First of all, hope everyone had a lovely Mother's Day! Mine was, um, well, memorable. There were a couple of broken vacuums and a prompt 12pm arrival for the Star Wars Exhibit at PacSci when our tickets were actually for 12AM the previous night (don't ask). I would not suffer through these kinds of days with just anyone, so I'm really lucky to have a family who loves me enough to suffer through them with me... and keep me laughing through it all.
Secondly, it occured to me that I do not show the actual process of sewing up what it is I show you on the blog these days nearly enough. This type of thing used to be normal for me, and if I'm going to keep blogging, what I'd love to do is to create some "101" how-to's to show a glimpse into the process, and not assume that everyone knows the basic steps. Maybe I can help explain what works for me and shed some light on basic sewing techniques project by project. Sound okay?
First project up? Pillows. I tend to change the pillows on our front porch bench at least twice a year. I use the same pillow inserts over and over, just change the covers. This year, giving a nod to our recent vacation off the coast of Florida, I decided to have some fun and go totally preppy, using some Lily Pulitzer scraps to make some quilted patchwork covers. It is so easy and satisfying to make patchwork pillows, a great use of scraps of your favorite fabrics. I found my Lily scraps from this etsy seller, and loved the assortment. There was enough to do the front of all 3 pillows shown above. Taking the time to quilt the covers just makes the cover feel more substantial and longer-wearing.
Quilted Patchwork Pillow 101
Materials needed for one pillow:
- 9- 6" x 6" squares, in a complementary assortment of favorite prints from your stash (or maybe trade scraps with a friend).
- 1 16" x 16" pillow form (for each pillow)
- 1/2 yd of 44-45" wide solid quilting cotton for pillow back and front
- Quilt batting. I use cotton batting, such as Warm and Natural, but use whatever you prefer, it will all work. Make sure you have enough for the total # of pillow fronts you are sewing. (You will not be quilting the back).
- one 14" invisible zipper in a complementary color.
- matching thread
*Use 1/4" seam allowance throughout, unless stated otherwise.
*Please pay attention to the difference between when I refer to "rows" across and "columns" down of squares when piecing the fabrics together.
1. Create the patchwork front. Lay out the 6" x 6" squares in 3 columns/rows, until you are satisfied with the layout.
2. Sew the rows. I do my own version of what I call "chain piecing", which I'll explain here. I turn each of the squares in the center column over and lay it on its neighbor on the left colum, so their right sides are together, like this-
(I actually find it easier not to pin these squares together.) Leave the squares in the far right column as they are for now, you'll come back to them. Take the matched pairs, stacked top to bottom, over to your machine. Using a 1/4" seam allowance, begin stitching the top pair, no backstitching is necessary. When you are at the end of sewing this pair, don't clip your thread or backstitch. Simply line up the very next pair to stitch. Run your stitching off the end of the first pair and with only a stitch or 2 in between, then begin sewing the next pair.
Here's what it'll look like in between the pairs you just sewed-
Clip the pairs apart, and lay the pairs back out again. Now lay the pieces from the 3rd column of squares on top of the 2nd column squares, right sides together. Repeat the chain piecing process with these three pairs.
Now, this process may seem unnecessary for any number of reasons, but it is worth practicing, it really is. It is efficient, fast, and it uses a lot less thread in the long run, which makes a huge difference if you're doing a lot of sewing or cleaning up a lot of clipped thread all over the floor. Trust me.
3. Press the seam allowances to one side. I press the top row to the right, the middle row to the left, and the bottom row to the right. In other words, every row's seam allowances are pressed in the opposite directions.
4. Piece the rows together. Lay the 3 rows out, right sides up, as they were in step 1. Now flip the top row over and lay it on the middle row, right sides together. Because you pressed those seam allowances in opposite directions in step 2, the seam line of the squares will line up fairly easily, hopefully like this-
Pin on either side of each of those seams, making sure to pin the seam allowances down. Sew across.
The patchwork part of your top is now done!
5. Create the quilt sandwich. On your work surface, layer a piece of the solid quilting cotton (cut it at least 18" x 18") first (right side down), then lay a layer of quilt batting directly over it, cut to the same size, then lastly, layer your patchwork top, right side up, over the other layers. Take a few minutes to really smooth these layers out nicely, then pin through all 3 layers to hold them together.
6. Quilt the pillow front. (A note here, I do not like the "stitch in the ditch". I think it always looks messy, no matter how carefully I try to sew. I've even bought special presser feet claiming to help keep this straight, and I've pretty much given up, for a method more like this one.) Using the edge of your presser foot as a guide, quilt straight lines 1/4" away from each side of seam line, through all layers. The result is this-
You should have a finished pillow front measuring 16 1/2" x 16 1/2". Trim to size and square it up.
7. Add the invisible zipper to the bottom of the pillow. I am deferring to Katie's instructions on how to apply an invisible zipper here. I cannot express how life-changing learning this technique is! Follow her instructions on sewing in the zipper on through to sewing the pillow together.
8. Finish. Clip the corners, turn the pillow right side out, push the corners out gently, but thoroughly. Press and clip any loose threads, and insert pillow form. You're done!
I'm loving how bright and summery these pillows look on my porch!
Please let me know if you jump in and make these pillows, or any of the project tutorials I'll be posting (or have posted).