Handmade Pillows – Crochet & Fabric by Ann Reillet
“The essence of interior design will always be about people and how they live.” – Albert Hadley
Decorative and Accent Pillows serve a variety of purpose. They can build up color or balance it out, make a room pop or just bring everything together. Of course they can always serve a more practical use, like resting one’s head. 😉
If you find a pillow that you like and it happens to fit the decor of your room, great! But shopping for pillows leaves me feeling limited to the designs at hand. I’d much rather be looking at fabric or thinking up my own designs.
If you sew, chances are, you already know how to make pillows. I say “pillow” and you say, “zippered, buttoned, piped, corded?” But if these techniques aren’t familiar, you can still make pillows. You don’t even need a sewing machine, but it does make the work go faster. 😉 Most craft stores sell unfinished zippered pillows in a variety of sizes. They’re a little more expensive than the lifetime supply of stuffing-in-a-bag, but easier to work with and a lot less messy. The difference here is whether you want the pillow to be factory smooth or a little lumpy, which in my opinion looks more homemade.
Printed fabric has never been more abundant, available and affordable… well, affordable when you’re buying half a yard.
I write and I love art and calligraphy, so I chose a cotton fabric with a printed French script. The colors are sepia on a cream background. I paired this matte fabric with a glossy satin, also in cream, and pre-made the crochet panels in size 10 crochet cotton in natural. This was the design I had in mind, but then I found a black & white pattern that matched my 3-ring binder, so I decided to make a second set of pillows. This black & white fabric was paired with black crochet cotton also in size 10 and a solid print of matte black fabric.
Choose whatever fabrics appeal to you or use yarn (shown below) instead of thread or in place of the fabric. The possibilities are endless. Whatever you decide I recommend thinking of the pillows as a set and visualizing how they’ll pair together. Always best to start with the end in mind.
For this project, I made two (2) sets of pillows, one in white (pictured above) and one in black (shown below).
I used two (2) small unfinished pillows for the fabric and stuffed the smaller crocheted pillows.
On the fabric pillows, the same fabric is used for the back as it is on the front. Since I used unfinished pillows I didn’t need any other material for these, except a cream colored hidden-type zipper which I elected for the script fabric. The difference here is whether you want to be able to take it off and wash just the casings or wash the whole pillow.
The crocheted pillows needed a backing fabric because of the open work of the crocheted lace. They also needed a pillow case fabric to hold the stuffing. Not to mention, they needed me to crochet them! I crocheted the front and back panels as two separate pieces and did two rows of single crochet along the edge. In my opinion, it’s better to make the pillow first then crochet the panels. I did the white panels first, then made the pillow. Since the black one was an afterthought I made the pillow first and then crocheted the panels. The difference here is it was much easier to add a decorative trim onto the black “custom made” panels than to add any border to the white “pre-made” panels. Either way, do what you feel comfortable with.
Here are the steps I took:
Unfinished Pillow with Fabric Cover:
1. When cutting and sewing fabric, it’s good to know a little about the fabric; it’s grain and bias. Some fabrics, like corduroy have a smooth and a rough side that you can feel by sliding your hand over it. Fabric can be cut with a good pair of scissors or with a rotary blade. Just remember to measure twice and cut once. Regardless of whether you’re using a sewing machine or sewing by hand, always press the fabric with an iron before cutting and you’ll need pins to hold the pieces together and keep them aligned as you sew.
2. Cut two pieces of fabric to the size of the pillow; its length & width. The seam allowance is optional. I used a 1/4″ seam allowance when cutting the French Script Pillow (above) because I was also sewing a hidden zipper and no seam allowance on the Black & White Pillow (below). If you click on the images, you’ll notice the bagginess of the French Script Pillow compared to the tightness of the Black & White pillow. This is because pillows, by their very nature, give and this allows them to fit in tighter places, which, in turn, makes the pillow appear fuller. My finished French Script Pillow is 12″ x 12″ and my finished Black & White Print Pillow is 11″ x 11″.
3. Line up the cut pieces so the printed sides are facing. Be sure to align them so the tops will line up when the pillow case is 3/4 of the way sewn together and then turned inside out to accommodate the unfinished pillow so that the pattern will flow from top to botton on each side. Tip: If you have any question, pin the pieces together and turn it inside out, look at it and determine whether the front and back look the same. Then turn it back so the fronts are facing again.
4. If you’re including a zipper, sew it in first. If it’s a new technique, watch videos or have someone show you or ask me and I’ll try to help. 😉 Tip: Be sure to unzip the zipper once it’s sewn in.
5. Sew 3 sides of the pillow at 1/8″ to 1/4″ from edge, straight line. Tip: I like to start 1/4″ to 1/2″ inch in on the 4th side and end 1/4″ to 1/2″ inch in on the 4th side (less hand sewing and the pillow can still be squeezed in.)
6. Turn the sewn piece inside out so the fronts are now on the outside and, reaching in, push the corners out with your finger. Squeeze the unfinished pillow tightly, then pushing and working it in. Note: If it has a zipper, line it up with zippered side or line it up with the open side and sew the remainder of the pillow together with a hidden beginning stitch (knot the thread and start the first stitch from the inside of the pillow (behind or on the backside of fabric), then, keeping the seam by manually pressing or holding it with your fingers as you scoot along, until it meets up with the other end. Tip: Try to keep the outside showing stitch as small and tight as possible. The idea is to see as little of the thread outside as possible.
Stuffed Pillow with Lace Cover:
1. Starting with the pillowcase fabric iron/press & cut the length & width of the size you want (2 pieces). I went 4″ smaller on the lace pillows than the fabric pillows.
2. Next take the background fabric (the one you’ll see through the openwork of the crocheted lace. Press this and cut to the same size. (2 pieces)
3. Line up the pillowcase fabric so that the front sides are facing, then line up the background fabric on each outer side of the pillowcase fabric so that the pillowcase fabric is sandwiched between the background fabric.
4. Sew all 4 sides 1/8″ to 1/4″ from edge, leaving a 2 1/2″ gap between the starting and ending stitches. This gap or space should be large enough to allow you to turn the piece inside out (so the background fabric is on the outside) and large enough for you to poke the corners out and large enough to stuff the shredded pillow pieces inside.
5. Once the pillow material is stuffed and you’re satisfied with the fullness of the pillow, hand sew the remaining 2 1/2″ gap to close the pillow up.
6. Make two (2) crochet panels to the size and dimension of the original fabric cut in step 1. You can use any open work pattern or even a basic trellis with added picots or beads. The pattern I used is available on page 94 of Crochet Inspiration by Sasha Kagan, pattern titled “Strawberry Lace” c 2007 ISBN 978-1936096091 using Size 10 crochet cotton thread and a #2 steel hook. End with a sc border. The pattern is also available on page 62 of “In Love With Crochet” c 1997 / 1977 Leisure Arts titled “Lacy Accent Pillow” using Size 10, #7 steel hook =8 1/2″ square. (I used a size US8 to arrive at the same size as pattern.)
If you’re making the pillow first, you must use a row type pattern rather than a square. Look through your crochet books, check the library or review afghan type patterns online with open work. Any open work pattern will work because they’re done in rows. If you work a square or work in rounds, you may lose some of the design by stopping where you need to. Either way, it’s up to you. I think the Coats & Clark Pineapple Square No. S738 would look great. You can get that pattern at: freevintagecrochet.com
7. With backs facing do a whip stitch in the outer loops of each. I don’t put multiple sts in the corner, but rather make that st roomier/looser. When all 3 sides are whip stitched, pull a length of the thread that will be long enough to do the 4th side and break thread.
8. Turn inside out, slip over pillow and finish sewing the 4th previously unworked side. It will be harder now to sew it in the same whip stitch, but don’t worry, we’re adding an edging.
9. Once the panels are secure, go ahead and adjust or frump up the pillow so you like the shape of it. Then add a shell edging all the way around and break thread.
10. Weave in tail and congratulate yourself.
Here is the same Crochet Lace Pillow in a black set and a pillow in yarn with embellishments.