How to Sew a Zippered Outdoor Pillow Cover with Sunbrella

How to Sew a Zippered Outdoor Pillow Cover with Sunbrella

I made those pillows with an envelope-style close on the back.

I made those pillows with an envelope-style close on the back.

Last week I shared how I made outdoor pillows out of Sunbrella fabric for my front porch chairs. I made those pillows with an envelope-style close on the back. The pillows on the front porch do not get as much direct sun exposure as the chairs on the back deck. For those chairs I wanted to use the same fabric, but to make pillows with a zippered close so I could flip the pillows between the front and the back to evenly distribute sun exposure over time to the fabric.

For pillows with a zipper close you will cut out the same size of front & back panels.

For pillows with a zipper close you will cut out the same size of front & back panels.

For pillows with a zipper close you will cut out the same size of front and back panels. I was making two pillows for 18” x 18” pillow forms so I needed four 17” x 17” panels. With ½” seams, the finished covers would be 16” x 16”, perfect for stuffing a slightly larger pillow in to make the pillow case fluff up and fill out nicely.

Pro Tip: plan ahead when working with stripes or patterns and cut out your panels to match on all sides (if this is important to you).

Plan ahead when working with stripes or patterns & cut out your panels to match on all sides.

Plan ahead when working with stripes or patterns & cut out your panels to match on all sides.

Like a hot knife through butter

Sunbrella is perfect for cutting with a hot knife. It seals the edges for you. Just watch out as the edges can be sharp.

Sunbrella is perfect for cutting with a hot knife.

Sunbrella is perfect for cutting with a hot knife.

Sunbrella outdoor fabric has no right or wrong side. I clipped two panels together and the other two panels together using my Wonder Clips. They are available at SewingMachinesPlus.com and I love them!\

Pro Tip: if you are working with stripes or a pattern, make sure you place the panels together correctly to match the stripes or pattern.

Round off your corners. I talk about the importance of rounding your corners in this post. Not everyone does it but I think it makes for a more beautiful pillow. On dark fabrics, I use my Clover Chaco Liner pen.

Round off your corners.

Round off your corners.

Zippers!

I’m using two different zippers from my stash. They are both long enough to fit the 18”x18” pillows and that’s all that matters.

I’m using two different zippers from my stash.

I’m using two different zippers from my stash.

Determine what side is the bottom of your pillow. This might depend on how you want your stripes to run or your pattern to be displayed. I’m working with ½” seams all around the pillow. On the side where you will place the pattern, mark about 2” in on both sides and sew and back-tack on both ends along that 2” line.

Determine what side is the bottom of your pillow.

Determine what side is the bottom of your pillow.

Now your seam will look like this, with an opening in the middle.

Now your seam will look like this, with an opening in the middle.

Now your seam will look like this, with an opening in the middle.

Sunbrella is perfect for finger creasing. Crease down both seams. Here you could stick the seam down with basting tape if you didn’t feel super confident going forward to the next step.

Sunbrella is perfect for finger creasing.

Sunbrella is perfect for finger creasing.

With my Clover Chaco Liner pen, I mark on both sides of the seam where the stitching ends. This will show me where I’m going to start and stop my zipper (just past that stitching on either end).

Pro Tip: make sure you place your zipper with the zipper pull facing down so it can be accessed from the right side of the pillow.

You zipper is marked up – so let’s sew it on!

I mark on both sides of the seam where the stitching ends.

I mark on both sides of the seam where the stitching ends.

I started at the bottom of the zipper and sewed it down just past the yellow mark I’d made. Then I roll up both sides of the fabric and use Wonder Clips to hold the fabric in place so I don’t have fabric all over the place as I’m sewing in the zipper.

I started at the bottom of the zipper & sewed it down just past the yellow mark I’d made.

I started at the bottom of the zipper & sewed it down just past the yellow mark I’d made.

Next I carefully sewed the zipper to either side of the folded seams. When you get to the zipper pull, leave your needle down and lift up the foot, then slide the pull past and away from where you’re sewing. Back tack thoroughly at the top and bottom of the zipper.

I carefully sewed the zipper to either side of the folded seams.

I carefully sewed the zipper to either side of the folded seams.

Now the two pieces are fully joined with the zipper in the middle.

Now the two pieces are fully joined with the zipper in the middle.

Now the two pieces are fully joined with the zipper in the middle.

Next, unroll your fabric and clip the panels right-sides together. Sew all around the other three sides.

Pro Tip: unzip your zippers enough to be able to fully unzip them once you’ve sewn the other seams shut.

Unroll your fabric and clip the panels right-sides together.

Unroll your fabric and clip the panels right-sides together.

Before you turn your pillows right sides out, always, always, always check your work. Go over all the sewn seams and corners to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Then turn! Watch out because Sunbrella cut with a hot knife can be a bit sharp. I use my leather garden gloves to turn them right sides out.

Watch out because Sunbrella cut with a hot knife can be a bit sharp.

Watch out because Sunbrella cut with a hot knife can be a bit sharp.

Use something sharp but not too sharp, like a Sharpie marker with the lid on to poke and fully round the edges of your pillow. Now you have a Sunbrella pillow case with a zippered close!

Now you have a Sunbrella pillow case with a zippered close!

Now you have a Sunbrella pillow case with a zippered close!

Walk it in

Add your pillow form. Remember, your pillow is bigger than your pillow case. You need to move the pillow in gently but firmly. You are in charge! I call this action ‘walking it in.’ Just keep moving it until it’s fully in the case. Then grab each corner and really match it corner to corner.

You need to move the pillow in gently but firmly.

You need to move the pillow in gently but firmly.

And there you have it. Two puffy pillow cases with zippered closes that are the same front and back. Perfect for distributing sun exposure on a deck.

Two puffy pillow cases with zippered closes that are the same front & back.

Two puffy pillow cases with zippered closes that are the same front & back.

Ready for its close up!

Ready for its close up!

Ready for its close up!

Do you have any tips for working with Sunbrella? Tell us about them in comments!

Do you have any tips for working with Sunbrella? Tell us about them in comments!

Do you have any tips for working with Sunbrella? Tell us about them in comments!

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Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.

Tips for Dazzling up a Ring Bearer Pillow

Tips for Dazzling up a Ring Bearer Pillow

I can’t recall the first time I heard the phrase, “June bride,” but it’s something that’s stuck in my mind as the years have passed. While, to me, other months might present better options for a wedding (Sue me! I don’t like 90-degree weather!), June has somehow become what could arguably be the staple month for wedding ceremonies. Since we’ve entered that month, it seems fitting to target those ceremonies for a post or two. For this particular one, we’ll focus on a tiny wedding detail that can be handmade for that extra bit of sentimental value, and that’s the ring bearer pillow.

The ring bearer's pillow.

The ring bearer’s pillow.

For instructions on how to make a throw pillow in general, you can check out this link. But because pillows can be treated as such simple projects, I won’t discuss how to construct the actual pillow. Instead, I’ll concentrate on more decorative details in regard to the pillow’s appearance. These are aspects of the pillow that could come into play while you’re selecting fabrics and such—little concepts that you can do to construct something that stands out for your big day!

Choose your fabric wisely

The most important thing to consider for your ring bearer pillow is your fabric choice, and the most obvious option would fabric that has a bright white look to it. This matches the bride’s ensemble and showcases the brightness of the day, but if you want to go with something less traditional for your wedding, you might think a little outside of the box in regard to color.

You might think a little outside of the box in regard to color.

You might think a little outside of the box in regard to color.

For instance, I adore fairies in fiction and movies. If I were to have some kind of fairy garden theme to a wedding, it might make sense to use fabric options that are more creatively colored than basic white. Maybe a pale blue or a light green would work, or perhaps even a combination. It’s worth considering, overall, how your theme and wedding colors could be represented in the pillow for a unique look.

Fabric additions can be applied to the basic pillow structure to give it a more distinctive, lively look—things like lace, ribbon or tulle.

Fabric additions can be applied to the basic pillow structure to give it a more distinctive, lively look—things like lace, ribbon or tulle.

Time to accessorize!

You might also want to consider accessories for the ring bearer pillow, and I don’t just mean the rings that will be carried on it! Fabric additions can be applied to the basic pillow structure to give it a more distinctive, lively look—things like lace, ribbon or tulle. Again, you can go with the basic white, or you can better pair the accessories’ hues with your theme or wedding colors if doing so feels like the right option.

Not only can these accessory decisions make your ring bearer pillow stand out that much more, but they can also be used as ways to fix technical errors. If you sew lace around the ends of the pillow, as an example, you might find that a spot where your stitches weren’t that fantastic on the actual pillow can be covered by the lace. If you accidentally punch a smaller hole on the top of the fabric, you can make sure that ribbon you have meeting in the middle to create a bow covers the error. Essentially, while prettying up your ring bearer pillow with visual elements, you could improve its appearance as well by making your mistakes less visually obvious!

And in regard to those accessories, don’t limit your options to fabrics either! Sometimes the smallest trinkets and gems can push a normal-level work into more amazing territory, and things like gems speckled around your ring bearer pillow or a pin that looks like a heart can create a simple elegance that adds a level of sophistication to the project. Another similar idea would be to use sequins that could catch the light of the event and shimmer to again mimic the brightness of the ceremony. Each of these embellishments are options that, if used in the right amounts and ways, could lead to a ring bearer pillow worth talking about at the reception!

Structure is key

Structural details that you could vary would be the shape of the pillow - maybe use a heart, oval, or star shape.

Structural details that you could vary would be the shape of the pillow –
maybe use a heart, oval, or star shape.

Keep in mind that even the construction of the pillow could highlight a particular quality that you want to embrace in your wedding if you’re going for something more modern and less traditional. Structural details that you could vary would be the shape of the pillow—maybe use a heart, oval, or star shape—as well as the face of the pillow itself. Instead of thinking, “How can I decorate this simple pillow,” you could make the top of the pillow its own design that doesn’t need any décor at all because the design is the décor—like a large flower, made of fabric, that covers the top. These decisions are structural elements that could create the unique, one-of-a-kind ring bearer pillow that you’re searching for to spice up your wedding!

So to give a sentimental touch to your wedding, turn this traditional addition to the ceremony into something homemade, unique, and fitting! It could add a splash of perfection to an already perfect day!

Sew a Rice Pack Whole Body Heating Pad

How to Sew a Rice Pack Whole Body Heating Pad

How to Sew a Rice Pack Whole Body Heating Pad

You can sew a rice pack heating pad to any size at all.

The first one I ever made was a rectangle maybe about four by six inches. Okay, maybe it was a little bigger than that, but in use, it turned out to be silly small and I wanted a larger one.

I have made smaller rice packs that serve a neat purpose, though.

These make sweet pocket warmers when stuffed with rice.

These make sweet pocket warmers when stuffed with rice.

For a heating pad, bigger is better. So I made a large one with a folded kitchen towel and a big bag of rice, and this was a helpful friend for some time.

But have you ever wanted a full body hugging heating pad? I have, every month for some time now. I have wanted one to wrap around my tummy, and my dear and I have both wished for something bigger for pains in the neck and shoulders, too.

So I bought a huge bag of rice in bulk and decided to finally sew a rice pack heating pad big enough to wrap around.

So I bought a huge bag of rice in bulk & decided to finally sew a rice pack heating pad big enough to wrap around.

So I bought a huge bag of rice in bulk & decided to finally sew a rice pack heating pad big enough to wrap around.

Here’s how I made it:

Materials

  • 2/3 yd sturdy fabric
  • 20 cups rice

Of course you need a sewing machine, thread, scissors and/or a rotary cutter and mat.

Step one

Fold the fabric for your heating pad in half so that it makes a long rectangle approximately 44 inches (it will likely be shorter than 44 inches after pre-washing your fabric) by 12 inches, and press.

Then, make a narrow hem along both of the long (~44”) edges. Or you can serge along these edges with your serger.

Step two

Now fold it again, with right sides together. Sew along both short edges. Leave the long end open.

Of course you can serge these seams, too.

Clip the corners, and turn right sides out.

Step three

Now you are going to measure and then sew four lines of stitching to section the rectangle into five sections. These lines will run parallel to the end seams you just sewed.

I found the middle, then measured four inches out from there on either side, and marked my first two lines to create the middle section. Then I measured eight inches out from each of these to create the other sections.

Sew these lines from the bottom but end them approximately 3/4 inch before you reach the top.

Step four

And there is your whole body heating pad, which will wrap all around like a warm & heavy hug when you need it.

And there is your whole body heating pad, which will wrap all around like a warm & heavy hug when you need it.

Scoop two cups of rice into each opening.  Hold the bag and be sure all the rice flows to the very bottom of the pockets.

Now, sew a long line, parallel to the open edges, to bisect the five sections into ten.

Step five

Scoop two more cups of rice into each of the remaining five sections.

Then you can sew the long opening closed. I turned this over and sewed it down again to make this seam stronger, too.

If you want to be extra careful to prevent the rice from spilling out while you sew, then take the extra time to baste the long opening closed with quilter’s safety pins.

And there is your whole body heating pad, which will wrap all around like a warm and heavy hug when you need it.

To use:

Microwave the heat pad to warm. Microwave ovens vary a lot, so you will have to determine for yourself how long you should heat yours. Five minutes seems about right for mine, but be careful not to burn yourself.

Remove the pad from the microwave, shake it up a bit and evenly distribute the heat. Wrap it around your tummy, your shoulders, even your legs. Or lie down and use the whole length along your back from top to bottom.  And feel better soon!

Repurposing Flannel Baby Wipes to A Snuggle Blanket

Repurposing Flannel Baby Wipes to A Snuggle Blanket

Hello there! I’ve been playing with something I would like to share with you.

Stitch the right sides together on all 4 sides, leaving a small space open on the last side.

Stitch the right sides together on all 4 sides, leaving a small space open on the last side.

Let me warn you, it is rather novel, as I haven’t seen this done before in sewing blogs or other instructions, but it works pretty well I think.

Recently, I several kinds of small baby wipes made from soft, warm flannel. Rather than 1 layer of flannel, and just a simple serger stitch, I designed them to be thicker and have no fraying edges when washed. Each square is approximately 9″ x 9″ finished as below.

So, I used 2 pieces of the fabric, and I stitched the right sides together on all four sides, leaving a small space open on the last side to place my hand inside and pull the fabric’s right sides to the outside. What? (I heard you thinking there!)

Think of throwing a pillow case in the dryer with the inside seams showing. When dried in the dryer and smelling like Snuggle, you put your arms inside, find both far corners of the pillow case, and pull them forward to you drawing the right sides of the pillowcase to the outside or the top side. So then, I carefully ironed the edges down so I could put top-stitching about one-quarter inch from the edge of the wipe. Finished product soft, bright, cuddly wipe.

BUT WAIT! There’s more

This shows how the seam was done, & it is sturdy like seam made in the traditional way.

This shows how the seam was done, & it is sturdy like seam made in the traditional way.

I thought why can’t I repurpose these cloths into something larger. It’s a small baby print, and with soft flannel on both sides, I brainstormed about how I can piece the two squares together without having to take the stitching apart of one side of each square to join them. That would involve doing all the squares accordingly, and would destroy my top-stitching.

This shows how the seam was done, and it is sturdy like seam made in the traditional way. This finished end to end seam reminds me of flat feld seams as used in my Pojagi pieces, although not quite. It also could be an alternate seam method for quilts without using a backing. A piece of batting could be added to each square to give a more padded feel to this alternate way of quilting, (like rag quilts but no raw edges or fringe.)

I hope you enjoyed my blog today, and I hope to see you again soon. I always welcome your experiences in sewing. After all, what would we do if we didn’t sew?

Take care for now.

Do My Seams Have to Be Perfect?

Do My Seams Have to Be Perfect?

I hear this question a lot from my sewing students. Beginning sewers are nervous about their ability to sew along the line without small bobbles. They’re worried that any imperfections will ruin their sewing project. I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell them.

Do My Seams Have to Be Perfect?

Do My Seams Have to Be Perfect?

Do your seams have to be perfect? No. Ninety degree jogs in and out probably won’t look right, but a slight wavering here and there usually isn’t a problem. If you’re making something that’s skin-tight kind of fitted, it matters a lot more than if you’re making something loose fitting or flowy.

Since the first project I have my sewing students make is a bean bag or pillow, I tell them to play around with it. PURPOSELY mess up a seam and see how it looks on the finished project. I suggest you try it too. You don’t have to make a beanbag, use a piece of scrap material that’s the same fabric as you’ll be using for your finished project. Pull the seam really tight – you’ll be able to see exactly how any imperfections in the seam line will appear. Most of the time, it’s not noticeable.

A few exceptions: skin tight clothing, spandex or other elastic materials, seams sewn in a contrasting color that are seen on the outside of your completed work. In each of these cases, the seams are quite noticeable. Take your time with them.

Don’t forget, if you sew a seam and discover you’re not happy with it, you can always rip it out. I know it’s not ideal, but one of the things I love about sewing is there’s nothing that’s not correctable. For me, it takes away some of the stress.

If fear of not having perfect seams has been holding you back from starting a sewing project, or learning to sew at all, set that fear aside and give it a try! You’ll be glad you did.

Sewing for All Seasons

Sewing for All Seasons

One of the things I love best about sewing as opposed to some of my other creative ventures is that I can do it any time of year. In the fall and winter, I can make blankets, jackets and other warm items. During the spring and summer months, I can make cute skirts and dresses and flowy decorative items. The different material weights and textures means it’s never too hot or too cold to sew! Here are some of my favorite projects for each season.

Sewing for All Seasons

Sewing for All Seasons

Winter

When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing better than lighting a fire and sewing something with warm, cuddly fabric.

Flannel Blanket

I absolutely adore flannel. It’s always warm and gets softer with each washing. This cozy blanket is easy to do and can be made in any size you like. We’re big on throw blankets in this house, so that’s what I did. Because flannel is available in so many colors and patterns, it’s easy to find something that will match your home and your personal style.

Dinosaur Hoodie

The challenge with winter is that kids are stuck inside. This sewing project will keep you warm and provide them with hours of imaginative play. Can you say “roooarrrr!”? Your kids will love playing dinosaur with this hoodie. Make a couple of the neighbor kids too and have a dino party!

Spring

Spring is a time of renewal. The weather warms up and life starts to return to the great outdoors. It’s still a bit cool to go out and enjoy it without a light cover up and there can be days on end of rain keeping you indoors. That’s where these sewing projects come in!

Napkins

Spring is often a time when we entertain more. We can open the windows and doors and guests can flow in and out without tracking snow, ice and dirt. Depending on the occasion, setting a pretty table can be part of the deal as hostess. Check out these colorful napkins. They’re perfect for spring and summer and a conversation starter too!

Picnic Blanket

It might be a bit cool yet to have a picnic, but it’s never too early to plan for one. This adorable picnic blanket is a great spring sewing project. While you’re inside working on it watching birds and other life return to your yard, you can daydream about that first picnic of the year. Won’t it be great with this new blanket?

Summer

Summer is all about hot days, trips to the beach and keeping cool. You may not be spending too much time with your sewing machine, but that’s okay. These quick projects won’t get you overheated – instead they’ll help you keep cool once they’re done.

Towel Wrap

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of getting out of the pool or ocean having to struggle with my towel. This fabulous towel wrap means I can keep my hands free for a drink and a book while still staying dry. Even better – it upcycles towels that might otherwise get tossed.

Wine Bag

To go with that lovely picnic blanket you made during the spring, you need a wine bag to tote your bottle for that elegant picnic. You could also use it as a wine gift bag if you need to bring a gift to a house party. It works up quickly and can be made for any style you can imagine.

Fall

I love fall! The changing leaves, the crisp air and the smell. It’s somehow romantic in a way. While I’m going to spend as much time outdoors as I can, there are some great fall sewing projects for those dreary fall days when I can’t get out.

Pillow

I love this! Making this pillow means I can bring some of the fall colors inside while using up some of my scrap stash. Don’t have all the colors? No problem! Remnants are cheap and easy to find in every color and pattern you’ll need.

Coasters

As much as I love fall, I dislike rings on the coffee and end tables as strongly. These adorable leaf coasters solve the problem while bringing all my favorite fall colors into the décor. I personally went for more realistic fabric colors, but you can do whatever you like.

What are some of your favorite seasonal sewing projects?

Beginner Sewing Project: Felt Flower Pincushion

Beginner Sewing Project: Felt Flower Pincushion

Felt Flower Pillow Pincushion

Felt Flower Pillow Pincushion

A pincushion is one of the first things you need for sewing. You will love yours if it is a pretty one and you make it yourself.  This project is super easy and it makes a perfect first project at your new machine.  This pincushion is a generous size and you won’t find one quite as nice for sale at the store.

If you are not an absolute beginner, you can whip up this pretty pincushion quickly for yourself or for a friend.  This makes a sweet gift.  You could even make these for friends who don’t sew by filling with lavender flowers instead of stuffing so that they can enjoy it as a pretty sachet instead.

Even non-beginners appreciate a fast project. Making one or a few of these might be a nice pick-me-up on an otherwise dreary afternoon.

Though it does make a pretty sachet, this project was designed as a pincushion, and it is my favorite of the many in my room. I sewed snaps on the back of mine and made a permanent place for it on my sewing room organizer curtains.

Pin it

Speaking of pins, here’s an important word to the wise: All pins are not created equal!  I highly recommend you further beautify this pincushion with head pins.  Really, I can’t stress this enough- do yourself a favor and arm yourself with this kind of pin. Pearl or flower head pins are easy to see, find, and remove from your project while sewing. Plus, they are pretty!

To make this beginner project pincushion, you need:

Two six-inch fabric squares

Felt scraps, for cutting petals.  I made mine using purples, greens, and blues.  You could make a more realistic flower using all one color of felt, or perhaps several shades of the same color.

A button for the flower center

Embroidery thread

Polyester fluff or other stuffing

To make the flower:

I cut my petals into pointy football shapes.  I tapered the petals at both ends to reduce bulk behind the button center.

Six graduated layers of six petals each make a nice, full flower.  Use the six largest petals for the back layer, stepping down to the smallest set of six petals for the front layer.  Also cut a small, one-inch circle of felt to place in front of your smallest layer of petals as the flower center.

Cut a three inch backing circle from the same color of felt as the back layer of petals and assemble all layers atop this circle and stitch them down by hand through the center.  Then place the button at the flower center and sew the button down using embroidery thread in a contrasting color.  I used a metallic silver thread in this example.

Now, set the flower aside.

Assembling the pincushion

Place the right sides of the 6″ squares together.  Sew around the square, leaving an opening for turning. Be sure to back-stitch the beginning and end of this seam.

After you’ve done that, clip off the tiny corner triangles outside of your seam, and turn the pincushion right side out. Use a point turner or other tool to push the corners out well.

Now stuff.  Stuff it nice and full, and then top-stitch to close your opening. I like to continue the top-stitching and go all around the entire square using matching thread.

Center your flower on top of the pincushion. Affix it by hand-stitching the backing circle to the cushion.  The larger petals will prevent these stitches from showing.

And now you made a pretty pincushion and completed this easy project that fast.

What will you make next?