Sunday, January 2, 2011

Simplifying Christmas Part 3 ~ Sewing A Pillow

 My guest artist for this blog is my daughter Rosie.  She is 7.  She wanted to show you how she made her Christmas present for her cousin Lil' Nat!  I was really excited to watch this progress from her idea to a finished project and I know she was really proud of her achievement knowing that it was her idea.  I had been feeling rather guilty lately because I had thought that I wasn't taking enough time to teach my children some of what I know.  I am feeling a tad better about things after watching this and now having her ask me to teach her "everything" that I know.  lol!

A couple of things to keep in mind.  First, my girls have been around sewing and cutting tools since they were born and we always talk about how to use these tools safely and what they can touch or cannot touch.  We have never had an issue. Where I feel quite confident in leaving my things in view, this may not be safe for other children.  You be the best judge.  When the girls work in my sewing room, I am always there in case they need assistance and to make sure that they are using the equipment safely.  Never do I let them use the cutter!  They are extremely sharp and I have seen the damage done to hands of adults that have forgotten to drop the blade.  Although it is wonderful to let our children create and to try new things, we need to keep in mind their safety.

How to Sew A Personalized Art Pillow Rosie Style
Decide on project and draw a picture on a piece of paper. If you would like you can colour the picture in so that you know what colours to use later on. Then, using a light table or taping your drawing to a window, tape a piece of fabric over top (we used white cotton so it would be easier for her to see her lines).  Trace the drawing onto the fabric.
Transferring her drawing. 
This little table is something I rigged up years ago using a milk crate, a lightbulb and some plexi glass.  Inexpensive and easy to do (especially if you have a friend that is an electrician)
Once you have your drawing transferred, pick out your favourite crayons and start colouring.  I prefer to use Crayola crayons.  We just used the regular ones.  I have never used their "fabric crayons" because I have found that these work just fine and have never had a problem yet.
Colouring her drawing on the fabric.

You can either do this step before or after colouring.  I usually do it before but Rosie wanted to colour first.  Trace around the drawing with a Permanent Fineline Sharpie.  I did this for her because I was able to trace the lines faster; if you are slow then you run the risk of the marker bleeding into the fabric.  This step just sets off the drawing.
Comparing the original paper drawing to the fabric drawing.

...and Voila!!! Complete coloured and inked!
(with her little notes "And it's right here...It's almoste finished.)

Time to head to the ironing board. 
Place your coloured fabric right side up on your ironing board.  Using newsprint paper (the plain stuff that they use for packing or from the art store...not a newspaper), cover your coloured fabric.  Using a preheated iron (I usually set mine to the cotton setting) iron over the paper.  Move your iron slowly and make sure you iron all of your beautiful artwork.  Rosie started in one corner and held the iron to the count of 5, then moved to another section and held for a count of 5, etc.  The heat from the iron melts and sets the crayon into the fabric.
Heat setting the drawing. 
Make sure to explain to your children how to use the iron safely.
Time to plan the pillow:
This is a great way for children to learn about colour.  Rosie went through my fabric stash and selected colours using her coloured drawing as her guide.  We then set them out to make sure that she was happy with her selections and that I had enough.  A couple of times she had to go back to the stash simply because there wasn't enough of the fabric that she wanted.  Decide if you want to have a solid border or a couple of smaller borders.  Rosie decided that she wanted to have an inside border and a striped border.  She wanted her inside border to be the same fabric that she picked for the pillow backing.  Let them experiment and have fun with colour...after all, it is their project.

Time to Sew!!  (using 1/4" seam allowances)
First, rig up your equipment to accomodate shorter bodies.  Rosie used my office chair so that she could adjust the height of the chair to the height of the sewing machine.  We then stacked Rubbermaid containers to lift the pedal to her foot.
Creating a kid-size workspace by bringing the equipment to their level.
To help her keep her seam allowances, we placed a piece of masking tape onto the sewing machine.  She knew that if the raw edge of the fabric was touching the side of the tape she had the correct seam allowance.  Sometimes she would go a little wild but would get back on track again using the tape as her guide.
Using masking tape as a seam allowance guide. 
Be sure to explain the importance of where little fingers should and should not be and also the importance of removing pins before they go under the needle (she caught me a few times on this point).  Before they start sewing let them practice on a scrap piece so they can feel that the machine is actually moving the fabric through; they are just guiding it (and that the fabric will not move if they have a death grip on it)
In the above picture, you can see that she has her inside border (yellow) on and is now sewing her striped border on.  The striped border is not as complicated as it looks.  These are long strips that have been sewn together then cut into 1 1/2" striped border strips.  That may not make sense.  I will sew up one and post a picture to this post.

Make sure that you press your seam allowances for a nice finish.  Here Rosie is using a pressing block.  I find that it gives a beautiful smooth finish to pieced sewing work.
Using a pressing block after ironing for a smooth finish.
As you sew on your borders, ask a grown up to trim the ends.  Rotary cutters are extremely sharp and dangerous when not handled properly.

Trimming the ends. 
Not the best picture to demonstrate cutter safety.  Unfortunately it is the best I can do right now until I finish unpacking.

Trim the raw edges and square up your finished piece.
Squaring up the finished piece.
....and Voila!!  Finished top ready for backing.
Sewing the Pillow Back
We decided that it would be best to create a split back pillow so that it would be easier of Lil' Nat's mom to take the pillow form out in case the pillow needs to be washed.

Cut the fabric 1/2" wider than the finished pillow top width and for the length we cut it approximately 2" longer than half the length of the top.  We cut the second piece the same way but a little longer so that they overlap in the middle.  On each piece, fold the edge that will be the opening to the back of the pillow over to the wrong side (I believe we did 1") and press.  Fold the raw edge under to meet the fold line and press.  Top stitch in place.  Pin the fabric pieces to the pillow top (right side to right side) so that the finished edges overlap in the middle.
Pillow backing pinned with finished edges overlapping creating the split back.
Clip corners before turning right side out.
Clip all four corners for nice corners when turned.
Press to set stitches and turn right side out.
Turning right side out.
Making sure to get corners out.  You can use a knitting needle to work them into place or a blunt tool so that you don't rip your fabric.
Stuff your pillow form into your finished pillowcase. 

Putting the pillowform into the case.

Celebrate the completed project!!
A pillow to be proud of! 
Time to Celebrate!
This is just an idea of how to use art transferred onto fabric.  I use this technique to create labels for my quilts.  She could easily have turned her drawing into a wallhanging or a tote bag for her art supplies or scriptures.  She could do a series of drawings and piece them together into a quilt.  Let the children use their imagination and see what other ideas they come up with.  Most important.  Have fun together!  Happy Sewing!!


  1. I didn't go into detail for what size to cut borders, etc as everyone's project will be unique to the size of their drawing, pillowform, etc. If you haven't done much (any) sewing and are trying to figure out cutting dimensions, I am happy to help out. Just post a comment, give me a call, grab me at church....I will do the best that I can to get you started.

  2. Thanks Nancy! She worked so hard on this project and was really excited about it. Since January she has been thinking what to make for her gift this year.


I always love to hear what you think about what I am working on. Tell me about what you are working on or have been inspired to start (...or pull out to finish).