Hand Stitched Pillows

While traveling this past April and May, we made it to Kampala, Uganda. The main attraction was of course the mountain gorillas — absolutely amazing, you must go see them before they sadly become extinct. The second attraction, ok besides the chimps, was the fabric. A lot of the fabric is made in Uganda, and other pieces come from Nigeria. Our friends in Nairobi say that Uganda has the most gorgeous fabric in all of Africa. Can’t say I disagree. $30 later, I’m in heaven!

Recently we purchased the Karlstad, L-shaped sofa from Ikea, in isunda gray. It can be very big and plain, and I’ve been struggling to find pillows that are lounge-y, comfortable, beautiful, man-friendly, and inexpensive to go with it. So I thought making my own with purchased fabric would be the best bet. I purchased a couple various sized cushions from Ikea – like $7-$15 per pillow, that you can stuff in once stitched. If you’re like me and don’t have a sewing machine, these can be exceptionally time consuming… however…they’re SUPER easy to make, and Orange is the New Black Season Two was just released, so my guess is you have some time to kill.

For your encouragement, a finished photo:

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The black and white checkered one is from Ikea (actually went quite nicely with them!). The green and aqua are the fabric purchases I made in Kampala.

What You’ll Need:

  1. Scissors
  2. Measuring tape
  3. Fabric – really depends on the size you want your pillows to be. For the larger green pillow, I cut two pieces of 23X23 inches.
  4. The pillow or stuffing you want to use for the inside — Maybe you have an old pillow that you hate? Recycle it, and add new fabric!
  5. Needles and thread — I bought a basic pack of thread that offered a bunch of colors, and it included a couple needles ($5) I’d recommend a large needle if you can, they’re a bit easier to work with.
  6. Sewing pins ($3)
  7. Iron
  8. Patience, white wine, whatever gets you through it
  9. Scotch Guard (if you want to spray onto your pillows to prevent stains)

So first, cut two sheets of the size of fabric you need. I recommend cutting a bit smaller than the size that you measure when the pillow is fully fluffed. You will want a tight cover, and it’s ok to stuff the pillow in … will make the final fit tight, and create a better shape.

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Once you have both sheets, turn them inside out — That way, your stitches are on the inside, and make for a cleaner finish. You’ll sew one side at a time. To keep your fabric lined up, and to make sure you’re stitching in a straight line, use your sewing pins. Roughly half an inch from the bottom of each side of fabric:

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After lining up your pins, use the length of the fabric to determine how much thread you’ll use. To make sure you don’t run out, and have enough to tie at the end, add about six more inches. Then, double over your thread. Stitching two pieces of thread at one time will ensure it keeps sturdy. Starting at one end, tie through your thread, and begin stitching in and out. Try to keep your stitches as close as possible — this will keep the pillow from ripping.

Do this for three of the sides. Remember, double your thread! (For real, it helps.)

Then, put the fabric the right way out, and you’ll see your stitches look great

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After turning the fabric right-side out, get out your iron, and iron out any wrinkles that may have developed… you’ll want to make sure to do this before stuffing your pillow, to ensure that it’s smooth and wrinkle free when finished. Then, for the side that has not been sewed, fold each piece of fabric about 1/2 an inch in — so that the cut line is hidden from the outside. This will be necessary when stitching the final side, and will make sure the pillow looks finished. (Insert photo, oops, my bad).

Next, stuff in your pillow or stuffing (insert 2nd photo I did not take).

For the final side, you’ll use pins once again to keep the fabric together, and to create a line you may follow. Double your thread, and stitch from side to side once more — this is the one side you’ll definitely see stitched, so take your time, and try to create a straight line. Again, make sure your stitches are small to keep the pillow from ripping.

photo 3-1When finished, shake our your pillow, let the stuffing move around a bit, and ta-da! Here’s the final look. I’m pretty sure these pillows would cost you at least $75 in stores like West Elm or Pottery Barn. Now, they may have been machine stitched and therefore more sturdy, but how fun is that?

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So many materials.

I visited the Material ConneXion library this afternoon. I’ve decided to take on the certificate program at Parsons, and one of the courses they offer is Showrooms — where basically, you have the opportunity to visit amazing showrooms throughout New York: Large ones, historical ones, hipster-Williamsburghy-ones, you name it. Today we visited the Material ConneXion library located in Mid-town. This place is INSANE. Basically they are a data collection (the world’s largest collection!) of every known material that’s out there — ceramic, fiber, metals, cement, processes, and polymers. Their collection is roughly 7500, and at any given time they display 2500 of them. Unfortunately you have to have a membership to the museum (which is crazy expensive), but as a student at Parsons you can go for free. Whoop! Check out some of these killer materials I captured. It’s a pretty inspiring and an interesting space. Plus: you’re allowed to touch everything.

photo 5-1Recycled skateboards – could be used for a wide variety of things, including rad wall coverings.

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This may be my favorite: handwoven wall coverings of recycled maps. Exceptionally expensive, I mean, it’s HANDWOVEN, but how cool would a bathroom, or wall in your office look with this all over it?

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This is also a natural material — made of cork and woven cotton. It could be used to reupholster a piece of furniture, shoes, clothes, the list is endless.

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So this one is kinda crazy — it’s a wood veneer with leather substrate. It’s flexible and therefore can be used again for many purposes.

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These. I want a belt made out of each one. Low and hold, it’s all mosaic wood veneer. So, no belt for me, but it could be beautiful trimming, paneling, or framing (so the details read!)

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I love this one! There’s glitter, there’s cork, there’s layers of paper. It’s really just cool. And it can be from recycled material which is even better.

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So many mateeeerriaaalllsssss!!!