I was recently at a wedding that was held in a beautiful old town house. It was one of those perfect weddings: the couple was gorgeous, the food was great, and despite threatening skies, not a drop of rain fell. On top of that, the space was wonderfully homey and comfortable, right down to the tiniest details, from feathery potted ferns to graceful tapered candles. When we settled down to eat the (delicious) lemon cake, I was especially struck by the lovely flat pillows that lined the wooden benches where we all sat. This little touch made everyone feel so welcome and at home that I thought it would be nice to make something similar for my own home.
My version of these pillows is inspired by rustic yet elegant Japanese interior design. Thin and flat, they are finished with simple tufting, almost like a luxurious feather duvet. They make perfect seat cushions, bed toppers, or couch accents. I also love the way these pillows look in graduating sizes stacked one on top of another. Page’s darling cat, Cleo, loves the pile too! Perched on top of them, she’s just like the Princess and the Pea!
To make my pillows extra special I used Globalweave Tight Weave Linen. While it may look simple, this linen is actually one of Purl Soho’s most distinctive fabrics. Thick and drapey, it has a spectacularly buttery touch. When fabric is this remarkable I don’t like to fuss it up too much, so I used neutral colored solids on the back and, for a little spark, some red hand quilting thread to stitch it together. The stitching ensures that each pillow looks handmade and unique, while the sumptuous fabric guarantees that everyone will want to touch them (which is okay, because they’re machine washable!).
To make 5 stackable pillows ranging in size from 26 X 17-inches to 18 X 9-inches:
- 1 1/4 yards of Tight Weave Linen
- five 1/2 yard pieces of various neutral cotton solids. I used: Kona Cotton in Snow, Bone, White, P and B’s Quilter’s Muslin, and P and B Color Spectrum in Ecru
- 100% cotton thread in a neutral color (I used color 1040)
- hand quilting thread in color 1974
- a twin sized Wool Batting
- a Hera Marker
Cutting and Sewing
You can make these pillows in any size you want. I made mine in the following sizes, from smallest to biggest: 18 X 9-inches, 20 X 11-inches, 22 X 13-inches, 24 X 15-inches, and 26 X 17-inches.
Cut one of the cotton solids into a rectangle one inch larger than you want for your final pillow. For instance, for my largest pillow which is 26 X 17-inches finished, I cut a piece 27 X 18-inches. This is the pillow back
Cut the linen to be at least 2-inches bigger than the cotton piece. It doesn’t have to be precise. This is the pillow front.
These pillows are stuffed with four layers of batting each. So for each pillow you will need to cut 4 identical rectangles of batting that are 1-inch smaller than the final pillow size. For instance, for my largest pillow, which is 26 X 17-inches finished, I cut 4 rectangles of batting 25 X 16-inches each.
Center the back piece onto the front piece and pin the two together.
Using a 1/2-inch seam allowance, measured from the edge of the pillow back, and the neutral colored sewing thread sew around both long sides and one short side leaving one short side un-sewn.
Trim the linen front on the three sewn sides to match up with the cotton back.
Trim the linen on the unsewn side a 1/2-inch above the raw edge of the cotton. This extra bit of linen will help you to stuff the pillow later.
Zig Zag stitch along all four sides of the pillow to keep the linen from fraying. (This linen is made with very thick thread so it frays very easily.) On the three sew sides you will be zig zagging the raw edges of the front and back pieces together. When you get to the unsewn side you will just be sewing over the linen front.
Turn the pillow right sides out through the unsewn side.
Lay the 4 cut pieces of batting on top of one another and slide them inside the pillow. Make sure the batting is laying flat and the corners are nice and pointy. If the batting is too big feel free to cut it down.
Pin the unsewn side closed with the raw edges inside. The batting can be tucked inside the extra 1/2-inch of linen left in the last step.
Using the neutral thread sew the side shut with a blind stitch. If you’ve never done a blind stitch we have a how-to here, just scroll to down to “step 3- blind stitching.”
Using the Hera Marker mark a line lengthwise across the center of the pillow on the front and on the back. Also mark the middle of this line. This is your starting point.
To tuft the pillow you will be making small cross stitches 3 inches apart in either direction along the marked line.
To make a cross stitch follow along with the diagram below (the marked line is blue in the pictures below):
1. Tie a small knot at the end of a length of the red hand quilting thread. Pull your needle through the back of the pillow and out through the front just at the bottom right of the starting point.
2. Place the needle up and to the left to form a diagonal line and pull it through, exiting the needle at the back just to the left of the marked line.
3. Place the needle directly under the #2 exit point on the back and pull it though. Exit the front just below the #2 on the front.
4. Insert the needle diagonally up and to the right, directly above #1, forming an “X”. Pull the needle out though the back directly across from #2 on the back.
5. Insert the needle just though the back layer and batting (not through to the front) just below #4 and then push it through the batting and out at your next starting point (represented as 1A in the diagram above) 3-inches away from this first cross stitch.
6. Repeat along the length of the marked line. Start in the middle and work your way out in either direction.
When you get to the end of a length of thread simply tie a small knot at the back of the pillow very close to one of your stitches and pull the thread through. Snip the thread to hide the end.
The front should look like this (although it will be a lot more fluffy), a row of “X”s.
And the back should look like this, a row of Roman numeral twos.
After you are done with the first marked line of tufting mark another line exactly between the middle line and the right edge of the pillow. Tuft this line in the same manner. Then mark another line exactly between the middle line and the left edge of the pillow and tuft it in the same manner and you’ll be done!