Today we have a special post from Karen’s sister Kathy.  Kathy is a very talented and creative individual.  She has been a great source of inspiration and advice for our ideas.  We hope you enjoy her post. 

When I was planning my recent visit to see my sister, Karen, I knew I could count on three things:  I would not be allowed to sleep in, I would be very well fed, and we would spend most of our time working together on a variety of craft projects.  I was not disappointed.  One of our top priorities was to experiment with our new Cameo Silhouette and make some stenciled pillows.  Pillows are such simple accessories, yet they will add a punch of fun, charm, and personality to any room.  You can see the results of our efforts in the post Fun with the Cameo Silhouette.

When I got back home to Michigan, I decided to experiment with some of my own pillow ideas.  An article in the March 2012 issue of Country Living supplied the inspiration for my appliquéd state pillows.  Easy to make, these pillows can be personalized for a unique and special gift.  Karen liked the one I made for a gift so much she asked me to write this guest post with instructions to help you make your own state pillow.

Gather your materials.  You’ll need fabric for the pillow front and back (I used a painters cloth), contrasting fabric for the appliqué, wax paper, Therm O Web HeatnBond Lite (or some other double sided fusing), one or more colors of coordinating thread, coordinating piping (if desired), and a pillow insert.

First, cut out a piece of material for the pillow front the size of the pillow insert PLUS 1/2 inch on all sides (e..g for a 12 x 16 inch pillow, you’ll cut the front piece 13 x 17 inches).

Now find a simple outline map of the state you want to appliqué on your pillow.  Modify the size to best fit the shape of the pillow that you want to use.  Pick a map that has enough detail to be interesting, but not too detailed as it will be difficult to cut out and appliqué.  A good place to start is by doing a Google search of “outline maps” for your state.  One trick I discovered was to go over the outline of a more detailed map with a thick marker.  This simplifies the shape by obliterating some of the finer details.

Lots of maps are available online

Use a thick marker to outline the shape and remove fine details

I’ve decided on this image for my Virginia pillow template and sized it to fit a 12 x 16 inch pillow insert.  Now, cut out your template.  Another trick I’ve discovered is to cut out a second template in wax paper (it doesn’t have to be precise) so that you can experiment with different fabrics to see how they look as an appliqué.

Use a wax paper template to get the best fabric pattern

After you have selected your fabric for the appliqué, you need to fuse it to the front piece of the pillow cover.  Trace your template onto the paper side of the HeatnBond and fuse it to the appliqué fabric according to package instructions.  Then, cut out the appliqué, position it on the front piece of the pillow cover, and fuse again.

Now the fun part comes in.  The appliqué is going to be secured by free machine stitching around the edges.  To free stitch on my ancient Kenmore machine, I lower the feed dogs and released the pressure.   Some people use a special foot to do free stitching but I have found that just a regular foot works fine for me. Now, stitch round your appliqué with coordinating and/or contrasting thread.  For my Michigan pillow, I went around three times, twice with brown and once with lime.  But for the Virginia pillow, I liked just twice around with red.  Don’t worry about perfection here, a few errant lines over the edge will only add character to your pillow!


You can finish your pillow a number of different ways.  I like piping and basted it onto the front of my pillow, following the package instructions.

For the pillow back closure, I like a simple overlapping method.  Measure and cut a pillow back that is 4 inches wider than the trimmed front piece (e.g. if the pillow insert is 12 x 16 inches, the front piece of the pillow would be 13 x 17 inches and the back would be 13 x 21 inches).  Now cut the back piece in two, with one piece 13 x 10 inches and the other 13 x 11 inches.  Lay the two pillow back pieces side by side, right side down.  Fold the center edges in ½ inch to the wrong side and press.  Fold under another ½ inch again and press and then sew a hem in place along the fold.  Lay the appliquéd front piece right side up on a table.  Place the smaller back piece on the right side of the front piece, right side facing the appliqué.  Place the longer back piece on the left side of the front piece, right side facing the appliqué, and overlapping the other back piece.  Using a ½ inch seam allowance, sew around the  pillow edges.  I like to double stitch the seam where the two back pieces overlap.   If you have used piping, then sew with the front pillow piece on top and follow the line of stitching used to baste on the piping.  Trim corners and turn the pillow cover right side out.

Lay right sides together

Back pieces should overlap

Round the corners when sewing

Finished back

Give the pillow cover a nice press and insert your pillow form.

To personalize your pillow, add a button or sew on a heart where you or the recipient of your pillow gift lives.

Thanks for following along as Karen and Janice get ready for Lucketts next month.  You just might see some more of these pillows there, too.


PS:  Several days during my visit, I was awoken at a ridiculous hour in the morning in order for Karen, Janice, and me to be among the first in line at some barn or estate sale.  I didn’t grumble too much as I knew that Karen would have fixed some delicious lunch to reward us after hours of dirty, dusty treasure hunting.  Karen has promised to post some of my favorite recipes in the near future.