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Decorative Stitch Sampler Pillow

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Like your favorite pair of lounging pants or comfy sweatshirt, sometimes you just gotta have a loose fit. Today's pillow follows suit with a relaxed and roomy cover over a soft, down alternative pillow insert. To complete the pillow, we chose two contrasting colors of super soft denim as the backdrop for fifteen lines of intersecting decorative stitches. Coordinating tassels finish off each of the corners (yep... we have a tutorial for them). Most machines today feature amazing packages of decorative stitches. This is a great way to sample and show-off some of your favorites. 

To get that perfect designer slouch with its "karate-choppable" texture, the real hero is on the inside: a luxurious Home Elegance™ insert from Fairfield. If you want a great finished pillow, you need to start with a quality insert or filler, and these are our personal favorites to get a high end look in a down-alternative. They have a 100% cotton, 300 thread count jacquard cover filled with a special 100% polyester gel fiber. 

The pillow's diagonal seam makes a stunning dividing line between the light and dark fabrics. We show you how to precisely mark your guidelines, and then how to stitch from the center out in both directions to form perfect intersecting corners. 

To maintain the pillow's loose fit and designer slouch, you need a supple fabric. The Crossroads Denim we chose is beautifully soft with a very lightly textured surface. We used Soft Aqua and Deep Charcoal.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • TWO coordinating ½ yard cuts of 54" wide medium-weight denim or twill; we used Crossroads Denim from Indygo Junction in Soft Aqua and Charcoal Black
  • ONE 20" x 20" pillow insert; we used a Fairfield Home Elegance insert
  • All purpose thread to match fabrics
  • 40wt polyester thread for the decorative stitching; we used copper, red and ivory. 
  • Tearaway stabilizer for decorative stitching
  • ONE small skein of coordinating thin yarn for tassels to match the lighter of the two fabric colors; we used a soft aqua
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors 
  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Large-eye yarn needle
  • Pattern paper to create triangle patterns; any type of large, thin paper will work, although we don't recommend newspaper as it can transfer ink onto the fabric

Getting Started

  1. From the pattern paper, cut one 22" x 22" square. Cut the square in half diagonally to create two triangle pattern pieces. 
  2. Place the two ½ yard cuts of fabric right sides together. 
  3. Place the pattern pieces on the fabric as shown in the photo below. Pin in place. 
  4. Cut out the four triangles.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. From the four cut triangles, make two pairs of mixed colors (one aqua with one charcoal). 
  2. Pin the pairs right sides together along the longest edge (the inner edge).
  3. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch together each triangle pair. 
  4. Press the seam allowances open.

Decorative stitching

  1. Using a fabric pen or pencil and a clear ruler, mark guidelines for all the decorative stitches on both panels. 
  2. Make the first line at the halfway mark. To do this, measure along one raw edge 10½" in from each corner (we oriented our first panel so the diagonal seam ran from the upper left to the lower right with the charcoal edge along the top). 
  3. Draw a vertical line at this point from the top raw edge to the seam line. Mark additional lines 1¼" apart on both sides of this center line, stopping each time at the diagonal seam line. There should be fifteen vertical lines.
  4. When complete, draw a horizontal line from each vertical line, making a 90˚ angle for each line at the diagonal seam. You are creating a total of fifteen "L" shaped lines. 
  5. Place each marked square over tearaway stabilizer. The stabilizer helps hold the fabric firm, insuring the most consistent stitch density. 
  6. For each line, select a different decorative stitch. Our Janome studio machines all have large menus of decorative stitches, and many of the stitches can be elongated, mirror imaged or flipped end to end. 
  7. You should pick fifteen different stitches that are symmetrical to one another. Alternate the thread colors as well, but limit the variety here. We used just three thread colors across our fifteen lines of stitching. Too many colors, and it will start to look a bit "circusy." Also, vary the colors at random rather than alternating in a set pattern. For example, for each of our panels, we did one row of copper, then two rows of red, four rows of ivory, four rows of copper, two rows of red, and finished with two rows of white.  
  8. To create a perfect 90˚ angle at the diagonal seam, you will stitch from the center out in both directions. Start from the seamline, dropping your needle right into the seam. Stitch out to the raw edge along the drawn line. 
  9. Return to the center diagonal seam line. Drop the needle again right into the seam. Stitch out to the opposite raw edge of the "L" following the drawn line. 
  10. Depending on type of decorative stitch you choose, you may need to "mirror image" the stitch for the second side. This is a standard function on many machines, including the Janome Horizon MC8900 we used. 
  11. Repeat to stitch each "L" line, changing your stitches and thread as necessary.
  12. When the stitching is complete, there will be pairs of starting threads at the diagonal seam. 
  13. Thread these tails through a hand sewing needle, draw them through the seam to the back, and knot the ends together to secure. Trim away the tails close to the knot.
  14. Remove the excess stabilizer between the lines of stitching and press from the right side. 
  15. Repeat for the second square, matching both the order and the colors for the lines of decorative stitches.

Finishing

  1. Place the finished front and back squares right sides together, aligning the center diagonal seams so the triangle colors are alternating. 
  2. Pin around all four sides, leaving an approximate 8" opening along one side to turn the cover right side out. 
  3. Stitch around all four sides of the pillow, using a ¼" seam allowance. We are using a ¼" seam rather than the more standard ½" seam because of our "loose fit" design. Remember to pivot at each corner and lock your seam at either side of the 8" opening.
  4. Trim the corners and turn the pillow cover right sides out through the opening. 
  5. Gently push out the trimmed corners from the inside to make nice, square corners on the outside. Use your finger or a blunt-end tool, like a large knitting needle, chopstick or point turner.
  6. Press in the raw edges of the 8" opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
  7. Insert the pillow form through the opening and fluff the corners into position.
  8. Slip stitch the opening closed.
     

Tassels

  1. Each of our tassels used 20 loops of yarn. You can increase for a chubbier tassel, but with the loose fit design of this pillow, a thinner tassel has a nicer look.
  2. If you are new to making tassels, see our How To Make A Tassel tutorial
  3. Handstitch a tassel to each corner of the pillow.

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas  
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler

Section: 

Comments (7)

Linda hofer said:
Linda hofer's picture

I cannot find one online store to purchase this denim. Any ideas where I could find it? Thank you

Linda hofer said:
Linda hofer's picture

thank you so much. I ordered the fabric and am looking forward to making this project. This is a great site for learning and ideas.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Linda Hofer - great news - let us know how your pillow turns out. If you're on Facebook (sew4home) or Instagram (sew4home_diy) please post a pic so we can all be inspired. 

Guylaine said:
 Guylaine's picture

This pillow is very elegant looking. I think I will borrow your idea to make a tote bag. I don't have tearable stabilizer. I guess using fusible interfacing will make it? I will sew a lining with pockets which will hide the interfacing. Thank you for this brilliant idea!

Diane Beavers said:
Diane Beavers's picture

Stunning!  I've just begun to experiment w/my machine's decorative stitches after all this time.  

Your pillow is gorgeous w/the solid fabrics. The tutorial is great...now if I can just get my lines stitched as accurately.

Merry Christmas.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Diane - Thanks! Follow our steps for marking and stitching from the diagonal line out to either side and you'll do great! 

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