More pillow talk

During pillow week, I cut three pillows that I didn't get around to making.  The week before Christmas, I found myself with a free hour and got around to finishing them.


This is one half of a pair of small lumbar pillows for the ticking stripe chairs.  I love this fabric, but I did not love fussy cutting it.  I wish the pillows were a little longer (these arer 14" x 18"), but I was intent on using pillow forms I had on hand.  The piping is a solid khaki color from scraps of the pillow below.

Velvet ribbon

Velvet detail

I needed something a little plainer with all the prints going on in the room, so I used this slubby khaki cotton for this 22" square pillow.  I rooted around the studio to find a trim and the only one that was the right color and I had enough of was this green velvet.  I edge stitched it onto the pillow front before I sewed it together.  I am really happy with the way it turned out.  The textural differences make the pillow more interesting.  A wider ribbon would have been perfect, but this one does the job nicely.


Here's the couch in the family room with all the pillows.  I didn't fluff or plump or straighten up for this, but you get the idea.  To the left of the photo are the two ticking chairs with the red pillows.  The dresden plate floor pillows sit on a shelf below the coffee table.  The pillows on the couch get moved around a lot and look good together in any combination.  I think it is all coming together nicely, but the room still needs some work, namely a rug, lamps and a big edit of some built in bookcases.  Also, I'd love a new coffee table, but I am not sure that is in the budget right now.  I do have an idea to hack the one I have -  I just need to put that plan into action.

Spiffing up the family room made me realize just how easy and fast it is to revamp the house with things I already have.  For the cost of a few yards of fabric, I have a much more pulled together room.  I want to keep moving in this direction. I'd love 2011 to be the year I focus on my home.  There are quite a few projects on my to-do list and I plan on knocking them off one-by-one.  I'll keep you updated as I go along.

Pillow Week Challenge Wrap Up

I said I'd be back Sunday and it's Tuesday. Life, you know.

Red pillow

I didn't manage any pillow action on Saturday as I was busy hosting a paper doll birthday party for Kate.  More details on that later.  But, back to the pillows... Sunday night I whipped up one more for the family room couch.  It's 18" square with piping and I'm kind of kicking myself for not buying more than 1 yard of this fabric because I really want to make one more just like it.  I probably could have made it work had I thought it through before I started cutting, but I didn't.  Oh well.

That brings the grand total for the week to 11 pillows - not too shabby, if I may say so myself.  I have two more I'd love to finish before our holiday guests (hi Mom and Dad!) arrive next week and I am going to try to fit those in between Fatty's birthday, dentist appointments, hair cuts, swim meets and the like.  I'd also like to make another dog bed, but I'm not counting on getting a chunk of time big enough for that endeavor. This is me trying to be realistic, you know.

I'd like to thank you all for following along and making pillows with me.  I know that it is not the most exciting of blogging topics, but I hope you maybe learned a little something.  I really enjoyed having a crafting focus and a reason to use all the pillow forms hanging around the sewing room.  And, bonus, my family room is looking pretty darn good at the moment.  Photos forthcoming. Pinky swear.

Pillow Week Challenge - days four, five and six

November 10

Dresden 2


It's been a busy few days around here, but I've still been working on my pillows.  I cut and chain pieced the blades for these dresden plates on Wednesday.  Yesterday, I sewed them together and appliqued them to the pillow fronts.  This afternoon I put the zippers in and sewed the pillows.  The blue and white ticking is the same fabric as the chairs in the family room and the dresden plates are made entirely from scraps.  I tried to keep to blue/red/green/gold color palette, but it's loosely interpreted.  At 24" square, these pillows are going to be used as floor pillows.  The girls can scoot around on them, sit on them while they read and draw, and the rest of my new pillows will stay on the couch.  That is the goal anyways.

It's Kate's 9th birthday today and we have some celebrating to do.  Back on Sunday with a pillow week wrap up.  See you then.

Pillow Week Challenge - day three

Pillows 3a

I tackled Kate's pillows yesterday.  They are meant to be like Euro shams that you see in catalogs, but they measure 22" vs. the standard 26".  I just like the look of two pillows behind her monogrammed sham (which I did not make nor monogram myself) better and two 26" pillows is too much.  So 22" it is.  Kate has two twin beds in her room so I made four pillows.  They all have zippers and I pre-washed this seersucker fabric so they could be laundered without worrying about shrinkage.  The fabric is a match to her window seat and will look fantastic with her quilts if I ever finish them.

Pillows 3

Again, I wanted to put piping on these pillows for some detail, but I ran out of fabric.  Instead, I did a small flange (I guess that's what you call it).  I cut the fabric to 23" square and sewed the front and back together with a 3/8" seam.  Once turned outside, I pressed the edges flat and then topstitched all the way around 5/8" from the edge.  It's kind of like a reverse french seam.  I like how it gives a little interest to the pillows without commanding too much attention.

That's eight pillows for the week.  I'm trying for two more tonight.  Back tomorrow with details on those.  In the meantime, check out the flickr group for some really great inspiration.

Pillow Week Challenge - day two

Pillows 2

The video tutorials put me a day behind on my show and tell.  No big shakes, but I am going to keep posting what I did the day before so I can keep track.

I made two of these pillows for the family room couch.  They are 22" square and were supposed to have some of that red and white tassel trim shown in the photo a couple of posts down so I didn't add any piping.  I hated, really really hated, the way the tassel trim looked so I left it off.  I'm wishing I had put piping in, but I didn't have enough fabric anyhow so there was no turning back.  I do think they look good, especially with yesterday's pillows so yay!  I'm well on my way to a very spruced up family room.  And maybe a new Christmas tree skirt so I can use that trim after all.

Back tomorrow with Kate's pillows - I knocked out all four of those today!  Woot!

Pillow Week Challenge - Put a zipper in your pillow video tutorial

Here are the two pillows I finished yesterday

Pillows 1

They'll end up on the couch, not this chair.  I've got something else planned for the chair.

And now, here is the zipper tutorial in video form.  It's long - 17 minutes - so you'll need to settle in to watch it.  The fact that I can show you how to do a lapped zipper and finish the pillow in that amount of time should tell you just how fast you can do this.  Also, please excuse the coughing fit.  If I could figure out how to edit better, I would have cut that bit. ;)

For more specific instructions, including how to determine the length of your zipper and how big to cut your pieces, refer to the photo zipper tutorial.  It's the same as the video, just not in motion picture format.

Put a zipper in your pillow tutorial by House on Hill Road from Erin Harris on Vimeo.

There are some pillows popping up in the flickr group.  Can't wait to see what you all make!

Pillow Week Challenge - How to Make Piping Video Tutorial

I received numerous requests for information on piping so I decided to do a tutorial.  A video tutorial. Gulp.  I'm totally nervous, hate the sound of my voice and apologize for my hand hogging most of the screen in part of it.  I do think, hand and all, you can still see what I'm doing.  It's kind of long - sorry about that.  But I think it will be helpful so here you go.

How to make piping by House on Hill Road from Erin Harris on Vimeo.


* * * * *

I've also set up a Flickr group so we can all see what everyone else is making this week.  It's right here.  I'll be back tomorrow with the pillows I finished today and another video - this time how to put the zipper in. I swear it's easier than you think.

See you then!

Pillow Week Challenge - Fit and Closures

All right...on to sizing your pillow cover and how to close it up.

There are many different ways you can close your pillow cover.  The most straightforward is to sew up three sides of the pillow, stuff it with filling or a form and then handsew the opening closed with a slip stitch or ladder stitch.  You can also close it by machine, but you will have to sew very close to the edge and the stitching will be visible.

Pillow envelope

An envelope closure is similar to what you see on the back of most bed pillow shams.  There are two pieces of fabric that overlap about 4" to 6" when closed, but easily separate to insert or remove the pillow from the cover.  To make an envelope closure, you would cut two separate rectangles that would be the same length as the front square and about 2/3 the width.  Using the 18" pillow as an example, the front would be 18" x 18" and the two back pieces would be 18" x 12".  You sew a hem along one of the 18" sides of each of the back pieces and pin them to the front so that they overlap in the middle.  An envelope enclosure can be easily adapted to using buttons or ties where the back pieces overlap, too.  You could put the envelope portion on the front of your pillow to showcase some pretty vintage buttons or special ribbons and trims.

Pillow lapped zipper

My favorite way to close throw cushions, and also what you would use for a window seat or bench cushion, is to insert a lapped zipper.  I know it sounds intimidating, but it really is very easy.  You need a zipper that is 2" shorter than the width of your pillow.  So, for an 18" pillow, use a 16" zipper.  The only other things you need are a standard zipper foot and a marking tool.  My zipper tutorial shows you how you insert the zipper sewing four straight lines. That's it. I really encourage you to give it a try.  I'll be putting zippers in almost all the pillows I sew next week so I'll show you how easy it really is.

You can also use an invisible zipper in the side or bottom seam of your pillow cover.  To do this, you need a piping foot or an invisible zipper foot that is often sold for a few dollars in the fabric store right next to the zipper display.  I did a google search for a good tutorial and there are many solid ones out there, even some video ones.  If you think you might want to go that route, I highly suggest doing a search and then watching or reading about it first.  The invisible zippers are pretty easy to install once you understand what you need to do.  Also, the bonus of an invisible zipper being in the seam of your pillow is that the finished cushion is completely reversible and you really don't see the zipper at all (yes, invisible!!!).

I think that rounds up the most commonly used closures, but if I missed something, please let me know in the comments. As far as fit goes, it's really a matter of personal preference.  You probably didn't want to hear that it is so subjective, but it is.

If you are using pillow forms, you first need to decide how stuffed you'd like the pillow to be.  I like a well-stuffed pillow and consequently cut my fabric to the exact size of the pillow form.  Let's say I'm making an 18" square pillow - I'll cut the front to 18" square and the finished size of the back would also end up being 18" closed.  I sew the squares together with a 1/2" seam allowance which gives me a 17" finished cover.  The 18" insert will fit without a problem and it's a nice fluffly pillow.  If you don't like your pillows well-stuffed, then cut your fabric 1" larger than the insert's measurements.  If you like a loose fit, you can cut the fabric even larger.  It's all up to you.  If you sew the cover, insert the form and it isn't fitting the way you'd like, try a smaller or larger pillow form.  That'll probably do the trick.  Remember that down compresses more easily than poly-fil so often requires a tighter cover.

If you are stuffing your pillow with some kind of filling, you can sew whatever size you desire and then stuff it to your desired firmness.  Really pack it in the cover, getting all the corners if you like firm pillows.  Use less stuffing for a squishier cushion.

If you are using foam for a seat cushion or a window seat, you want an exact fit.  Take measurements or make a paper template of the shape and cut your fabric 1/2" bigger all the way around.  Sew it with a 3/8" seam allowance and insert the foam.  If the cover is too big, you can sew another 1/8" seam just inside the first one to get a closer fit.

Pillow pile

I'll hit on piping with my first pillow(s) and talk a little bit about other trims then too.  A big link list of pillow tutorials coming tomorrow!  And then Sunday, it starts!  I think I'm ready.  You?

Pillow Week Challenge - Fabrics and Fillings

Hey there. A day later than I thought. The creek didn't rise, but there was an impromptu dinner guest and a half day of school complete with a rollerskating party.  By the end of yesterday, I was wiped.  I feel great this morning, though.  So grab a cup of coffee, or tea, and get ready because here we go....

As far as I see it, when it comes to pillows, you can make one out of any kind of fabric you like. Sweet, huh?  The two most common choices are quilting cotton and upholstery weight/home decorator fabrics.

Quilting cottons

Quilting cotton is a great choice.  It comes in prints and solids and averages about 42" wide.  You can easily make two 16" square pillows out of one yard.  It's also an affordable choice - from $5 to $10 a yard, you can get a lot of bang for your buck.  It's also washable which is a huge plus for pillow covers that might be laundered a lot.  The drawback?  Quilting cotton is fairly light weight.  It won't hold up as well as upholstery weight or heavier home decorator fabrics.  If your kids play pillow fight with the throw cushions, it might not be the best choice.

Upholstery fabric

Upholstery weight/Home decorator fabrics are just that - upholstery weight and intended for decorating the home.  They are heavier than the quilting cotton and, while often 100% cotton, they might be made of other fibers including linen, wool, rayon, nylon, etc.  They range in width from 54" to 60" and can be found fairly easily - my JoAnn's has a decent selection and there are also fabric stores for decorators just like there are for quilters.  You'll find all kinds of different prints and colors including many with large scale repeats.  If you are a careful cutter, you can get 2 or 3 16" to 18" pillows from a yard to a yard and a half.  Things to think about:  Many of these fabrics are dry clean only.  The bigger width and heavier weave also indicates a bigger price tag - most home dec fabrics start at $18 and go up from there.  Also, if the fabric has a big repeat, you may have to buy more yardage to match the pattern.

While these two choices are the most common, there are lots of other fabrics to consider.  Canvas, cotton duck and denim are great heavy weight fabrics that come in a variety of solids and some prints.  These are wonderful for seat cushions and floor pillows because they hold up to extra wear and tear.  Apparel fabrics such as cotton shirting and wool suiting make great pillows.  They are light weight, come in great plaids and checks which often gives them a more masculine feel.  Corduroy is a fun choice too - it would add immediate texture to your project.  You can get all fancy and use silks, velvets and satins, too.  These fabrics look and feel luxurious and a little goes a long way.  Wool felt is a wonderful choice for colder months.  Because it doesn't unravel, you can leave cut edges unfinished.  For kids and pets, fleece is a great choice.  With so many bright colors and a plethora of patterns to choose from, you can certainly find a fleece for anyone on your gift list.  Cotton jersey is a great choice for something soft and smooth.  It's also a great choice if you want to layer it and try your hand at reverse applique.  If you are a knitter or crocheter, think about taking yarn and making your own fabric for a pillow.  You could work up a square or a rectangle and back it in fabric to make a unique pillow.  Think cables, granny squares, etc.

So now that you have my run-down on pillow fabrics, here's my bit on how to fill those pillows.  You can buy pillow forms or use some kind of stuffing.  Pros and cons?  Of course.

Pillow forms are pre-made pillows that you purchase to put into the pillow cover you sew.  You can find them with different types of filler - down and poly being the most prevalent.  They also come in various sizes - generally starting at 12" squares and going up to 22" or bigger.  You can find circular, rectangular and bolster-shaped forms as well.  They work really well if you want to remove your pillow cover for washing or swapping out at different seasons.  At the big craft and fabric stores, you'll most likely find poly-filled forms.  They start at around $5 and go up in price, depending on size and filling, from there.  Down pillow inserts can be found at home decorator fabric stores.  Which you choose is really a matter of preference.  Down is generally the squish-iest, but there are some poly-filled pillow forms that mimic down well.  My suggestion is to give the different forms the squeeze test to see which you like the best. If you have pillows around your house that you no longer love, think about using those as pillow forms for your new covers.  Also, don't forget to keep your eye out for sale pillows at discount stores.  Often you can find large pillows on sale for less than the cost of a new pillow form.  It's a great way of reusing and recycling.   If your pillow is an odd-shape or size, you probably won't be able to find a form to fit it.  Stuffing is your best choice.

Pillow forms

Stuffing or filling comes can be found in just about any craft store.  Most often, it is made of polyester and is appropriately called poly-fil.  Stuffing is also made from wool, bamboo and some eco-friendly choices.  Look around to see what you can find - each material has a different feel.  To stuff a pillow, you take small handfuls of filling and slowly fill the pillow to the desired firmness.  You can also use stuffing to make your own pillow form.  Using muslin, or another inexpensive fabric like an old sheet, sew a pillow the same shape and size as the pillow cover.  Stuff the muslin pillow, sew it shut and then use that as a form.  Easy, peasy, huh?  Stuffing is a great choice for little pillows or ones with an odd-shape.

Finally, I should probably mention foam.  Sold in different thicknesses and densities, it's a really good choice for chair seat cushions, window seats and the like.  You can buy it at fabric and craft stores and often you need to cut it to size.  An electric carving knife is the best tool for this.  You also will need to wrap it with some kind of upholstery batting, most likely made of dacron.  Before you go this route, it might be worth some research to see if a local upholsterer will cut and wrap the foam for you, especially if the foam needs to be thick and has any kind of curve.

Overwhelmed? I hope not.  I just want to give you as much info as I can to get going.  Questions? I will do my best to answer any in the comments.  Back later today or tomorrow with ideas for closures and a bit about sizing.  I'd be happy to talk trims - piping, fringe, etc. - if you all want me to.  Just let me know.

No pillow talk today

Look at me, opening my big mouth, saying I'd be back with inspiration. Obviously, it's not happening.

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you are probably aware that I fly by the seat of my pants most of the time. I write and then post immediately - very rarely do I do a draft. A draft, in this case, would be smart.  Especially when I am leading a pillow challenge and promised some inspiration.  So sorry, folks.  It just didn't happen today.

I'll be back tomorrow (God willing and the creek don't rise) with some info on fabric and filling choices.  Closures and sizing comes on Thursday.  Friday, I'll give you a huge link-y list of good pillow tutorials.  Sunday, my first pillow.

Ok. I now have a plan.  Now to put it into action.

Pillow piping

And because I can't post without a photo...

These pillows in Kate's room are slated to be recovered next week.  She's growing up and it's time for the lions to go.  Olive, on the other hand, will stay just as she is.  Four years later, so well-loved, and absolutely perfect with all her imperfections.  All imperfections mine. The pattern is spot-on, of course.

Pillow Challenge Week!!!

Crochet pillow 2

Maybe you want to make some shams for your bed or a tooth fairy pillow for a kiddo? Or are you wanting to craft up some holiday gifts?  Or do you want to tackle a dog bed or floor pillows?  Whatever it is, join me in making pillows for a week!

Here are the details.

The pillow challenge will start next Sunday, November 7th and end on Saturday, November 13th.  The idea is that you can spruce up your home, or sew some gifts, in a short amount of time.  I'm going to try to make a pillow a day - maybe more if time allows.  Most of the projects I have in mind are fairly straight-forward, no complicated piecing or quilting, so I think one a day is manageable.  But, if you are wanting to play with scraps and piece together something more complicated, think about trying to work on your pillow(s) for an hour a day.  I am always amazed at just how much I can actually accomplish when I focus on one task for an hour.  Plus, with a basic pillow being four easy seams, it's a fast project with immediate results.  Just the kind I like.

I plan on re-vamping my pillow zipper tutorial for you all and will try to round up some other good inspiration over the course of this week to get you thinking. We'll talk pillow forms, stuffing, trims, piping, closures and whatever else I can muster.  Maybe even some knitting and crocheting ideas, too.  I've made a lot of pillows - almost every one in this house - and I have some tricks to share.  If there is anything specific you'd like to know or see, let me know in the comments and I'll see what I can do.  Or if you know of a great pillow tutorial, give me the link and I'll include it in my inspiration posts.  I'll get a flickr group up and going by the end of the week so we can all see each other's beautiful work.

All right, take this week to form a plan of attack and gather your supplies.  I'll be back tomorrow with an inspiration post.  See you then.