Recently I’ve been on a run of making quillows for people. It’s been a fun excuse to dig through my stash and yes, you knew it was inevitable, add to that stash with strategic fat quarter purchases. I swear, whoever invented the “fat quarter,” was a marketing genius. They are the single most addictive and dangerous-to-a-budget-item in any given fabric store. “Oh it’s only $2 for one…,” quickly turns into $10-$20 worth of adorable little fabric bundles and you’ve negated any progress you had previously achieved on the stash of fabrics you have been trying to use up. But I digress.
Even though there are literally hundreds of tutorials on how to make a quillow I am going to add my own to the pile. This entire tutorial is biased towards what is faster to make. Why? Simply because it is nice to have go-to gift options that you can craft for people that you will actually be able to finish quickly. It would be lovely to be able to make intricate quilts for every person you love but if you’re on any kind of deadline that is not a good gift idea. I am terrible at finishing gifts on time for people primarily because I make the mistake of making the gift WAY more complicated than it needs to be. This disorder has gotten so bad, it has become my standard operating procedure to offer a mea culpa to everyone I make a quilt/quilted gift for that they will not receive it on time. Don’t be like me! Learn from my mistakes and make people simple gifts so that they actually get them in a timely enough manner to be able to enjoy them.
For mother’s day this year I made my mom a quillow. To customize it, I used fabrics I’d bought with her in mind over the years and I made her a fleece throw out of fabric I knew she’d love rather than buying a blanket. Since fabric is the center-stage of the design it is simple and therefore an ideal example for a tutorial. I made an effort to take photos of every step of the assembly process. I omitted the piecing step simply because I am making the assumption that anyone who wants to make a quillow has some basic experience with sewing and piecing. If you want more piecing details just leave a comment and we’ll go from there. I hope that you find it helpful, dear Reader, and that it leads to years of joyful timely crafting and happy craft recipients.
Supplies you will need
- Assorted quilting cottons (for the front and back)
- Quilt batting, low loft
- blanket (could be a quilt you make, a blanket you buy, or a simple fleece throw–it’s up to you)
- standard sewing supplies: sewing machine, white thread, safety pins, straight pins, scissors, and a ruler.
- Recommended: iron, ironing board, and spray starch
**A note about the blanket: Traditionally, the blanket is a quilt. Quilts, no matter what anyone tells you to the contrary, take quite a bit of work, money, and time. While you can use a quilt this tutorial is geared toward using a store-bought commercially manufactured blanket or a homemade fleece throw rather than a quilt, purely in the interests of time. The fleece throw in this tutorial is ~2 yards of blizzard anti-pill fleece with about three spools of polka dot grosgrain ribbon zigzag stitched as binding over the raw edges. It was time consuming (~3 hours for pinning the ribbon and sewing it on), awkward, and tricky (ribbon is slippery!) to make but not at all difficult to do. I do recommend it as a straightforward way to make a customized blanket if you want to be more personal than store-bought but lack the time to do a quilt.**
1) Sew your quillow front.
- a. The “quillow front,” is what people will see when the quillow is in its folded pillow form. I have blogged about quillows I have made in other posts but below is a picture of the quillow front I made my mom.
- b. In the interests of time I suggest choosing an easy design which showcases the fabrics you use.
- c. This quillow front is a nine-patch pattern using 4.5” squares (4” finished square) of fussy-cut quilting cotton. It is bordered by fussy cut strips which are about 1 inch finished in width. I just sewed the cut pieces together using a quarter inch seam allowance. This particular example is larger than what I generally prefer to make. I generally recommend quillows be between 18”-24” square but of course you can make it whatever size you want.
- d. Just remember: a bigger quillow front is going to mean a baggier pocket for your feet and a flatter “pillow” while a smaller quillow front means your feet may be more snug and your pillow is pouffier.
2) Cut out your batting and your backing fabric
- a. Your batting should be about 1” larger all around than your quillow front
- b. Your backing should be about 2” larger all around than your quillow front if you use the method I recommend below for binding called, Backing fabric fold over
3) Layer your pieced pillow front, your batting, and your backing fabric
- a. Make sure that all layers are as smooth as possible with no wrinkles
- b. Pin thoroughly with safety pins
4) Quilt as desired
- a. I like keeping it simple by just stitching in the ditch. That means my quilt lines follow my pieced seam lines but you can obviously quilt it as you like
- b. Start quilting with the center and work out
- c. After quilting the whole piece I like to zig zag stitch the raw edges down through all layers just for extra stability
5) Bind raw edges
- a. There are multiple ways to do this.
i. Store-bought binding: you could use store bought binding to cover the raw edges
ii. Homemade binding: you could use homemade binding (strips of fabric cut on the bias and folded) to cover the raw edges
- 1. Bear in mind that when you sew the pocket to the blanket, a lot of the binding won’t be visible when the quillow is in pillow mode
iii. Backing fabric fold over: which means that the backing fabric is folded over (I like to iron it in place with starch) and then sewn down so it forms a border around the pieced pillow front. This is what I have photographed and what I recommend because from my perspective it is easier to do. However, if you do not have a lot of the fabric you are using for your backing, using binding would probably be a good idea
6) Sew quillow piece to the blanket
- a. Find the center of the bottom of your blanket
- b. Align the center of your pocket to the center of your blanket
- c. Pin thoroughly using safety pins
i. Pillow front side of quillow piece must face the wrong side of the blanket. Put another way, as you pin you should be looking at the backing of your quillow piece, not the front
ii. Sew three sides, about ¼” to ½” in from the edge of the quillow piece. One trick I use which you can see in the picture is I put a safety pin directly in the path of the presser foot on the side I want to remain open. I look at that pin and I think “I don’t sew that side–it would break my machine and ruin the quillow!”
- Reinforce the corners where you will be folding and unfolding the blanket a lot
7) Trim loose threads and you’re Done!
There you have it, dear readers, my quillow how-to. Please feel free to comment if you have questions or if this helped you make something awesome. Happy crafting!
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