Mid-Century Modern Quilted Pillows
This sunny yellow pillow cover is inspired by the '60s artwork of Josef Albers, making it the perfect (and perfectly snug) addition to any mid-century modern home. An envelope closure on the back of the cover makes it easy to insert your pillow form and remove it when you need to clean the cover.
Photography: Jenny Hallengren
Source: Martha Stewart
This quilting project is reprinted with permissions from "Quilt Local: Finding Inspiration in the Everyday" by contemporary quilter Heather Jones. The design is inspired by the work of Josef Albers, in particular, his "Homage to the Square" series of paintings that explored how colors work with each other and react against each other. Rather than duplicate Alber's work in which the squares are nestled within each other, she changed her version so that the three squares are on the same plane, that is, they all rest on the same ground line. "I created an analogous color palette using three shades of yellow, surrounded by white sashing around the block," says Heather. "I placed the lightest fabric in the center and ringed it with two darker yellows: a mid-tone butter yellow and a darker saffron yellow."
Finished cover size: 19½" x 19½"
The fabric amounts are based on using 44-45" wide fabrics.
- Fabric 1: ¼ yard square, of a solid light yellow such as Clothworks American Made Brand Cotton Solids in Light Yellow (08)
- Fabric 2: ¼ yard of a solid bright medium yellow, such as Clothworks American Made Brand Cotton Solids in Dark Yellow (10)
- Fabric 3: ¼ yard of a solid dark gold, such as Clothworks American Made Brand Cotton Solids in Dark Gold (69)
- Fabric 4: ¼ yard of a solid white, such as Clothworks American Made Brand Cotton Solids in White (01)
- Backing fabric for pillow-cover front: 26” square of white cotton fabric
- Fabric for pillow-cover back: ½ yard more of Fabric 4
- 24" x 24" of batting
- All-purpose thread
- White quilting thread
- 20" x 20" premade pillow form
- Sewing machine
Using a rotary cutter, straight edge, and a cutting mat, cut on 6½" x 6½" square from Fabric 1 for one A piece. Label your pieces as you cut them.
Using a rotary cutter, straight edge, and a cutting mat, cut one 2 1/2" x width of fabric (WOF) strip and one 4 ½" x WOF strip, from Fabric 2, cutting from selvage to selvage. Subcut the 2 ½" x WOF strip into two 2 ½" x 6 ½" strips for two B pieces. Trim the 4 ½" WOF strip to 4 ½" 10 ½" for one C piece.
From Fabric 3, cut one 2½" x WOF and one 4 ½”" x WOF strip. Subcut the 2 ½" x WOF strip into two 2 ½” x 10 ½" strips for two D pieces. Trim the 4 ½" WOF strip to 4 ½" x 14 ½" for one E piece.
From Fabric 4, cut two 3 ½" x WOF strips. Subcut the first strip into two 3 ½" x 14 ½" for two F pieces, and subcut the other strip into two 3 ½" x 20 ½" pieces for two G pieces.
Following the diagram, sew one B piece to the right side of the A piece, with right sides together and using a ¼" seam allowance for all seams. Sew the other B piece to the left side of the A piece and press the seams to the side, toward the B pieces. Then sew the C piece to the top of the pieced section. Press the seam to the side, toward the C piece.
Following the diagram, sew one D piece to the right side of pieced section and the other D piece to the left side of the pieced section. Press the seams to the side, toward the D pieces. Then sew the E piece to the top of the pieced section. Press the seam to the side, toward the E piece.
Sew one F piece to the right side of the pieced section, and sew the other F piece to the left side of the pieced section, following the diagram. Press the seams to the side, toward the F pieces.
Following the diagram, sew one G piece to the top of the pieced section, and sew the other G piece to the bottom of the pieced section to complete the pillow-cover front top. Press the seams to the side, toward the G pieces.
Layer the batting between the pillow-cover front top and the 26” square of backing fabric to make a quilt sandwich. Baste together with quilting pins.
Quilt as desired. After quilting, trim off the excess batting and backing fabric to align them with the edges of the pillow-cover front top, and square up all sides of the quilted piece if necessary.
Make the pillow cover back in two pieces to create an envelope opening. First, cut one 15½" x WOF strip from the pillow cover back fabric. Subcut this strip into two 15½" x 20½" rectangles for the two back pieces.
Fold and press ½" then 1 ½" to the wrong side along one long edge of one back piece to create a double hem. Repeat on the second back piece. Pin both hems in place and machine stitch each hem close to the second fold.
Place the back pieces on a flat surface, wrong side up, and overlap the hemmed edges at the center as shown so that they form a 20 ½" square -- the same size as the pillow cover front. Pin the two pieces together along the one hemmed edge using straight pins or quilting pins, then machine stitch the two pieces together where they overlap along the outside edges, stitching ¼" from the edge to create one backing piece.
Place the pillow cover front on top of the pillow cover back, with right sides together, and pin in place. Keep the pins on the back to stabilize the envelope section during this step. Using a 1/2" seam allowance, start stitching all around the perimeter of the pillow square. At the first corner, stop the sewing machine ½" from the next side edge, with the needle down. Then lift the presser foot of the machine, pivot the fabric 90 degrees counterclockwise, lower the presser foot, and continue to the next corner. Continue in this way until all four sides are joined together.
Snip off the seam allowance corners on the pillow cover, making sure not to cut the stitches of the seam. Finish the raw edges of the pillow cover by serging them or sewing them with a machine zigzag stitch. Remove the pins from the hem on the back and turn the pillow cover right side out. Insert the premade pillow form.