red flannel pantry

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Archive for the tag “pillows”

wonky star pillow


I first saw interlocking wonky stars on Elizabeth Hartman’s Oh Fransson blog–I fell in love. Her Sparkle Punch quilt is on my very long to-make-someday list. More recently, I spied a take on this design in pillow form–inspiration. This project looked manageable for me and a perfect anniversary gift for my sister- and brother-in-law. My brother-in-law is an avid amateur astronomer, so a pillow covered in stars seems fitting.

I followed the instructions in this tutorial to make the wonky star pieces, leaving out the corners and using 2-1/2″ squares from my scrap jar. I made all the stars and nestled them together like puzzle pieces–it was fun playing with the layout.


Like the inspiration pillow, I quilted it with a cross-hatch pattern, which was easy to eyeball on these finished 2″ squares. For the first time, I added binding around the edges of a pillow–an extra step, so it was more work, but I do like the look.


For the back, I used fabric from my stash that suggests constellations, starry nights, suns and stars. I quilted it with a free-motion wonky box pattern, which mimics the design on the fabric. As is my wont with pillows these days, I used this technique for constructing the pillow back. I now make the top piece a little shorter than the bottom so that the contrasting strip is more centered. In this case, I made the top panel 2 inches shorter than the bottom one.

Happy anniversary, T & P!

Details: finished size–20″ x 20″

tallying 21


I wanted to make something special but practical for Daughter #1 to commemorate a significant birthday: her 21st.


I have a thing for number quilts (here is another I designed this year but with Roman numerals). This time I designed hash-mark blocks to add up to her age and put them together into a 24-inch square pillow. I made the hash marks kind of wonky so they would resemble handwritten ones.


I finished piecing the front as the sun was setting the other night. I really like how the orange leaps off the tan background.


I backed it with this cool geometric hexagon print, which is right up her graphic design alley.


I quilted it on the diagonal, following the lines on the print–no marking!–I call it being creatively lazy.


I can envision all sorts of design combinations that this hash-mark motif could be used for: gifts to celebrate bar/bat mitzvah (13), significant birthdays (16, 18, 21) or anniversaries–so many possibilities–what fun! I’ll be using it again.

Happy 21st, Gertie! xoxo

I have linked up with Sew Cute Tuesday at Better Off Thread.

the story of a wedding gift


Encoded in this gift are the bride and groom’s shared professional field, what each wore on their wedding day, where they were wed, and even the day they were wed.

Here’s the story.

A little over a week ago, we were invited to our friends’ house for a solstice party. It was June 21, the longest day of the year, a lovely, sunny Friday. We arrived to learn that actually we were attending a wedding reception: Jason and Amy had been married at their home a few hours earlier–what a wonderful surprise and a delightful party! I knew the jars of pickles and salsa we had brought, though appreciated, would not do as a wedding gift. The next day, as I recalled Amy’s wedding dress, I remembered a spare quilt block in my stash with the same coral color. It was a leftover from a still-unfinished quilt top I made using a pattern (called Neighborhood) in Elizabeth Hartman’s book, Modern Patchwork. Here was my inspiration.


For borders, I used fabric from Carolyn Friedlander’s Architextures collection, which gives a nod to the bride and groom’s professions (he’s an architect; she’s an interior designer).


For the back, I found a blue and coral stripe that reminded me of the tie Jason wore.


And to hide the zipper, I used a strip of white on white with various-sized dots. It made me think of the sun and the planets–a subtle reference to their solstice wedding day.

Congratulations and best wishes, Amy & Jason!

Oh Deer bits pillow


When I pulled out the Oh Deer Moda jelly roll quilt to finish, I also uncovered some bits left over from making the quilt top–enough to make a 20-inch pillow. I channeled my best Rita of Red Pepper Quilt’s straight-line quilting abilities (check out her quilting on these pillows–she’s crazy talented.) I am happy with the result.


For the back, I used a home dec fabric remnant left over from my purse-making days. I added the zipper using my favorite technique–you can find Autum’s tutorial here. I love how it makes a reversible pillow. This time I didn’t use the fusible tape–I was just careful with pinning the zipper.

There are two tips I would add to Autum’s tutorial: (1) remember to top-stitch after sewing the zipper to the bottom half of the pillow back, and (2) when sewing the zipper in place, it helps to sew a few inches, then leave the needle down, lift the zipper presser foot, pull the zipper pull past the point where you are sewing, then put the zipper presser foot back down and resume sewing. Then you don’t have to deal with trying to sew around the lumpy zipper pull.

graduation gift ideas–part III: gifts you can sew

I have saved the best for last. I love to sew, so here are my favorite ideas for gifts to sew for graduates.


personalized pillowcase–pillowcases are a go-to gift of mine to make. They are easy to sew–I’ve made dozens for birthday and graduation gifts. You can read more about how I personalize them here. I sew on the recipient’s name, but you could put on a graphic design, sorority symbols or a monogram–there are lots of directions to choose.

floor pillow–large pillows can decorate a bed and provide additional seating. I use 24″x24″ or 26″x26″ pillow forms, but you can make your own oversized pillow forms like Amanda Jean of crazy mom quilts (check out her technique here). She makes beautiful stuffed reading pillows that I find irresistible. I plan on giving her design a try someday.

Grinnell reunion093Grinnell reunion092

For a boy graduate, I made this pillow from old jeans. I had a friend embroider the recipient’s name with her machine.


For a girl graduate, I made this pillow from interior design fabric samples.

sprocket pillow w/chenille--front

sprocket pillow–I wrote about these pillows in an earlier post. You can find the link to the Cluck Cluck Sew tutorial here. By choosing fabric that reflects the graduate’s favorite colors or interests, you can make it extra special.

t-shirt pillowcase–a friend recently asked me if I had any suggestions on how to make a pillow from a t-shirt. Great idea, especially for a young man! I looked online and found this quick tutorial that I think would work beautifully.

september 2011077

doorstop–I know, this sounds like a totally bizarre gift, but it is perfect for an incoming freshman. For firecode safety and security reasons, most dorm room doors now have automatic closing mechanisms, which is good; however, with all of the doors closed, the opportunity for random passing-by-the-room getting-to-know-you encounters is nil. With the door propped open, the student can give the signal that drop-in visitors are welcome and friendships can begin. When Daughter #1 was a freshman, she requested a doorstop for this very reason. I hopped online and found this tutorial by Elizabeth Hartman–perfect! You can personalize it with fabric choices. I made the body of this doorstop for D#1 out of upcycled jeans for the sake of durability.


picnic blanket–students love an excuse to be outdoors, and a picnic blanket gives them a cool place to hang out with friends. I have used this tutorial from Sew Mama Sew to make picnic blankets for both D#1 and D#2. This blanket is a very basic tied quilt, so it is easy to assemble, but you could certainly quilt it if you wanted. For the daughter in college it does double duty: when not being used for an outside place to sit, it is draped over the chair in her dorm room to hide the dirty upholstery! For my younger daughter, her blanket has gone to the beach and has been handy for sitting on cold stadium seats.


Rather than tying it, I do a close zig-zag stitch to tack the layers together. Because this blanket gets lots of wear and tear, I use busy fabrics that won’t show stains readily.

Two other riffs on this same idea to check out, both from Sew Mama Sew: a stadium blanket made with t-shirts and a fleece backing and a picnic quilt made with fat quarters.


garland–I have used this tutorial to make fabric garlands to decorate a dorm room. This scalloped shape is pretty, but I have also seen them in a pennant shape, which I like too and would work better for a guy grad. Again, I personalize through fabric choices. I fussy-cut from US map fabric to show their hometown and the location of their school, and I use fabric that represents their interests and their hometown sports teams (Go Cards! Go Blues! Go Rams!).

lanyard–though I haven’t made a lanyard yet, this idea has garnered the approval of D#2. My kids and their friends like to hook their school IDs and keys on lanyards that they then have hanging out of their pockets–it’s some kind of fashion statement, I suppose. I found two tutorials I like (here and here), which have straightforward instructions and easy-to-follow photos, and I plan to make several this year. I am thinking about bright modern fabrics for girls and upcycled men’s dress shirt fabric for guys. (I have read that this particular style of lanyard should not be worn around the neck for safety reasons since there is no break-away closure. It would be easy to modify this design and add a Velcro or magnet closure if desired. Since my kids just shove them in their pockets, I will make as instructed in the tutorial.)

eye mask–another untested (by me!) but clever idea is an eye mask. My college kids have no trouble sleeping day or night, but sometimes roommates insist on turning on the lights to study at 2 am. What is an exhausted college student to do? I came across this pattern and tutorial from The Red Kitchen and think it would be a terrific gift for a college student. Once again, fabric choices can be tailored to the tastes and sense of humor of the recipient. Packaged with foam earplugs, it would make a great sleep-themed gift.

Well, that’s that. If you have any ideas to share, please do. I am always looking for more!

early birthday presents

IMG_1401Daughter #2 and her seven best friends went on a spring break trip together. Two had not turned 16 yet, which meant that these two had not yet received personalized pillowcases. Since all the others would be bringing their special pillowcases along, D#2 asked me to make an exception. Being the kind-hearted mother that I am, I indulged D#2 and, a few weeks before their birthdays, made her not-quite-16-year-old friends pillowcases all their own that reflect their special personalities.

Happy *early* 16th Birthday, Emma & Sarah!

hedgehog fix

IMG_1371Daughter #1 is off to southern California to visit a college roommate and her family for spring break–lucky duck. She thought a personalized pillowcase would make a nice hostess gift–and while I was at it, could I please make pillowcases for her other close college friends as well? We shopped for fabric while she was home for a long weekend. Bright flowers for Phoebe, squirrels for Hillary, hipster granny for Annie.

IMG_1372 Daughter #1 has a current fixation on hedgehogs: wouldn’t one make a great pet? Rather than have her bring a live one home (which I am sure the dog and cats would consider a tasty chew toy), I thought this cute fabric (from the Outfoxed collection by Lizzy House for Andover Fabrics) might satisfy her obsession enough to keep her urge in check. Since she already has a few personalized pillowcases, I decided to leave her name off this one.

sixteen candles

MK's keychainYet another dear and special friend of Daughter #2 hit the driving-age milestone, so we worked up this Union Jack keychain for her. We learned that the Union Jack is a superposition of the flags of St. George (for England), St. Andrew (for Scotland) and St. Patrick (for Ireland)–no wonder it is so complicated. The diagonal stripes posed a challenge in needlepoint interpretation, but we think it came out well. As is our way, St. Christopher was added as a passenger.

MK is as old a friend as a 16-year-old can have–the two girls used to nap together in the same crib. The first time I made MK a pillowcase, I asked for her input: what was her favorite color? Rainbow! I made her a pillowcase with tie-dyed–looking fabric, which happily suited MK’s 5-year-old design sensibilities. Several years later, this well-worn pillowcase accompanied MK to sleep-away camp where, during a pillow fight, the cuff with her name was torn from the rest of the pillowcase. I carefully detached the cuff, found new material, and fashioned an updated version.

MK's pillowcaseDaughter #2 and I decided that it was time for MK to have a pillowcase with all new parts. We thought this bright, modern print would be perfect: it matches MK’s room and remains in keeping with her colorful tastes and vibrant personality.MK's 5th bdayHere’s a photo from MK’s 5th birthday–note the tie-dyed tablecloth!

Happy 16th Birthday, Mary Kate!

happy, happy

keychain for s

Sixteenth birthdays continue to tumble from the calendar. Today is the 16th birthday of a long-time friend of Daughter #2. She loves anchors as a design motif, so we worked one into her keychain. St. Christopher is going along for the ride.


I made her a personalized pillowcase years ago, and we decided it was time to replace it with one that was more grown up. We found this ikat fabric (oh so hip) with green highlights, which will match her bedroom–perfect.

best soccer buddies

Here’s to best friends. Happy Birthday, Sarah!

pillow talk–part 3

I wanted to make one more gift and I had one pillow form left–providence.

sarah's pillow frontFor this 14-inch pillow, I used up more of the little squares, surrounded the chunk of squares with a warm brown, and positioned it off center.

When it came time to quilt, I was working late at night. I took two passes and the stitching was not right, which was especially apparent since I was using brown thread on these bright squares. Was there a problem with the tension? Was the scrap backing too slippery? I seam-ripped it all out (argh), cut out a new piece of backing, safety-pin basted it together again and went to bed grumpy.

Early the next morning, it came to me–had I checked the walking foot?

Head slap–when I had installed the walking foot last, I had failed to align the lever on the right side of the presser foot with the needle clamp. It was resting on top of the needle clamp instead of fitting around it. Problem solved and quilting resumed.

Then, on my last quilting pass, I wasn’t paying attention and I ran out of top thread. More seam-ripping and redoing. Sewing reminds me–again and again–of the value of patience.

sarah's pillow backFor the back I used this gorgeous fabric that I found at Fabric Nosherie. It’s called Sinister Swarm (color: mozambique) and is from the Field Study collection by Anna Maria Horner. When I saw it at the store, I knew I had to have some but had no plan in mind–the usual fabric addict/hoarder reaction and I succumbed. I did show some restraint and bought only one yard.

tiger beetle croppedI am fond of butterflies, and my son, who had recently taken an insect morphology field study class, created a work similar to this fabric in its color palette and design sensibilities (see fuzzy phone photo above–now you know how tiger beetles copulate!). This pillow back was a great way to highlight the large-scale print.

I wavy-quilted it and used the same zippered-back techique I described in an earlier post.

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

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