UFO busting: When in doubt make a pillow

Pillow bias side

You may have noticed I haven’t spent much time busting UFOs these past couple of months. This doesn’t mean I don’t have any left (if only!), it means I’ve gotten rid of a bunch, which feels pretty good, and simply moved on to creating other things. The new things I made got finished and are being used so I am definitely improving in the “finish what you start” department. Well, apart from that quilt that’s been almost stationary on my design wall since January, but I promise I’ll get to that soon.

Unfinished skirt

I haven’t done much creative things during the past couple of weeks and needed to get sewing again. Preferably with a simple no fuss instant gratification project. I had looked at this unfinished skirt several times already unsure what to do with it. I think I started it over 3 years ago and at the time it seemed like a really good idea to use this fabric for a skirt. Now I think the fabric was never really meant to be used for a garment. It is quite loosely woven and frays horribly. Cutting the pieces on the bias resulted in too much stretch so it ended up way too big. I’m also not so sure anymore that the finished skirt would flatter me all that much. But, what to do with it? Turning it into another garment wasn’t going to work either. And then it hit me.

fraying fabric

Oh the fraying…

When in doubt make a pillow.

Pillows are one of my all-time favourite projects. I should really get a larger couch just so I can properly display my mishmash of pillows in all their glory (you surely must have heard stranger reasons to buy a new couch, right?).

I used the back of the skirt to cut one side of the pillow on the bias and a left over piece of fabric to cut the other side on the straight of grain. To add some stability and minimize fraying both pieces were underlined with some Kona cotton and the edges were overlocked. The bias piece definitely stretched out during this process. Luckily not really noticeable in the finished pillow.

underlined and overlocked edges

I couldn’t find my invisible zippers so decided against making a closure. Instead I sewed all around the pillow right sides together leaving a small gap for turning. Then I stuffed the pillow with the filling of another pillow that was no longer being used because it had become lumpy from being washed too often. Worked brilliantly (and no my new pillow isn’t lumpy!). Finally the gap was closed with some invisible hand stitching.

Pillow straight of grain side

I love my new pillow and don’t care that it doesn’t really match with the rest of our living room décor. It is much more useful than the skirt ever would have been.

Tutorial: Lined pillow case with envelope closure

envelope pillow8I really wanted to do some sewing today but was very tired and sewing when tired isn’t always a particular good idea. When I am in this state I shouldn’t attempt anything complicated because I am sort of guaranteed to mess something up.

I decided to try a simple idea I had a while ago for an easy lined pillow with envelope closure. I prefer to line pillow cases, especially when using a thin fabric like a quilting cotton. It gives the pillow case a bit more body and I think a pillow looks better with a lined pillow case. I am very happy with the result of this experiment so I turned it into a tutorial.

The envelope closure is the easiest pillow closure to make. I suppose my lined version is slightly more complicated than what people usually do when they make these pillow cases but I still think this method is suitable for beginner sewers. For this lined pillow case you only need to sew 4 seams and only 2 fabric edges require a seam finish, that doesn’t sound too complicated, right?

For the fashion fabric of my pillow I used a quilting cotton, Safari by Angela Rakucki for Anthology Fabrics, and the lining is white Kona Cotton. I recommend that you prewash both fabrics to make sure that your lining doesn’t shrink less or more than the fashion fabric when you wash the pillow case.


Step 1: Use the formulas shown below to calculate how much fashion fabric and lining fabric you need to cut.

Metric formula fashion fabric: (pillow width + 2 cm seam allowance) x (2x pillow height + 10 cm overlap + 3 cm seam allowance)

Metric formula lining fabric: (pillow width + 2 cm seam allowance) x (2x pillow height + 10 cm overlap + 1 cm seam allowance)

Imperial formula fashion fabric: (pillow width + 6/8’’ seam allowance) x (2x pillow height + 4’’ overlap + 1 1/8’’  seam allowance)

Imperial formula lining fabric: (pillow width + 6/8’’ seam allowance) x (2x pillow height + 4’’ overlap + 3/8’’ seam allowance)

I used metric measurements today and I made a pillow case for a 40×40 cm (16’’x16’’) pillow.

My fashion fabric was cut (40 + 2 = 42 cm) x (2 x 40 + 10 + 3 = 93 cm)

My lining fabric was cut (40 + 2 = 42 cm) x (2 x 40 + 10 + 1 = 91 cm)

Step 2: Cut fashion fabric and lining fabric according to your measurements from step 1. I always use a cutting mat, rotary cutter and a quilting ruler because I find this much more accurate than scissors.

Step 3: Place the fashion fabric and lining right sides together and pin the short edges. The lining is shorter than the fashion fabric but this will be solved later on.

Step 4: Sew both short edges with a 1 cm (3/8’’) seam allowance and press the seams open.

envelope pillow3

Step 3 & 4

Step 5: Turn the fabrics right sides out and on one short edge press the seam as shown in the picture below.

envelope pillow4

Step 5

Step 6: Now we are ready to solve the issue of the lining being shorter than the fashion fabric. On the short edge that isn’t yet pressed a small strip of the fashion fabric will be pressed towards the lining side (see picture below). The easiest way to do this is to start at the short edge that is already pressed and to use your hands to smooth the lining and fashion fabric so that any wrinkles disappear. Work your way up towards the unpressed edge and use some pins to secure the long edges as you go. When you reach the end about 1 cm (3/8”) of the fashion fabric will want to be on the lining side. First use your fingers to create a small crease and then press the fold with your iron.

Step 7: Pin both long sides and finish the edges with a zig zag stitch or overlock stitch.

envelope pillow5

Step 6 & 7

Step 8: Place the pillow case with the fashion fabric side upwards.

Step 9: Measure 15 cm (6”) down from the short edge that has the fashion fabric pressed towards the lining. Make a mark on both long edges. From these marks, measure 40 cm (16”) down (pillow height, if you’re making a different size pillow) and make another mark on both sides.

Step 10: First fold back the short edge that has the fashion fabric continue into the lining on the first mark and pin in place.

Step 11: Fold back the other short edge on the second mark so that it overlaps the other folded back edge and pin in place.

envelope pillow6

Step 8, 9, 10 & 11

Step 12: Sew along the long sides with a 1 cm (3/8”) seam allowance and press the seams.

envelope pillow7

Step 12

Step 13: Turn pillow case right side out, stuff with a pillow form and put on your couch. Do you notice how presssing a small amount of the fashion fabric to the lining side ensured that you can’t see the lining from the outside of the pillow?

If the corners of your pillow are very bulky you can trim them down somewhat but I didn’t find this necessary.

envelope pillow2

Can you tell I used a white lining?

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and if you make any lined envelope pillows I’d love to see them!

envelope pillow1

UFO busting: Living room curtains

Yes, it is true, I have finally busted my most glaring UFO. After 2 years in our current home we no longer have a living room with 3 unhemmed curtains, no, we have a living room with 4 hemmed curtains! No more missing curtains, no more raw uneven edges, no more linings that peep out from under the curtain. It is a weight of my shoulders and to be honest, I’m still having some trouble believing it myself.

That curtain on the left used to live in one of my closets.

Why did it take so long? Well, I just didn’t enjoy this project at all. I wanted these curtains to add warmth to our living room since we live in a house that certainly didn’t have good insulation as a requirement when it was build so I chose a thick fabric for the curtains and added another thick layer of insulating lining. This made the curtains very heavy and a real chore to work with. On top of that, I had to clear (and clean) the living room floor each time I worked on them because I needed a very large surface to lay them out. Sewing should be fun and these curtains most definitely didn’t count as fun.

livingroomcurtains2In the end I managed to complete them because my boyfriend (who started to get somewhat annoyed at the missing 4th curtain) helped out. Having someone else carry them each time they needed to be moved from the curtain rail to the floor, to the sewing machine, back to the floor, etc. and who helped with the fabric manipulation and made sure they didn’t slip off the table while sewing made a huge difference.

Wait… is that… a hem?

Are there no positives at all to this project? Well, I really like the brown/purple colour of the curtains (the colour doesn’t show very well in these very dark pictures) and we did get to play with my skirt marker, or as we really prefer its much cooler German name, my Rockabrunder. I also think that my attempt at adding insulation through the curtains did work. Only now my boyfriend is worried that the weight of the curtains will bring the curtain rails down. We’ll see.

pasta machine

Ooooh, let’s make fresh pasta! Or, maybe not…

This project made me realise that just because you can make something yourself this doesn’t mean that you have to make it yourself. It is a bit like making fresh pasta. Sure, you can do that, and it sounds very appealing, but do you ever make fresh pasta? Like many households we own a pasta machine and like 99% of the owners of a pasta machine we’ve used it maybe twice in the 5 or 6 years that we’ve had it. The thing is, contrary to what some tv chefs want you to believe, you do not whip up a fresh pasta dish in 5 minutes. I usually use dry pasta and when I want something a little more special I’ll get the fresh pasta that they sell in the supermarket, because that already tastes pretty good, right? (Although, how fresh is something that you can store in the fridge for 2 months?) Anyway, the thing is, I don’t bother to make fresh pasta myself because I can buy a pretty decent quality and this is going to be my attitude with curtains from now on. Why bother to make them when you can buy them. My future home decorating efforts will focus on pillows and quilts (just don’t expect anything king sized..).

So, dear friends and family, if you ever need new curtains, don’t come to me. I’m not even going to offer to help you make them yourself, that’s how much I didn’t like it. Although, I suppose, if you’re nice I might let you borrow my Rockabrunder because it was pretty helpful.