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Nautical & Nice: Spun Stripes Pillow Trio

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Stripes are one of those universal motifs - available in many colors and widths. We decided to play with some stripes, turning and seaming them in clever ways in order to create a unique graphic effect. Our "spun stripes" allow simple triangles and squares to morph into pillow tops that seem almost three-dimensional. The designs are patterned after maritime flags, so we chose fun, primary colors. We love how the resulting trio works together as a bright blend of nautical flair. 

Our thanks to our friends at Hawthorne Threads for providing the beautiful Riley Blake Stripe fabrics. We chose the 1" Stripes, but Hawthorne Threads also carries this collection in half inch and two inch varieties. 

Don't forget to also check-out Hawthorne's own digitally printed fabrics. We used it to create a super-cute Lightweight Day Pack.

Our pattern downloads and instructions are specifically designed for the Riley Blake 1" wide stripes. However, you could you use most stripes by simply making sure you cut your pieces on a true 45˚ angle from the same path. Following this method, you could even mix stripes of varying widths for yet another cool outcome.

If you're looking for a way to freshen up your décor for Spring, this is a great project. It's fun and easy, and brings a blast of sunny color inside.

New to quilting techniques? This is a perfect project to practice your skills. Below are links to the articles within our five-part Quilting Basics Series, which gives you the tips and techniques you need to get started right away.

Quilting Basics - Tools, Notions & Other Stuff You Need - Part 1 of 5

Quilting Basics - Rotary Cutting & Trimming - Part 2 of 5

Quilting Basics - Quilt Blocks from Squares, Rectangles & Triangles - Part 3 of 5

Quilting Basics - Piecing Quilt Blocks by Machine Part 4A of 5

Quilting Basics - Piecing Quilt Blocks by Machine Part 4B of 5

Quilting Basics - Quilting The Quilt - Part 5 of 5

Our pillows finish at approximately 16" x 16" each. 

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

Supplies listed are for a set of THREE coordinating pillows. 

  • ½ yard EACH of FOUR 44"+ wide quilting weight, striped fabrics; we used four stripes by Riley Blake Fabrics from Hawthorne Threads:
  • 1" Stripe in Yellow/White, used as the highlight color for all three pillows
  • 1" Stripes in Red/White, used as the main color for Pillow A
  • 1" Stripe in Navy/White, used as the main color for Pillow B
  • 1" Stripe in Gray/White, used as the main color for Pillow C
    NOTE: As mentioned above, our pattern downloads and instructions are specifically designed for a 1" wide stripe. However, you could you use most stripes by making sure you cut your pieces on a true 45˚ angle from the same path. 
  • 1 yard of 44"+ wide quilting weight fabric in a solid color matching the neutral stripe for all three pillow backs; we used Hawthorne Hues Solid in White from Hawthorne Threads
  • 1½ yard of 45" wide lightweight interfacing; Pellon ShirTailor or Pellon Shape Flex are both good options
  • 1 yard 45"+ wide low loft batting
  • THREE 16" x 16" pillow forms; we used three Fairfield Soft Touch pillow forms
  • NINE ¾" -  1" decorative buttons
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors 
  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Tape measure
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. Download and print out the SIX pattern pieces which have been bundled into one PDF file for your convenience: Turned Stripe Pillow Pattern Set.
    IMPORTANT: Each page within the PDF is ONE 8½" x 11" sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on each page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
  2. Cut out each pattern piece along the solid line. We are using ¼" seams throughout, so there is little room for error. Be very careful cutting along each solid line so the pattern sizes remain as accurate as possible. 
  3. Match up the TWO Pillow B pieces and the TWO Pillow C pieces along the solid center lines (marked with the double arrows). Butt together (do not overlap) and tape to create each full pattern piece. 
  4. Match up the TWO Pillow A Part 1 pieces and the TWO Pillow A Part 2 pieces, also along the double arrow center lines. These two parts remain as separate patterns.

Fussy cutting 

  1. The spun stripes effect on each pillow requires careful fussy cutting to insure the stripes are straight and true. To make things a bit easier, we've indicated 1" guide lines on all our pattern pieces.
  2. We all know printed fabric is not always as perfectly straight as one might hope. If you run into this problem, you can can slightly stretch the fabric on the diagonal to help straighten (more about this and other fabric grain issues in our full tutorial) or you can cut the first piece using our pattern, matching it as well as possible to the pattern piece stripes – regardless of how well it's aligned to the weave. Then, lay down the piece you just cut and align the stripes from the cut fabric piece to the uncut fabric below and cut out the next piece, using the first piece as a pattern. Repeat for each additional piece. 
  3. The photo below shows us cutting the Pillow B yellow square, using a navy square as a pattern. 
  4. From the fabric for the highlight color of each pillow (Yellow Stripe in our sample), carefully fussy cut the following:
    ONE, using assembled Pillow A Part 1
    ONE, using assembled Pillow A Part 2
    ONE, using assembled Pillow B Part 1/2
    ONE, using assembled Pillow C Part 1/2
  5. From the fabric for main color of Pillow A (Red Stripe in our sample), carefully fussy cut the following:
    THREE, using assembled Pillow A Part 1
    THREE, using assembled Pillow A Part 2
    ONE 3½" x 16½" rectangle for the placket, with the stripes running horizontally
  6. With all cutting, we recommend using a see-through ruler and rotary cutter for the most accurate results.
  7. From the fabric for main color of Pillow B (Navy Stripe in our sample), carefully fussy cut the following:
    THREE, using assembled Pillow B Part 1/2
    ONE 3½" x 16½" rectangle for the placket, with the stripes running horizontally
  8. From the fabric for main color of Pillow C (Gray Stripe in our sample), carefully fussy cut the following:
    THREE, using assembled Pillow C Part 1/2
    ONE 3½" x 16½" rectangle for the placket, with the stripes running horizontally

Additional cutting

  1. From the coordinating solid fabric for the back panels (Hawthorne Hues White in our sample), cut the following:
    THREE 10½" wide x 16½" high rectangles for the back underlap panels
    THREE 10" wide x 16½" high rectangles for the back overlap panels
  2. From the interfacing, cut the following:
    THREE 16½" x 16½" squares for the fronts
    THREE 9¾" x 16½" rectangles for the back underlap panels
    THREE 10" x 16½" rectangles for the back overlap panels
    THREE 3" x 16" strips for the placket panels
  3. From the batting, cut THREE 16½" x 16½" squares for the fronts.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Use the diagrams above as a guide for assembly, paying particular attention to where the color and white stripes are positioned. For example, on Pillow B, the color stripes are all in the center seams, and on Pillow C, the blocks form a white cross from top to bottom and side to side. Take the time to check once, twice, three times before final seaming; the pillow effects won't turn out as shown if any pieces are accidentally reversed. 

Pillow A front

  1. Collect all EIGHT triangles, two in yellow and six in red. 
  2. Pair them up to create a center diagonal line as shown in the drawing above
  3. Place each set of two triangles right sides together along the center diagonal cut. Very carefully align the stripes. Pin in place.
  4. Using a ¼" seam allowance stitch together. Go slowly and carefully; it's important the stripes don't shift. You are stitching on the bias so there is more opportunity for stretch, so slow and even stitching is your friend! We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot throughout. 
  5. Press the seam allowance open and flat from both the back and the front. 
  6. Repeat to create the remaining three squares from the remaining six triangles.
  7. Refer again to the drawing above to correctly position each square to form the full pillow front.
  8. Place the upper left and lower left squares right sides together. Pin along the center edges. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch together and press open the seam allowance. 
  9. Place the upper right and lower right squares right sides together. Pin along the center edges. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch together and press open the seam allowance.
  10. Place the two halves right sides together. Pin along the center edges. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch together and press open the seam allowance.
  11. Press flat again from both the back and front. 

Pillow B front

  1. Collect all FOUR squares, one in yellow and three in navy. 
  2. Refer to the drawing above to correctly position each square to form the full pillow front.
  3. Place the upper left and lower left squares right sides together. Pin along the center edges. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch together. You'll notice in the photo below that we cheated our seam allowance just a tiny bit in order to stitch right along the stripe for the best look along the seam line. Press open the seam allowance. 
  4. Place the upper right and lower right squares right sides together. Pin along the center edges. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch together and press open the seam allowance.
  5. Place the two halves right sides together. Pin along the center edges. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch together and press open the seam allowance.
  6. Press flat again from both the back and front.

Pillow C front

  1. Collect all FOUR large triangles, one in yellow and three in gray. 
  2. Place the left triangle and the top triangle right sides together along the center diagonal cut. As with Pillow A, very carefully align the stripes. Pin in place.
  3. Using a ¼" seam allowance stitch together. Go slowly and carefully; it's important the stripes don't shift. Just like Pillow A, you are stitching on the bias so your seam can stretch; slow and even stitching will help.
  4. Press the seam allowance open and flat from both the back and the front. You have created an even larger triangle. 
  5. Place the right triangle and the bottom triangle right sides together along the center diagonal cut. Again, very carefully align the stripes. Pin in place. Using a ¼" seam allowance stitch together.
  6. Place the upper left and lower right larger triangles right sides together, along the full center diagonal line (from top right to bottom left). Pin along the center edges.  This pillow features a distinct white cross through its middle, so perfect alignment is a must. 
  7. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch together and press open the seam allowance. 
  8. Press flat again from both the back and front.

Front interfacing and batting

  1. Find the three 16½" x 16½" squares of fusible interfacing. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse an interfacing panel to the wrong side of each assembled pillow top. 
  2. If need be, use your rotary cutter and ruler to trim the interfacing exactly flush with the pillow top. 
  3. Find the three 16½" x 16½" batting squares. 
  4. Place a batting square flat on your work surface. Place an interfaced front panel right side up on top of the batting. All four sides of the two layers should be flush. Machine baste around the outer perimeter within the ¼" seam allowance.
  5. Repeat to attach a batting layer to the remaining two pillow fronts. 
  6. Set aside the three pillow fronts.

Back panels

  1. Find the six back panels (three underlap and three overlap) in the coordinating solid, the three placket strips, and all the remaining interfacing cuts.
  2. For each of the 10½" x 16½" back underlap panels, fold back one 16½" raw edge ¼" and press. 
  3. Fold back an additional ½" and press again to create a narrow hem.
  4. Unfold the hem and slip a 9¾" x 16½" interfacing panel into place. The inner edge of the interfacing should be flush up against the inner fold of the narrow hem. The top, bottom, and outer edges of the interfacing should be flush with the raw edges of the underlap panel.
  5. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing panel in place. Re-fold and pin the hem. 
  6. Edgestitch the hem in place.
  7. For each of the 10" x 16½" back overlap panels, find the matching 10" x 16½" interfacing panel. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing panel in place; all edges of both layers are flush.
  8. For each of the plackets, center an interfacing strip on the wrong side so there is ¼" of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all four sides. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing panel in place.
  9. Fold back one 16½" edge ¼", which means you are folding right along the edge of the interfacing. Press in place.
  10. Place the overlap panel wrong side up (interfacing side up) and flat on your work surface. Place a placket right side down on the overlap panel, aligning the 16½" raw edge of the placket with one 16½" raw edge of the overlap panel. Pin in place. 
  11. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch together. Again, you are stitching right along the interfacing's edge.
  12. Fold the placket out and then over to the right side of the overlap panel, creating a finished seamed inner edge. The placket should now be facing right side up on the right side of the overlap panel. 
  13. Edgestitch the placket in place along both long sides. We used white thread and lengthened our stitch. 

Buttonholes and buttons

  1. Find all three finished overlap panels. Measure for three evenly spaced, vertical buttonholes. 
  2. Mark the first buttonhole at the exact center top to bottom. Center the buttonhole vertically within the hem (1½" in from each each placket edge). If possible, center your buttonhole within a stripe. 
  3. Following the instructions for your machine, create the buttonhole to fit your button. 
    NOTE: We also have a general article on machine buttonholes
  4. Create two additional vertical buttonholes, one 4" above the center buttonhole and one 4" below the center buttonhole. Again, center each buttonhole within a stripe if possible. 
  5. Cut open each buttonhole, carefully clipping from the center out to each end. 
  6. Overlap the two back panels so the width equals 16½" across.
  7. Insert a pin through the center of each buttonhole to mark a position on the underlap panel for the three buttons.
  8. Hand stitch each button in place.
  9. With the buttons in place, overlap the panels again so the motifs align and the width equals 16½", but do not button the panels together. Instead, lightly pin in place along the top and bottom to hold the two panels together. 
  10. Across the very top and the very bottom, make a small seam just across the overlap. Stitch as close to the raw edges as possible. These short seams simply anchor the two pieces together, allowing you to work with the back as one piece rather than two when finishing the front-to-back seam.

Sew front to back to finish

  1. Place the front and back panels right sides together, aligning all four sides. Pin in place. Make sure the back panels are still unbuttoned. 
  2. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch around all four sides, carefully pivoting at each corner.
  3. Trim the corners at a diagonal.
  4. Carefully turn the pillow cover right side out through the unbuttoned back opening. 
  5. Using a long, blunt-end tool, such as a knitting needle or chopstick, gently push out the corners. 
  6. Press the cover flat from the front and the back. 
  7. Insert a pillow form through each back opening opening and fluff out into the corners.

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas 
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Leah Wand

Section: 

Comments (6)

Yan said:
Yan's picture

Your photos show these pillows being used outside. Are these fabrics suitable for outdoors? Thank you.

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

@Yan - We show them being used outside on a nice day . As listed in the supplies, these are made with standard quilting cottons, not outdoor fabrics, so they aren't meant to be left out in the weather. You might be able to make them with outdoor fabric, but you'd have to locate the proper striped options. 

Krista said:
Krista's picture

I would love to try this design concept with some wide wale corduroy that I have.  I also would like to do it with 18 x 18 or larger pillow sizes.   Is there an easy way to do the math to size the pieces up?

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

@ Krista - There really isn't a foolproof method using just math. It would be best to print out the templates as they are currently sized, then re-draw them - adding the additional inches proportionately to all sides - to fit what you want your pre-seaming pillow top square to measure. 

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

@ Janiem - You're welcome! Let us know how your set turns out.

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