Sewing Projects

Sewing Envelope Pillows

Color Popping Pillows

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Updated October 4, 2020.

Just over four years ago I checked a big item off of my bucket list and I went to Peru to visit Machu Picchu.  Not only did I get to visit another Spanish-speaking country and see one of the famous world sites I had always wanted to view in person, but I ran a marathon in the Andes to get there.  It was an amazing trip, but a different story, though entirely relevant as you will encounter a bit further on.

In the four years since that trip my life has shifted some, as I met and married my husband.  Actually, we were married exactly two years after the race.  Isn’t it nice how a certain app reminds you of your memories?  While even more recently we had our first child.  So life is a bit different now, entirely for the better.

The old ball and chain (or is that supposed to be me?) and the baby haven’t slowed me down any.  Pregnancy slowed me, though only temporarily.  There are just too many interesting things to do.  The project list continues to grow, and occasionally shrink in small increments.  

Our deck needed to be better utilized.  Actually, it just needed to be utilized.  We have a beautiful space on the back of our house overlooking the river behind it, and we never sit on it.  Thanks to some help from my parents when they were visiting at the beginning of last summer, my husband and I assembled the pieces of our deck sofa.  I had made the cushions last spring and now all it needed was a couple of throw pillows to finish it off.  

I kept my eyes peeled for sales, as I always do, and when Michael’s had a good coupon pop up on the app last spring I purchased a couple of 18” x 18” pillow forms at 20% off.  They already had the best price for the type of item I wanted and the coupon made it better.  

For the pillow itself I thought I would use an envelope style as a zipper didn’t seem necessary.  Still, I wanted to be able to wash the cases.  Thanks to YouTube and other bloggers I found a very good tutorial from Melly Sews.  I basically knew how to sew this type of pillow, but not having made one of this style before, the tutorial helped a lot with the measurements and how much to overlap in the back.  

Back to Peru.  While I was learning all about Incan and Peruvian culture, and practicing my Spanish, and preparing to run through the mountains, and trying all the food that wouldn’t throw my United Statesian stomach for a loop, I had some free time to visit the markets and go back to visit some sites we had been introduced to on our guided tours.  

Cusco was definitely a highlight of the trip.  Historical cities are the best to visit, in my opinion.  The modern mixed with the antique or the ancient, is a fascinating blend and there is so much rich culture.  In Cusco, the Spanish architecture built with the portions of the Incan buildings left behind and reused gives the city a wonderful charm, especially where it sits in the valley between the mountains.  I had such fun walking around, strolling through the old style markets, and chatting in the target language with the local vendors.

At one point I wandered by a small fabric shop on my way back from a small open air market of stalls.  There was a rack of fabric bolts outside and one of them drew my eye immediately.  The bold colors and clean pattern were beautiful and my attention snapped onto them.  

Impulse buying isn’t usually my style, but I have learned that when something so absolutely draws my attention, it is probably one item I will really enjoy.  And hey, I was on vacation.  That’s a good time to treat yourself, right?  I bought two meters of the fabric for 36 Peruvian Soles, which is about $12 in the USA.  What a steal!  Some other visitors from the United States were also marveling at all of the beautifully woven textiles and asked me what I planned to do with the fabric.  At the time I wasn’t sure, “I don’t know.  I’ll make pillows, or a tablecloth, or something.”  Pillows it has turned out to be.

Again, with the tutorial from Melly Sews this was a simple project.  The only real difficulty was with the edges from the weave of the fabric.  I had to be careful because the warp of this textile really wanted to unravel.  

I started by measuring the pillow forms to be sure they were 18” x 18” as the package said.  Since they were, I cut two pieces of fabric at 19” x 44” as instructed in the video (width + 1” x length doubled + 8”).  

Bring out the quilter’s rule and the rotary cutter again.  If you do any amount of sewing, this is a tool to have in your kit.  It’s one of those tools that once you start using it on projects you think, “Oh yeah (with enthusiasm and a hint of swagger)!  Why didn’t I have one of these before?”  Or maybe that’s just me.  A good tool is exciting.  Don’t you think so?

For the next step, I went into hemming the short edges.

This was followed by finding the center and pinning to mark it.  I measured half the length of one side of the pillow, or nine inches, to each side of the center and marked both measurements with pins.  At those measurements I folded the right sides together and pinned.  If your hems do not look even, one of mine did not look quite as good as the other, be sure to fold the better looking one inside first.  That will be the hem that will show when you turn your pillow right side out.

One problem I encountered when I folded my “envelope” for the pillow was that the hemmed edges had narrowed.  Apparently, when I hemmed the ends, the slightly looser or wider weave of the fabric caused it to draw in a little or cinch up.  It did not seem as though it would improve if I ripped the stitches out and started over.  In fact, the same thing happened on all four ends that were hemmed, and it occurred pretty evenly.  To compensate for this I just increased my seam allowance by ¼” on each side.  There was already some extra space for the pillow form when I checked it against the folded pieces, so it worked fine having a ¾” seam allowance.  Now the pillows are just slightly rectangular and there was enough fabric on the edges to sew them together properly.

Once everything was sewn, I turned the pillows right-sides out and stuffed them with the pillow forms, lining up the corners of the forms with the corners of the pillows.  Some fluffing made them ready for the couch.  These pillows are the extra cushion needed either as an added back support or against the arms of our outdoor sofa.  Plus, as planned, they add a cheery pop of color to our neutral outdoor setting! 

What do you think? 

Until the next project,