Happy Earth Day! | Week 16 | #52wonderfilledweeks

Happy Earth Day! Yesterday the whole WONDERfilled family headed out and helped to clean up our local park.  P was super excited to be able to help "clean up the earth" and we were out for almost two hours (longer than I thought she'd be entertained).

So in the spirit of Earth Day I tackled a project that focused on the three R's - Reduce, Reuse & Recycle. I didn't buy a single thing for this project, believe it or not I had everything on hand and/or re purposed things.

In the summer of 1999 I had one of the best experiences of my life.  I was chosen as a fellow for the Pacific Music Festival, based in Sapporo Japan.  I could write for days about all the cool adventures I had while there, and that wouldn't even begin to touch the amazing musical experience it was. But one of the many "take aways" I got from living there for a whole summer was how amazing sleeping on a buckwheat hull pillow can be.  I distinctly remember arriving, tired from my travels, and falling into my bunk bed to snuggle up and catch up on some zzz's.  I pulled the little privacy curtain across my bunk and laid my head down...on a brick..."What the hell?!?!" I was so confused and started to ask around for any other pillows...no western pillows were to be found and I was told to try it for a few days that I'd learn to like it...well they weren't lying.  By the end of the first week I was in love and by the end of the festival I was looking for ways to sneak my pillow home with me.  These were full size pillows packed tightly with buckwheat so they were large, heavy and unable to be compressed, which is kind of the point! Sadly I couldn't find a way to get it back to the states and I would have felt bad taking from such a wonderful organization so I said my goodbyes and left my pillow.  Years later (and much older, hence more tired and achy) I remembered back to that amazing summer of sleep and started to research making us a set.  I ordered about 18 lbs of Buckwheat Hulls from buckwheathull.com . *A note about buckwheathull.com they are a really cool business that provides jobs and training for adults with disabilities. I highly recommend supporting them if you wish to make your own buckwheat hull pillows.* With shipping it was around $50, cheap when you considered that a single pillow could run that on the low end if you ordered instead of made one.  So I sat down and made us up some pillows, and somehow I ended up making these tiny, half pillows.  I made four and we used them off and on over the past couple of years but it always bothered me that they were the wrong size. You'd roll over and run out of pillow! HA! With Bubba finally, FINALLY, sleeping thru the night I was ready for some good, restorative sleep.  Also, the pillows we didn't use (remember I made four) were just sitting on my craft table, so by finishing up this little to do item I regained some much needed space on my craft table.

Old, small buckwheat on top of our standard poly-filled pillows. You can see the extra pillows in the background!

I started by grabbing an empty Rubbermaid container and emptied the buckwheat hulls into the container.  I have heard it's helpful to air out your buckwheat once a year so I set the tub out on our back patio, with a mesh cover, and let the sun do it's thing.  I set a timer and went out and stirred up the box every thirty minutes or so.  I'm not sure if it worked but I like to think the fresh air did them good!

Freeing the buckwheat hulls from the old cases!

Airing and refreshing our buckwheat.

Then using my seam ripper I removed the zippers from the old pillows.  I am pretty frugal and earth conscience daily and I never throw out a zipper if it still works.  I even save the zippers from plastic packaging often found on bedding comforter and sheet sets.  They are great for testing things out on and using in a pinch. The fabric I used to make the old pillows were pretty worn and stained so I washed them and the zippers.  I plan on recycling the fabric at a facility we bring old worn out clothes to, but they ask that they be clean so I figured I'd wash the zippers as the same time so I'd be working with clean materials.

Ripping the old zippers out.

I reuse anything I can!

For the cases themselves I used a white Ikea fitted sheet.  I had it on hand and it had never been used.  It was part of a set we bought that ripped the first time we washed it.  We ended up using the flat sheet from the set as a movie screen last summer and I just stashed away the fitted sheet for a future project.  I took the elastic out of the corners (save everything!) and then cut off the corner seams.  Since I was dealing with such large piece of fabric it actually worked well to snip and tear the "cuts"  I got much more square pieces than I thought I would have if I would have had to fold and use my rotary cutter and straight edge.

Cutting off the old seams for the "fitted" part of the fitted sheet.

Measuring for my tears.

Pretty square piece of fabric!

The tears really frayed so I serged the edges before I went any father on the project.

I actually wasn't going to add a zipper in these pillows.  The method I had used to sew in the zippers in the previous cases had allowed some buckwheat hulls to escape every so often and I thought just sewing up the whole darn thing would be best.  In researching though I learned that a zipper is actually great so you can do things like air out your buckwheat and add and remove hulls to get the fit and comfort level just right for you.  So I decided to add the zippers but used a different method for sewing them in. This was a good test for me as I have 6+ living room pillows I need to tackle and I was worried about adding zippers in the covers.  This was such a no brainer to practice on as these pillows will always be in a pillow case so there wasn't the pressure of making it look good.

The previous method I had used was the more traditional method.  You lay your zipper facing right side up and then with your fabric right side down you line up the edges of the zipper and fabric a sew together.  You repeat this step on the opposite side then open up the seams and top stitch.  Unfortunately if you don't also top stitch perpendicular to the zipper you can allow a teeny tiny space, which in most applications isn't a problem but when you're dealing with little hulls can allow some escapees.

See the little hole at the end? I remedied this by sewing across the zipper before the end, creating a new stop and eliminating the gap.

This time I used a technique I saw years ago somewhere on the "interwebs".  You take your fabric and sew right sides together with a basting stitch.  I used black so it would be easy to see to remove later and I wouldn't confuse my seams when I was done and rip out the wrong set of stitches.

Then I laid my zipper on top of the seam to see where I wanted to insert it.  I marked just inside where I wanted the zipper to end on both sides.  I eye balled the center on both, but if you wanted to be exact you could measure it.  Then I went back to the machine and sewed with a regular stitch and in white from the top to the the zipper and bottom to the zipper, making sure to back stitch at the beginning and end.

My basting seam in black.

My start and stop marks for the zipper.  I sewed from the end to the pencil marks leaving a space for the zipper.
Next up was to press the seam open flat and pin the zipper in place.  I made sure the teeth were right in line with the basted seam and pinned.  The first one I did I pinned perpendicular to the zipper, but I had to remove the pins as I sewed and half of the zipper shifted a bit.  The second one I pinned parallel and it worked much better.  After the zipper was pinned in place I opened the zipper up a bit and started sewing in the middle of a long side then when I got to the end I kept my needle in the fabric and turned 90 degrees to sew across the short side.  I repeated this process around the whole zipper, making sure to move the zipper pull (sometimes easier said than done) away from the needle. If you think about it right you should only have to move the zipper pull once.  Also be VERY careful and go SLOW when you sew over your zipper on the short ends.

Making sure to line the zipper teeth up with the seam.

Sewing the zipper in.  Pins going perpendicular didn't work the best.

Pinned parallel  the second time around.  Worked much better.
When you are done turn over to the right side of the fabric and using your seam ripper remove the basting threads.  What you are left with is an attached and completely top stitched zipper! My first one was a little wonky, the second try was much better.  As with anything, practice will help, but overall I was really happy with how these turned out and the time it took to do them. I love the fact that you are sewing and top-stitching the zipper in one step! I don't know if this method would work with every zipper installation but it's nice to have in the sewing arsenal.

Removing the basting stitches and exposing the zipper.

The next part is easy, if you remember to open up your zipper! HA! No joke, open up your zipper first THEN pin and sew around the remaining pillowcase.  You need the zipper to be open so you can turn your finished case inside out.  And believe me when I tell you it's nearly impossible to move a zipper from the wrong side!

The last part is fun and a way to get the little ones involved if yours are like mine and want to "help" with everything. I made a quick funnel out of paper and scooped my freshly aired out buckwheat into the pillows.  I was worried I actually wouldn't have enough buckwheat for two large pillows but in the end I think it's actually perfect.  I also added organic dried lavender at a ratio of 1 C lavender to 20 C Buckwheat.  In the end it was about 100 C (!!) Buckwheat and 5 C lavender.  I ordered our lavender from Amazon for some flax seed and lavender eye pillows I made earlier this year.  The scent isn't overpowering and the firmness of the pillows seem great so far.

Getting ready to refill the pillows with buckwheat and lavender.

A quick paper funnel made easy work of this task!

I made these cases to be a finished size of 19"x 26".  I read through several buckwheat pillow sites and while this is considered a "larger" size it is recommended for larger people and those with broad shoulders.  Because I added the zipper if we decide we'd like to add more we can do that easily.  I am so happy I knocked this project out this week!

Finished and ready for a restorative sleep tonight!!!


  1. Interesting, I've always put zippers in using this method. You must have never had a project that needed a zipper in your first 17 years. Lol


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