel to bury the thread, trim away the excess, and allow the end to disappear back into the head of the tassel.
- Cut the bottom loop and even up the ends to create a pretty bottom “skirt” for your tassel.
- Thread the ends of the top tie through the needle and carefully stitch a tassel at each corner of the pillow.
- Trim away the excess top tie tails. You can add a drop of seam sealant to the stitch to further secure. Fluff the skirt of the tassel and even the fall of the braids.
NOTE: If you are brand new to tassels, we have a full tutorial you can review prior to starting.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever