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Monday, July 16, 2012

A UFO has been sighted!

Some of you may know that a UFO to crafty people means an unfinished project that may have been shoved into a dark corner for too long. I am not even sure how long ago I had decided to make some covers for my sofa pillows to help coordinate my sofa with the rest of the room.

I used to have a mauve recliner that went with this blue sofa, which is a hide-a-bed, and the only extra sleeping space I have in this small house. (Yes, I know that color scheme went out a long time ago. LOL)  When I had my hip replacement surgery a few years ago my son decided I needed a better chair to sit in while I recovered, so he bought me a big leather chair with ottoman to match, which added dark brown to my color 'scheme'. And later I gave away the mauve recliner to some friends. Can you find the sofa pillows in this picture? I am not talking about the green print/gold petaled one on the left. That is one my daughter had bought at either a thrift store or rummage sale and decided she didn't have room for it in her new apartment, so asked if I wanted it. It doesn't fit in the color scheme either, but the print has all kinds of cats on it, and the pillow itself is quite unique. It is handmade.

The other pillows are side by side on the right side of the sofa. That big brown thing in front is the ottoman, showing the color of that and the chair. One day I had the 'brilliant' idea to find some fabric that resembled leather in the same color brown and cover those pillows. And I did find some at Walmart. I don't remember the price anymore since that was over a year ago. I bought a 1/2 yard since my pillows are 16" square. After I got home I realized that was enough for 2 16" squares, but that is a front and back for only one pillow and I have two! Back to the store I go and the bolt of that fabric is gone! Now what? I went to the remnant bin and there is a remnant! It is less than 16" wide but there was enough there to make the split backs for covers. Later I was in the store again and there was a new bolt of the same fabric so I would have been okay, but you don't know that will be the case. So a part of being frugal here is that the remnant was a discounted price, saving me a little bit, plus making the covers is much cheaper than buying new pillows.

The following pictures show the steps of making the covers in case you are new to sewing. They are simple to make. If you don't want to make the covers removable they are even simpler - just cut two pieces to fit the pillow, sew around three sides, turn, put pillow in, and stitch the end closed, either by hand or machine.

The first step is to measure the pillow and add at least 1/4" extra for the seam allowance on all sides. Since my pillows are 16" square, I made the squares 16 1/2". That is the front of the pillow. I want the back in two pieces so there is a way to get the pillow in and out. That measuring is a little more tricky. I wanted the slit to be more toward one end as I think it is easier to work the pillow in and out. Most are done like pillow shams and have that slit right in the middle. And I have struggled too many times trying to get a long pillow in those things. You want to cut the pieces so that they will overlap each other by at least 1" to 1 1/2" or more, but not too much. And then you have to add 1 -1 1/2" to each piece for hemming. In my case I didn't need to hem the one that will be on the bottom as the leather-like fabric does not ravel. Below are the 3 pieces I cut for one pillow.

The next picture shows the three pieces laying on top of each other, with the larger back piece showing the back of the fabric to show it better.


The next step is to put a hem on the narrow back piece as it will lay on top of the other back piece once it is turned right side out. Since this does not ravel I only turned it under 1/2" and stitched it down. For other fabrics you would then turn it up about an inch or more and stitch again. When I was going to fill the sewing machine bobbin with the matching brown thread, I realized I had bought the extra heavy button thread! Oops. Maybe that was the only small spool I could find with the right color. Don't remember anymore. But I don't think I realized that it was button thread. So I had to adjust the upper tension to get the stitches to look right. My suggestion is to always test the stitching on a scrap of the same fabric before sewing the actual piece.

Then pin the narrower back piece to the front.

 Then pin the other back piece in place. Mine does not have a hem as I didn't need it, and I didn't want the extra bulk since this fabric is rather heavy.

Now we are ready to sew it all together with a 1/4" seam allowance. It is good to do some reinforcing stitches where the two back pieces overlap as there will be some tugging there each time the pillow is removed and put back. Once the stitching is done, clip a diagonal piece off of each corner so that the corner will turn better.

Turn the deeper half of the pillow, push out the corners, and insert pillow as seen below.

Now you can turn the top part, push out the corners, and you are done!

And the pillows are back on the sofa. Can you see them now?

As I was working on them I realized that by turning the back side to the front, the split and the top stitching gives it another, more rustic or Western look. It also resembles the seams in the real leather of the chair. If I do that, I think I need to put a circle of dark Velcro in the center of the split as it tends to gap just a bit. I am also thinking a Western style metal button in the center of the slit will dress it up a bit and give it a little 'bling'.

Nate Burkus showed some embellishments he made to some plain pillows on one of his shows, so I am thinking belt? wrap a fringed burlap strip in the middle or some wider grosgrain ribbon in a sage green since I have green as an accent color in the whole house? Or the green grosgrain ribbon in the center of the burlap strip? So maybe my UFO isn't quite finished yet!

After I finished that I decided to look in the drawer that hold my small stash of fabric and found another project I never got around to making, plus 3 small pieces of fabric that I don't think I really had an idea what I would use it for, but I liked them at the time. And I still do. So I will have to find some kind of project where I can use them. But I think the next project will be the bag full of pieces for a tote bag. There are two sunflower panel squares and matching sunflower print that I bought to machine quilt around the sunflower panels, and use the matching print for the sides and lining. I had even bought black webbing for the handles. Maybe 25 years ago, when I was working in the craft and fabric department of a Ben Franklin store, I had made a bag like that with a duck panel as I was into collecting ducks at that time. The bag was on display in the store for a time to help sell the fabric. I had made the handles with the matching print fabric and they have worn thin and the filling is showing. Time to retire that one. I am ready for something new and bright - like sunflowers!


  1. I really like your cushions! The brown looks very nice on your couch. I didn't see them in the first picture! LOL! Great tutorial!

  2. I like your new pillows too, I like to use that flange method too when I make pillows so I can wash them if needed.
    about those sunflower panels, when I helped my Mom clean out her fabric, she had so many assorted panels- for bags, pillows, toys, books, vests, toddler dresses- I brought them all home as she did want any of them. Those panels used to be very popular- I wonder if they still sell them? I rarely shop for fabric anymore as I have so much from Mom and yardsales.


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