This project combines 3 different techniques – fabric painting, applique, and sewing (with a zipper!) into one project. I love projects like this, with a bit of depth. You can layer a few different techniques to make something really unique. Create the background fabric. Cut and embellish the strawberry. Sew it together. How fun is that?
Just because this pillow uses a few techniques, that doesn’t mean it is difficult! This is a great project for someone with basic to intermediate sewing skills. If you sew a straight line and find your zipper foot, you are probably good to go. Just give yourself time to work through the steps. So grab some supplies and get making a bit of summer for your sofa.
- half a yard of linen fabric
- scraps of red and green fabric for the strawberry
- 16 inch zipper
- fusible web
- bronze paint (or other color for stripe and seeds on strawberry)
- colorless extender (optional – if you want to lighten your paint color)
- cup or tray to mix paint in
- 1 inch paintbrush
- small paint brush (not shown)
- masking tape
Time and Location:
I did this whole project in my sewing room in three chunks of time – about an hour for cutting fabric and painting, about a 1/2 hour for applique, and about a 1/2 hour for sewing the pillow. You need a flat surface to paint and dry fabric on — I used an old cutting mat on my cutting table. The rest of the project can be done in a typical sewing space.
This pillow project can be divided into four stages:
- Prep and cut the fabric
- Apply the paint
- Applique the strawberry
- Sew the pillow
Cut it out
Cut the linen into two 18 inch squares.
Apply the fusible web to the back of the red and green fabric. Your fusible web should come with instructions, but here is a quick how to: The goal here is to melt the fusible into the back of your fabric. Cut a piece of fusible web slightly bigger than your pattern piece. Place your fabric right side down on the ironing board. Put a piece of the fusible web on top. If you fusible is paper backed, dry iron it to the back side of your fabric. If not, cover the fusible with parchment paper and iron to the fabric. The parchment paper will peel right off when cool.
Transfer the strawberry pattern to your red and green fabric. I use parchment paper for this. You can read about the method in more detail in my Parchment Paper Magic post. Here is the gist: Use a pencil to trace the strawberry pattern onto parchment paper. Iron the side of the parchment with pencil lines to the back of the fused fabric. and peel off the parchment paper. The pattern lines will transfer with no need to reverse or cut out your pattern pieces.
Cut out the strawberry pieces.
You will be painting big brushy stripes on the background fabric and small dots on the strawberry body.
Prep for painting: Lay out a board, mat, or newspaper covered spot to paint on. I use an old cutting mat for my small sewing room paint projects. And I always grab a few paper towels to keep within arms reach! Get all paint supplies together before you start- Paint tray, brushes and paint.
Place your linen square on a cutting mat and tape guidelines for the stripes. You want to make sure your stripes are straight! Place the tape so that the area of exposed fabric between the stripes is wider than your brush. For example, my brush is 1 in. wide and I spaced the tape with 1 1/2 of exposed fabric between the tape stripes. By spacing the tape wider than my brush, I will have brushy loose stripes, not ones with crisp straight edges. If you want crisper looking stripes place or tape closer together and use the tape as a stencil.
Now for the painting! Pour your paint onto your paint tray. I mixed half bronze paint and half extender for my stripes to lighten them up. Practice a couple of stripes on some scrap fabric first so you can get a feel for how much paint to use. For loose brushy stripes, don’t load too much paint on your brush. I find that an almost dry brush is best to start with. You can always add paint!. Loosely paint your stripes back and forth until you get the look and feel you want.
Tip: Make sure your fabric has no creases! The paint will collect in them, showing every wrinkle.
Unpeeled your tape, and move your fabric to a drying surface. Repeat the process for the back piece of fabric. Be sure to place your tape guides at the same points so that the stripes match up. For example, I placed my first piece of tape 2 inches down on the first piece of fabric and did the same for the second.
Tip: I was able to reuse my tape by peeling it to the side and sliding a new fabric onto my board.
After the stripes have been painted, it’s time to add dots to the strawberries. Use the back tip of a paintbrush, a toothpick or a pencil tip to add small random dots to your strawberry. I used 100% bronze paint (without any extender) so that these would be a bit darker. Be sure to test on scrap fabric first!
Once the paint is dry, heat set the STRIPES ONLY with a hot iron. Next position your strawberry body on top of the stripes and fuse it to the fabric by ironing on steam setting. This will also heat-set the paint on the strawberry.
Time to stitch around your strawberry. There are lots of options for the type of stitch to use here and each type will give a different vibe to your pillow. For this project, I wanted a looser, more casual feel to go with the brushy stripes. Straight stitch will give more of this feel and allow the edges to fray a bit (adding to the feel) over time.
Set your machine to a typical straight stitch setting. I used a 2.4 length stitch with an open toe embroidery foot, so that I could see exactly where I was stitching (check it out in the photo below). Straight stitch around the entire strawberry. You want your stitches to look nice and even, with good tension.
Tip for even stitches. I line up my machine foot against the edge of the strawberry and adjusted the needle so that it was 1/8 in away from the edge. This lets me keep a fairly even width between my stitch line and the applique edge.
Tip for tension. If any bobbin thread is pulling through to the surface, adjust your tension down on your machine. You want the top thread pulling through to the back of the strawberry. If your stitches aren’t looking as clean as you want, try this: pin a piece of tear away stabilizer to the back of your strawberry and stitch through that as well.
Fuse the greenery to your strawberry. (Check the pattern, so that you don’t fuse them on upside down!) Edge stitch around the leaves too, stitching in a bit from the edge of the applique to give the feel of separate leaves. I also added the oval in the center of the greenery – either eyeball it or mark where to stitch with a disappearing marker.
Make the Pillow:
Once the front of the pillow is appliquéd, it is time to finish your pillow! For a seasonal pillow, like a strawberry, I like to put in a zipper. Not hard! I promise.
Lay out your pillow front and back with right sides facing. Make sure the stripes meet up on the side and the bottom of the strawberry is facing you. Cut your zipper so that it is 15 inches from top of the teeth to the end.
Center your zipper along the bottom edge of the pillow and place pins at the start of the zipper teeth and 1/2 from the cut end of the zipper.
Remove the zipper (leaving the pins in the fabric) and sew, with a straight stitch and a 1/2 in. seam allowance, from the edge of the pillow to each pin . The arrows on the picture above mark the straight stitched portion. Be sure to backstitch your seam when you reach each pin. Next, in between the pins, sew a basting stitch along the length of where the zipper will be – the dashed lines above. Use the longest stitch length you have and do not backstitch your work. You will remove these stitches quite soon!
Press open the seam and place the zipper on top of it UPSIDE DOWN, making sure the teeth of the zipper are resting over the basted section. Pin the zipper in place.
Pull out that zipper foot! Set your needle position to the far left or right, and set your stitch length back to standard straight stitch for your machine. Stitch a seam on either side of the zipper, backstitching at the beginning and end.
Tip: Keep in mind that the bobbin thread will be visible on the finished pillow. So maybe not black?
Remove basting stitches. Voila, you have a zipper in a seam! Congratulations.
Pin the rest of the pillow. Open the zipper and stitch around the pillow with a 1/2 seam allowance.
Clip your corners and zig-zag stitch around the raw edges. Turn the whole thing right side out and YOU ARE DONE! Put your cover on an 18 inch pillow form and enjoy. 🙂