Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Pillow-making tips

Last year I made a few pillows to auction off to support the Red Cross in its efforts to help the victims of the Fort McMurray fires. I really enjoy making pillows, people seem to really like them, and it was a chance to donate far more than I could on my own. All in all, it was a great experience! So I want to do more of that this year, only in support of local charities.

Here's the first of the four I plan on making, using a neat giant economy block pillow pattern from Clover and Violet. What a great way to showcase a big print, like this Tula bunny! Plus it was a great chance to do some of the elaborate straight-line quilting I used to do a lot more often. I soon remembered it's way more and thread consuming than a crosshatch. But I think the effect is worth it.

Here's the finished pillow sitting in my backyard where a neighbourhood bunny likes to chill under my pine tree. How perfect is that green bunny print?!

More bunnies on the back - another perfect print for this all-things-bunny pillow. Now you're wondering why I took this photo with the pillow on its side, rather than having the bunnies the right way up. Well, it is the right way because I put the back on wrong. Sigh. Why is it always the simple step that gets messed up?! As a perfectionist who is usually extra careful to the point of being a little crazy, my heart sank when I realized the mistake. And the way I put together a pillow, there is no taking it apart. I guess the plus side is that you can't look at the back and front at the same time, and at least the bunnies are all going in the same direction.

The irony is that as I was making this pillow, I thought I would use it to share a few pillow-making tips. Oh, the hubris! I guess I learned something too - always do a quick check before you start sewing on the back.

Here are a few of my pillow-making tips and techniques from making more than a few pillows (five just this month!):

* Generally I favour edge to edge quilting to avoid any starting and stopping. When I'm done quilting and before trimming, I stitch around the whole edge to lock the quilting in place.

* I always make envelope backs for my pillows. Zippers look nice, but when I want to make a pillow I don't want to be delayed by making a special trip for a zipper. Plus I find it doesn't change the look of the front. Sew Mama Sew has a great tutorial including a chart with measurements for the back pieces. I printed this and have it hanging in my sewing room.
* When top-stitching the back pieces, I used my 1/4" foot and adjust the needle position to quickly zip along while getting a straight sewing line.

* I use Wonderclips to hold the layers together, including marking where the back pieces end on each side. I always reverse stitch in these spots to make them extra sturdy.
* Stick a pin through all the layers in the middle of the back. That way your sewing machine extension table won't slip inside the pillow cover while you're sewing.
* Sew with the flimsy side down and then there's less shifting. I also like to cut the back pieces a bit generously in case they move around. Once the layers are sewn together, simply trim off the excess.
* A 1/4" foot makes it quick and accurate to sew the layers together, and use a shorter stitch for strength.
* I always reinforce the corners. That includes back stitching at the start and end of each side, and a diagonal line across the corner. Then I trim off the excess to make the corners rounded. Here's how my corners look:

* Finally, I do a zigzag stitch around the edge to make it nice and tidy before turning it right side out.

So, now you can see, there is no way of easily taking a pillow apart when the back is sewn on the wrong direction! But, on the plus side, it's super sturdy!

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