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Stylish Baby Nursery: Pretty Patches Pillow

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When your baby isn't resting on this adorable pillow, it can be used for a rousing game of tic-tac-toe. The Nine Patch Center square is a quilting classic and very easy to create ... even if you've never tried patchwork before.

The shape we used for this pillow is called 'lumbar' because it's the perfect shape to support your lower back right at the base of your spine, which is also called lumbar, as in, 'That guy is a pain in the lumbar.' You can call it this fancy name or just call it a rectangle.

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 with 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 TB-12)

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • Fabric for pillow side front panels: ½ yard of 45" wide fabric: we used Patty Young's Andalucia in Kiwi Flora
  • Fabric for pillow center squares: (5 of 9): ¼ yard of 45" wide fabric: we used Patty Young's Andalucia: in Fire Flowery Stripe
  • Fabric for pillow center squares (4 of 9): ¼ yard of 45" wide fabric: we used Patty Young's Andalucia"in Kiwi Tiny Dots
  • Fabric for pillow back panels: ½ yard of 45" wide fabric: we used Patty Young's Andalucia in Kiwi Tiny Dots
  • 12" x 22" pillow insert
  • All purpose thread
  • See-through ruler
  • Pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Ruler
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. From the Kiwi Flora, cut two rectangles of fabric, 6" x 13".
  2. From the Kiwi Tiny Dots, cut four 5" squares.
  3. From the Fire Flowery Strips, cut five 5" squares.
  4. For the back panels, from the remaining Kiwi Tiny Dots, cut two pieces 13" x 15½".

The back of our pillow has an 'envelope closure,' which is simply two hemmed and overlapped panels. It's the easiest kind of closure to make and one of our most popular techniques.

The opening on the back of your finished pillow should be at the center of the longest side of your pillow. For our example, our pillow is a rectangle, so we want the opening at the middle of the longer side, which means in the diagram below, width is the shorter side and height is the longer side. Follow these formulas to create a back pattern piece if your pillow form is different than what we've specified:

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 = 11" + ½" + 2" + 2" = 15½"
Width of our cut piece= 12" + 1" = 13

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At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Create the Nine Patch Center Patchwork

We are going to make a Nine Patch Block, one of the easiest quilting blocks to piece. As the name implies, it is one block made up of nine squares. It's common to alternate the fabric prints to create a checkerboard appearance, which is what we did. Does that make us common?? You any checkerboard combination, or just one featured pattern in the center, or even have each of the nine squares be different.

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  1. With right sides together, pin a Kiwi Tiny Dots square to a Fire Flowery Stripe square. Stitch them along ONE side, using a ½" seam allowance. Repeat to make three pairs. Note: The Fire Flowery Stripe fabric is directional, which means the fabric print goes in a specific line. Be sure to sew all of these fabric squares in the same direction.
  2. Take on of the pairs you made above, and in a Fire Flowery Stripe square to the opposite side of a Kiwi Tiny Dots square. Stitch in place to create one row of three squares. You have this pattern of three in your row: Fire Flowery Stripe - Kiwi Tiny Dots - Fire Flowery Stripe. Repeat to make a second, identical row of three.
  3. Take the final pair you made above in Step 1, and pin a Kiwi Tiny Dots square to the opposite side of the Fire Flowery Stripe square. Stitch in place to create your third row of three squares. You have this pattern in your row: Kiwi Tiny Dots - Fire Flowery Strip - Kiwi Tiny Dots.
  4. Follow the image below to lay out the three rows, alternating the fabric patterns. Stitch the rows together along the long sides to complete your Nine Patch Center Patchwork piece.
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  5. Pin one 6" x 13" Kiwi Flora piece to one side of the Nine Patch Center. Stitch in place.
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  6. Pin a 6" x 13" Kiwi Flora piece to the opposite side of the Nine Patch Center. Stitch in place. You now have your complete 13" x 23" pillow top.

Create the Pillow Back

  1. Take one piece of your backing fabric, and turn under the right side of the fabric ½" along the entire width of the piece (the 13" side in our sample). Press.
  2. Fold under an additional 1½" and press.
  3. Stitch this hem down, sewing close to the hem.
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  4. Repeat steps 1-3 with the other piece of backing fabric.
  5. Take both pieces and overlap the hems to yield the correct finished height (23" in our sample). Pin hems together.
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  6. 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 to stitch front to back.
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Finish the Pillow

  1. Place the pillow top right sides together with the pillow back.
  2. Pin in place.
  3. Stitch around all four edges of the pillow cover.
  4. Trim all four corners.
  5. 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 large knitting needle.
  6. Insert the pillow form and fluff out the corners.
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Hints and Tips

Buying a Fat Quarter of fabric is a great way to experiment smaller yardages like what's needed for these patchwork squares.

Fat Quarter simply means a more generously proportioned 'quarter yard' of fabric that measures 18" x 22". Generous Quarter just isn't as snappy as Fat Quarter. To understand this you need to do a little math. Fabric is measured in yards. A yard is 36". When you ask your fabric store to cut a yard of fabric, you get 36" by the width of the fabric. Quilting cottons are usually 44" wide. So, if you buy a yard of quilting cotton, you'll have a cut piece that measures 36" x 44". Now, if you'd stepped up to the counter and ordered a quarter yard of fabric, you'd get a piece that is 9" (36" divided by 4) by 44". But a Fat Quarter is actually a full quarter of that original piece we got when we ordered our single yard of fabric (36" x 44"). If I divide that original piece (36" x 44") into four equal pieces, each one will be 18" x 22". A Fat Quarter. Do not call your Aunt Louise a Fat Quarter; she'll hit you upside the head with a ruler.

You can find Fat Quarters in most fabric stores - generally they are folded into squares, and placed in baskets or bundled together with a ribbon. If you want to see a lot of color in your pillow top, get nine different fat quarters - you'll lose the Nine Patch Pattern, but get a cool "scrappy" patchwork look instead.

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Heather Tucker
Instructional Editing: Alison Newman



Comments (6)

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Christina ... and one more note ... when you stitch front to back -- use a regular 1/2" seam not 3/4" because both your panels should end up to be 15" x 29" and 1/2" all around will take it down to 14" x 28". Okay ... that's enough math for one morning.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Ha! No worries -- but actually - I just realized that at 6 x 6 the center blocks, You are right about the 3/4" seams -- you need to take up 3/4" in the seams for the height to equal 15". Then, cut your end panels at 8-1/2" each and you can stick with the 3/4" seams. Sorry about that ... it's still early.
christina said:
christina's picture
thank you so much. I'm just learning to sew and have never been very good at math....I have to have this pillow, a blanket and a "lovie" all done for a baby shower saturday....I should not have waited until the last minute. haha.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi christina -- the great thing about working with squares and rectangles is it's easy to modify to fit any size. I would recommend drawing it out on paper first, then you can work with various sizes until you get a look you want. Your finished panel size should be 15" x 29" for a 14" x 28" pillow form - or, if you want a very plump and full pillow, it should finish at the same size as the form: 14" x 28". For the first scenario (15" x 29") if you use 6" squares that would work; you'd then cut your end panels at 15" x 7-1/2". Sew with 1/2" seams throughout and you'll end up with 15" x 29". It's "fun with fractions" - but drawing it out really helps. That's what we do smilies/cheesy.gif
christina said:
christina's picture
I mean a 14x28 insert. I am thinking I'll cut 6" squares and sew them at a 3/4 mark so the whole piece ends up being 15x15?
christina said:
christina's picture
how much do I increase the patches if I am using a 14x24 pillow instert?