The Chinese consider the tiger to be king of all the beasts and a symbol of powerful energy. Ancient myths tell of five tigers – white, black, blue, red and yellow – who hold the universe in perfect balance, preventing a collapse into chaos. Our fourth Silk Color Block Pillow is the Tiger Eye with five sharp box pleats representing the five tigers of protection. A hidden line of edgestitching keeps these pleats crisp and clean without any topstitching to disturb the beautiful surface of the silk dupioni. Today's Chinese proverb is: A gem is not polished without rubbing; nor a man made perfect without trials.
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 3160QDC)
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ½ yard of 44-45" wide fabric for pillow front: we used silk dupioni in Pistachio from Fabric.com
- ½ yard of 44-45" wide fabric for pillow back: we used silk dupioni in Iridescent Platinum from Fabric.com
- ½ yard each of TWO contrasting 44-45" wide fabrics for the inside of the box pleats: we used silk dupioni in Iridescent Platinum and Iridescent Berry Jade from Fabric.com
NOTE: If you want to conserve fabric, use the same fabric for the interior of all the box pleats instead of alternating as we did. If you choose this option, one ½ yard cut will suffice.
- All purpose thread: we used Coats & Clark Dual Duty XP Fine in grey
- 12" high x 16" wide rectangular 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 pillow front (Pistachio in our sample), cut SIX 13" high x 3-7/8" wide rectangles. These are your main Front Panels.
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 pillow back (Iridescent Platinum in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 13" high x 11" wide rectangle for the Back Overlap panel
ONE 13" high x 12½" wide rectangle for the Back Underlap panel
NOTE: As above, if using silk dupioni, make sure the slubs in the silk are running vertically.
- From the fabric(s) for the interior of the FIVE box pleats (Iridescent Platinum and Iridescent Berry Jade in our sample), cut FIVE 13" high x 5" wide rectangles.
- We alternated our Interior Box Pleat panels and so cut THREE 13" x 5" panels from the Iridescent Platinum and TWO 13" x 5" panels from the Iridescent Berry Jade.
NOTE: Once again, if using silk dupioni, make sure the slubs in the silk are running vertically.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Lay out all your Front Panels and Interior Box Pleat Panels in the correct order. For our sample that order was (from left to right): Pistachio Front Panel - Platinum Pleat Panel - Pistachio Front Panel - Berry Jade Pleat Panel - Pistachio Front Panel - Platinum Pleat Panel - Pistachio Front Panel - Berry Jade Pleat Panel - Pistachio Front Panel - Platinum Pleat Panel - Pistachio Front Panel. You should have a total of 11 panels.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, and with the right sides together, sew the panels together in this sequence. You'll be stitching along one 13" edge each time: panel one to panel two, then panel one/two to panel three, then panel one/two/three to panel four, etc. until all the panels are sewn in place.
- Flip over your sewn 11-piece panel to expose the seam allowances. In other words, you'll be working from the wrong side.
- At each seam, press both sides of the seam allowance toward the Box Pleat Panel.
- Flip the panel over again to hide seam allowances. In other words, you'll now be working from the right side.
- With the panel flat, edgestitch along each vertical seam within the Box Pleat Panel, which means you are stitching through the pressed-in seam allowances with this seam.
- Press along each seam so the edgestitching folds back a scant 1/16" (sewing lingo for 'just under 1/16') under the Front panel.
NOTE: You are doing this edgestitching to create a clean, 'knife-edge' to each pair o' pleats. With this many pleats across the front of a pillow and without any topstitching (our design has each pleat running from top seam to bottom seam), the vertical seams between each panel have a natural tendency to roll out. Edgestitching helps the interior panel stay nice and flat against the back of the front panel. It is a varition of an "understitching." For more about understitching, take a look at our full tutorial.
- Here's a peek at what the edgestitching looks like on our finished pillow.
- Find the center point of each Interior Box Pleat Panel. You can do this by folding the panel in half and marking with a pin, or you can make a light crease with your iron. You can also draw a line with your fabric pen or pencil, but be SURE it will brush away or disappear with exposure to the air.
- Pull the seams in towards the center marked line to form each pleat, as shown below. Press flat.
- Pin the top and bottom edges so the pleats stay closed. Then sew the pleats closed with a short horizontal line of stitching approximately ¼" from the raw edge.
NOTE: After stitching all five pleats closed, re-measure the completed front panel along both the top and bottom edges to be sure it is still 17" wide. If it is over 17", trim evenly as needed from both the left and right raw edges. For example, if it measures 17¼", trim 1/8" from both the left and right sides (1/8" + 1/8" = ¼"). If you were careful with your measurements and pleating, the panel is unlikely to be shorter than 17". If it is, you can trim the finished back panel to match. As long as you're within about an inch of the original measurement, the pillow form should still be able to be fit and fluffed into place.
- You haven't altered the height; it should still be 13".
- Set the finished Front Panel aside.
Finish the pillow
- Find the Back Overlap Panel (13" x 11"). Place it right side down on your ironing board.
- Fold and press the left 13" edge ½", then fold and press again 2", to create a hemmed edge. Edgestitch, in thread to match the fabric, close to the hem's edge to secure..
- Find the Back Underlap Panel (13" x 12½"). Place it right side down on your ironing board.
- Fold and press the right 13" edge ½", then fold and press again 1½", to create a hemmed edge. Edgestitch, in thread to match the fabric, close to the hem's edge to secure.
- Measure 8 ½" from the left raw edge of the hemmed Back Underlap panel along both the top and bottom edges, and mark each point with a pin.
- Lay the Back Overlap panel on top of the Back Underlap panel, so the folded hem edge on the Back Overlap panel lines up with the pins.
- Pin the Back Overlap hem edge to the Back Underlap panel and staystitch ¼" to 'lock' them together. You now have the finished Back Panel.
NOTE: As we mentioned above, When you pin two panels, before actually sewing the panels together, it's a good idea to make sure the width is the same at the top and the bottom edges. Then double-check the height is the same along both the left and right sides. Your back panel should measure 17" wide x 13" high. Adjust your overlap as necessary. If you did any trimming on your front panel, trim the back panel to match.
- Pin the Front Panel and Back Panel right sides together along all four sides, and sew around all edges with a ½" seam allowance, making sure to backtack 3-4 stitches at each corner.
- Trim all four corners of the pillow at a diagonal, but be sure not to clip into your seam.
- Using the back envelope opening, turn the pillow cover right side out. Push out the trimmed corners from the inside to make nice, square corners on the outside. Use your finger or a blunt-edge tool, like a large knitting needle or a chopstick.
- Stuff the pillow insert into the pillow cover through the back envelope opening, making sure to fill out the corners.
Project Concept: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Gregory Dickson