{ Pillow Talk } A Tutorial – Part II – The Layout

Welcome back everyone for Part II of my very first multi-step tutorial! Were you up all hours of the night cutting out those pesky circles? Well, strap yourselves into your seats because we have some fun times ahead!

The final portion of this tutorial will show you how to begin the layout of your pillow, your options for finishing, and provide some hints and tips for fitting those circles together. At the end of my previous post, I left you with a pile of paper backed circles just waiting to be fused.

Part II – The Layout

Take some time to decide what kind of foundation your pillow will have and narrow down the size you want it to be. I chose Aiden 100% Linen for my foundation, but any linen/cotton blend or Kona solid will work just fine. Pillow forms generally come in even sizes and I knew I wanted my cover to be at least 22″ with a border around the outside, so I cut my foundation to 20″ square knowing the center would measure 19 1/2″ when finished, leaving me with plenty of room for a border.

Here’s how I began laying everything out:

STEP 6 – Find the center of your foundation fabric by measuring it both horizontally and vertically. Peel the paper backing off from and place a 1″ fabric circle over the location where the measurements intersect. This will mark the center portion of your pillow design. We will be working from the center, building outwards.

Why not just fold the fabric in half and iron in both directions to get the starting point? That works too, but I didn’t want my circles to shift around if they were placed on a raised seam and didn’t stick well.

STEP 7 – Choose four 1″ circles to nest around your center circle. This is where your circle template comes in handy again. Do this for each outside circle you want to fit around your center circle: flip them over so the paper backing is face up. Lay your template over them and slide it over so the bottom portion of the circle is showing through the template opening. Mark it with your pen and trim with scissors, following the curved line. If you are without a template like mine you can also use the outer edge of a quarter to mark a cutting line.


Once the four circles have been trimmed, peel off the paper backings exposing the sticky webbing and position them around the center circle like so.


Believe it or not, these are the only five 1″ circles I used on the front of the pillow. If you’re like me, you probably also had a pile of 1″ circles left. Set them aside and we’ll come back to them later.

At this point it would probably be a good time to go over what you laid out so far with a hot steam iron to melt the webbing and permanently adhere the appliques to the pillow front. Check to make sure you are using the proper heat and steam settings for the webbing you’re using.

STEP 8 – Randomly choose circles of all sizes from your prepared stash and start adding them, building around what you previously fused.

This is the point where every one’s projects will begin to vary. You can decide to work up in size from 1 1/2″ to 3 1/2″ methodically from the center or vary everything completely, mixing and matching size and placement as you go. There is no right or wrong way to do this. I chose to mix and match.

I found the best way to fit the circles together was to ditch the circle template at this point. It worked best for me to flip my next circle over so the paper back is up and place it where you want it to go. Take your fingernail and trace around the edges of the circles you want the piece to fit with and create a visible indentation in the paper. Peel the backing from the circle and flip it around placing the paper backing on the right side of the fabric. Cut along the finger pressed indentations and the circle will fit perfectly in place. Pretty technical, huh?!? 🙂


Keep doing this over and over, adding more and more circles and your design will begin to blossom. Occasionally stop and fuse your work down to prevent it from shifting around too much.






Rather than having a round appearance like the inspiration pillow, I decided to fill the linen foundation completely till it looked balanced to my eye.

STEP 9 – Once you are satisfied with the way your foundation appears, select a print for the border and cut it to the appropriate size. Since my 20″ center foundation will finish to 19 1/2″ when you factor a 1/4″ seam around all sides, I will need to cut my border strips 3″ wide to have the pillow top finish at 22″ or 22 1/2″ unfinished. It makes sense in my head 🙂

I decided to place a border around the outside of my pillow to anchor the center design. If you decide for your pillow not to have a border, that’s completely fine. Feel free to finish your pillow the way you normally would. From this step on, I’m simply showing how I chose to finish my partner’s pillow.

Pin your first set of border strips to opposite edges of the center square and sew a 1/4″ seam. Press the strips outward and trim the border strips flush to the side of the center square you didn’t sew. Repeat so you have border strips on all sides of the pillow.



STEP 10 – Begin layering your pillow top and prepare it for quilting. I like to use a thin layer of 100% cotton batting and a muslin backing to give my stitches stability. Now is a good time to use up some of that “ugly” fabric because the backing will be inside the pillow and never seen.


Rather than pin basting for smaller projects like pillows and doll quilts, I use a spray adhesive to hold the layers together. Just follow the instructions on the can. I tend to get puckers when I pin baste and spray adhesive has solved all my “puckering problems.”

STEP 11 – Now that you’ve sandwiched all your layers it’s time to start quilting.


Again, here’s where my finished product and yours can completely differ. I decided to quilt my center design to add stability and prevent it from coming off if the fusible breaks down over time. You have the choice not to quilt and it would be just fine too.

I stitched all along the inner border of my circle pieces one at a time till they all were tacked down.



Have you had enough? Screaming uncle!?!? Only a few more steps left to go…

STEP 12 – After you’ve completed quilting the top, trim it up square. Set it aside and pull the fabrics you’ll be using for the pillow back. I normally use an envelope closure on all my pillows. Partly because I’m too chicken to try sewing a zipper and/or haven’t tried my button hole attachment yet! I’ll walk you through the steps of creating a decorative envelope closure using some of the leftover circle shapes on Friday. This post was getting a little lengthy and I want everyone to be a ble to digest what I’ve written so far.

If you’re following along I would love to see photos of what you’ve made.

See you Friday!