Pretty Pillows

Pretty Pillows~

Almost thirty years ago, while travelling on a bus down to the Isle of Wight in England, I met a girl. You know when you meet someone that feels like a long lost friend; someone you are instantly drawn to, interested in, and at once at ease with; someone you know will be in your life for the rest of it? Well, that's the girl I met that day on the bus. We have remained a constant in each other's lives, even though she lives half way around the world in Australia.

She would write the most beautiful letters; her penmanship artistic; her words flowing and descriptive. My husband would tease me when one would arrive in the mailbox. Remember before snail mail was just a kitschy phrase? He would say, "Your book is here from Australia". My heart would race. I'd carve out a block of time, away from hubbub and kids, wanting to savor every detail uninterrupted. I'd prepare the perfect cup of tea, find a sunny location, and indulge in catching up with my friend. Over the years our "books" have evolved into emails. I love the instant spontaneity of electronic communication, but I must admit I miss the feel of the page and the curved, dangling tails of her g's and y's. They would reach inches down, creating a lovely vine-like effect over her pages. She would grace our mailbox with handmade cards complete with ephemera, decades before I had even heard that term!

My Christmas shopping has dwindled to a few well chosen gifts, mostly for my children. Yet I still enjoy searching for just a little something, something special for her. This year I wanted to sew her an Alabama Chanin garment. Being practical and as close friends are bound to be, in a position to ask her just what she would like, were I to make her such a garment. She replied that she would most like a throw pillow. What a wonderful idea. No need to worry about the sizing of the garment, alterations, non-fit issues. So I set about creating just the right pretty pillow for her.

I found that once I got started on this path, I was discovering unused throw pillows in closets and storage areas, and small yardage fabrics that lended perfectly to the size of tiny tossing pillows. I set about gathering such items and creating a plethora of pillows for her and others on my gift giving list for Christmas and the year to come.

She chose the Magdalina stencil for her pillow.

Close up of the Magdalina stencil.

The Magdalina stencil worked in the negative reverse applique method.

I stenciled two of these, and also some pillows in the lovelace pattern. I used mostly natural, pale colors and one in black.

Close up of the Lovelace stencil, worked in the reverse applique method, with a few accent beads.

I started some from scratch: and I used a couple of existing, plain cases. At this same time I had just found the perfect bedding to refresh my parents' guest room. One pillow sham I had coordinated well with their decor, but it needed a little something extra. I embellished in colors that brought all the elements of the room together.

Original sham.

I used felted sweaters for the bird and golden flower parts, recycled silk sari ribbons, and white saved cut-outs from previous Alabama Chanin projects using the Bloomers stencil.

The final pillow case, incorporating French knots and various embroidery stitches in floss and silk ribbon for the flowers and Alabama eyelets. 

I still have a queue of unfinished pillows to be sewn together; but they're all cut, stenciled, and ready to go. What a lovely way to begin the year, with a stash of projects at the ready and just waiting to be stitched.

Here's wishing you a most wonderful and enriching 2016.


  1. Beautiful! Did you do the stenciling? Just made hotel reservations for Art and Soul, can't wait.

  2. Hi Cindy~ Thank you. I'm excited for Art & Soul and meeting you! Yes, I did the stenciling. We'll go over this in class :)