If you're happy and you know it... make a pillow. Pillows are one of the best things for a beginner to tackle; they're fast and fun projects for anyone and immediately brighten up your décor. Today's pillow in Jennifer Paganelli's Happy Land for FreeSpirit Fabrics is what I envision Little Miss Muffet's tuffet must look like. Even though you end up with a completely different look, today's pillow is constructed similarly to Monday's Happy Land bolster pillow. They both start as a tube. In this case, you gather the top and the bottom, cinching the fabric to create the cushion shape. You then conceal your gathering points with jumbo covered buttons.
Just like happiness, pillows come in all shapes and sizes; and when you're creating a pile of pillows on a bed or sofa, it's important to vary both size and shape. A unique shape in a bold color will make your pillow scape more interesting and fun. Arrange big, blocky pillows in the back, happy little pillows in the front... just like when they lined you up on the bleachers for grade school class photos!
The pillow finishes at approximately 14" in diameter x 7" deep.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ¾ yard of 44-45" wide quilting weight cotton for the main body of the pillow; we used Claudia in Red from the Happy Land collection by Jennifer Paganelli for FreeSpirit Fabrics
- ½ yard of 44-45" wide quilting weight cotton for the piping and covered buttons; we used Candice in Red from the Happy Land collection by Jennifer Paganelli for FreeSpirit Fabrics
- NOTE: To get the proper curve, you really need to work with bias cut strips for the piping fabric, which do require more yardage, however, the finished smooth look is worth it. If you are new to the technique, see our Bias Binding tutorial for more information about figuring yardage, cutting and making bias binding.
- 2¾ yards of ¼" piping cord
- ¼ yard of 45" wide fusible batting or fleece: we used 987F Fusible Fleece by Pellon
- ONE large bag of polyester fiberfill; we used Soft Touch® Poly-Fil Supreme Fiberfill by Fairfield Processing
- 3½ yards of thin yarn or multiple strands of embroidery floss to cinch the pillow centers; we used a thin craft yarn in red
- TWO 2" - 2½" jumbo button cover kits; we used Dritz 2½" Half Ball kits
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- Button or carpet thread for sewing on buttons (optional)
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Curved needle (optional, for sewing on buttons)
- Small safety pin
- The diagram below shows you the cuts that will be assembled to create the tube that will form the finished pillow.
- From the fabric for the main body of the pillow (Claudia in Red in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 7½" high x 44" wide (WOF) rectangles for the top and bottom panels
ONE 4" high x 44" wide (WOF) rectangle for the side panel
- From the fabric for the piping (Candice in Red in our sample), cut enough 1½" strips on the bias to yield TWO 47" strips.
- Cut the piping cord into two 47" lengths.
NOTE: As mentioned above if you are new to bias cuts and binding (it's the same technique for the strips to wrap piping cord), see our tutorial.
- From the fusible batting, cut ONE 3" x 44" rectangle.
- Cut the yarn/floss into two equal lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Find the bias cut strips and the piping cord.
- If you did not cut full-length strips, stitch your multiple strips together end-to-end to yield two 47" strips. Press all seam allowances open.
- Place the two finished strips wrong side up on your work surface.
- Place a length of cording down the center of each strip.
- Wrap the strip around the cording, aligning the long raw edges of the strip.
- Attach a Zipper foot.
- Thread your machine with thread to match the piping fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Stitch the length of the strip, staying as close to the cording as the foot will allow. If possible on your machine, you can also move your needle position to the left to snug up your seamline even closer.
NOTE: If you are new to piping, check out our step-by-step tutorial.
Main body of the pillow
- Find the three panels, the two lengths of piping, and the fusible batting strip.
- Place the 7½" high x 44" pillow back panel right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Center a length of piping along the top 44" raw edge of the panel. The raw edges of the piping should be flush with the raw edge of the fabric panel. The ends of the piping will extend beyond the fabric a bit.
- Pin the piping in place. Hand or machine baste the piping strip in place. If machine-basting, use your Zipper foot.
- Find 4" high x 44" side panel. Place it right sides together along the top 44" raw edge of the back panel, sandwiching the piping between the layers. Pin in place.
- Using the Zipper foot, stitch the 44" seam through all the layers, staying as close to the piping as the foot will allow. If you machine-basted your piping in place, you can follow along in this basting seam.
- Place the bottom/side sewn panel right side up on your work surface.
- Place the remaining length of piping along the top (the remaining) 44" raw edge of the side panel. The raw edges of the piping should be flush with the raw edge of the fabric panel.
- As you did above, pin the piping in place. Hand or machine baste the piping strip in place. If machine-basting, use your Zipper foot.
- Place the 7½" high x 44" pillow top panel right sides together along the top 44" raw edge of the side panel, sandwiching the piping between the layers. Pin in place.
- Again as you did above, stitch this 44" seam through all the layers, staying as close to the piping as the foot will allow. If you machine-basted your piping in place, you can follow along in this basting seam.
- Press the top and bottom panels away from the side panel, revealing both lines of piping.
- Flip the sewn panel to the back. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the batting strip to the wrong side of the side panel. This layer of batting will give both stability and a smoothness to the side of the finished pillow.
- Fold the entire piece in half, right sides together, aligning the raw edges and being especially careful to line up the ends of the piping. Pin in place.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch in place.
- Trim away the excess piping.
- You now have one tall tube. Turn this tube right side out. Roll the tube so the seam is at the center back. Press.
Drawstring channel top and bottom
- Fold down the top raw edge ½" and press.
- Starting just to one side of the seam, stitch the folded edge in place, staying close to the raw edge. Stop just to the opposite side of the seam so there is an opening over the seam. Lock your seam at the starting and stopping points.
- Repeat to create a matching drawstring channel along the bottom raw edge.
NOTE: This pillow design is meant to be spot cleaned only and our fabric was not prone to raveling, so we simply made one fold and stitched to create the drawstring channel. If you want a more finished edge or you do have a ravel-prone fabric, make a double fold. First fold under the raw edge approximately ⅛", then fold an additional ⅜" and press again. Edgestitch along the inside folded edge. Your channel will be ever so slightly smaller, but should still be big enough for the yarn/floss.
- Find the two lengths of yarn/floss.
- Tie one end of one length to the end of a safety pin. Feed the safety pin all the way through one of the channels.
- Repeat to feed the remaining length through the opposite channel.
Cinch and stuff
- Turn the tube right side out.
- On the bottom panel, pull the ends of the yarn/floss to cinch up the panel as tight as it will go, gathering the panel and flattening that end of the tube. Tie a tight knot and trim away the excess yarn/floss.
- Flip the tube so it is sitting up on the cinched end.
- Through the open end, stuff the polyester fiberfill.
- When filled to pleasantly plump, cinch down this open end just as you did on the opposite side.
- Make two covered buttons using the leftover fabric from the piping strips (Candice in Red in our sample). Also, we always add a small scrap of lightweight batting under our fabric for a smooth, curved shape to our covered buttons.
NOTE: If you are new to covering buttons, we have two tutorials, one using Covered Button Kits (what we did here) and one about Making Your Own.
- Thread a hand sewing needle with button or carpet thread. Hand sew one covered button to the pillow front and one to the back. Pull the buttons tight so they create a nice, tufted effect.
- Be careful to keep the buttons in the exact center so they nicely cover the "cinched hole" on both sides.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Aimee McGaffey