Friday, May 15

Sew easy: DIY knife-edge pillows

Yesterday I wrote about the gift of imperfection, using my recent sewing adventures as an example. Today I'd like to show you my favorite piece of work from that bit of sewing. Here it is:

I love this pillow.

I've always been a sucker for houndstooth fabric. And when I saw these big, bold houndsteeth (houndstooths?), I was on my way to the cutting table. Didn't even know what I was going to do with the fabric; just knew that I wanted it.

But the fabric is just one reason I love this pillow. The other reason is that it was so very, very easy to make. Really and truly. Now, I really like decorative pillows, but I've been shy about making them. I was laboring under the assumption that pillows needed to be complicated to be beautiful. You know--either they needed to be embellished, or to have piping or cording around the perimeter, or have fringe, or something. Then I started noticing that lots of and lots of the pillows available for sale have simple, clean edges. No fringe, no cording, no nothing. And they look great. This kind of finish is called "knife edge," which I think sounds very official. So if you go to the fabric store to get supplies for pillows and the clerk asks if you need trim, just say, "No, thanks; I've decided to make knife-edge pillows this time."

So here's how to do it.

No. 1. You'll need a pillow form. You can buy these at fabric stores and home goods stores such as TJMaxx. But beware: they can be fairly pricey. If you don't want to buy a new pillow form, you can re-cover an old pillow that you no longer use (which is what I did), or you can buy a pillow from a thrift store and cover it. If the thought of buying a used pillow sounds disgusting to you, don't worry. Bring that used pillow home, stick a couple of big safety pins (diaper pins are ideal) right through the middle of it, and wash it in your washer. Dry it in your dryer. Doesn't matter if the outside of the pillow looks bad after you've washed it; all you care about is getting it clean. And if you can't find the size that you want, you can always use a larger pillow (say, an old bed pillow), cut it down to the size you want, and sew it back up in the desired size.

No. 2. Measure your form. If you buy a new form, the package will tell you exactly how big the pillow is. If you use an old pillow, measure it. Be sure to use a flexible measuring tape so that it can conform to the curves of the pillow. If you don't have a measuring tape, you may want to get one. For now, though, just use a piece of string or yarn or something, stretch it across the pillow, and then measure the string on your yardstick.

No. 3. Once you have your measurement, add some extra for your seam allowance. I was taught that a proper seam allowance was 5/8". Wonder who ever came up with that? Who really cares how big the seam allowance is? I usually just add an extra inch for each seam.

No. 4. Cut your fabric. One reason this particular pillow was so easy to make is because I didn't make a seam at the top. I just cut a long piece of fabric, folded it over, and made seams down the sides. So I didn't need a seam allowance for the top. Example: for my 22" x 22" square pillow form, I cut a piece of fabric that was 24" wide (22" plus an extra inch on both sides) and 46" long (22" plus 22" plus 2 extra inches for the bottom seam).

No. 5. Fold your long piece of fabric in half, right sides together (i.e. inside out), forming a square. If you want to crank up the sewing machine, then sew straight seams down each side of your square. If you don't sew, just use Stitch Witchery to make those seams. Leave the bottom open.

No. 6. Turn your pillow case right side out. If you need to press the fabric, now's the time to do it.

No. 7. Put your pillow form inside the case, with the unfinished opening at the bottom.

No. 8. Close up that bottom edge. You can do this by hand-sewing it shut, using fabric glue, or using my method: hot glue. Really. Just fold that fabric together and glue it shut. This picture shows you how it'll look:

Not bad, huh? Who would ever know that it's glued? And if you're wondering whether hot glue will hold up as well as something sewn, let me show you a close-up of a table runner that I made back in 2001.

That fringe is hot-glued on. The runner was in constant use for nine years, in a household with three boys and two dogs. The glue held up beautifully.

That's it! You've got a cool knife-edge pillow.  Relax and enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. i knew we were twins separated at birth...i have owned NO LESS than 10 houndstooth dresses in my life. :)


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