Appliqué is a fancy word for the process of stitching a smaller fabric shape onto a larger fabric surface. It's also a great way to turn an ordinary pillow into a custom creation. You simply cut out a shape and, carefully stitching along its edges, sew it to the base fabric. Kind of like when you were learning to color in a coloring book, you'll have better luck with your beginning appliqué if you stick to larger shapes with simple outlines.
Our Flower Power pillow is 20" x 20" when finished and comes with patterns you can print for the flowers shown. Use these or create your own designs. Appliqué can be as detailed as you'd like. Our flower petals are each created and stitched down as one piece with a separate piece for the center circle. But if you want an even more colorful look, you could make each petal its own separate piece of fabric. For added interest, change the color of your top-stitching thread from a matching tone to a contrasting color.
- Any Sewing Machine (we recommend the Janome Decor Computer 3018 )
Fabric and Other Stuff:
- 1½ yds of cotton base fabric in a light solid color or a small, light color print
- 1½ yds of neutral color cotton fabric for lining
- ¼ yd. cotton fabric for flower #1
- ¼ yd. cotton fabric for flower #2
- ¼ yd. cotton fabric for flower centers
- ½ yd. cotton fabric for flower stems and leaves
- All-purpose sewing thread to match base fabric
- All-purpose sewing threads to match flower, stem and leaf fabrics
- Ruler - at least 24" long
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Straight pins
- 20" x 20" pillow form
- Point turner (optional)
- Iron and ironing board
Before You Start:
- Cut one piece each from base fabric and lining fabric 21" x 12" (this includes a ½" seam allowance).*
- Cut two pieces each from base fabric and lining fabric 21" x 17" (this includes a ½" seam allowance).*
- Print the three pattern pieces:
- Using these patterns, cut two pieces each (one for the appliqué front, and one for the appliqué back) from Flower Pattern #1 and Flower Pattern #2.
- From the Flower Center Pattern cut four circles.
- You will also need to cut four each of the Stem and Leaf patterns. Cut two according to the pattern. Flip the pattern over and cut two more adding 2½" at the bottom of the stem. This will allow you to have one stem taller than the other and allows the two stems to be mirror images of one another.
*Note: If you are using a different sized pillow form than 20", follow the instructions for sizing your pillow pieces at the end of the pillow instructions.
At Your Sewing Machine:
Making Appliqué Pieces
- With right sides of the fabric facing each other, place the two pieces from Flower #1 pattern together. Pin the pieces together to secure.
- Wind a bobbin with thread that matches the Flower #1 fabric. Thread your machine with the same thread and insert your wound bobbin. Select a straight stitch.
- Place your fabric under the foot with the raw edge of the fabric against the side of the foot. If possible move your needle to the right needle position; this will set you up for an apx. ¼" seam. This does not have to be exact. When sewing, don't forget to remove the pins just as your reach them. Do not sew over pins or you could break the sewing machine needle.
- Start sewing at one of the petals. Take a few stitches and then backstitch for a few stitches to secure. Continue sewing all the way around the flower leaving approximately 1"-1½" un-sewn. Backstitch at the end to secure.
- When you come to the inside points, stitch approximately 5-6 stitches beyond the point. Stop with your needle down. Pivot so the fabric is straight across. Sew 3-5 stitches. Stop again with the needle down. Pivot and continue sewing around the next petal.
- When working with curves and points, it is helpful to clip the seam allowances. If you do this, when you turn the fabric right side out, your curves and points will lay flat. Using just the tip of your scissors, clip at the cut edge to the stitching line. Be very careful that you don't clip through the stitching line.
- You can change the thread and bobbin color for each appliqué if desired or leave the thread color the same. The thread will not show when the appliqué is turned right side out.
- Turn the flower right side out through the opening. With your fingers, roll the edge of the seams flat. It is helpful to use a point turner to smooth out the petals.
- Press, tucking the unsewn area into the petal.
- Repeat for the remaining appliqué pieces. When all are sewn, you should have: two flowers (Flower #1 and Flower #2), two Flower Centers, two Stems and two Leaves (one stem and leaf should be the reverse of the other).
Appliquéing Pieces to Base Fabric
- Place the 21" x 21" lining fabric on the wrong side of the 21" x 21" base fabric.
- Iron to remove all wrinkles.
- Pin to secure the two pieces together.
- Place the edge of the fabric against the edge of the presser foot. Using a straight stitch, sew the two pieces together around the perimeter.
- Arrange the Flower, Stem and Leaf pieces on the base fabric, using the picture of the finished project as a guide. Pin in place to secure.
- The appliqué pieces are sewn to the base fabric using a straight stitch. You can match thread color to the fabric pieces or use a contrasting color.
- Stitch the Stem and Leaf pieces to the base fabric first. Next, stitch the Flowers, and finally, stitch the Centers.
- Place one 21" x 17" lining fabric on the wrong side one 21" x 17" base fabric.
- Iron, to remove wrinkles.
- Pin to secure the two pieces together.
- Using a straight stitch, sew the two pieces together around the perimeter.
- Repeat steps 1-4, using the remaining lining fabric and base fabric.
- Create a hem on one of the finished 21" x 17" pieces by turning under 1" on one 21" side. Turn same edge again 1½". Pin.
- Topstitch close to the folded edge. Press.
- Repeat steps 6 and 7 for the remaining 21" x 17" piece.
- Lay the two rectangles on a flat surface with the hemmed edge facing each other.
- Overlap the hemmed edges to yield a 21" square.
- Stitch together along the outside edges, top and bottom, just where the hems overlap.
Putting the Pillow Together
- Lay the pillow on a flat surface with the appliquéd front right side up. Lay the pillow back, right side down, on top of the front. So, you should have your two final pieces on top of one another, right sides together.
- Pin all the way around to secure the two layers.
- Stitch all the way around the perimeter using a ½" seam allowance. Most sewing machines have seam guides on the throat plate (the plate directly under the needle). For a perfect ½" seam allowance, place the outside edge of the fabric on the ½" guide.
- Turn the pillow right side out through the lapped opening in the back.
Insert your pillow form through this same lapped opening.
Cutting Instructions for Various Pillow Sizes:
- Cut the pillow front piece to the size of your pillow form, plus ½" for seam allowances.
- You will need two pieces of fabric to make the pillow back, and each is cut longer (called an "extension") so you do not see the pillow insert inside. Here are the two formulas for the pillow back:
Height of cut piece = ½ finished pillow height + ½” (bottom edge seam allowance) + 2" (extension amount) + 2" (for double turn hem edge).
Width of cut piece = full finished pillow width + 1" (½” seam allowance on both sides).
In our 20" x 20" example, the formulas would look like this:
Height of our cut piece = 10" + ½” + 2" + 2" = 14½"
Width of our cut piece= 20" + 1" = 21"
Other machines suitable for this project include the Pfaff expression 2038 and the Bernina artista 640.