What do you make for your husband’s aunt and uncle for their birthdays? We hadn’t ever given them birthday gifts, they hadn’t given us gifts either, but it’s been a long season of illness for them and my husband’s aunt still feels cooped up and confined in their home, isolated from people. They live on the other side of the country from family, so that adds to the isolation. She’s been feeling much better the last year or so and has started working on a project – assembling a book about the family. She’s also been sending us thoughtful gifts in the mail. We wanted do something nice for them and since their birthdays are days apart, a gift in the mail would be quite the treat for them. And because I am now addicted to quilting, my first thought was – make a quilted pillow! The great thing about that idea is that you just need one large square and that’s easy enough to do.
Where to start?
Choosing Fabric. Always.
Before I started the Windows Improv Table Runner, I had considered using some leftover batik fabric I have from a mixed medias art project I made last year (oooh, there’s an idea for a blog post). But I didn’t think it quite fit the personality of my friend and I definitely didn’t have enough of it either. But I had enough for a pillow, yes I did. And I had two fat quarters that had never been touched, so I could cut 2″ strips from them and have enough leftover for the pillow back.
I looked to Modern Log Cabin Quilting: 25 Simple Quilts and Patchwork Projects by Susan Beal for inspiration. I was intrigued by the Sunshine and Shadow/Light and Dark style where you concentrate light fabrics on one side and dark on the other. Arranging these blocks in a quilt can have some amazing overall effects. I was also interested in the Picture frame style that was basically concentric boxes of color. I think mine came out a mixture of the two. And I made one mistake at the end, which pretty much puts it in the category of Housetop or Random. Whatever. We’re doing modern quilting over here.
After cutting 2″ strips from my batik fat quarters, I laid them out, two strips of each pattern (I probably should have simplified and not used all the fabric because the color tones were very similar). I thought the red strips would be the outer layer, so I put a piece of the red batik in the center. When I laid out those five layers of fabric, it measured close to 24″. I figured that was large enough. But once I finished sewing it all together, it was just over 14″ and that made a small looking pillow. So I pulled out some green, pink, and orange, mostly plain-style batiks and decided to add the green layer around the outside edge. It definitely gave the pillow “pop” as I was fearing it was looking a little too muted.
My husband agreed, the green popped! It was the green layer, however where my pattern of Light and Dark goofed, but they’re so similar and the outside edges curve back, that no one would probably notice, except an expert quilter.
As some of the strips were leftovers from my previous project, they weren’t all 2″, so I had to shore up the squares a couple times so that they weren’t becoming rectangle. Still, there is some variation in width and that’s what makes it a little like a Housetop pattern.
The next step was to quilt the top. I cut out a piece of batting just slightly larger than the pillow cover, which now measured just over 16″ on each side. Then I cut a piece of muslin to go on the other side of the batting. I used Sew, Mama, Sew!’s tutorial for this part. I quilted by stitching in the ditch starting in the center and working my way around the concentric edges, never overlapping the stitching except to put a full square of stitching in the middle. Since I haven’t washed the pillow, it is very subtle, but you can definitely feel the batting and it gives the pillow a very luxurious feel.
Constructing the Pillow Back
I used a basic envelope for the back – two pieces of fabric, one was half the width of the back, one about three-quarters the width after hemming one side of each piece. I pinned them right sides together with the quilted top and sewed around the outside edge, reinforcing the edges of each piece of fabric. I then trimmed the edges, especially the corners, and turned right-side out and then inserted the 16″x16″ pillow inside and Voila!