Out here in the Northwest, we know our clouds. Just as they say the Eskimos have dozens of words to describe snow, I think we have just as many to describe clouds and the rain that often descends from them. Today, we've ignored those water-logged centers and chosen our favorite fluffy white clouds... the ones you found shapes in as a child, lying on your back in the summer grass. "There's a chariot pulled by four white horses!" "I see a tumbling bear!" "Look, an ice cream cone!" Our clouds are made of super-soft Minky Eyelash on the front and pure cool silver cotton on the back... a silver lining, I guess. We provide our own cloud drawing as a guide, but feel free to make one in the shape of a tumbling bear.
A BIG thanks to our friends and supporters at Minky Delight! They provided the long and luxuriously soft, double-sided Minky Eyelash. If you are looking for "soft, cuddly, melt-in-your-hand fabrics"... this is the place. Thanks, Dan and Lori! The beautiful fabric for the back of the clouds is called Petals in Pewter by Michael Miller Fabric. They actually offer this gorgeous Petals design in a number of colors.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
The supplies shown below are enough to make two cloud pillows, one large (30" base) and one small (22" base).
- ¾ yard of 58-60" wide super soft fabric for the front of the clouds: we used Minky Eyelash in Off White from Minky Delight
- 1 yard of 44-45" wide fabric for the back of the clouds: we used Petals in Pewter by Michael Miller Fabrics
- 1 yard of 44-45" wide lightweight batting for interior pillow construction: we used Kyoto Bamboo Batting from Fabric.com
- 1 yard of gridded pattern fabric: we used Pellon Tru-Grid 1" Graph
- One large bag of polyester fiberfill for pillow stuffing: we used Poly-fil by Fairfield
NOTE: Use the best fiberfill you can find and afford; the quality really makes a difference in the outside appearance.
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Hand sewing needle
- Tape measure
- Straight pins
- Download and print our TWO 8½" x 11" cloud template sheets: 22" Cloud Pillow Template and 30" Cloud Pillow Template.
IMPORTANT: You must print these PDF files at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page.
NOTE: Our templates are provided as a guide. You could also use your own piece of graph paper to draw your favorite cloud. You do have a favorite cloud, don't you?
Little grid to big grid... or, remember "graphing" from middle school?
- Draw one horizontal and several vertical lines on your template as guides for your transfer points. We drew a horizontal base line at the widest part of the pillow (22" in this sample), and then we drew six evenly spaced vertical lines. Make sure you are drawing on the actual grid lines so you can easily count the number of squares from point to point.
- Start with your base line. For our sample, this meant we placed dots at 0" and 22". Remember how your lines intersect your template above; don't draw the base line right at the bottom of your grid fabric, because it is not at the bottom of the pillow.
- This is where those graphing skills from Mrs. Peterson's math class come in handy. Moving square-for-square, and using your base line as a guide, count in from the side and either up or down from the base line and mark points on your large grid fabric in the exact same positions as your template grid.
- You'll end up with a series of dots that exactly match the beginning and end points of each line on your template.
- Then, simply connect the dots.
- Keep your connecting line as smooth and even and possible so you end you with a fluffy, round cloud outline.
- Repeat to create the pattern for the companion cloud.
Cutting out the clouds (a phrase that sounds so cool, it needs to be the name of an album, don't you think?)
- Lay the batting flat on your cutting surface.
- Lay the fabric you are using for the cloud backs (Petals in Pewter in our sample) on top of the batting, right side up.
- Make sure both layers are nice and flat.
- Place your full-size cloud patterns right side up and pin in place through both layers.
- Cut out the clouds (there it is again!). Set them aside.
- Lay the fabric you are using the the cloud fronts (Minky Eyelash in our sample) on your cutting surface flat and right side up.
- FLIP OVER the full-size cloud patterns and pin them wrong side up to the cloud front fabric.
NOTE: Why the all-caps on the "flip over"? Because if you don't, you'll end up with "two left feet" so to speak. Your pillow fronts and pillow backs have to be mirror images of one another or the edges won't match up when you are ready to sew them right sides together. This is important ANY time you have a pattern with a definite right and left. Unless you are working with a perfect square or circle, you need to remember to cut the front, flip the pattern, then cut the back - or vice-versa. Cut-flip-cut.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Find your cloud backs with their matching batting pieces. We are going to stitch these two pieces together so we can treat them as one layer during our final construction.
- This layering technique is a tip from our friend and home décor expert, Donna Babylon. Donna's technique for a smooth, specialty-shaped pillow - especially when using lightweight cotton, is to add a layer of batting and muslin to the main decorator fabric. These additional layers smooth and stabilize the surface of the pillow. For my cloud pillow, since the Minky Eyelash I used on the front is quite thick already, I opted to use only a layer of batting and left out the muslin layer.
- Make sure the fabric and the batting layers are nice and flat and flush around all the curves and edges. Pin together. The batting should be against the wrong side of the fabric.
- Machine baste around the entire perimeter approximately ¼" from the raw edges. Press flat.
- Layer the assembled cloud back and the cloud front right sides together and pin together all around, leaving an approximate 4"-5" opening along the bottom edge for turning and stuffing.
NOTE: This is an important step. Take your time to line up the layers. If you decide to use Minky Eyelash as we did, you need to be very careful you are actually pinning the backing of Eyelash and not accidentally catching just the fleece fibers. Check your pinning from both sides to be sure you've securely caught the edges all around. The Minky Eyelash fibers will stick out a bit from the raw edges.
- Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance and back-tacking at either side of the opening. I used my Janome Rotary Even Foot attachment and sewed with the Minky side against my feed dogs. Both these steps helped me keep these rather slippery layers from shifting.
NOTE: As above, I stitched all the way around, removed the project from under the needle and inspected my seam. Sure enough, even with all my careful pinning and a special foot and slow-going, I had still managed to miss a few spots. No worries, no tears. This is a very forgiving shape. I simply put the project back under the needle, this time with the Minky side up, and picking a starting point where the seam was true, I dropped my needle into the seam, then blended out of this seam line, curving as necessary to catch the missed section, finally curving and blending back into the "good seam" at the other side.
- Trim your finished seam back to approximately ¼" all around except at the opening. Leave the raw edges of the opening ½". Clip the curves slightly, being careful not to cut through your seam line.
NOTE: This is a messy step as the Minky Eyelash loves to shred. I trimmed right over my wastebasket and still had to go over myself with a lint roller when I was done!
- Turn the pillow right side out. Smooth out all the seams around the curves from the inside with a long, blunt-end tool, like a large knitting needle or a chopstick.
- Stuff the pillow with polyester fiberfill. The pillow should be stuffed so it is pleasingly plump. Take a handful of loose fiberfill and fluff the fibers with your fingers to remove any clumps. To do this, gently separate the fibers as if teasing hair. Insert these small handfuls of fiberfill, starting with the outside curves of the cloud and working toward the center.
- Using your hand sewing needle and thread, slip stitch the pillow opening closed. Keep your stitches small so the fiberfill won't poke out.
NOTE: I actually found this final step to be the hardest part of the whole pillow project! Hand-stitching the cotton to the Minky was a little like trying to sew butter. Luckily, the fluff and fibers of the Minky are very forgiving, and if you are careful to match your thread color, any less-than-perfect stitches are hidden in the fleece. I had the best luck, as mentioned above, keeping my stitches as small as possible. I started on one side, sewed to the other, then doubled-back to try to catch any little openings.
- We added Sew4Home labels to our clouds so everyone knows they belong to us.
Project Concept: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Liz Johnson
Other machines suitable for this project include the Bernina 635 Limited Edition and the Elna eXcellence.