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Pieced Pillows

Photography: Anna Williams

Source: Martha Stewart Living, October 2007


The following text is excerpted from "Last-Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts" by Joelle Hoverson.

I wanted to make throw pillows with a modern feel, so I created this design with a graphic sensibility. I love the dark-brown background fabric with vivid pink accent strips. The standard convention is to use a pillow form one inch larger than the pillowcase. I don't like an overstuffed pillow, however, so these instructions are written for pillow forms one inch smaller than their cases.


  • 2 1/4 yards of 45-inch-wide patterned cotton fabric, for pillow fronts

  • 3/4 yard each of 4 solid-color, 45-inch-wide cotton accent fabrics, for strips and pillow backs (I used two hot pinks and two bright reds)

  • Four 16-inch square pillow forms

  • Cotton thread to match front fabric

  • Hand-sewing needle


  1. Prepare fabric: Wash, dry, and press the fabric.

  2. Cut fabric: From the front fabric, cut four 19-inch squares (the squares will be 3 inches larger than the pillow forms). Set the squares aside.

  3. Fold one accent fabric in half from selvage to selvage. Trim the selvages and cut the fabric at the fold to create two 20-inch-wide pieces. Cut one piece down to a 19-inch square; set aside. Cut ten 3/4-inch strips from the other 20-inch-wide piece.

  4. Repeat the process from step 3 for the remaining accent fabrics. You'll then have more than enough strips for all 4 pillows.

  5. Lay the pillow's front fabric right side up and position several accent strips, right side up, in a pleasing arrangement on top. (On two pillows, I arranged some askew for a whimsical look; on the others, I used vertical and horizontal accent strips. If you plan to do the latter, first create vertical strips, working through step 7, then repeat steps 5 to 7 to add horizontal strips.) Note that you'll be trimming the main fabric before sewing the pillow front to the back, so don't place any strips closer than 3 inches from the edge of the front fabric.

  6. Cut pillow front pieces: To cut the front fabric into the pieces your design requires, begin with the accent strip nearest the front's left side (the strips should still be positioned on the front fabric as you arranged them in step 5). Place a ruler's edge along one side of the strip. Using a rotary cutter and the ruler's edge, cut the main fabric in a straight line from top to bottom. Continue cutting the main fabric into pieces, working from left to right across the pillow front and cutting once for every strip arranged over it.

  7. Piece pillow front: Align and pin both edges of the accent strips to the front-fabric pieces they abut, with right sides together, and sew all the pieces along the pinned edges. Press all the seams to the side of the darker fabric.

  8. Cut down pillow front and back: Choose an accent fabric for the pillow back. Cut down the pillow front and back to 18-inch squares (each piece will be 2 inches larger than the pillow form's dimensions).

  9. Sew pillow: Align and pin together pillow's front and back, right sides together. Sew around 3 sides of the square, beginning and ending with a few backstitches. Trim corners. Turn pillow right side out. Fold pillow's open ends 1/2 inch to the wrong side, and press them in place.

  10. Stuff pillowcase with pillow form. Using a blind stitch, carefully hand-sew remaining opening closed, stitching just inside the fold for best results.

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