Did anyone ever try to teach you origami? If so, a paper crane was likely your first, and maybe your only, project. So here’s your little known fact for the day: origami is Japanese paper folding; its predecessor is the Chinese paper art called zhe zhi. The graceful crane is revered in China as the symbol for longevity. Although often depicted in flight, the cascading pleats on both the front and back of our Standing Crane Pillow simulate the beautiful folded wings of a crane at rest. Silk dupioni gives the pillow its shimmering finish.
There are several techniques blended together in this one pillow. You’ll make pleats, skinny ties, and put in an invisible zipper. Steps are shown below, and in true Sew4Home fashion, we also have expanded tutorials. If you’re new to sewing, take a look at our tutorials on Knife Pleats, Turning Skinny Ties, and Putting in an Invisible Zipper.
We’ve also included an extra tip at the very end of the article on how to do a “string turn” for a skinny tie.
Silk dupioni is available in so many gorgeous colors. For the best finished look, we recommend keeping a distinct color difference between the top and bottom panels. The light and dark work together to produce the most dramatic finish.
We used a third silk color for our skinny ties, and again, this color differentiation is important to the design. However, you could use a thin ribbon instead of a third fabric.
If you’re brand new to working with this gorgeous fabric, 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.
The Standing Crane pillow finishes at approximately 12″ x 12″.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ½ yard of 44-45″ wide silk dupioni or similar for the upper sections on both the front and back of the pillow: we used Ivory
- ½ yard of 44-45″ wide silk dupioni or similar for the pleated bottom section on both the front and back of the pillow: we used Iridescent Berry Jade
- Scrap or ⅛ yard of 44-45″ wide silk dupioni or similar for the pillow ties: we used Iridescent Platinum
- 9-10″ invisible zipper for pillow opening
- ONE 12″ x 12″ pillow insert
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- Loop turner, hemostats or string to turn the very tiny ties
NOTE: As mentioned above, check out our tutorial on Turning Skinny Straps and Ties
- Hand sewing needle
- From the fabric for the top sections of the pillow (Ivory in our sample), cut TWO 4⅞” high x 13″ wide rectangles. These are the Upper Pillow Panels.
- From the fabric for the pleated sections of the pillow (Iridescent Berry Jade in our sample), cut TWO 17⅛” high x 13″ wide rectangles. These are the Lower Pillow Panels.
NOTE: For all of the above cuts, if you’re using silk dupioni, 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 ties (Iridescent Platinum in our sample), cut TWO strips 1¾” x 21″. For this cut, if you’re using silk dupioni, the slubs should be running horizontally.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- On EACH of the TWO Lower Pillow Panels, mark the following points with a pin, fabric marker or tailor’s chalk along both the left and right raw edges of the panel. These marks represent the folding locations for the pleats. All points should be measured from the top raw edge down.
Point A: 2⅛”
Point B: 4⅛”
Point C: 5¾”
Point D: 7¾”
Point E: 9⅜”
Point F: 11⅜”
Point G: 13″
Point H: 15″
- Using both hands, pinch the fabric at the left and right side (at your marked points) then fold DOWN from one point to the next to create four horizontal pleats on each of the Lower Pillow Panels.
- Pin the pleats in place along both the left and right sides of the panel.
- Sew a line of vertical stay stitching approximately ¼” from the raw edge across all the pleats on both sides to hold them in place.
- With the right sides together, pin the bottom edge of each Upper Pillow Panel to the top edge of each pleated Lower Pillow Panel.
- Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance.
- Press the seam allowances up toward the Upper Pillow Panel.
Create the skinny ties
- On each of the Pillow Ties, fold and press one end back ½”.
- Fold each Pillow Tie in half lengthwise, right sides together, and stitch a ½” seam along the raw edge. Trim the seam allowance back to ¼” from the stitching.
- Using a loop turner or, our fave – a hemostat (check out our tutorial on this technique).
- Center the raw end of each tie at the left and right edge of the horizontal seam on the right side of the completed pillow front. The tails of the ties should hang to the inside of the pillow.
- Machine baste the tie ends in place close to the raw edge with a short vertical seam.
- Still working on the right side of the pillow front, measure in 6¼” from both the left and right sides along the horizontal pillow seam, and pin each of the ties.
- Using a length of thread to best match the ties and a hand sewing needle, tack the ties in place at the pins. Don’t cut your thread yet. Simply bring the needle and thread through to the front of the pillow in between the tacked ties.
- Tie a bow at the center of the pillow. Our bow is about 7″ across.
- Using your same needle and thread, tack the center of the bow in place. Bring the thread through to the back, knot off, and trim close to the knot.
Adding the zipper and finishing the pillow
- We inserted an invisible zipper into the bottom seam of the pillow. With invisible zippers, it’s best to work with the front and back of your pillow BEFORE you sew them together.
- If you’re new to this technique, the instructions that come with an invisible zipper are actually pretty good (as packaged instructions go). We also have a tutorial on installing an invisible zipper.
- Once you have your zipper in place, open it up (if you forget to open the zipper, you won’t be able to turn the pillow right side out; invisible zippers are REALLY hard – if not downright impossible – to unzip from the back side).
- With the zipper in place, lay the front and back panels right sides together.
- Stitch the remaining three sides of the pillow using a ½” seam allowance.
- Clip all four corners and turn the pillow right side out through the zipper opening. Use a blunt end tool, like a large knitting needle or a chopstick, to gently push out the corners so they are nice and square.
- Slip the pillow insert into the pillow cover through the zipper opening, making sure to fluff the insert out into the corners. Close the zipper.
Hints and Tips
How to do a ‘String Turn’ with a tiny tie
Another tube-turning option, if you don’t have a loop turner and/or your hemostats are too big for these super tiny ties, is to do what is called a “string turn.” This is often used in garment sewing for things like spaghetti straps, but it’s a handy idea for this project as well.
- Cut the rectangular piece needed for the tube, then cut a piece of heavy string or light weight cording 4″ longer than the fabric strip.
- For this project, that would be your TWO 1¾” x 21″ strips and a piece of string about 25″ long.
- Fold the strip in half lengthwise, right sides together, as if to sew the seam. As shown above, remember to fold back one end ½” first. You only need to do this if one of your tie ends is going to show. If both ends will be sewn into a seam (such as with the spaghetti straps example), you can skip this step.
- Lay the cording/string inside the folded fabric. The string should run along, but not tight up against, the fold.
- Stitch the long edge of the strip as usual, but also stitch across the folded end where the string extends through, catching it in the stitching.
- After sewing, carefully pull the string (from the raw, open end) to turn the tube inside out. It may take a moment to get it started, but after that it should turn nicely.
- After turning, open the stitches along the short, folded edge with a seam ripper to release the string. If your strip is a bit longer than you need and both ends of the tie will be sewn into a seam (as noted above), you can simply cut the end to release the string.
Project Concept: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Gregory Dickson