When I was working on pulling together our baby registry, one item that was on all of the must-have lists was a nursing pillow. Being someone who’d never breastfed before, the idea of a nursing pillow confounded me. I mean, after all, women have been nursing babies for long before nursing pillows existed—why did I need one? I was skeptical. And the price of them really made me skeptical. I had a hard time justifying $45 for something that I might never use. Now that I’m two months in to breastfeeding, I can safely say that a nursing pillow might not be an absolute necessity, but it certainly does help make the tough first few weeks of nursing a little bit easier. And it’s really a difficult time, so anything you can do to make go a bit more smoothly is highly recommended.
There are two different common styles of nursing pillows on the market today, and there is no way of really knowing which one is for you until you try it (which is pretty much the story of all baby items). I own both styles. I made this Boppy nursing pillow knock-off back when I was pregnant, and then also ended up purchasing a My Brest Friend (worst name ever) at the recommendation of my lactation consultant.
I definitely used the My Brest Friend the most when I was learning to nurse in the first few weeks. It’s firm and rigid, which helps when you’re trying to awkwardly get a squirmy baby latched on. And because it wraps around your body, you can use it to support the baby’s weight, giving you free hands to help get latched on.
But now that JuneBug and I are old nursing pros, we’re transitioning to being more lax with our nursing sessions—and that includes using the pillow that I made, which admittedly is a ton more comfy for both me and the little girl. This pillow also works as a comfy spot for JuneBug to lounge in. I’ve also heard of a lot of new moms using this pillow as a comfy cushion to sit on during the first few weeks postpartum.
I’m happy I have both pillows, but I’m definitely glad I decided to make my own Boppy instead of buying one. For about $10 worth of materials and an afternoon worth of work, I was able to get my own Boppy knock-off with fabric that I love (the irony of which is now that I’m breastfeeding, I’m off coffee because the caffeine affects JuneBug—this fabric is the closest I get to the stuff).
If I had to pick just one pillow to buy, it’d be the My Brest Friend, but like I said, it’s different for every Mom. I know some mothers who hated the My Brest Friend and swear by the Boppy. And some who hate nursing pillows all together! You really don’t know until you’re in it, and that’s why I think this tutorial is an awesome way to get to test out one style without shelling out tons of cash. I’m so glad I didn’t pay all that money!
To make your own Boppy knock-off, here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 1/3 yard white cotton fabric, washed, dried and ironed
- 1 1/3 yard cover fabric (flannel or minky are both nice and cozy, I just used high-quality cotton), washed, dried and ironed
- 18″ zipper
- Polyfill (about 32 ounces)
- Pins, needles, thread, sewing machine, iron, scissors, etc.
First step is to print out the pattern, cut it out and tape the four pieces together following the diagram.
Once you have it taped together, you’ll have what looks like half of a nursing pillow.
Trace around the edge of the pattern using a marking pen onto the white cotton fabric, making sure the right side of the pattern is lined up with the fold. I just used cheap-o white cotton muslin (the stuff that’s like $1 a yard), but honestly, you could use whatever you want. This is just to make the pillow form to go inside of the case.
You’ll want to cut out two pieces from the white fabric.
Unfold them, and then pin them right-sides together.
Using a straight stitch, sew the two pieces together using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Sew all the way around the case, except leave about six inches open at the top to allow you to turn the case and stuff it. Make sure to backstitch at the beginning and the end to reinforce the seam—you’ll be stuffing this pillow very tight, and you don’t need your seam ripping in the process.
Turn the case inside out and give it a good pressing.
And get to stuffing.
You want to stuff it until it’s very firm. A firm pillow is a good nursing pillow. If you make a floppy, soft pillow, you might as well just use regular bed pillows for nursing. You want it to be so tightly stuffed that you can’t even fit your hand in the case.
It should be so stuffed full that you have a hard time keeping the opening closed.
Once it’s nice and firmly stuffed, fold under the opening seams and pin it closed.
Since the pillow is so firm, you’ll need to hand-stitch this opening closed.
No need to worry about it looking nice—you’ll never see this part of the pillow—just make sure it’s nice and secure. I’d recommend going back and forth over the opening a few times to really secure it.
And your pillow form is done! That wasn’t so hard, now was it?
Set that aside, and start working on your slipcover. Repeat the same process with the pattern and your slipcover fabric. Again, you’ll want to cut two pieces, and make sure to line up the right side of the pattern with the fold of your fabric.
This time, instead of pinning the two pieces together off the bat, we’re going to measure for the zipper first (trust me, you want the zipper for cleaning later).
Place one of the pieces, right-side-down, and center the zipper over top, right-side down. Curve the zipper around the top of the pillow gently, and pin in a few spots, just to get it secured. Using a marking pen, place a mark at the beginning and end of the zipper. Then remove it and the pins from the fabric.
Place the two pieces of fabric, right-sides together, and pin all the way around, leaving open the space for the zipper.
Sew around the cover, using a 1/4″ seam allowance (note, this is 1/4″ less than the pillow form in order for it to be slightly larger, but still use the same pattern). Make sure to leave open the space for the zipper.
Turn the case inside out and give it a good pressing.
To insert the zipper, place it right-sides together with the front layer of the slipcover. Lining up the top of the zipper tape with the top of the fabric of the pillow case. Pin it down, but make sure you only pin through the top strip of zipper tape and through one single layer of the pillow case.
Pin all the way around, working gently to make sure the zipper curves with the curve of the pillow.
Pull off the arm of your sewing machine, and put on a zipper foot (you could do this with a regular foot, but the end result wont be as nice and clean). Open up the cover and place it on the sewing machine, zipper up.
Begin sewing to the right of the zipper teeth—making sure you only have one layer of the pillow case under the needle.
When you have about four inches left of sewing. Stop the machine and unzip the zipper to back behind the presser foot. This is a little difficult to maneuver, but you can get it back there if you’re using a zipper foot. If you’re using a regular foot, you might need to lift the presser foot to get to back there.
Continue sewing to the end of the zipper tape.
Turn the pillow case inside out, and repeat the process with the other side of the pillow. Align the top of the pillow case fabric with the top of the zipper tape—right sides together. And pin, making sure to only pin through the top of the zipper tape and one layer of pillow case fabric
Place the pillow back on the sewing machine—this time, no need to place it over the sewing machine arm—and sew the zipper to the fabric, making sure to stop four inches from the end and unzipping it past the presser foot. Depending on your zipper foot, you might need to reattach it to switch sides of the zipper teeth (I did).
Next, you’ll want to finish your seams since this will be put into the washer pretty frequently. You can use a serger to finish the edges, but I like to use pinking shears. Nice and easy (plus, I don’t own a serger).
Turn it right-side-out, iron it again, and then place the pillow form in the cover and zip it up! All done.
The zipper covered is really nice for easy clean-up, and if you plan on making this for a baby shower gift, I’d actually recommend you make two or three for the mom-to-be.
Just like with the name-brand version, make sure to use caution with this pillow. It’s not meant for babies to sleep in, and make sure you’re always supervising when your baby is in or on the pillow.
I’m kinda a little bit obsessed with gallery walls. I love eclectic collections of mementos, and I think gallery walls are such a fun way to show things off that might normally be relegated to a box in the basement.
When we were planning JuneBug’s nursery, we knew we wanted do a small gallery wall above her changing table. We liked the idea of being able to include lots of prints, photos and keepsakes that had meaning. And we liked that the wall gives us the ability to change things out, switch it up and make it different in the future as she grows up.
This isn’t our first gallery wall rodeo. In fact, we have two gallery walls (one above the bar in our living room and one in our main floor hallway) that we absolutely adore. And we managed to do each wall for less that $20!
The key to doing gallery walls on the cheap is (a) being okay with mismatched frames and (b) thrifting your little heart out. All the frames for our gallery walls come from the thrift store! If you’ve never hit up the Goodwill’s photo frame section, you’re seriously missing out. For less than $1 each (and most of them are $0.25 or $0.50) you can get perfectly good frames that are wall-ready after a little coat of spray paint. Just ignore the art inside and the colors, and pick out the shapes, sizes and styles that really speak to you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Goodwill with less than 100 different picture frames stashed in a corner.
For the nursery gallery wall, we spent less than $10 to get all these frames.
First up, after a quick wipedown to remove any dust or dirt, we set all the frames out on a drop cloth, sans glass, and gave them a few good coats of white spray paint. We like that the white helps bring together all the mismatched frames and make them feel like a “set”. Plus, the white really lets the artwork and mementos shine.
Once the frames were completely dry, I put the glass and the backs in, and then started figuring out the layout. I do this by using a big piece of paper, you can get poster paper or kraft paper at most stores, or, do what I did, and just tape together newspaper. Just roll it out about the size you want on the floor, then arrange your frames until you’re happy with the layout.
Once I was content with the layout, it was time for the really fun stuff—figuring out what to put inside! You could, obviously, shell out some cash and put some nice pieces of art in there, but we went the affordable route and used what we had on hand. We put in some old greeting cards we’d saved, we used old photos we had, we put in other keepsakes and mementos, and I even designed a few simple pieces, printed them and hung them up. I tried to keep the colors in the theme of the nursery, but mostly just put things we liked in there.
Once the frames were full and in a layout I liked, I traced around each frame on the paper, and then measured where the hanger was on each frame, and made a corresponding mark on the outline where the nail for each frame should go. I also wrote on each outline what item I wanted placed there.
Then, I hung the paper template up on the wall above the changing table, using a laser level to make sure it was straight.
And got to work hammering and nailing! I put a nail straight through the template into the wall at each of the nail mark spots.
Then, I tore the template down, and what was left was a random-looking pattern of nails. But not random, at all! Oh no!
Now that the nails are in the right spot, it was easy to start hanging the frames in their respective positions.
Once all the frames are up, it ends up looking a little crazy pants because they’re all teetering on one nail each. Not only does it not look so great, but it also isn’t a very secure setup for a child’s room. Don’t worry, I can fix this!
To make sure the frames stay straight, and are also very secure so none of them accidentally drops on Baby J while she’s getting her diaper changed, I used super strong mounting tape pieces at the bottom of each frame.
These suckers aren’t going anywhere. In fact, I used this same tape on our other gallery walls, and especially in the gallery wall in the hallway, we bump into it constantly, and not a single one has budged in nearly two years (or even thought about budging). These do really stick to the wall, so if you’re living in an apartment or some place where you don’t want to chance damaging your walls, I’d recommend figuring out another way to secure them.
For each frame, I leveled it before sticking it to the wall. That way, everything would be nice and straight once the whole wall was finished.
All done! Ain’t she a beaut?
Curious what all is in the wall? Here’s a handy-dandy little chart:
- My baby picture
- A pink moose. Because I love moose
- June Bug’s initials, cut out of four maps that represent four important areas of our life
- Craig’s baby picture (yup, that’s a picture of him, not June Bug, holy cow do they look alike)
- A little drawing of a family of berries that I did
- Botanical print of a juniper plant
- A pressed four-leaf clover I found on my due date
- Some lyrics from an Avett Brothers song I love (well, slightly altered lyrics) that I designed up and printed out
- Cute greeting card we got from friends at our baby shower
- A bee. On glitter paper. Because we have a “thing” for bumblebees
- Strips of paper from a banner that was hanging at our baby shower, plus a “J” that was on the banner
- A pressed maple leaf, that was picked from our woods a few weeks before my due date
- A little mirror
And here’s what we spent on it:
- Frames: $9.00
- Spray paint: $3.87
- Mounting tape: $2.59
We had the newspaper and nails on hand, but even if you had to buy some kraft paper and nails, you could get up a gallery wall for less than $20. And I think it makes a big impact in the room!
I love this project for two reasons, first up, the obvious fact that we filled a wall with art that is meaningful. It makes us so happy to look up at these frames and know that each and every item represents something special to us. Secondly, I love that this project is entirely upcycled. Not only is upcylcing good for the budget, but it’s also really good for the environment. Knowing there is such a good collection of frames just asking to be loved at a local thrift shop makes me never want to buy new picture frames every again!
I think pretty much everyone has a story about where in their childhood home they marked their height as a kid. I always loved the idea of having a visual representation of a kid’s growth in the home, but I never loved the permanence of it all. I grew up in one house, and then moved to another when I was 11—and with that move, my growth marks stayed behind. I was always a little sad that part of my childhood didn’t get to come along with me. And of course, moving isn’t the only way the marks can disappear—maybe you want to paint a wall or remodel a room. Once those marks are gone, they’re gone forever.
So when I was flipping through Pottery Barn a few years back and saw their ruler growth charts, I knew that was the direction I wanted to go when we eventually decided to grow our family. Not only were they adorable and quirky, but, most importantly, they were transferable. While Craig and I don’t plan on moving out of this house until we’re old and gray, the truth is, you never know where life will take you, and I love that wherever we go in life, we can take this growth chart with us.
Of course, I couldn’t stomach the $90 price tag on the Pottery Barn version. I mean, after all, it’s pretty much just a piece of wood with some tick marks and numbers painted on it! So when it was time to start working on Baby J’s nursery, I decided I was going to make my own. And I did, for about $15.
Here’s what you’ll need to make your own version:
- 1-1” x 8” x 6’ pine board
- Fine-grit sandpaper
- Stain and rags/brushes for application (optional)
- Printer and paper (for the number stencils)
- Black acrylic paint (or white if you’re going with a dark stain)
- Thin paint brush
- Spray polyurethane
- Hanging method—sawtooth hanger, heavy duty mounting tape, anchors and screws, etc.
We had nearly everything to make this at home, except the board. A quick trip to Home Depot and we had ourselves a 1” x 8” x 6’ premium board for less than $10. Make sure to look for one that isn’t warped and has a texture and grain you like.
We went back and forth about staining the board (after all, most new rulers have that light, pine board color to them), but decided we’d rather darken up the color a bit to match the rest of the wood in the room and help make it feel a bit rustic and old. We knew we wanted black numbers and tick marks, so we didn’t want to go so dark those didn’t show. So we landed on this oak stain. A small can for $3 was plenty—we could probably make 10 more growth charts with how much stain we had leftover!
Before staining, per the instructions on the can, I lightly sanded the wood using a fine-grit sandpaper going in the direction of the grain.
Then I wiped off the sanding dust and let it dry completely. Then, I used an old cloth and applied the stain.
I let the first coat dry per the instructions, and then applied a second for just a slightly darker tone. Like I said, we still wanted to use black lettering, so I didn’t want it to go too dark. All done!
I let it dry outside for a few hours until it was dry to the touch, and then I brought it inside to start putting on the marks. I used a ruler (this clear grid ruler worked really well for me, but a regular ruler would work, too). I decided that I wanted to hang the ruler 8” up from the floor in the nursery, so I started my first hash mark at the 9” spot. There, I just drew a pencil line. To keep the ruler looking authentic, I made the 1/8 marks 1-1/2” long, the 1/4 marks 2” long, the 1/2 marks 2-1/2” long, and then the foot marks 3” long. You can play with it to see what lengths feel right.
I made my way all the way down the ruler making marks with the pencil. It sounds tedious, but it really only took about 30 minutes. Then, I came back with a thin paint brush, black acrylic paint and a steady hand. I just painted right over top of the lines.
It definitely isn’t perfect, but I kinda enjoy the wiggly, handmade quality of my lines. And from two or more feet back, you can barely tell the lines aren’t perfectly straight.
The next step was to put the numbers on. I headed to my computer and found what I thought was a ruler-y looking font—Century Schoolbook, and printed out the numbers 1-6 at 200pt. Honestly, you could go with whatever font makes you happy, I just like the traditional look.
Then, I lined up the numbers with the foot hash marks. I did a little research about how “traditional” rulers do this, and they usually actually put the number directly before the corresponding hashmark, instead of below it. So that’s what I did.
And then I used a mechanical pencil (with the lead retracted), to burnish around the outline of the number. Because the wood was soft, this transferred an indentation to the wood.
And then I used a pencil to define the edge a little more on the actual wood.
I transferred the stencil for all the numbers, and then came back with my paint brush and black paint and filled in the lines. I love that the numbers are a little bit debossed.
Once all the acrylic paint was dry, I took the board back outside and gave it two nice coats of satin polyurethane. I went with satin because (a) it’s what we had on hand and (b) I feel like the satin will protect the board, but still allow us to write over it with a permanent marker or paint marker (whereas a gloss might not).
I left the board outside for the evening to off-gas and finish drying, then, the next morning, we put heavy duty mounting tape on the back and hung it up on the wall (making sure to measure up 8” from the floor). You could also use a saw-tooth picture hanger or screws and anchors. We like the mounting tape because it’s crazy secure (we used enough to hold 20 pounds, but the board is less than 5), doesn’t require any holes in the wall, and the board is completely flat against the wall—no wobbling or bobbling.
Just to make sure all is right, I then took a tape measure to verify that the ruler was going to measure correctly—and it does! Spot on, in fact.
I am absolutely in love with this little project. Not only do I think it’s adorable, but I love that it’s functional and portable. I can’t wait to start marking Baby J’s progress as she gets bigger and bigger.
Did your family keep track of your growth when you were growing up? Did you have a special door frame or wall that shows your progress?
The 4th of July is a big deal where I live. We’re in a teeny, tiny town, but, man, we seriously know how to throw one heck of a birthday party for the good ole U-S-of-A. In fact, our Independence Day celebration is our claim to fame—we have the oldest consecutive 4th of July celebration in the States. Which means, that even though we only have about 1400 residents, the town throws a huge party for days. There is a giant parade, a big festival with rides and games, a huge fireworks show, and tons of other events. On parade day, our little town swells with visitors and media. On a slow news day, they’ve even been known to cover our celebration on the national news! We’re kinda a big deal.
Growing up, it was a really big honor to get to march in the parade in front of the whole town. I was lucky enough to do it a few different times as a Girl Scout and as a member of the color guard in the marching band in high school (guard girls, rock, by the way). It was always so fun to get out there and show off how awesome our tiny little Midwestern town is.
I think my marching in the parade days are over, but we still try to get down and watch the parade every year. I’m not sure if we’ll make it this year or not with a teeny tiny baby tagging along (it depends a lot of the weather, if it isn’t too hot, we might try). But even if we don’t make it to the parade and festival, and don’t get a funnel cake and a lemon shake-up, we still have to do our part to celebrate this country we love! And that includes some festive decor.
This little flag wreath is such a fun and easy project to celebrate the biggest of summer holidays. I love how patriotic it is, and I love that it’s sturdy enough to last for years and years. I also love that it is really lightweight. I know that sounds strange, but we get a lot of crazy blustery summer storms around here, and I’ve learned over the years that heavy wreaths and door decor makes quite the racket during nasty weather. I had a metal Halloween sign up our first year here, and I’m surprised it didn’t end up shattering the glass! No problems like that with this little foam wreath—it’s light as a feather (well, a few feathers, but still).
Let me show you how to make it. First up, you’ll need to run to the craft store to grab a few supplies.
- 12″ foam wreath form
- Red, white and navy blue yarn (you can just get the cheap stuff)
- White star buttons (you could also use circle buttons if you can’t find stars)
- 1″ burlap ribbon or a piece of burlap, cut into long strips
- Glue gun and glue
First up, you want to mark some guidelines for yourself on the wreath. Start by marking the wreath into fourths. In other words, put a mark at 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock. No need to get out the ruler and measure it, just eyeball it.
The top left quadrant (from 9 o’clock to 12 o’clock) will be your blue star field. You’ll fill that all up with blue yarn. The remaining three quadrants, you want to go ahead and divide them up into thirds. That way, you’ll end up with nine red and white stripes. Again, just eyeball it.
Then, start tying on the yarn. I started with the blue star field. I took my navy yarn, and just tied it on tightly with a square knot.
And then tightly wrap the yarn around, making sure that the tied on tail of the knot goes under the yarn as you wrap. Looping the big skein of yarn in and out of the inside of the wreath form gets a touch tedious, so I recommend winding some of the yarn (you don’t need all of it) into a ball—which makes it a bit easier to handle.
Make sure you’re pushing the yarn tightly against the previous row each time you wrap so no wreath form is showing. Also, no worries about overlapping in some places—it has to happen because the inside circumference of the wreath is shorter than the outside, so you’ll need to do some layers.
Once you hit the line you marked earlier, it’s time to switch colors. Just lop off the current color you’re working with, and then tie on the next color right next to it. Start wrapping with the new color, making sure that the tail of the previous color and the tail from the new color’s knot are under the wrap as you go.
You’ll, obviously, want to alternate between red and white stripes for the remainder of the form. I started with red and ended with red, but you can start with white, if that makes you happy. Keep on wrapping until the whole wreath form is covered.
The next step is to add some stars. You could use foam stars, circle buttons, wooden stars—whatever! I happened to find this fun little mixture of star buttons on sale at the fabric store and thought they’d be perfect. I love that the buttons feel very….Americana.
Then, I took a glue gun and glued on the stars in a somewhat random pattern to fill in the space on the star field.
I didn’t really follow any rhyme or reason for attaching the stars, but you could put them in a pattern if you’d like—this would especially work if you’re using stars or circles that are all the same size.
The final step is to attach a hanger. I decided to go with burlap because I feel like it goes really well with the handmade, country feeling of the wreath (plus, I like the color contrast between the bright wreath and the natural burlap). You can buy burlap ribbon at most craft or fabric stores, or you can just lop off an inch wide piece of burlap from a big chunk of the stuff. A pretty satin ribbon would look really nice, too!
Wrap the end of the burlap around the top, making sure it’s nice and centered over the left edge of the navy star field and the right edge of first stripe.
And then put a big dollop of hot glue on top, and wrap the burlap around to overlap. Go ahead and promise me you won’t use your fingers to push the burlap down. Burlap has holes in it. And the hot glue goes through those holes. And hot glue burns. Not that I know from experience or anything…
Let the glue dry completely, and then hang it up on your door! We have wooden doors, so I just use a flat-headed thumbtack on the top of the door (like, the tippy-top—the part that goes under the door frame) to attach the wreath. It works for us, but you could also use a wreath hanger or Command hook.
I’m kinda obsessed with how adorable this little wreath is. I feel like I’m doing my part to add to the festive decor of our little town! Happy birthday, America!
Does your hometown have a claim-to-fame? Any big festivals or events?
Happy (almost) Canada Day, friends! I have a fun little tutorial to share with you today to celebrate the Great White North. Even though Craig and I live in the States (and love where we live), we both try really hard to make sure our house has a lot of Canadian love all year ’round—and we plan on passing around the love of Canadian culture to our little girl, too. It’s important to both of us that Baby J knows that she is both American and Canadian (quite literally, she’s a dual citizen).
Anywho, we’ve always done our part to celebrate Craig’s homeland on Canada Day every year, and this year, Baby J gets to join in the fun, too by wearing an adorable maple leaf onesie. This onesie took all of about 10 minutes to throw together. It’s so easy! Here’s what you’ll need:
- Printed maple leaf template
- Heat ‘n’ Bond Lite
- Red fabric
- Plain onesie
- Thread, sewing machine, scissors, iron, other sewing stuffs.
We’re going to follow the same method we used to make the applique on this pillow. Except this one is even easier because I already did the template for you. Print out the template—you can feel free to size it up or down if you want to tweak the sizing. At 100% it’s a good size to fill up the front of both a 0-3 month and a 3-6 month onesie.
Just like we did with the pillow, you’ll want to use Heat ‘n’ Bond Lite. This stuff is the bomb. I always have a giant roll of it kicking around, because I use it all the time. Basically, it’s a very thin, heat-activated adhesive with a paper backing—and it works great for adhering two pieces of fabric together. You can find it at most fabric stores (and even some discount stores—I’ve seen at both Target and Walmart in their crafting aisles). It comes in rolls, or, at most fabric stores, they also sell it by the yard on a bolt—which is a much better deal if you only plan on doing one or two appliques.
Anyway, layer the Heat ‘n’ Bond over top of the printed template—smooth side up. You should be able to see through the Heat ‘n’ Bond to the template.
Using a marker, trace the maple leaf pattern onto the Heat ‘n’ Bond.
Throw your template in the recycling, and then take a pair of scissors and cut around the maple leaf pattern on the Heat ‘n’ Bond—no need to be super accurate, you just want to cut off some of the bulk.
Then, take your red fabric, iron it well, and place the Heat ‘n’ Bond—sticky/rough side down—on the back/wrong side of the red fabric you’re using. Iron it down until it sticks.
Using sharp scissors, clip out the maple leaf from the fabric.
Then, take your onesie and iron it well. Peel the backing off the maple leaf, and place it where you think it looks good on the onesie.
Once you’re happy with the placement, iron ‘er down.
Go ahead and open up the onesie, and set up your sewing machine on a zig-zag stitch with red thread (or, really, whatever color makes you happy, the red just blends away nicely). You’ll want to pull the onesie over the sewing table of your machine—you probably want to remove the sewing arm.
Then sew all the way around the perimeter of the leaf using the zig-zag stitch. Stopping and picking up the presser foot to move the onesie/switch directions as necessary.
In some places, it’ll take some squishing to get the right direction, but just as long as you make sure you’re only sewing through one layer of onesie—not the back—you’ll be good.
Once you’re done sewing, tie together the front threads and clip, and the repeat with the back threads.
Iron the the onesie again to make sure it’s nice looking.
And then put it on an adorable baby. And go celebrate an awesome country. Happy Canada Day everyone!
Anyone doing anything fun to celebrate Canada Day? Who’s having a big family cookout?
I know there are a lot of horrible things in this world, but let me suspend my usual perspective for a bit and talk about a first-world problem—the price of throw pillows is ridiculous. I understand that sewing is a lost art, and most folks would rather toss money over the counter at HomeGoods than learn how to sew a throw pillow, but once you do know how easy it is (and how cheap), you’ll never be able to look at those pillow prices the same way again. I can literally make you a throw pillow for $2 in 10 minutes. Heck, if you want to spring for the zipper and pillow form, I can make you a fancy, washable zippered one for less that $5 in about 15 minutes. If you don’t learn to sew anything else, I urge you to learn to sew a zippered throw pillow case. And this is an adorable one to start with.
We have a hand-me-down futon in the nursery, and to make it a little more our style and up the comfy factor, I’m making a million throw pillows to go on it. It’s a cheap and easy way to really update an area. I’m planning on just making most of them pretty simple, with just some fun, patterned fabric. But I figure it’d be nice to mix it up a bit, too with some pillows with a bit of umph! And that’s where this appliqued pillow comes in.
If appliqueing a pillow sounds hard, I promise you it isn’t. And it’s fun because it’s totally customizable. I chose to use the word “love” and a heart, because I’m incredibly twee, but you can easily make it say whatever you want. Put a name on it. Put initials on it. Put a place on it. Whatever! Actually, put “whatever” on it—that’d be awesome for a teenager’s room (or Cher Horowitz’s).
Let me show you how to make it!
- Computer, printer and paper
- Piece of Heat ‘n’ Bond Lite (iron-on adhesive), big enough for your appliques
- Marker or pen
- Fabric scraps big enough for your appliques (fat quarters work, too)
- Iron and ironing board
- 2–13 1/2″ square pieces of fabric (fat quarters work for these, too)
- Coordinating thread
- Sewing machine
- Straight pens
- 1–14″ zipper
- 1–14″ pillow form
A few notes about the materials: first up, the pillow forms. You can pick these up at any fabric store, and if you pay full price, you’re looking at upwards of $8 for one. But! These forms are almost always on sale for 50%+ off. And if they aren’t, most fabric stores offer printable coupons for 40% off or more on one item. Use it on your pillow form! There is no reason you should pay more than $5 for a pillow form. For an even cheaper option, you can also hit up the thrift store and look for throw pillows that you can unzip the cover, toss and use the form.
Please forgive how messy my sewing nook is. There are lots of sewing projects going on in there right now, so it’s pretty much just chaos. I’ll eventually get to Spring cleaning it…eventually.
Secondly, you’ll notice an item on the materials list called “Heat ‘n’ Bond Lite”. This stuff is the bomb. I always have a giant roll of it kicking around, because I use it all the time. Basically, it’s a very thin, heat-activated adhesive with a paper backing—and it works great for adhering two pieces of fabric together. You can find it at most fabric stores (and even some discount stores—I’ve seen at both Target and Walmart in their crafting aisles). It comes in rolls, or, at most fabric stores, they also sell it by the yard on a bolt—which is a much better deal if you only plan on doing one or two appliques.
Okay, now that we’ve gathered materials, onto the making the pillows. First things first, you gotta come up with the design you want! I usually design my appliques in Adobe Illustrator, but if you don’t have that, you can easily do the designs in Word or Photoshop. Since we’re using a 14″ pillow form, a letter piece of paper turned sideways (landscape) is about the width of the applique we want. I open up a document that size, and type out my word in big ole letters.
And then, I go font-hunting. I end up landing on a font called KG Always a Good Time. You can pick whatever makes your heart happy. Just keep in mind, you might want to avoid overly ornate or thin fonts—you’re going to be cutting and sewing along each and every line of the word. Chunky and bold are good!
I then decide I want to add a heart to my pillow, too. So I head over to The Noun Project (my favorite spot to get free icons) and start navigating their heart section.
I end up picking a funky, hand-drawn heart. I download the graphic file, and place it in my document with my word.
The template is done! Now it’s time to print it out. But before you go printing it exactly as it displays, you have to mirror it. This setting is in a different spot for every operating system and every printer, but on my computer, it’s as simple as clicking the little check box next to “Flip horizontally” in the print dialog.
Voila! A backwards applique template.
Now, it’s time to make the actual appliques. First up, we have to transfer the applique template to the Heat ‘n’ Bond. When you look at your Heat ‘n’ Bond, you’ll notice two sides—one is a slightly-sticky, shiny adhesive, and the other is paper.
Put the applique template down, and place the Heat ‘n’ Bond, adhesive side down, on top. The paper-y side should be up, and you should be able to see through the Heat ‘n’ Bond to the template.
Now, take a pen or marker, and trace around the lines of the template onto the papery side of the Heat ‘n’ Bond.
Once it’s all transferred, you can recycle your template. Go ahead and roughly cut out the shapes from the big sheet of Heat ‘n’ Bond—no need to cut close, we’ll do that later. You’re just looking to remove some of the bulk.
Now, take the fabric you want your applique in—I chose a solid black for the word, and a cute pink mini polka dot for the heart—iron it nice and flat, and then put the Heat ‘n’ Bond on it, adhesive side down to the wrong side of the fabric.
Take a hot iron, and run over the Heat ‘n’ Bond a few times, until it feels like it’s stuck. While it’s still warm, it might not feel very solid, but as soon as it cools, it’ll be stuck. See, stuck:
If you’re doing another applique, repeat the process.
And then grab your scissors and cut around the outline of the applique. This is where you want to get precise! Aren’t you glad you picked a simple, chunky, bold font?
Once you’ve cut it all out, you should have this on one side:
And the papery backing still on the flip side:
Now, we’ll attach the applique to the pillow case fabric. I used two pieces of the same fabric for both the front and back of the pillow, but you could use two different ones if that makes you happy. Grab one of the pieces, iron it well, and place it right-side up on your ironing board. Then, take one of your applique pieces, and peel off the paper backing. You’ll have the fabric side, and then a shiny, adhesive side (don’t worry, it’s not sticky until you apply heat).
Peel off the backing on all the applique pieces, and then arrange them on your pillow front. Keep in mind, you’ll lose about 1/2″ on all sides due to the seam allowance. Also, don’t forget, pillows curve! So you might want to give the applique some room to breathe around it.
Once you’ve found a placement you’re happy with, iron that sucker down!
It’s stuck! Don’t worry, if you end up not being happy with the placement, you can just heat it up again with your iron, and quickly peel off the applique and reposition it.
In theory, you could stop here with the applique. Honestly, the Heat ‘n’ Bond is strong stuff and probably won’t ever come undone—I know some folks even hem curtains with it! But I like to finish the edges of my applique with a zig-zag stitch. Not only does it really make sure the applique stays on, but I think it also helps make the edge look more finished. I chose to use matching thread to hide the stitches, but it’s also really cute to use contrasting thread and let the zig-zag stitch show—just depends on what look you’re going for.
You’ll want to stitch around all the curves and holes—you’ll probably have to pick up your presser foot a few times and turn the piece of fabric. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to do almost the whole thing without stopping. Again, aren’t you glad you heeded my warning about a simple font?
Once you’re finished, tie the loose threads together, and clip them off. The front doesn’t end up looking much different:
But you can see all that hard work on the back:
Now the hard part is over (seriously, that was the hard part), it’s time to put this pillow case together. Grab your zipper (you can use a coordinating or contrasting one, I had this pink one kicking around and it was too cute not to use) and line it up, right-side-down to the bottom of the front pillow panel.
Basically, you want the business side of the zipper (the side that you can actually zip from) to be touching the business side of the pillow. Pin it in place all the way across.
Starting just inside of the zipper pull, sew along the outside edge of the zipper, removing your pins as you go. You’ll want to sew as close to the opening of the zipper as possible.
Once you’ve got that sew on, open up the seam, and iron it flat.
Now, we attach the back of the pillow. With the zipper/front piece right-side-up, place the back piece on top, right-side-down. Again, we want the business ends to be touching.
Line up the bottom of the back panel with the bottom of the zipper. Pin all the way across.
Now, you’re going to repeat the same process of sewing on the zipper. Usually, at this point, I flip the entire pillow case over, so I can see the zipper better on the sewing machine.
Once you have that side sewn on, open up the case, iron down that seam, and you should have two pieces of fabric joined by a zipper. Hip-hip-hooray!
Go ahead and unzip your zipper about half way. This is so you can turn the pillow case right-side out later.
Alright, now we have one more sewing step to go before we’re finished. Go ahead and clamshell the pillow back together, putting the right-sides of the two fabric pieces together. Line up all the edges, and pin all along the sides.
When you get to the zipper, fold it in half, and pin it down, too.
Then, starting on one end of the zipper, sew all the way around the three open sides of the pillow—ending with the other end of the zipper. A word of warning: most zippers come with metal stops at the beginning and end of the zipper, and you really don’t want to sew over those, unless you’re a fan of flying needle shards. But you do want to sew all the way through the zipper on both ends, so just make sure those metal stops aren’t under where you’re sewing.
Once you get around those three sides, your pillow case is done! But inside out.
Stick a hand inside, and pull the right side out.
Make sure to push out the corners. Ahhhh, pretty!
Give it one last go under the iron before it goes on the pillow form.
Stuff in the pillow form. Now, the pillow case ends up being about an inch smaller than the pillow form—that’s how I like ‘em! It makes the case fill out nicely and makes sure there isn’t a lot of extra fabric. But that small size does mean it takes some squishing to get the pillow in there right. Squish away!
Zip ‘er up. And admire your handiwork.
This same applique process can be applied to all kinds of things. I’ve made onesies, t-shirts, bags—tons of stuff with appliques on them. It’s such an easy and fun way to personalize a normally lackluster object. In fact, my plan is to custom-make Baby J a fun onesie for her coming home outfit!
And the same zippered pillow method can be used with any size pillow and any fabric. I’m not exaggerating when I say that, after you have the method down, you can make a pillow case in about 10 minutes.
So can we agree that there is absolutely no reason to pay $65 (!!!) for an applique word pillow? I promise you can make your own!