Liven up a regular square pillow with triangular front accents. Choose a funky button to contrast with more conservative fabrics, or pick fabrics in bold hues and patterns to make the whole pillow pop. The unique design makes your finished pillow look pretty darn tricky, but the actual construction is quite simple.
You can use any size or shape button to join the two front triangles. However, if you choose a button that's thick or a unique shape, you'll need to add some extra 'fudge'room when you create your buttonhole.
One caution regarding using buttons on nursery projects: a baby wants to put everything in her mouth. So, make sure you stitch on your button very, very, very tight! You don't want it to be able to be pulled off and swallowed. Consider using a heavy-duty upholstery thread. You could also substitute Velcro dots for the button or simply stitch the two flaps in place, leaving a decorative 'X' showing on the top.
Our sample was made for a baby girl's nursery, using the stunning Patty Young Andalucia collection. For information on where to buy, read Stylish Baby Nursery: Designing Bold Colors & Patterns. This article also includes suggestions for creating an alternate fabric palette that would work well for a boy's nursery.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Any Sewing Machine (we recommend the Janome 3128)
Fabric and Other Supplies
- Fabric for pillow front: ¾ yard of 45" wide fabric: we used Patty Young's Andalucia in Fire Flowery Stripe
- Fabric for triangular 'flaps' on pillow front (4 cut pieces total = 2 finished triangle shapes that are self lined): ¾ yard of 45" wide fabric: we used Patty Young's Andalucia in Kiwi Flora
- Fabric for pillow back: ¾ yard of 45" wide fabric: we used Patty Young's Andalucia" in Kiwi Flora
- Lightweight paper for drawing triangular shapes: one sheet at least 19" x 15" (you can tape together pieces of paper if necessary)
- Scrap of fabric for making test buttonhole
- 18" x 18" pillow insert
- Button for center of pillow (optional)
- All purpose thread
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Hand sewing needle
- Straight pins
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- From the Fire Flowery Stripe, cut one 19" x 19" square for the pillow front
- From the Kiwi Flora, cut two pieces 13½" high x 19" wide for the pillow back.
Calculate and make a test buttonhole and the front triangle pattern
- The size of the front triangles will vary somewhat based on the size of your button and corresponding buttonhole.
- Meausure the size of your button from one side to the other (the diameter).
- Calculate the size of your buttonhole by using this formula: diameter of button + ¼". In our sample, our chosen button measures 2" across, so the buttonhole will need to be 2" + ¼"or 2¼". Note: If you have a thick or oddly shaped button, you will need to make your buttonhole slightly longer.
- Using your chosen button, and following the buttonholing instructions included in your sewing machine's manual, stitch a buttonhole on a scrap of test fabric. For additional tips on creating the perfect buttonhole, read our tutorial, How to Make a Buttonhole.
- Test that your chosen button fits well through your sample buttonhole. If the buttonhole seems too snug, you'll need to make the buttonhole slightly longer. Make any adjustments to the buttonhole, stitching a new sample if necessary.
- Using your lightweight drawing paper, draw your triangle's baseline. This measurement is simply the same as your pillow front's side measurement. In our sample: 19". Cut out a 19" x 19" paper square.
- Now we'll calculate the height of your triangle pattern. Start with half the height of your unfinished pillow front piece. In our sample, that would be half of 19" or 9½". (How'd we get that? Remember, our finished pillow will measure 18", but we needed to add ½" to each side for our seam allowances, which gives us the 19". We divide that in half, because the triangles will meet in the center of the pillow top, to get 9½").
- Next, measure the length of your buttonhole, and add 1½" (the extra 1½" is for seam allowances and the space from the point of the triangle to the top of the buttonhole). Add this number to the number you got in step #2 above. (In our example, we're making a 2¼" buttonhole, so our new number will be 9½" + 2¼" + 1½" = 13¼". This number is what you should use for the height of your triangle.
- Fold your 19" x 19" drawing paper piece in half. This allows you to find the center.
- Using this center fold, measure and mark the height of your triangle from the bottom edge. In our sample, this measurement is 13¼".
- Draw a line from your center point mark to each corner on the bottom edge.
- Cut out on the drawn lines to create your triangle pattern piece.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the pillow back
- Take one piece of your pillow back fabric and turn under the right side of the fabric ½" along the entire width of the piece (the 19" side in our sample). Press.
- Fold under an additional 1½" and press.
- Edgestitch along the folded edge to make a clean double-turn hem.
- Repeat steps 1-3 with the other piece of pillow back fabric.
- Take both pieces and overlap the hems to yield the correct finished height (19" in our sample). Pin hems together.
- Working as close to the edge as possible, stitch the sides of hems together to secure and create one piece. It's easier to work with one piece when stitching the front to the back of the pillow.
Stitch the triangle pieces:
- From the Kiwi Floral, cut four triangle pieces, using the Triangle Pattern you created above.
- Place two triangle pieces right sides together, aligning all edges.
- Stitch around the two triangle sides, leaving the triangle bottom un-sewn.
- Clip the top corner, being sure not to cut into the seam. (This will reduce bulk so we get a nice crisp point when we turn ithe triangle right side out.)
- Turn the triangle right side out and iron flat. Take special care to iron the seams on the sides of the triangle.
- Repeat steps 2-5 to create the second triangle piece.
- Lay your pillow front piece right side up on a flat surface. Arrange the triangle pieces so the unfinished edges are along opposite edges of the pillow front piece, and the triangle points are overlapping.
- Using the test buttonhole you created in the Triangle Pattern section above as a guide, make a mark on one triangle for the location of your buttonhole. You buttonhole should start about ½" from the triangle's point. On the other triangle, make a corresponding mark for the button location. The button location should fall in the center of your buttonhole.
- Take the triangle with the marked buttonhole to your machine and stitch the buttonhole on your machine. For additional tips on creating the perfect buttonhole, read our article, How to Make a Buttonhole.
- Sew the button to the other triangle. For a guide on sewing a button, read our article, How to Sew on a Button.
Finish the pillow
- Place the pillow top right side up on a flat surface.
- Place the two finished triangle pieces on top of this, aligning the raw edges at the bottom along opposite raw edges of the pillow top. Overlap the triangle points in the middle and button.
- Place the finished pillow back piece wrong side up on the top of the triangle layer. You now have three layers.
- Pin around all four sides, taking special care when pinning the triangle pieces to you keep all the edges flush.
- Stitch around all four edges of the pillow cover, remember to pivot and backtack at each corner for reinforcement.
- Using the envelope opening on the back, turn the pillow covering 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 knitting needle.
- Insert the pillow form and fluff out the corners.
Hints and Tips
If you'd like to make a pillow of a different size, follow the formulas below to cut your front and back pieces and adjust the triangle instructions above accordingly.
Using your measuring tape, measure the length and width of the pillow form you will be covering from finished seam to finished seam. We used an 18" x 18" pillow form. This design requires a square pillow for everything to work correctly.
Pillow Front Formula:
- Height of cut piece = finished pillow height + 1" (½" seam allowance on each side)
- Width of cut piece = finished pillow width + 1" (½" seam allowance on both sides)
- In our example, because our pillow is square, the formulas are identical:
- Height of our cut piece = 18" + 1" = 19"
- Width of our cut piece= 18" + 1" = 19"
Pillow Back Formula:
- Height of cut piece = ½ finished pillow height + ½" (bottom edge seam allowance) + 2" (extension amount) + 2" (for double turn hem edge).
- Width of cut piece = full finished pillow width + 1" (½" seam allowance on both sides).
- In our example, the formulas would look like this:
- Height of our cut piece = 9" + ½" + 2" + 2" = 13 ½"
- Width of our cut piece= 18" + 1" = 19"
- If you are using a directional print for your pillow (like flowers growing up or stripes), and using the same fabric for both front and back, make sure to cut the two back panels in the same direction you cut the front panel.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Heather Tucker
Instructional Editing: Alison Newman