Welcome to our week of silk color block pillows, each one guaranteed to bring you good luck and long life... or at least to be fun and easy to make. Our first pillow is Good Fortune, which features a beautifully balanced trio of color blocks with a button-front closure. Breaking a square into three varied sections is pleasing to the eye; our four equal buttons then add a measure of even symmetry to the odd number of blocks. Here is your Chinese proverb for the day: A bit of fragrance clings
to the hand that gives flowers.
Thanks to the great folks at Fabric.com for providing all of the beautiful silk dupioni for our silk pillows as well as the unique buttons. Take a look at our Sewing With Silk article for some fun history tidbits as well as helpful tips and techniques for pinning, cutting, sewing and caring for silk.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Any Sewing Machine (we recommend the Janome DC2011)
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ½ yard of 44-45" wide fabric for the light colored block on the upper right front: we used silk dupioni in Iridescent Bittersweet from Fabric.com
- ½ yard of 44-45" wide fabric for the light colored block on the lower right front: we used silk dupioni in Spring Green from Fabric.com
- ¾ yard of 44-45" wide fabric for the dark colored blocks on the left front and for the entire back: we used silk dupioni in Iridescent Platinum from Fabric.com
- Four 1" buttons for the front closure: we used JHB brand coconut buttons from Fabric.com, 2 in orange and 2 in green to match the silk dupioni colors
- All purpose thread: we used Coats & Clark Dual Duty XP Fine in grey for our button underlap topstitching and all the pillow seams; for more color options, we switched to regular Dual Duty XP in orange and green to match our silk dupioni colors for the buttonholes, overlap topstitching, and buttons
- 18" x 18" square pillow insert
- See-through ruler or yardstick
- Fabric marker, pen, or tailor's chalk
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Straight pins
- From the fabric for the left front block and the back (Iridescent Platinum in our sample), cut the following shapes:
ONE 19" high x 19" wide square (Back)
ONE 19" high x 9½" wide rectangle (Left Front Block)
NOTE: If using silk dupioni, before cutting, make sure the 'slubs' (those kind of bumpy lines) in the silk are running parallel to the height of the shapes, ie. vertically .
- From the fabric for the upper right front block (Iridescent Bittersweet in our sample), cut ONE block 10" high x 16½" wide.
NOTE: If using silk dupioni, before cutting, make sure the 'slubs' for this piece are running parallel to the width of the shape, ie. horizontally.
- From the fabric for the lower right front block (Spring Green in our sample), cut ONE block 10" high x 16½" wide.
NOTE: As with the upper right block, if using silk dupioni, before cutting, make sure the 'slubs' for this piece are also running parallel to the width of the shape, ie. horizontally.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Pin the Upper Right Front Block right sides together with the Lower Right Front Block along one 16½" side.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch together. Press the seam flat and then press open. This is now the 19" x16 ½" Right Front Panel. Set aside.
- Place the Right Front Panel right side DOWN on your ironing board.
- Fold and press the right 19" edge ½", then fold and press again 1¾". This creates a hem in which to make the buttonholes.
- Stitch the hem in place, staying close to the inside folded edge.
- Mark the spots on this hem for the MIDDLE of each buttonhole as noted below; each spot should be marked with a pin:
4" down from the top edge
7½" down from the top edge
4" up from the bottom edge
7½" up from the bottom edge
- After marking the center of each buttonhole with a pin, measure UP from each pin half the width of the button you are using plus 1/8". Then measure down from each pin half the width of the button you are using plus 1/8". Mark both of these spots with a pin to represent the top and bottom of the buttonholes.
NOTE: For example, if you are using a 1" button as we did, you would measure up 5/8" from the pin (half of 1" is 1/2" plus 1/8" is 5/8") and down 5/8" from the pin. This will give you a centered buttonhole that is 1¼" long, which is just enough room for the button to slide through the buttonhole.
- Once you have the top and bottom pins in place you can then remove the middle pin.
- Use your sewing machine to make a vertical buttonhole at each of the four marked points, centering the buttonhole between the folded hem edge and the hem topstitching. Use the top and bottom pins as a guide for the correct length.
- If you have an automatic buttonhole feature on your machine, you can simply place the button in the guide and your machine will automatically make a perfectly-sized buttonhole.
- Carefully cut the center to open each buttonhole.
- If you are new to buttonholes, read your machine's manual for instructions and check out our tutorial, How to Make a Buttonhole.
- Place the Left Front Block right side DOWN on your ironing board.
- Fold and press the right 19" edge ½", then fold and press again 1¾". This creates a hem in which to sew the buttons.
- Edgestitch the hem in thread to match the fabric.
- Flip the Left Front Block to its right side.
- Measure 5" from the left raw edge of the Left Front Block along both the top and bottom edges, and mark each point with a pin.
- Lay the buttonhole-hem of the Right Front Panel on top of the Left Front Block, so the buttonhole-hem's folded edge lines up with the pins at the top and bottom edges. The wrong side of the buttonhole-hem is against the right side of the button-hem so when you look at the overlapped panels they are both right side up with the hems overlapped.
- Pin the panels together at the top and bottom edges, and sew a short seam approximately ¼" from the raw edge. This is called a line of 'staystitching.' With the two panels "locked" together like this, you can now work with them as one piece... much easier for the final steps.
NOTE: When you pin the two panels together, it's a good idea to measure both the top and bottom edges of this new Assembled Front Panel before actually sewing the panels together. Make sure the width is the same at the top and the bottom edges. Then double-check that the height is the same along both the left and right sides. All sides should measure 19" for a perfect 19" x 19" square. Adjust your overlap as necessary before sewing to get to a perfect 19" x 19".
- With right sides together, pin the Front Panel to the Back Panel around all four sides.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around all four sides.
- Clip all four corners.
- Turn the pillow inside out through the front panel opening. Use a blunt end tool, like a large knitting needle or a chopstick, to help push out the corners so they are as square as possible.
- Flatten out the panels so the front neatly overlaps.
- Mark the placement of the buttons by sticking a pin through the middle of each of the buttonholes.
- Sew all four buttons in place securely, using thread to match each button.
NOTE: Because the thickness of pillow forms can vary quite a bit, it is a good idea to mark the position of your buttonholes with the pillow form in place to make sure your overlap is correct for the fluffiness of your particular pillow. First mark it with the cover empty, as described above, then double check the marks with the pillow form in place. Simply remove the form prior to sewing to make it easier to stitch the buttons in place.
- Stuff the pillow insert into the pillow cover through the button opening, making sure to fluff out the corners.
- Button the buttons to close the opening.
Project Concept: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Gregory Dickson