I may be "biased" but... | Week 47 | #52wonderfilledweeks


I am, like, totally in love with my new living room pillows...but I may be a little biased! HA! See what I did there?? I have been sitting on this project for years...I mean YEARS!!! A little back story - Super and I had been married for eight and a half years before we ever owned a proper couch.  For those first eight years we had a futon as our couch and used regular sleeping pillows as the couch pillows.  A little ghetto but it worked and it was cheap but we eventually decided to adult and saved up the money to buy an actual couch the Christmas before we bought our house.  We chose the Ektorp from IKEA and we still have that couch! (We added the love seat after we bought our house.) After we painted our living room green in the house I knew I needed new living room pillows...this was probably about 2011..between the color not coordinating and our cats using them as "fun bags" they needed to be replaced.  But the years went by and I kept putting it off.  I knew in my mind what I wanted but I also knew that I'd want to make something that looked professional, had piping and a zipper so we could wash the covers.  I even bought pillow forms (also from IKEA) sometime in 2013 or 14! I kept putting it off because I wasn't convinced I could produce what I had imagined in my mind and I didn't want to waste time or materials.  Full disclosure? THIS project is why I started the #52wonderfilledweeks challenge.  Can you believe it took me until WEEK 47 to do it!! But I did and they turned out great, if I do say so.  I tried a few different ways to construct these so I will walk you through each step and tell you what worked for me.  




First let's have a look at the old cushions.  There used to be four total but the cats managed to destroy one a few years go so we were down to three...that we all used to fight over!



These pillows are poly filled and the covers are sewn on so there's not an easy option to cleaning them.

The last hurtle in my procrastination was finding the perfect "focal" fabric for the cushions.  I bought some of this fabric from JoAnn's years ago.  I really loved it and used it for a few little projects.  It was pricier when I first bought it and so I was pretty surprised when I saw in a JoAnn's mailer that it had gone on sale.  I called around to all the Chicago local JoAnn's and none of them had any. I somehow had the thought to check the stores in Alaska and lo and behold a store north of where my Mom is had it! and luckier for me she was headed up that way that weekend anyways!! She was able to secure me several yards... I think 5 yards to be exact, since I was planning on pillows and possibly a quilt.  When I started mulling over the actual construction I suddenly panicked because I realized a layer of cotton quilting fabric would probably not hold up to two kid's antics...but my Mom suggested that she could quilt the fabric and make it a little sturdier.  So I sent a couple yards back up to her to quilt.  (Check out her other work on her Facebook Page, KTBugg Quilting.) You might remember my laptop bag where we did the same thing, Week 34


It is so nice to have a long arm quilter just a USPS flat rate box away! LOL!

So now that I had my focal fabric I hit up Chicago Textile Discount Outlet for the other fabric and grabbed some zippers from Vogue Fabrics in Evanston.  I ordered the cording for the piping from WAWAK.

Okay, let's walk you through how to make these awesome pillows!! First let's prepare and cut our pieces.  



First, I cut my main pillow pieces the same size as my pillows.  Some people would have you add a half inch for seam allowance (so an inch total for each measurement of length and width), however, I read a tip, and I totally agree, that cutting the main pieces to the finished size of your form gives a fuller pillow.  I used feather filled pillows so they compress quite a bit and probably could have gone a little smaller but that might be a personal preference.  I was dealing with large cuts of fabric and couldn't see my mat easily so I thought it was easier to cut some poster board to the dimension and using that as a pattern piece.  This was left over from P's Coco party.  Using a pattern piece made the process so much easier and fuss free.

For the bias tape you'll want to do some math to figure out how wide to cut your strips.  If you're new to making bias tape check out Peg Baker's video. (I watched several of her videos and found them pretty helpful.) You can find her tutorial on making bias tape here. I cut my first set of bias tape at 1.75" and regretted it terribly and cut the rest at 2" wide.  (I was using 5/32" cording for reference.)


Once you have all your pieces cut out I HIGHLY recommend serging the edges.  Upholstery fabric, or the kinds I used at least, frayed like no ones business.  If you don't have a serger you can zigzag close to the edge.  Now, the piping, while in the end was pretty easy, did take some time to find what worked for me.  I already mentioned I cut the first pillows (gray) piping too narrow, that combined with the not the best zipper foot and frustrated is putting it lightly. But I also wanted to serge the edges to reduced the fraying so on my second and third pillows I made my strips and ran each side thru the serger.  Not a big deal but I felt like it was a little wasteful and added a little bulk.  So for the orange solid pillows I tried something different.  I couldn't run the cording through my serger because I don't have a zipper foot for it so I opted to fold the bias tape in half and sew down just the one side, then I used a safety pin to feed the cording through the tape in the end.  I wrapped the cut end of the cording with tape so it wouldn't fray while I was feeding it through. This method worked with two caveats...1) feeding the cording for two pillows through a very long bias SNAKE was a pain...2) I had to then rip out the stitches when it came time to piece the bias tape ends together on the pillow.  


I decided for the solid red pillows to only make the tape for one pillow at a time, so it was much less to feed through and I left about 8 inches open (not serged) at both ends.  I still had to rip a few inches of stitches out but this was my favorite method in the end.



Once you have your bias tape it's time to attach it to your front piece of your pillow.  You want to leave a tail about 6"-8" before you start sewing.  Now, here's where I ran into my first issue.  With the gray piping I had cut it too narrow.  I went off someone else's measurements and I should have just done the math myself.  Additionally for my first gray pillow I didn't serge the edges and I was dealing with a fraying bias tape.  I was using the piping and attaching in one step method as well (where you sew the piping into the bias tape, wrapping as you sew down to the main pillow piece) and that totally works but it's easier if you have a larger seam allowance.  All of this was frustrating but my biggest obstacle was my zipper foot.  The foot that came with my newest machine (Janome DC2015) is a common zipper foot these days...but here's the problem...while it has two different "seam clearances - see pictures) it never allows you to sew right to the edge of anything...especially when you factor in how thick my cording was.


Sewing on the left of the needle put me farther away from the piping.  Even when I tried to move my needle as far left as possible I couldn't get really snug to the cording, which you really need to do.  Also you can see from the picture that I didn't have anywhere near a 1/2" seam allowance and between the zipper foot and the too narrow bias tape my fabric often slipped out from under the presser foot.


Sewing to the right of the foot offered a closer seam, but it was still a struggle and as I had six more pillows to knock out I wanted to find something that worked smarter, not harder.  That's when I remembered the zipper foot that came with my first sewing machine, I bought it back in the 80's and I still use it from time to time.  It's an older way of attaching and I stupidly forgot I could unscrew the quick connector from my newest machine and screw on the whole foot from my old one so I actually broke off the clear plastic piece on the foot where the machine connects to it...long story short, I realized my error, slapped the plastic on and miraculously it still sat on the shank well enough to sew. This foot was the key to my success.  (I ordered a quick attached one in all metal this morning!!) It allowed me to really get close to the piping, and to stitch in the ditch perfectly when it came time to attaching the zippers to the side with the piping.  HIGHLY recommend you get one of these bad boys just to have on hand.  The one I ordered this week was only $6!!


See how much closer I can get? And how much a proper width can help?



Sewing the piping on with a correct width bias tape, serged, with the cording in the snake is so much easier!! Go slow, and sew close to the piping.  I actually erred on the side of not snug when just attaching the piping so I could sew really snug when constructing the pillow and be sure I wouldn't see the piping seam on the front.  At the corners you want to sew down to your seam allowance and snip about three snips on the bias tape, with in the seam allowance, and pivot your tape around the corner.  I tried to make these crisp corners and I rounded them when I constructed the pillow later.  When you've gone around the whole pillow you want to leave another tail of tape. Lay your tails of tape down and overlap them.  Snip through them (again just in the seam allowance) this is where you will sew them together to complete your piping.  Move the cord out of the way, turn the bias tape ends with right sides together, match the notches and sew straight across the tape.  Before you cut off the excess stretch out the binding and make sure it "fits".  Next I laid the cord out just as I had the bias tape, I wrapped the area where the two cords overlapped with hem tape to keep the ends from fraying.  Snip the excess so the ends will be butted up against each other. The last step is to wrap the tape around the cord and sew up the open area! 


Just to give you a visual on how much closer you can get with the narrow zipper foot check out the below photos! The top pillow is with the narrow foot and has a nice, close seam.  The bottom clearly has issues!



With the piping attached we need to get prepared to install the zipper.  Take your front piece (the one with the piping) and lay it face down.  Measure from both ends a few inches.  You want to think about how big of an opening you will need to get your pillow in the form.  I went in 4" on my long pillows and 3" on the square ones.  Mark the distance clearly.  Pin the front (with piping) piece and back piece with right sides facing and sew from the edge to the mark on both ends of the pillow side.  Make sure to backstitch! Also, I recommend NOT putting the zipper on the same side as where the two ends of your piping are connected.  It can get very bulky very quick!



With the ends of the zippered side sewn I ironed my seam open.  This was really to get a clean, crisp fold to use as a guide as I sewed my zipper in.  You can see the crisp edge and open area where the zipper will go in the photo below.


Now, take a deep breath, because it's zipper time...but it really shouldn't scare you.  Go slow, take your time, and if all else fails, you can always seam rip -  I had too! HA!


Your zipper should be longer than your opening.  Go ahead and open up the zipper and line it up under the seam you just ironed.  Pam gave the tip to sew the NON piped side (your back piece) first, I did that and it worked pretty well.  It's hard to tell in the below picture but I opened the seam as best I could starting at the top edge of the pillow and lined up one half of the zipper along it.  You want to start sewing about a half inch at least before your opening. 


Get as close to the seam as you can and start sewing.  As you get to the opening make sure that your zipper tooth edge is lined up with the crisp seam you ironed.  I didn't take photos of this because I was concentrating! HA! If you do it right, and your zipper is long enough you can leave the zipper open the whole time you are sewing this side.  Once you're done you will need to close the zipper, turn the fabric around and get ready to sew the piped side to the zipper.  Once again I made sure my seam allowance in those short, 3" sections were open and I nestled the zipper side into it.  You want to "stitch in the ditch" on this side and that's where the narrower zipper foot really shines.  I found that if I lined up the edge of the bias tape to the crisp edge of the back piece I got a nice seam on the zipper and did not sew over any teeth. 


I did have one pillow, my last one of course, where I was in a hurry and sewed the zipper in backwards (the pull would have been on the inside!) so double and triple check before you start sewing.  Also if you DO sew over some teeth just seam rip enough to straighten the zipper out and patch up that seam.  No need to seam rip the entire thing! Since your zipper is closed for this side you can sew almost the whole seam with it closed but you will need to stop about 2" before the end and move the zipper pull up so you can sew past it.  You may want to pin the end of the zipper to the seam allowance just to help maintain the zipper edge.  I just used my hand to hold it in place.  Again, go slow.

With the zippers installed you just have to sew around the pillow! Make sure you open your zipper up enough to get a hand into your pillow.  With right sides together sew around your pillow! I started on the bottom of the zipper and continued around until I got to the top edge of the zipper.  A few tips, sew with the front (or side with the piping) up, sew as snug as you can to the piping, I used my left hand to feel where that was.  I also recommend taking the corners slowly and curving instead of pivoting around them.  Once you have sewn the the two side together Pam recommended checking your corners and if needed flipping the pillow over and sewing just the corners with the back piece up this time.  I went ahead and just sewed around the whole pillow again with the back up and found that that really tightened all my corners and since these pillows will be used for forts and as trampolines that a double stitched pillow isn't a bad idea! HA!!

My last secret is that I didn't clip my corners or trim my zippers...I figured why? I used my usual turning tool, a large metal crochet hook to poke out and smooth my corners and they look just fine.  I took the time to serge them so I didn't want to deal with the thread somehow unraveling later.  As for my zippers, the extra is inside, out of sight, out of mind! Also if I ever had to fix, or remake these I want to be able to reuse them! 


So that's it! I now have seven new pillows and so far they're a big hit!





I have one pillow left over because I didn't do the math when I was sending the fabric to my mom to quilt, but I have an idea for it and that should be coming soon! Now that I know how to do proper piping I find myself looking all over my house for things to cover! LOL!

I wish I hadn't waited so long to finally tackle this, but hey it's done now and I couldn't be happier!






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