Sunday, August 3, 2014

Brick Pattern Pieced Pillowcase

I was inspired by this design and wanted to make some bright, cheery, pieced pillowcases for our hard wooden sunroom chairs. Here are some instructions to help you out. I'm not the most experienced quilter myself, but this is an easy project. I made two pillows, one in shades of blue, green, and yellow, and the other in pink, purple, and blue. The latter one turned out a little too pink for my preference, but some of the individual fabrics in there are just so strikingly pretty that I wanted to get them used in something.

The brick-patterned, pieced pillow.


Materials: Fabric (fat quarters work well for this project), 18" or 20" pillow form, fabric cutting tools, thread

1. Choose your fabric.
Well, duh. That's the best part! This project is great for making use of your fat quarters (a particular size cut of fabric, 18" by 22") and random scraps. Pick as many different colors as you'd like in your bricks. For the backing, you can use all one fabric but you'll need a sufficient quantity (one fat quarter is not enough); two or three fat quarters will do the trick.
Choosing fabrics for a blue/green and a pink/purple pillowcase.
2. Wash and iron the fabric.
I'm always tempted to skip these steps, but they say not to.
Iron it. Do it.
3. Cut the strips and pieces.
Here, you can see a couple of tools I like to use. The clear plastic thing is an aid to cutting strips that I bought when I was a quilter back when I thought I might actually quilt often (I don't...I've been working on the same full-size quilt for over a decade). It's a time-saver, but you can cut strips just as well with your Omnigrid or other measuring/cutting guide.

Tools for cutting that help make it quick and painless.
To cut strips from uncut fabric, carefully line up the fabric's edges and fold in half again so it fits on your mat. I always try to push it and cut too many layers of fabric all together, but you can combine 2 or 3 of your different fabrics for one cut at a time. It depends on how sharp your razor is.

Cut strips 3.5" wide and then chop those into bricks 5" long. You need 31 bricks; a few of these will be short ones on the edges, so if you're really pushing the boundaries on using scraps of fabric, keep in mind that a few of these will be half-bricks.

Lay them out, arrange how you want them, and take a picture that you can refer back to once you start picking them up and sewing.
Bricks all arranged, and photographed for easy reference.
4. Start piecing.
I used pins to piece the bricks together for sewing; that's just my preference. It takes a little longer, but I don't mind. In any case, fold as many bricks as you can over to their neighboring brick to the left, right sides of the fabric together. Pin if you want, stack them in a pile in order, and bring them to your sewing machine.
Nothing prettier than a pile of sharply cut fabric.
Chain-sew the short side of the pieces as pinned, with 1/4" seam allowance. To do this, you just keep feeding the pairs of fabric together through the sewing machine without stopping to cut the thread between each piece. This is a very basic quilting technique that saves time and thread. You'll end up with a chain, looking like pretty little flags, of pieces. Cut them apart and iron the seams to one side.
Chain-pieced bricks.
Finish piecing the horizontal rows together. Keep bringing the pieces back to lay them out and make sure you're sewing the right pieces to each other (use your photograph for reference!). Eventually, you'll have all the rows complete. Make sure all seam allowances are pressed in the same direction, and prepare to piece the rows to each other. Pay attention to lining up the bricks on every other row so the rows are neatly lined up.

Sewing the horizontal rows together. You can
see a few places where I messed up and ironed
the seam allowances the wrong way. No big deal.
Eventually, you'll have the whole top pieced together. Yay!
Finished top.
5. Prepare the back.
Your goal for the finished pillowcase is exactly the same size as the pillowform (if you want a fat, overstuffed pillow) or 1-2" larger (depending on how understuffed you like your pillows). For reference, I started off with a 20" pillowcase for an 18" pillow form, and thought it looked too understuffed (see pictures below). I went out and bought the 20" pillow forms instead. Say you're making a 20" pillowcase for a 20" pillow form. Your backing needs to be 20" plus the seam allowance, so 20.5" square after you put the overlapping pieces of the back together. You won't really be able to do this from one fat quarter, but two will do the trick. I used three pieces leftover from the cutting of the strips for the front (light blue, light green, and dark green).
The back.
If you're doing like I did with three strips of fabric leftover from cutting bricks for the front, cut them each 8.5" thick and they should be at least 20.5" long (you can trim this dimension later). Sew together the two that will be joined (see above picture, light blue and light green). Two of the pieces are going to be overlapping (light green and dark green) and open for stuffing the pillow inside, best seen on the picture of the finished pillowcase below, once turned right-side out.

For the pieces that will overlap, fold down about 1", press, and sew it down. Pin the overlap together (see above picture) and treat the back like it's one piece of fabric.

Now, you can trim it to size (20.5" by 20.5") and then lay it on top of the finished top, right sides together (see above picture) and pin in down for sewing.

6. Sew the whole square.
Sew all around at 1/4 seam allowance on the carefully measured backing. Then you can just trim the excess off the top.

You can also go a little more carefully here and trim the top to match the bottom (20.5" by 20.5") before sewing. This will allow you to always make sure you're sewing in the direction you've pressed the seam allowances. If that sounds difficult to picture, you'll see what I mean when you get there. Proceed as seems best.

The moment of truth: turn the pillowcase right-side out through the opening.
The back of the finished pillowcase. 
Stuff with the pillow form. At first, I stuffed an 18" pillow form into the 20" pillowcase:
Smaller pillow in the pillowcase.
It looked a little too schlumpy for me. So I went out and bought 20" pillow forms and now the pillows are firm and overstuffed:

However, the overstuffed pillows may be straining the seams a little more than when understuffed, so you might want to consider making the finished pillowcase somewhere in the middle, like 1" larger than the pillow form.

Happy sewing!