Life, art, and nature on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Made an early start on Monday, ran all the errands and treated myself to a stop at my favorite thrift shop. I was looking for old linens and rhinestone brooches. I found this piggie pink, 100% wool, winter coat. What do you think? 80's? Was there a decade when this was fashionable? Anyway, I grabbed it for just 5 dollars. 
I recall promising a tutorial for a recycled wool, one-piece pillow a while back. Let's get started.
This is a very basic sewing project. Easy peasy for any skill level. I will say, a heavy wool coat like this gets pretty thick when felted, so it might be easier for a novice sewer to felt something a little lighter weight, like a blazer.
Cut any buttons and linings off your 100% wool garment. Toss it in the washing machine with detergent and wash on hot. Repeat this until it reaches your desired thickness. I washed mine 3 times. Machine dry. 

Now you can begin to pull/cut it apart, remove and open the sleeves, etc. to get as many large pieces as  you can. If the garment is old enough, the stitching is probably dry rotted and will just rip apart at the seams. Lay out the largest piece and determine if it is big enough for your pillow pattern (I'm getting to that). You may need to stitch together 2 or more pieces to get the desired size. I should have enough for the pillow and a couple of stuffed piggies for Scout.
Measure your pillow insert. Mine is 10" X 14". I love this size. Just right for the small of your back.
Multiply the length of your pillow X 2. Add 5 inches for the end folds, plus 5 inches for overlap and adjustment. 
(14 X 2) + 5 + 5= 38" length
10 + 1.5 (seam allowance)=11.5" width
Make a pattern on wrapping paper or parchment paper, whatever you have lying around. I like freezer paper because you can iron it on the first time and don't even have to pin. I told you this was easy. When you've cut out the paper pattern, wrap it around the pillow just to make sure your calculations are correct. You know that measure twice, cut once thing...

Now we get down to business. Here's what you'll need...

Materials and Supplies
Sewing machine
needle for hand sewing
scissors (sharp!)
button or brooch for closure
pillow insert
scrap of fabric or ribbon for loop (if you're using a button)
iron/ironing board
fabric marking pen

Pin or iron (freezer paper) your pattern onto the wool. Use the fabric pen to mark 1" from one short end (button side) and 4'' from the other (loop side). These are fold lines.
Cut out the pillow.
Fold, iron, and pin on the fold lines. Wrong sides together. Straight stitch across the width of each fold near the cut edge. You may want to stitch several lines across the the 4" side. This adds interest and tames the thickness if your felted wool is very heavy. 

Wrap the pillow cover around the pillow insert to determine where you'd like the opening to be. You can make this dead center or off to one side. Entirely up to you.
Right sides together, fold both ends toward the middle, overlapping and making sure that the 1" (button) side will be underneath the 4" (loop) side when you turn the pillow right side out. Pin.
Stitch each side along the seam allowance.

Clip corners and trim seams. Turn pillow right side out.
You may stop right here if you like, and close your pillow with a pretty little brooch. I rummaged through my button stash, and found this big button with pinkish tones. To make a loop closure, cut a length of ribbon or cord, or fold and stitch a narrow length of scrap fabric. I closed mine with a piece of pink, patterned bark cloth that I've been saving. Determine where you'd like the button and stitch to the pillow front. Attach the loop closure to the underside of the overlap with handstitching. Voila!

One of the great things about wool felt is that there are no fraying edges. When I make these button fold pillows with more traditional fabrics, I usually do French seams and machine button holes. It's getting harder to find 100% woolen clothing, but it's out there and now's a great time to find it. Lots of thrift stores do half price or better at the end of season. Happy hunting! XO. 

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