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Grandma Anna's Pretty Little Pillows

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Grandma Anna was a waste-not-want-not kind of gal. In her tidy bungalow was a narrow closet she used to store her sewing supplies. It didn't contain much in the way of pristine yardage and packaged notions, but she still had plenty to work with - each item carefully organized into a small paper sack or recycled tin can. She would cut the "still good" parts from well-worn clothing, squirrel away every fabric scrap, snip off buttons, and hoard embroidery floss in lengths as short as 6". The amazing thing was how she could take these cast-off bits and pieces and turn them into something so very sweet and pretty. We're taking a page from Grandma's book with our set of five little mix-and-match pillows in natural tones and textures.

The supplies listed below are the general minimums needed for one pillow, but depending on which design you choose, you're likely to be able to cut more than one pillow from the amounts given. 

Check the exact cut sizes below in the Getting Started section. You may also be able to use fabric from your stash... making Grandma Anna proud.

We mixed quilting weight and mid-weight fabrics from Fabric Depot for our five-pillow set. Our goal was a neutral color palette with smaller, soft motifs. We wanted the pillows to look as if they'd been around awhile – perhaps soaking up the sun in a cozy window seat. 

Some simple trims, buttons and snaps are great ways to add a bit of texture. You may have items in your stash. If not, it's fun to shop for antique options in subtle shades.

We used our standard trick of adding a layer of batting to each for a super smooth finish. For this particular set of vintage style pillows, it also adds a lovely softness.

Our pillows finish at approximately 12" x 12" each, excluding any edge accents.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric(s) for each pillow front, cut ONE 13" x 13" square.
  2. From the fabric(s) for each pillow back, cut the following:
  3. Top or Underlap: ONE 13" wide x 10" high
  4. Bottom or Overlap: ONE 13" wide x 8" high
  5. From the same fabric as the Bottom/Overlap, cut ONE 13" wide x 3" high rectangle for the facing.
  6. From the batting, cut ONE 13" x 13" square.
  7. From the interfacing cut TWO 2" x 13" strips.
  8. If you are using edge trims, leave the full lengths intact. See the notes below for cutting and gathering. 
  9. If you are using a back envelope opening trim, you need approximately 13" for each pillow. 

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

NOTE: The photos go back and forth between all our pillows throughout the instructions below to give you the best representation of all the construction options. 

Create the pillow fronts

  1. We added our Sew4Home label to the bottom right corner of each pillow front square, positioning it 3" in from the right and 3" up from the bottom. 
  2. Edgestitch your label in place with matching thread.
  3. Layer a square of batting against the wrong side of each pillow front square. This is optional, but provides a nice, smooth finish.
  4. Baste the batting in place, running your seam close to the raw edges. 
  5. Three of our pillow fronts were simple plain fabric squares. The other two featured trims around the edges.
  6. For the pom pom trim, to get a cute double pom in each corner as on our sample, we recommend cutting one length per side, starting and stopping your cut with a full pom at each corner.
  7. Repeat for each side and pin all four lengths in place. The edge of the trim's insertion tape should be flush with the raw edge of the pillow front. 
  8. Baste the poms in place against the right side of the pillow front. 
  9. For the lace trim, first make a narrow rolled hem at each end of your 72" length. 
  10. Run a gathering stitch along the top edge of the lace.
  11. Softly gather the lace to about 48" - 50".
  12. Starting at the center bottom, pin the lace against the right side of the pillow front. Overlap the ends about 1" at the center bottom. 
  13. Baste the lace in place around all four sides.
  14. Set the pillow front(s) aside.

Create the back bottom/overlap panel

  1. Find the pillow bottom/overlap and a 3" x 13" interfacing strip. Flip the pillow panel to the wrong side. 
  2. Place the interfacing strip across the bottom/overlap panel ½" down from one 13" raw edge. This is the edge that overlaps, so if you have a directional fabric, you should be working with the top 13" raw edge.
  3. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing strip in place.
  4. Flip the bottom/overlap panel to the right side. 
  5. If using a envelope opening trim, add it now. The trim goes along the interfaced edge. Position it so the correct amount of trim will be visible from the sewn facing seam. For example, with our wide rick rack, this meant we positioned the center of the rick rack ½" from the raw edge of the panel. This allowed exactly half of the rick rack to extend beyond the ½" sewn seam of the facing. Pin the trim in place.
  6. Place the facing strip right sides together along the interfaced edge, sandwiching the trim between the layers. 
  7. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch in place. Press the facing away from the trim, then around to the back of the panel (the photo below shows just the first step of pressing the facing out from the trim).
  8. If you are not adding trim, simply place the facing strip right sides together with the bottom/overlap panel and pin.
  9. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch in place.
  10. Press the facing away and then around to the back of the panel (this time, the photo below shows the second step of pressing the facing into position against the back of the panel).
  11. Edgestitch along the seamed edge. This step is the same whether you choose to add trim...
  12. ... or keep the edge plain.
  13. Flip the panel over to the wrong side. Fold back the inside raw edge of the facing ½".
  14. Press the facing back into position. The folded edge should cover the interfacing strip.
  15. Edgestitch the inside edge of the facing in place.
  16. Mark the facing edge for closures. We used buttons and snaps. The spacing is same for both. 
  17. Find the exact center of the panel (6½" in from either raw edge). Place the first mark at this point, centering it between to two lines of stitching.
  18. Place a second mark 3" above the first...
  19. ... and a third 3" below.
  20. Following the instructions for your machine, make three buttonholes at your marked points. 
  21. Or, insert the cap side of three snaps.
  22. Follow manufacturer's instructions or our tutorial on inserting metal snaps

Create the back top/underlap panel

  1. Find the pillow top/underlap and a 3" x 13" interfacing strip. Flip the pillow panel to the wrong side. 
  2. Place the interfacing strip across the top/underlap panel 3½" down from one 13" raw edge. This is the edge that underlaps, so if you have a directional fabric, you should be working with the bottom 13" raw edge.
  3. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing strip in place.
  4. Fold back the raw edge ½". Press well.
  5. Fold back an additional 2", just covering the fused interfacing strip. Press in place.
  6. Edgestitch along both the inner and outer folds, similar to how you stitched the facing on the overlap panel. 

Assemble front to back and finish closures

  1. Find the pillow front. Place it right side up on your work surface. Place the back bottom/overlap panel right sides together against the bottom of the pillow front, aligning the raw edges along the bottom and sides. Pin in place.
  2. Place the back top/underlap panel right sides together against the top of the pillow front, overlapping the bottom panel and aligning the raw edges along the top and sides. Pin in place. As shown below, if you used an edge trim it should be neatly sandwiched between the front and back panels. 
  3. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around all four sides, pivoting at the corners. 
  4. If there's no trim, simply layer in the same manner...
  5. ...and stitch around all four sides, using a ½" seam allowance.
  6. Clip the corners (whether you have trim or not).
  7. Turn the pillow cover right side out through the envelope opening. Using a long, blunt end tool, such as a knitting needle or chopstick, gently push out the corners. Press well. 
  8. Mark through the center of each buttonhole onto the top/underlap panel for each button position. 
  9. Handstitch each button in place.
  10. Similarly, if using snaps, lift up the facing and place a mark directly underneath the snap cap to position each snap socket. 
  11. Insert the second half of the snap in the same manner as the first half. 

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Leah Wand

Section: 

Comments (3)

Jane Coombs said:
Jane Coombs's picture

thanks for the tip. I bought it. Love it. It will get used a lot on this project alone, 19 pillow covers. 

Jane Coombs said:
Jane Coombs's picture

Leave it to Sew4Home to pick up on the latest trend in quilting which is using "economy cottons" as opposed to "premier fabrics". The economy look leans towards a shabby chic vibe.

Anyway I am in the midst of making 15 pillow covers with the envelope enclosure for my daughter using decorator cottons. I just found out that I should be using a #14 needle. My question is do you have any tips in creating the seam allowances with the iron? If I use the spray starch it stretches it when I make the first fold. It is hard not to burn my fingers as well. Thanks.

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