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Extra Easy Pony Tail Bolster Pillow

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This finished pillow may look complex, but the steps are... as the name promises: Extra Easy.  If you are learning to sew yourself or teaching someone else, this is a great first project. We spend extra time going over tools and techniques, and you'll find links to other articles that can move you further along the learning curve. In this one tutorial we explain topstitching, machine gathering, and how to make a skinny tie. 

The pillow finishes at 20" wide by approximately 6" high with 12" deep pony tails at each end. 

For more Learn To Sew options, try the coordinating Tufted Pom Pillow to learn to apply simple pom pom trim and sew a center button.

Then, try the Easy Nine Patch Pillow to learn a simple quilt block and an envelope style back closure.  

We originally used fabric from the Love & Joy collection by Dena Designs for FreeSpirit Fabrics. This is an older collection that is no longer readily available. We found eight new alternatives at Fat Quarter Shop that would be just as gorgeous: Animal Quackers in Teal Frisky Kittens with Teal Ticking Stripe, Hello Gorgeous in Mint Main with Mint Rose Grid, Handmade in Aqua Gwendolyn with Aqua Candy Stripe, and Birds of Liberty in Camellia Blueberry with Aloe Dot Squares

       

       

Sewing Tools You Need

The feet we used:

 

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • ⅝ yard of 44"+ wide cotton for the center panel
  • 1¼ yards of 44"+ wide cotton for the pony tails
  • ¼ yard of 44"+ wide cotton or scraps for the pony tail ties
  • ¾ yard of 22"+ wide low loft batting (you need a 22" x 22" cut); we used 45" Warm & White Cotton Batting
  • ONE 6" x 20" bolster pillow insert
  • All-purpose thread to match fabric
  • See-through ruler; we recommend a 12" x 6" quilter's ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Scissors
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

Cutting tips for beginners

  1. When you have the right tools, every project is easier and more precise. This is especially true for beginners, but is really great advice for us all. We recommend all cutting for this project be done with a rotary cutter, cutting mat, and see-through quilter's ruler (we used a 12" x 6" quilter's ruler). Below, you'll be learning how to square-up your fabric cuts.
    NOTE: The steps are similar fabric to fabric, but because this is a beginner project, we are repeating the measurements for each.
  2. Fold the ⅝ yard cut of center accent fabric in half so the selvedges match. Fold in half again, aligning the selvedge with the oringinalcenter fold. Make sure the fabric is smooth and even. Place the folded fabric on the cutting mat so the botton fold (the second fold) is aligned with a horizontal gridline on the cutting mat.
  3. Next, you will "square" the fabric. To do this, align the ruler with a vertical gridline close to one raw cut edge. Using the rotary cutter, trim away this edge.  
  4. Slide the ruler 21" from this trimmed end of the fabric, using your cutting mat's gridlines as your guide. Align the ruler to the appropriate vertical gridline at the 21" point.
  5. Cut with the rotary cutter along the 21" vertical line.
  6. Unfold the 21" strip you just created. Re-fold it so the two cut edges are aligned along the top and the selvedges are aligned at each end. Place the cut edges along a horizontal gridline on the cutting mat. Your piece is 10½" high as folded, but is wider than needed. 
  7. Square the first end. To do this, align the ruler with a vertical gridline close to one end. Using the rotary cutter, trim away this edge.
  8. Similarly to as you did above, slide the ruler 21" from the trimmed end of the fabric, using your cutting mat's gridlines as your guide. Align the ruler to the appropriate vertical gridline at the 21" point.
  9. Cut with the rotary cutter along the 21" vertical guideline. When unfolded, you now have one perfectly squared 21" x 21" piece for the center panel. 
  10. Fold the 1¼ yards of pony tail fabric in half so the selvedges match. Fold again so the selvedge is aligned with the center fold and the fabric is smooth and even. Place the folded fabric on the cutting mat so the center fold is aligned with a horizontal gridline on the cutting mat.
  11. Again, you will "square" the fabric. Align the ruler with a vertical gridline close to one side. Using the rotary cutter, trim away this ragged edge.  
  12. Place the ruler 19" from the trimmed end of the fabric, using your cutting mat's gridlines as your guide. Align the ruler to the appropriate vertical gridline at the 19" point.
  13. Cut with the rotary cutter. 
  14. Move the ruler 19" from the new trimmed end and cut a second piece.
  15. Unfold one of the two 19" strips you just created. Re-fold it so the two cut edges of each are aligned. Place these cut edges along a horizontal gridline on the cutting mat. Your piece is 9½" high as folded, but is wider than needed. 
  16. Square the end. To do this, align the ruler with a vertical gridline close to the selvedge end. Using the rotary cutter, trim away this edge.
  17. Place the ruler 30" from the trimmed end of the fabric, using your cutting mat's gridlines as your guide. Align the ruler to the appropriate vertical gridline at the 30" point.
  18. Cut with the rotary cutter. You now have one perfectly squared 19" x 30" piece for for one pony tail. Repeat with the remaining 19" strip to create the second pony tail.
  19. Fold the ¼ yard of tie fabric in half so the selvedges match. Fold again so the selvedge is aligned with the center fold and the fabric is smooth and even. Place the folded fabric on the cutting mat so the center fold is aligned with a horizontal gridline on the cutting mat.
  20. Once again, you will "square" the fabric. Align the ruler with a vertical gridline close to one side. Using the rotary cutter, trim away this ragged edge.  
  21. Place the ruler 1½" from the trimmed end of the fabric, using your cutting mat's gridlines as your guide. Align the ruler to the appropriate vertical gridline at the 1½" point. Cut with a rotary cutter. 
  22. Move the ruler 1½" from the new trimmed end and cut a second strip.
  23. Unfold the strips and place one directly on top of the other. Place the strips on the cutting mat so the long edges are aligned with a horizontal gridline. As above, square the end. To do this, align the ruler with a vertical gridline close to the selvedge ends. Using the rotary cutter, trim away these ends.
  24. Place the ruler 30" from the trimmed ends of the fabric, using your cutting mat's gridlines as your guide. Align the ruler to the appropriate vertical gridline at the 30" point. 
  25. Cut with the rotary cutter. You now have two 1½" x 30" strips for the pony tail ties.  
  26. Cut the batting into ONE 22" x 22" square.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Prepare the pony tails

  1. Find the two 19" x 30" rectangles of fabric.
  2. Along one 30" raw edge of each rectangle, you will prepare a deep hem. To do this. Fold back the raw edge ½" and press in place.
  3. Then, fold back an additional 6" and press again. Pin in place. 

    NOTE: For more information, see our tutorial: How To Make A Simple Hem.
  4. Along the opposite 30" raw edge of each rectangle, run two lines of gathering stitches. To do this, increase the stitch length on your machine to its longest setting. Using this stitch length, run one line of basting stitches ½" from the raw edge and a second line ¼" from the raw edge.

    NOTE: For more information, see our tutorial: How To Make Gathers By Machine

Layer batting and attach the pony tail ends to center panel

  1. Find the center accent panel and the batting square.
  2. Place the batting flat on your work surface. Place the accent square right side up on the batting, centering the fabric on the batting side to side and top to bottom. 
  3. Using a ruler and rotary cutter, trim the batting flush with the fabric on all four sides.
  4. If using a directional fabric as we did, orient the fabric/batting so the fabric is right side up. 
  5. Measure to find the center of one side (10½" from the top and bottom). Mark with a pin.
  6. Find one pony tail rectangle. Measure to find the center of the gathering stitch side (15" from the top and bottom). Mark with a pin.
  7. Place the pony tail panel right sides together with the center accent panel, matching the two center pins.
  8. Pin the layers together at the center points with one pin; remove the additional pin.
  9. Align the ends of the two layers and pin in place through both layers. There should be a lot of excess pony tail fabric in between the center pin and each end pin. 
  10. Gently pull up the basting threads to form gathers, working with one side at a time. 
  11. Continue pulling up the threads until the gathered pony tail panel fits flat against the center panel. Slide the gathers along the thread so they are evenly distributed. Pin in place, making sure you pin through all the layers.
  12. If you haven't already, re-set your stitch from the long basting length to a standard stitch length. We used 2.2mm.
  13. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the pony tail to the center panel. It's easiest to stitch with the gathered panel on top so you can, if needed, adjust the gathers as you go, insuring they stay flat.
  14. When done, flip over the panel and trim away the excess batting close to the line of stitching. 
  15. Press the gathered seam toward the center panel. 
  16. Topstitch approximately ⅛" from the seam line within the center accent panel. This secures the seam allowance in place and reinforces the seam. 
  17. Repeat all these steps to attach the remaining pony tail panel to the opposite end of the center panel. 

Center seam

  1. Unfold the pressed-in hem at each pony tail end. 
  2. Fold the seamed panel in half, right sides together, matching the long sides. Make sure to carefully align the pony tail seams at each end, and pin in place.  
  3. Using a ½" seam, stitch the entire length.
  4. Trim away the excess batting along this center seam.
  5. Press the seam open.

Finish the ends

  1. Re-fold the pony tail hems and re-pin in place.
  2. If possible, set up your machine for free arm sewing. This makes all types of "sewing in the round" much easier. 
  3. Place one hemmed end over the free-arm. Edgestitch the hem in place, staying as close as possible to the inner folded edge. 
  4. Repeat to secure the hem on the opposite pony tail.

Make the narrow ties

  1. Find the two 1½" x 30" pony tail tie strips.
  2. Fold in the raw edge of each end  ½" and press.
  3. Fold the strip in half, wrong sides together, aligning the long raw edges. Press to set a center crease.
  4. Unfold wrong side up so the crease line is visible. 
  5. Fold in each long raw edge so they meet in the middle at the crease line. Press well.
  6. Fold the entire strip in half again along the original center crease line, aligning the folded edges and hiding the raw edges between the layers.
  7. The ties are edgestitched along the length of the folded edges. If you are new to this, it can be helpful to use a fabric scrap as an anchor to help you start the stitching.
  8. Place the scrap under the needle first. Stitch almost to the end of the fabric scrap and stop with the needle in the down position.
  9. Butt one end of the tie against the fabric scrap, under the presser foot. Continue stitching across the tie, backstitching at the start and finish. 
  10. When the stitching is complete, snip the stitching between the tie and scrap of fabric. 
  11. Repeat to create the second tie. The tie is so narrow, it's not necessary to stitch across the ends. 
  12. Slip the pillow insert inside the tube. Center it side to side.
  13. Gather each end like the pony tail it's named for. Wrap each pony tail with a tie, and make a pretty bow. 
      

Contributors

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

Section: 

Comments (2)

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

@Yanachka - Thank you so much! There are always so many great new fabric collections to choose from.

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