{ Pillow Talk } A Tutorial – Part I – Prepping & Selecting Your Fabrics and Tracing & Cutting Your Circles

Now, a word of caution to all my faithful readers: I am in no way an expert in the art of quilting. Most of the methods I use are my own… developed out of a lack of training and education on the subject nonetheless! I’m sure there are faster, more efficient ways to accomplish what I’m going to explain here. So please be kind. With that said, here we go…

Welcome! I’m very excited to introduce the very first I’m Just a Guy Who Quilts multi-step tutorial right here and in print on the blog! Awesome, right?

Let me begin by explaining the inspiration behind this pillow. For many years I have admired the designs of a certain well known home dec company who offers gorgeous (and I mean G O R G E O U S) pillows to the masses at a premium price. Said company shall remain nameless for legal reasons, but these pillows fetch an amazing $200 to $300 a piece. Yikes! A little out of MY budget for a sofa decoration (more like so far out, it’s in the next solar system). I’ve always wanted to try my hand at re-creating them, but never had the nerve to get started. They are currently unavailable from the company and there’s no sign of them becoming available soon.

During the charter round of the Pillow Talk {Swap} (created by 2 awesome chicas Heather and Kerri), fellow man quilter and bud, John (aka Quilt Dad) created me an awesome interpretation of the pillow after much pleading and hinting in the Pillow Talk threads. It was based on a doll quilt he created for DQS7. Does this sound confusing yet? A pillow based on a quilt, based on a pillow?? 🙂 Here is some eye candy to get you going.


This is the pillow John sent me based on his DQS quilt.


This is John’s DQS7 quilt he based my pillow on.
Photo originally uploaded by j_q_adams on flickr.

Both items are way cool dontchathink? Kudos John! Hopefully I was able to keep you awake so far. Yay me! After all the hubub surrounding John’s creations, I finally found the ambition to tackle this design for myself. Not for myself, really, but for my Pillow Talk round 2 partner. Who shall also remain nameless at this point because I’ve been holding their pillow hostage till I have all the pictures I need for this tutorial. Sorry partner 😉 Your pillow shall be on it’s way to you this week! OK, enough background, let’s get down to the nitty gritty shall we?

Part I – Prepping & Selecting Your Fabrics and Tracing & Cutting Your Circles

Construction of this pillow will remain very basic. I wanted to create something everyone can make no matter what skill level they are at quilt wise. Experienced quilters can take some time out for a fun project they can complete in a few sittings and beginners can challenge themselves, building new skills to further their quilting progress.

What are those skills you say? I’m glad you asked! The techniques we’ll be using in this part are:

Selecting Coordinating Fabrics
Tracing Designs using Templates
Laying Out Fabric on a Fusible Webbing Surface
and Cutting Out Fused Designs

(Can you tell I’ve been watching too much Nick Jr. with my little guys?)

STEP 1 – Every project needs a starting point and mine was finding an inspiration for my design and assembling the materials I’ll be using. Here I’ve gathered all the items I’ll need to get myself started.


You can see I have a photo of the original pillow for reference, a package of Steam A Seam 2 (a double stick fusible webbing), a Fiskars circular template (available in most scrapbook sections at your favorite craft store), a pen for tracing the template circles, a cutting mat to protect my work surface, and not pictured are my handy spring action Fiskars scissors, and a straight edge for cutting my fabrics.


STEP 2 – After you’ve gathered all your tools, you need to select your fabrics and cut them into 5″ x 12″ strips. Fat quarters and scraps come in handy for this project as the largest circle appliques you will need are 3.5″ in diameter. So go through those scrap buckets you’ve been filling and select as many prints as you want. How you design this pillow is entirely up to your own taste. You can repeat fabrics or use different prints for each piece. If you decide to use scraps for your pillow there’s no need for cutting and you can skip this step.


I chose a collection of 27 prints from Denyse Schmidt for Free Spirit called Katie Jump Rope because my partner loves all things Denyse Schmidt. Here they are all laid out after cutting them into strips.

STEP 3 – Next you need to prepare the Steam A Seam for your fabrics by peeling off one layer of the paper backing.

I love this product and use it constantly in my projects. It’s one of my MUST HAVE tools. So much so, that I buy it by the yard from rolls at my LQS. The photo for step 1 shows another version you can get in sheets for around $4.00. I’ll be using the by the yard version in the photos for my tutorial. This stuff is tacky on both sides and is sandwiched between 2 layers of paper to keep it sticky.


Start placing your fabrics (wrong side down) on the Steam A Seam 2 till all are backed with the webbing. I normally cut them apart after placing 3 or 4 strips down. If you are using scraps, just start arranging your scraps (wrong side down) on the webbing. The tacky surface will help the fabrics stick. Smooth them out with your hand to get out any wrinkles.


STEP 4 – Taking each piece of fused fabric, flip them over so the paper backing of the steam a seam is facing up. Take your circle template and begin tracing various size circles. Start with one 3.5″ circle and work your way down to the smallest 1″ circle.


I kept tracing till I filled up the entire backing. You can keep this as random as possible and have the potential to get enough circles from each strip of fabric for several pillows. I had room to trace several copies of every size circle.

STEP 5 – After you’ve traced circles on all your fabric strips you need to cut them out. Now, I would consider this part as the most boring of the entire project. It’s a good time to pop in a movie or watch a TV show. Don’t feel you need to cut out each circle perfectly. Just chug along during your favorite show and do the best you can. No pressure! Those spring loaded scissors come in handy in this step as well. They help you along and prevent hand fatigue from all the cutting.

I’d like to make a special note for this step: If you are also using the Steam A Seam 2 on a roll, sometimes the paper will separate from the webbing in spots because it was rolled up rather than sitting flat. If this is the case, just quickly glide a warm, dry iron over the right side of your fabrics after you’ve attached them to one side of the webbing. This will make everything stick back together and lay flat. BE CAREFUL NOT TO USE STEAM AS THIS WILL FUSE THE WEBBING TO THE BACKING.


Here are all the circles I ended up with after cutting from 27 fabric strips. As you can see there is more than enough for several pillows, or quilts, or potholders, or dish towels, etc… I’m already brainstorming for other projects 🙂

Is everyone feeling this project so far? I encourage you to follow me along and post photos of your progress in this Flickr group I’ve created for the project.

Tomorrow we will begin laying out and fit cutting our circles on our background fabric and sadndwich the pillow top for stitching. Get cutting those circles!

Happy quilting,