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Organic Cotton Box-Pleat Pillows

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This is the first time I have used an organic cotton fabric. Organics are a still a small percentage of the quilting weight cottons available, and almost twice the cost. But, I figure organic fabric will grow in the marketplace similarly to organic food. Remember how difficult it was to reliably find organic groceries? And they were almost prohibitively expensive. A decade later, it's how I shop. There's a great selection and milk is no longer $8 for a half gallon. So, I was pretty thrilled to find emerging organic fabric companies debuting high-quality and colorful fabrics as well as some pretty edgy designs. These summery box-pleat pillows made from organic cotton make a powerful statement: We are pesticide free!

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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These pillows look great as a set, so we show the supplies needed for both pillows. If you choose to make just one, you'll need to recalculate your insert fabric amount. Our thanks to Fat Quarter Shop for providing the organic fabric for these pillows. As always, we received our fabric FAST and beautifully cut and packaged.

  • ½ yard of 44-45" wide fabric for the 14" square pillow: we used Beyond the Sea from Cloud9 Organic Fabrics in Sea Urchin
  • 1 yard of 44-45" wide fabric for the 16" square pillow: we used Beyond the Sea from Cloud9 Organic Fabrics in Sand Dollar
  • ½ yard of 44-45" wide fabric for the box-pleat insert for both pillows: we used Beyond the Sea from Cloud9 Organic Fabrics in Earth Solid
  • One 14" x 14" pillow insert
  • One 16" x 16" pillow insert (the most green solution is to reuse your pillow inserts)
  • All-purpose thread to match/compliment all the fabrics: we used a chocolate brown
  • See-through ruler
  • Measuring tape
  • Fabric pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

Cut fabric for the 14" x 14" pillow


  1. From the Sand Dollar, as shown above, cut:
    ONE 16" x 15" rectangle  
  2. Cut the 16" x 15" rectangle in half to create TWO 8" x 15" rectangles, as shown above.
  3. From the Sand Dollar, cut TWO 12½" x 15" rectangles
  4. From the Earth Solid, as shown above, cut:
    ONE 5" x 15" rectangle.

Cut fabric for the 16" x 16" pillow


  1. From the Sea Urchin, as shown above, cut: 
    ONE 20" x 17" rectangle
  2. Cut the 20" x 17" rectangle in half to create TWO 10" x 17" rectangles labeled A and B, as shown above.
  3. Finally, cut each of those A and B rectangles again, as shown above, to create A-1 (6" x 17"), A-2 (4" x 17"), B-1 (4" x 17") and B-2 (6" x 17").
    NOTE: By cutting in this order, you make the best use of any fabric motif or design.
  4. From the Sea Urchin, TWO 13½" x 17" rectangles
  5. From the Earth Solid, as shown above, cut:
    THREE 5" x 17 rectangles

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Pillow fronts

14" x 14" Pillow


  1. Using a ½" seam allowance, with rights sides together, sew alternating Sand Dollar and Earth Solid rectangles together as shown in the diagram above.
  2. Mark the center point of the Earth Solid panel. You can do this by folding the panel in half and marking with a pin or you can make a light crease with your iron. You can also draw a line with your fabric pen or pencil, but be SURE it will brush away or disappear with exposure to the air.
  3. Pull the seams in towards the center marked line to form the pleat, as shown below. Press flat.
  4. Pin and stitch the pleat closed close to the raw edge of the fabric with a short horizontal line of stitching.
  5. Then, topstitch approximately ¼" from the center line to create a long box around the pleat. Stitch down 2¾" from the top, pivot, stitch across the opening, pivot again, and stitch back up to the top. This secures the pleat and adds a nice accent. 
    Click to Enlarge

16" x 16" Pillow


  1. Using a ½" seam allowance, with rights sides together, sew alternating Sea Urchin and Earth Solid rectangles together as shown in the diagram above.
  2. Create three box pleats, using the same process as described above, except topstitch 3¾" to create a slightly longer box for this larger pillow.  
    Click to Enlarge

    Making an envelope back

    1. Collect your cut back pieces and separate them into their appropriate pairs.
    2. For each pair, take one of your pillow back pieces, and turn under the right side of the fabric ½" along the entire width of the piece (15" on the 14" square pillow, and 17" on the 16" pillow). Press
    3. Fold under an additional 1½" and press.
    4. Edgestitch along the folded edge to make a clean double turn hem.


    1. Repeat Steps 1-4 with the other back piece.
    2. Take both pieces and overlap the hems to yield the correct finished height (15" on the 14" square pillow, and 17" on the 16" pillow). Pin hems together. 
    3. Working as close to the edge as possible, stitch the sides of hems together to secure and create one piece. It's easier to work with one piece when you stitch front to back.
    4. Place your newly completed pillow back piece and your pillow front piece right sides together, matching raw edges all around. Stitch a ½" seam around all four sides of the pillow, making sure to back-tack three to four stitches at each corner to reinforce the seam at these stress points.
    5. Trim all four corners of the pillow at a diagonal, but be sure not to clip into your seam.
    6. Using the envelope opening on the back, turn the pillow covering right side out. Push out the trimmed corners from the inside to make nice, square corners on the outside. Use your finger or a blunt-edge tool, like a large knitting needle or a chopstick.
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    7. Insert the pillow form through the envelope closure and fluff out the corners of the pillow covering evenly.

      Click to Enlarge


    Project Design, Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Alicia Thommas


    Comments (16)

    shanahan19711 said:
    shanahan19711's picture

    I just made 4 of these pillows in just under 2 hours!  So easy to make! I love it! Thanks,

    Jocelyn Hart said:
    Jocelyn Hart's picture

    I want to make these cushions but my inserts are 20" x 20".  Would you be able to tell me how to 'size up' appropriately.

    Many thanks from the UK

    Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:

    @ Jocelyn Hart - We're sorry, but we are unable to create revisions to our patterns or projects for size or usage variations. It's a challenge to change dimensions long-distance, especially without access to the item and/or person for whom the project is being adjusted. We would feel awful if we gave you inaccurate advice that caused your finished project to turn out less than successful. Our standard recommendation is to measure your item and/or person and compare those measurements to our original dimensions. Do the math to make adjustments and scale the original dimensions up or down. Then use these new measurements to make a prototype out of a muslin or another inexpensive fabric you have on hand. This is often the exact way we determine our own patterns and instructions. It is not only a good way to re-engineer a project, making a prototype is also a great practice run through the steps of construction. You may also find good information within our tutorial about how to create box pleats:

    Jocelyn Hart said:
    Jocelyn Hart's picture

    Thank you for your response - guess I am just going to have to do the maths :(

    sew4life said:
    For sure going to be making these pillows smilies/smiley.gifyou really have the best tutorials ever! Thank you
    Tami K said:
    Tami K's picture
    I purchased my Janome/New Home in 1987 when I retired. I wanted a machine that would have a great straight stitch. (best machine I have ever tried). Now I am considering an embroidery machine. Of course, I am always drawn back to the Janome, regardless what I test. Plan to keep my 7000, can't stand to loose a good thing. I gave my grand daughter a Janome when she wanted to learn to sew and my daughter-in-law purchased one after seeing mine. I wish more young people would learn to sew. I enjoy your web-sight.
    quilter1 said:
    quilter1's picture
    I love these pillows, and your tute was the best. I am a newbie to sewing and just bought my Jamome about three months ago and have taken some sewing lessons at my one and only quilting shop. I'm going to try making these pillows. I'm so glad I found your site.
    Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
    Hi Bev -- Thank you for your kind words. It's great that you've found so many projects to love. We are always looking for more fans smilies/grin.gif ... love it when our friends spread the word. Keep givin' those three Janomes a workout!
    Bev said:
    Bev's picture
    I love these pillows! And your tutorial is excellent. In fact all of your tutes are very good. I've bookmarked so many of them. Thanks for all the work put into developing them. You must have many, many fans!
    P.S. I've been a Janome owner for years. I own three and use them all for various purposes.
    Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
    Thanks to all for the wonderful compliments. These are indeed some of our fave pillows, we're so happy you think so toosmilies/grin.gif
    PamB said:
    PamB's picture
    Your tutorial is fabulous!! I've been sewing for 45 years, and the construction detail was wonderful even for me, so I know it was extremely helpful for sewists with less experience... your site is wonderful, I subscribe, and I am never disappointed!! Thank you so much, and please please please keep up the good work! You're a credit to all people who create with fabric and thread!!!!!
    Marleen said:
    Marleen's picture
    An other great tutorial, what a great website!
    My first phillow is done, a simpel but beautiful project.
    I'm going to make a second phillow tomorrow.

    Greets and a big thank you from the Netherlands
    peggyann said:
    peggyann's picture
    doing these pillows in sew club tomorrow night, Thanks for all of your work putting these wonderful ideas and tutes together. PS just got my mom's NEWHOME Memory Craft 7000 (20 yrs old) and it stills sews beautifully! Janome Rockssmilies/cheesy.gif
    Radha said:
    Radha's picture
    Love, love, love all your tutorials, they are exactly what I have been looking for, me being a newbie to sewing (well, I have made a few quilts for family, but I have not progressed beyond that), thank you for all the beautiful tutorials, you must be putting in a lot of effort for this, and I want to say that I really really appreciate all of it. I visit this site everyday and I am never disappointed!!! smilies/smiley.gif
    Nancy L. said:
    Nancy L.'s picture
    What a great tute... I love these pillows. so cute.

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