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!
Do you have any items that you refuse to pay full price for?
Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!
Even though I’m only a teeny, tiny bit Irish, I absolutely love St. Patrick’s Day! I mean, how can you not love a holiday that requires you to wear bright colors and drink beer (well, no beer for me this year, but still)? St. Patrick’s Day is also extra special for Craig and I because it also happens to be our anniversary. Seven years ago today, on a very, very chilly Saturday morning, we got hitched at city hall. We’re not doing anything too crazy to celebrate our wool anniversary, but we are headed out to dinner tonight—but not to an Irish restaurant. Because we’re not crazy.
Anywho, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I have a fun little craft for you guys, today. These shamrock hair pins are a fun way to be festive without drowning yourself in head-to-toe green. I attached my shamrock to a hair pin, but you could easily attach it to a pin back to make a boutonniere/brooch or to a headband. The method for making the shamrock is the same either way.
These are crazy easy to make—once you have the materials gathered, it’ll take you less than 10 minutes from start to finish. The one speciality item you’ll need is a bobby pin with a pad. You can try to attach the shamrock to a regular bobby pin, but these speciality pins make it so much easier! Plus, they’re much sturdier than regular bobby pins. You can find packs of these at almost any craft or fabric store in the jewelry-making section. And once you have them, you can use them as a base for all kinds of fun hair accoutrements.
Alright, let’s get started.
- Shamrock template (PDF)
- Fabric marker
- Lightweight green felt
- Matching thread
- Glue gun and glue
- Small button
- Bobby pin with pad
Cut out both the clover leaf shape and the stem shape from the template. Using the fabric marker, trace the leaf shape four times onto the felt and the stem once, for each hair pin.
Cut out the shapes from the felt. Make sure to transfer the dots to the leaf shapes. Double knot the end of the thread, thread the needle, and stitch on the dots of each leaf piece using the same piece of thread (this will form a chain of the pieces).
While holding onto the knotted end of the thread, push the felt pieces together, to create pleats in each leaf.
Keep pushing until the pieces come together to form a shamrock.
Flip the shamrock over, and then connect the first piece and last piece of the shamrock together with a few stitches.
Pull it as tightly as possible, but don’t worry if it’s a bit loose—the glue will keep it together. Tie off and trim any extra thread. Hey, it’s a shamrock!
Using the glue gun, attach the button to the middle of the shamrock, and the stem to the back of the shamrock.
Then, attach the shamrock to the pad of the bobby pin. Let glue cool completely before wearing.
And, you’re all done. That wasn’t too hard, now was it?
I hope you have an amazing holiday. Drink some green beer for me!
Who is doing something fun to celebrate today?
I don’t know what it is about Christmas that brings out the raging craft monster in me, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’m covered head to toe in glitter and glue for the entire month of December. There are so many craft projects that I could never “find time” for during the rest of the year, but magically, they bubble up to the top of the priority list come Black Friday. Suddenly my brain is like, “Oh yeah, I know you have a deadline for an article, but the most important thing right now is for you to drink egg nog, listen to Christmas music and finish those red sparkly throw pillows for the couch. It’s vital. The world will end if these pillows aren’t done.” #truestory
One of the fun craft projects I took on this past weekend (after the pillows were done) was making cinnamon ornaments. If you’ve never made cinnamon ornaments, they’re crazy easy, smell amazing, and last for pretty much forever. They’re meant to look like gingerbread, but unlike the regular cookie version with sugar and butter and eggs and all that perishable stuff, these ornaments are made from only three ingredients—ground cinnamon, unsweetened applesauce, and craft glue—which helps them last for pretty much ever. You mix it all together into a dough, cut it out just like regular cookies, dry, decorate and hang. And you have a bunch of amazing smelling ornaments that will last for years and years!
Making these would be a super fun project with kids (keep in mind: although, the dough isn’t toxic, it also isn’t edible, keep little fingers from nibbling might be tricky). But of course, Craig and I had just as much fun decorating as any kid would have. It’s nice to have some fun homemade keepsakes on our tree that we can look back on and say, “Hey, remember that snowy afternoon when we brought out the puffy paints and glitter glue?”
There are a million different recipes and processes out there for how to make cinnamon ornaments, but let me show you how we did ours. Let’s get to crafting!
First up, as any good crafter knows, gather your stuff. You probably have just about everything you need already in the house.
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1-1/2 cup ground cinnamon (look for the cheap, off-brand stuff, you aren’t gonna eat it)
- 2 tablespoons craft glue, optional (I think this makes the ornaments a bit more sturdy, but you can do without it)
- Mixing bowl
- Drinking straw
- Plastic wrap
- Rolling pin
- Baking racks and baking sheets
- Cookie cutters
- Oven, food dehydrator, or just a spot out-of-the-way (for drying)
- Glitter, puffy paints, rhinestones, etc. for decorating, optional
- Ribbon or hooks for hanging
As far as decorations go, these ornaments can really be as simple (just plain dried dough on a pretty ribbon) or as crazy (GLITTTEERRRRR!) as you’d like. I really like the use of puffy paint, because I think it looks like big, thick, creamy frosting when dried.
Alright, onto making the dough. First step, the applesauce, cinnamon and glue go into a mixing bowl.
And then, dig in there with your hands. This really isn’t the job for a spoon, you’re gonna need your fingers to get it all mixed it.
Depending on a number of factors (wetness of applesauce, humidity, etc.) you might need to add more applesauce or more cinnamon to make the dough come together. You want it to be just a touch dry (because it’ll dry faster), but you also want it to hold together enough to roll and cut.
When you can form it into a big ole ball, you’re done mixing. Go wash your hands.
Now it’s time to roll. To keep things clean and easy, I just take a hunk of dough (maybe 1/3 of the whole ball) and place it between two sheets of plastic wrap.
Now roll. You’re looking for between 1/4″ and 1/3″. The thinner you go, the quicker it will dry and the more ornaments you can get out of a batch, but it also makes them more fragile and less likely to last from year to year.
Remove the top layer of plastic wrap (set it aside to use on the next batch of dough), and then go at it with your cookie cutters.
Before you transfer your ornaments to baking racks, take the straw and poke holes where you want them to hang from.
Unfortunate gunshot wound gingerbread man.
If there is a shape you want to make but don’t have a cookie cutter for, no problamo. We’re actually using these ornaments as stocking markers, and we wanted dog and cat shaped ornaments for their respective stockings. So I just did a Google image search for “dog silhouette” and “cat silhouette” until I found ones that resembled our furry family members. Then I printed them out at the size I wanted.
I cut the silhouettes out with scissors, then placed them on the dough and cut around them with an Xacto knife.
Once all the ornaments are cut out, they go onto a baking rack on a cookie sheet, if you want to bake them to dry them.
There are three methods that work for drying the ornaments:
- Baking: Pop the ornaments on a baking rack on top of a baking sheet in a 200° oven for about 2-1/2 hours until the ornaments are dry and hard. This is the fastest method, but it also results in a little bit of curling and bubbling.
- Food Dehydrator: Place the ornaments on the racks of a food dehydrator, and dry at the highest setting for about 6 hours.
- Air Dry: You can easily just put these ornaments on baking racks and dry them in an out-of-the-way place. This method takes a few days, and obviously works best in dry climates (I wouldn’t try this method at the beach house in Florida).
I’m impatient, so we baked them.
After a glorious, snowy day nap with the scent of cinnamon wafting around, these ornaments were ready to get glammed up. Just let them cool out of the oven, and then you can start decorating. Or, if you prefer, you can just tie a pretty ribbon through the hole now and hang them.
But we glittered the heck of these guys.
You might notice that the edges of the ornaments look a little rough.
Nothing a quick buff with a fine-grit sandpaper won’t cure.
Then let your creativity go wild. If you like the shimmery, snow-fallen look, I highly recommend picking up an extra fine translucent glitter to go over everything. It makes everything look like it was kissed by a sunny snowy day.
This recipe makes about 20 or so medium-sized ornaments. Which just happens to be the perfect number of ornaments for two adults to decorate in about an hour.
Because we were heavy-handed with the glitter glue and puffy paints, we let them dry out on the kitchen table overnight.
And then we strung the ornaments with coordinating ribbon the next morning.
And wrote the year on the back with a Sharpie. Because it’s always nice to know when something handmade was handmade. I have a handmade ornament on our tree that I made in Kindergarten, and I always get a kick out of seeing the year “1989″ on the back.
And up on the tree they all went.
Making these was so fun and so delicious smelling that this might have to be a new yearly tradition for us. Although, our 9′ tree is so packed with ornaments (as you can see), that we might have to get a second one just for a cinnamon ornaments!
What’s your favorite holiday craft? Do you have any holiday crafting traditions?
I literally just had this for lunch, and it was so delicious I knew I had to hop over to my computer (with a full belly) as quickly as possible and tell you guys about it.
The original idea for these little open-face sandwiches comes from a meal I had while visiting my in-laws in Thunder Bay, Ontario last month. For lunch one very chilly day, we sought refuge from the frigid wind in the warm and cozy atmosphere of The Growing Season—a local whole foods restaurant. Pretty much every single item on the menu looked like it would be right up my alley, but I took the suggestion of my sister-in-law and ordered the garden grill—an open face sandwich of pesto, grilled veggies and feta.
It did not disappoint. It was such a simple concept, but the resulting sandwich was warm, flavorful and the perfect centerpiece for a light lunch. I knew immediately I was going to need to recreate it at home. And, just my luck, our CSA just happened to have fresh basil pesto in stock this week. Kismet, right?
Admittedly, this sandwich isn’t a quick lunch option—roasting the veggies alone takes 15-20 minutes—but if you’re just kicking around the house one weekend afternoon, this is a great option. You could also roast a bunch of veggies on the weekend, and then assemble and finish these guys under the broiler in a snap for a quicker version.
I can assure you this isn’t the last recipe inspired by The Growing Season. In fact, I snagged myself a take-out menu so I can keep track of all the deliciousness that they serve. I might just make my way through the whole thing like a checklist.
Roasted Veggie, Pesto and Feta Toasts
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 2 servings
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
- 1 red onion, sliced thinly
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 slices whole grain bread
- 1/4 cup basil pesto
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta
- Preheat oven to 425°.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the olive oil and garlic. Add in the sliced pepper and onions and toss with clean hands until coated. Spread mixture in one layer on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and bake in preheated oven, stirring occasionally, until veggies are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- While veggies are cooking, arrange the four slices of bread on a separate cooking sheet. Spread one tablespoon of pesto on each slice of bread.
- Once veggies are finished, preheat the broiler. Then layer the peppers and onions evenly on the four slices of bread. Top each slice with feta. Broil for 3-5 minutes, or until feta begins to brown.
Serving size: 2 slices. Servings per recipe: 2.
Have you ever been inspired in the kitchen by a trip to a restaurant?
Sorry for missing last week’s Top Chef discussion, friends! Since we were traveling, I just got to catch up on the episodes last night, and now I’m all ready for the finale. Just like always, I’m going to stick my commentary under a jump, so if you aren’t current on this season of Top Chef, go ahead and skip this post (and the comments).
Anyway. Speaking of that meal. Anyone else spend the entire time thinking that if this had been filmed just a few years ago, the chefs would have been serving Sarah Palin? Ha! That’s all that was going through my mind during the entire dinner with the Governor.
I think probably my favorite meal of the past two weeks was one that all the judges seemed to hate—Lizzie’s salmon sourdough sliders. I thought the idea was incredible and looked like something right up my alley! I can’t wait to take the idea and make it my own. Even if Lizzie would have knocked that one out of the park, it was her time to go. She just wasn’t even close to the caliber of Brooke and Sheldon (and even Josh).
For this week’s elimination, I knew in my heart it was going to be Josh. I mean, I think pretty much everyone had Brooke and Sheldon pegged as going to the finale within the first few episodes of the season, but I was so sad to see Josh to go. Especially a day after missing the birth of his daughter. I wonder if he wishes he was sent home the elimination before? I mean, if you’re going to be eliminated anyway, wouldn’t it be better to be eliminated earlier and get to see the birth of your child?
And speaking of the upcoming finale, my pick has always been Brooke, and continues to be Brooke. She is creative, well-trained, sweet, kind, gracious and just a damn good cook. Although, I have to admit, her constant breaking-down-crying-fear of all the cool things she gets to do (go on a cruise! fly over Alaska in a helicopter!) is grinding my gears a little bit. But she does manage to overcome those fears, so that’s definitely a positive quality.
When it comes to her cooking, all of her problems in her dishes have been so minor compared to her competition. It’s almost like the judges are trying to find something wrong with her dishes just so she doesn’t look so obviously like the favorite to win. I just don’t see how she can’t win, unless she just absolutely implodes. Sheldon is creative and talented, but I think he gets into his own head so much and skips the important, but basic steps (like, uh, tasting something before you plate it!).
I’m so excited for the finale! Part one airs next Wednesday, February 20th at 10/9c. And the season finale is Wednesday, February 27 at 10/9c! Make sure to set your DVRs.
Alright, which dish was your favorite from this week? Who do you think will take it all?
This post is sponsored by Bravo. Photos courtesy of Bravo. All views are my own.
1. As excited and grateful I am to be jobless, I am also the kind of terrified that you can’t even really put into words. I don’t do well making leaps. And this leap is a doozy. My emotions are alternating between this and this.
2. I don’t really like Thought Catalog. Yes, I realize this makes me either old or out-of-touch. Or maybe both.
3. I feel guilty whenever I bring reusable grocery bags from one store into a different store. I have these really amazing canvas Trader Joe’s bags that are my favorites, but it feels way wrong to load them up with my Whole Foods or Rainbow Blossom goodies.
4. I busted my blender motor again. This is twice now. I love you, KitchenAid, but your blenders just can’t handle my addiction to frozen fruit smoothies. In related news, who wants to buy me a VitaMix?
5. I like Jon Stewart more than I like Stephen Colbert. There, I said it.