Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Making Pillows - How To, Tips, Lessons Learned

This is a long post, but has some good info and lots of pics, so bear with me. :o) The past couple months I've been making pillows for my family room as part of my effort to decorate that area of the house.  The family room is the first of MANY rooms I need to decorate, and it was a good starting point for me to get my feet wet in things unknown.  So, this post is about my adventures in pillow making.

Pillows are very simple and straightforward, but like with anything, they can have their rocky parts and parts that made me want to pull my hair out.  I made the gathered pillow first, which probably wasn't very smart since it was my most complex one, but at least everything afterward was easier.

I made 5 regular square pillows, one gathered pillow, one 4 piece panel front pillow (no idea what it's called) and one long rectangle pin tuck pillow.

I did a TON of reading and researching online to try and find the best pillow tutorials.  I didn't want the envelope pillows, so there weren't as many regular back pillow tutorials out there.  Here are some of the ones that I loosely followed:

For the 4 panel pillow: Sew4Home, Corduroy Diamond Wale Pillow 

For the regular square pillows: Sew4Home, Perky Pom Pom Pillow (minus the pom pom part) AND Make It and Love It, Pillow Slip Covers (minus the envelop part in the back)

For the pin tuck pillow: All Things Thrifty, Pin Tuck Pillow

For learning how to slip stitch the openings closed: Taffy Talk, Invisible Closing Seam

 Here are some close ups of the 4 panel pillow and the gathered pillow in back.

One of the square pillows in back, with the 4 panel pillow in front.

Four of the regular square pillows with the pin tuck pillow in the middle. Man my pictures are terrible.  I need a new camera!  ARG!

And now for a few things I learned along the way...
  • If you opt to stuff your pillow with batting, then the type of batting really does matter.  No where in any of the reading I did, did I find info on batting.  The first bags I bought were the cheapest kind, but also seemed to be the most popular since there were huge bins of them in the craft store.  After stuffing two pillows with them, my husband said they weren't comfy at all and suggested I find something else for the next ones.  So I went back and bought the nicest kind with a touch of silk in it, and it made a HUGE difference.  They are a lot more conducive to laying on while stretched out on the couch.  I guess if your pillows were strictly for viewing pleasure, then the cheap stuff would be fine.  But if you plan to use the pillows then go with the nicer stuff.
  • If you opt to go with a pillow insert, then make sure you measure exactly right and have a fabric that doesn't shift or do funny things to you while you sew.  The inserts scared me because if I made any errors in sizing then I was hosed.  
  • Tissue paper for gift wrapping makes a great predone pattern for pillows (the square sheet kind).
  • Ironing out the seams of the pillow can be the most time consuming part of pillow making.  It's also my least favorite part.  If you have a fabric that really shows the creases of the ironed seam, then it takes a lot of patience at the ironing board to roll the seam just right before pressing.  I made the mistake of not fulling rolling out the seam when I was pressing it and after I got the pillow all stuffed and sewn up, it looked awful and I redid the whole thing (seam ripper, pulled out the batting, reironed...). NOT FUN.
  • Take your time when slip stitching the opening closed.  It's not hard once you get the hang of it, but it will look a ton better if you take your time and do a neat job. I do this while watching all my mindless shows on TV at night.
  • And most important, don't be afraid to try something new and have fun with it.  Pillows really are a great avenue for trying out a new technique or getting creative.  There isn't a huge commitment when pillow making, so if you mess up, you can toss it. :) 
Last but not least, are some pictures of how I made the pin tuck pillow.  I mentioned above that I used the tutorial at All Things Thrifty, but I really only used it for the concept and then ventured out on my own into uncharted waters.  I think the final result was cute and fit with the rest of the pillows nicely.

I laid out my fabric for the front of my pin tuck pillow and then on the back side made pen marks where I wanted the tucks to be.  Then I used a small amount of the thread to tightly tie each gathered tuck.

A close up of the little pin tucked "nobs" after I tied them with thread.

This next step I wasn't totally sure about, so I just winged it.  I had to use needle and thread to sew the "nobs" in place securely.  I just knotted the end of my thread and then started sewing it back and forth through the center of the nob about a dozen times.  I gave it a good tug on the front side to make sure it was secure and then just tied off the end.  Totally unprofessional method, but it worked perfectly.

So here is a picture of the back side of my fabric all tied off and ready to go.

And this is what it looked like when I flipped it over.  Kind of a neat affect!  At this point I wasn't sure WHAT to do next, so I improvised. 

I cut and laid out a piece of muslin on the wrong side of the pin tucked panel.  Then I pinned the muslin to the panel, careful to fold and tuck the creases just how I wanted them.  It definitely wasn't perfect, but I was going for more of a "natural" look so it worked out fine.

You can see my piece of muslin is much larger than the fabric panel.  I intentionally did this because I knew the fabric was going to move around once I started sewing the two pieces together and sure enough, it did.  Once I pinned and sewed all four sides to the muslin I just went back and trimmed off the excess muslin to create a nice finished look.  Again, totally unprofessional. :)

Then I cut a back piece out of a coordinating fabric and sewed the two pieces together, right sides together, leaving about 8 inches open for the batting.  I clipped the corners, turned it right side out and pushed out the corners to give them a more sharp edge. Then I pressed the whole thing and stuffed with batting.

Then I pinned the 8" opening closed and slip stitched shut.

Ta Da!  A very unique pillow that fits perfectly as the final piece in my family room pillow makeover.

I'm excited about how it all turned out and am ready to move onto my next project in the family room... stay tuned for some projects that will have me sanding, hammering, and painting in the garage.   

I've linked up to Amy Lou Who Sew & Tell
V and Co. 


Des said...

Great job!! I've been thinking alot about pillows lately too! Your's are beautiful.

amylouwho said...

i love pillows! Your gathered one looks amazing!

Sorry about the linky expiring at Sew & Tell - that wasn't supposed to happen until today! I reopened it! Would love to have you link up! Just link back in your post too! Thank you!!!

pinksuedeshoe said...

Very cute! You are adventurous to try to many different kinds, but they look awesome, particularly the gathered one and this last one, those two are my favorites.

Catherine said...

Great work with the pillows! I really like the last pintucked one and might have to try that one myself. Thanks for showing the steps of maaking it.

Sew It UP! said...

Wow the pillow looks so luxurious and pretty! I'll have to give it a go.

Sausha said...

i love the gathered pillow - so cute!

you left a question on my comments about the no alarm clocks - if you look close you can see them tucked under my pillow! i thought i did a good job at hiding them for the pics until i downloaded my photos :)
i wish i didnt have an alarm clock though..i need to find a cute one!!

Sausha @ {show & tell}

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