Friday, January 29, 2010

Eco-Chic Valentine's Gifts - A Tutorial for Personalized Reverse Applique Pillow Covers

This pillow was made in 1 1/2 toddler nap times (that's about 3 hours to the rest of the world!)

It started out as a REALLY ugly sea-foam green, pintucked, cheap satin pillow from Big Lots that I got on clearance for $2.00.  Even better - it was a removable cover.

Here's the "before" - the ugly pillow, a blue flannel baby blanket, a sueded microfiber maternity jumper and a print out of the name.

First, you'll need to measure the pillow you plan to recover.  If it has a removable cover, skip this step - you can use the cover as a template!  (What?  You say "shortcut" like it's a bad thing!)

Next choose your image or text you want to reverse applique.  I used CoolText, an online free graphics/logo generator.  We did 4 versions:
We decided to go with the last one, in the "Floozy" font.  NOTE: if you are a novice seamstress/sewer, choose a font with more straight lines!  Also, when generating your text, turn the "shadow" feature off, it will make it much easier! 

Save the file to your computer, then print out on regular printer paper.  You may want to paste/import it to a program like Word that has a print-preview option.  We used legal sized to make it large enough to fit our pillow.  Remember that the size it prints is the size it will be on your finished product!  Don't worry if it is fuzzy or pixelated - you're the only one who will see this part!

Next get your pillow fabric.  I'm all about reusing things, so we used a maternity jumper that I got on clearance at a thrift store for $1.00.  I'm a fabric person, I often buy things just because I like the material - I figure out what I'll do with it later.  Yes, I realize this is a sickness! (Hi.  My name is Noel...)

Lay your material out flat and decide where you want your word or image to go.  Pin it in place.  When using a garment, make use of those beautiful seams and details!  We centered the name between two front seams that ran down the front of the skirt.  Since they were not even (parallel) we decided to set the name at an angle.

Next, we 're going to cut the front of the pillow.  If you measured (gold stars for you!) then take your pillow measurement and add a comfortable seam allowance.  I used about 3/4"  If you are fortunate enough to have a pattern or template, use that. 

If you have a previous pillow cover, just lay it on top and add your seam allowance.

If you have a rotary cutter and self-healing mat, this will be really quick and you don't even need to pin it.  I "eyeballed" the seam allowance (you won't tell my momma will you?)

Since I was using a previously made garment, I had a finished hem to work with.  This will now become the back of the envelope pillow.  I took the existing slit in the back and split the back of the skirt so I had one long, continuous piece of hemmed material.

Next, I folded that in half length-wise so that my back seam formed the right edge and the fold formed the left, with the hem at the bottom. (Don't get lost here - it's not as hard as it sounds!)

I placed this on top of the front piece I already cut, covering aproximately 2/3rds of the front.  Pin in place, then turn over so you are now looking at the backside of the front piece. Use it as a guide to cut the back pieces and set them aside for later.

Now grab the fabric you've chosen to use for the backing of the front cover.  This is what will show through as the letters or design you have chosen.  I used a blue recieving blanket.
Lay your front piece on top of the backing piece and pin it well, all around the letters as shown.  Cut it to the same size as the front.

Now we're ready to sew!
Use a short stitch length so that your material will be held firmly in place.  Carefully stitch around the outline of each letter.  When you get to the "corner" of a letter, put your needlie into the fabric to keep it's place before lifting the presser foot to change directions. 
If your machine has a "slow" speed setting, it's a good idea to use that too!  I also used the "lock" stitch feature at the beginning and end of each letter so the thread would be secure.  If your machine does not have this feature, leave your threads long, pull them to the back and tie them together (rather than using a backstitch)

Once you have completed the outline stitch, remove the paper.
Child labor and a pair of offset tweezers make this job a breeze.  I took a Diet Pepsi break while Jordan picked out all the paper pieces.

This part can be a little tricky, and if you screw up here you have to start over (but no pressure, right?)  You'll need to cut through ONLY the top layer of the fabric INSIDE the stitching.  I  "pinch" the fabric on each side and pull it apart gently, making sure that I firmly hold the underside.  Next, use a small, sharp pair of scissors to snip a bit of the top layer. 

Once you have a small slit, you can carefully cut away the top layer to reveal the bottom fabric.  This is where it really starts to pay off! (Although halfway through you'll be wishing that their parent's had chosen a shorter name - I thought "Aria" was good enough here!)

After you've cut away the top layer, give the edges a brutal scraping with your thumbnail.  My philosophy is "it's gonna fray, it's better for it to fray now where I can trim it!"  This will mess up all your pretty work, but it's temporary!  Use your scissors to clean up the loose threads and give it a good shake to remove the lint.  (Remember your slave labor?  They're gonna need to vaccuum now)

Jordan really liked the little pocket on the front of the maternity jumper, so we added that to the front of the pillow, backing it with the extra baby blanket material so it would match.

The only thing left to do is stitch the back to the front.
Lay your front down, with the right side facing you.  Take one of your hemmed panels and place it on the front, with the wrong side facing you, with the hemmed part towards the center.

Now, place the last panel in the opposite direction, wrong side up, hemmed edge towards the center.  Remember how we made each one about 2/3rds the size of the front?  2/3 + 2/3 = 4/3 = 1 1/3  So, the back panels will overlap, creating the envelope. (Are you impressed with my math?  We homeschool so I've been doing fractions and extended notation with the kids.  I'm sorry!)
Stitch all around all four sides, serge or zig-zag to finish the edges if you want.  Turn it right side out and put it on your pillow!  

We also made a little lavendar-filled satchet to tuck in the pocket.  It smells yummy!

I hope that you've enjoyed this tutorial.  I want to see what you make with this!  Link it up!

And be sure to visit some of my other Friday Follow Friends below!

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  1. Thank you Noel Giger.Fabulous art work.Wish you in advance a joyful Valentine's day ahead.

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  2. Adorable project. And I love your way of measuring time in toddler napping. When they are that age we literally do our living during their naps!

  3. “Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest” Great Job:)

  4. This is the neatest project EVER!!!! I love how professional the pillow looks!! Just wonderful...xxoo, Dawn

  5. Hi I am a late follow from Friday Follow please follow me back thanks!

  6. Hello there. I am a new follow from the FF list. Sorry I am late, but better late than never right? I look forward to following your blog and getting to know you better. Hope you enjoy my blog and the fun giveaways I am doing. Have a good week. Juliana with A Blonde Walks Into A Blog

    I LOVE that project---too cute and great for vday!


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