Learn the Sewing Machine Making a Floor Pillow

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How are your children going to learn to sew if you don’t take the time to teach them? Well, here’s a great floor pillow project to get started and it’s something they’ll use for years to come. 

I don’t believe that there are too many schools these days that offer Home Economics in their curriculum.  Our school had Cooking for half the year and Sewing for the other half.  As you all know, I have used the information and skills I learned in junior high sewing for basically my entire life.
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Because of this, I’m going to start a series of easy beginner projects for kids.  I think both boys and girls will enjoy the projects and be able to use them in their rooms.

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If you are interested in another project that your child could try, you might take a look at the Bed Book Pocket project too.  It’s fairly easy and my 9 year old helped me quite a bit with it and I have to admit, he did a pretty good job!

The floor pillow is easy as well and probably a good way to start the summer.  Make the floor pillow first, then the book pocket so you have a place to keep the summer reading!  When you give it a try, remember Moms, some of what we will do isn’t exactly the way you and I would make this pillow, but for beginners, this is perfect.

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Materials List:

  • 2 yds. Fabric of your choice
  • Dual Duty XP General Purpose thread
  • 2 bags of Polyester Fiberfil
  • Scissors
  • Fabric tape measure
  • Needle
  • Sewing Machine
  • Pad of paper and a pencil
  • Cutting mat is nice if available

Note to Parents:
It’s always a good idea to preshrink a fabric before starting construction.  Generally, I wash the fabric, dry it until it’s just damp and then iron it flat before starting to measure or cut anything out.  Because this is tedious work I eliminated it from the instructions.  I want kids to see how fun and rewarding sewing can be first, then once they’re hooked, they can learn some of the other details.

Instructions:

Preparation:

1. Begin by gathering all of the necessary materials together and find a suitable workspace.  You’ll need a large table to measure, mark and cut your fabric on.  Or, when I was growing up and doing my first sewing projects, I simply cleared a space on the floor to lay the fabric out!
Determining Size:

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2. Once all the materials are in place for your pillow project, it’s time to determine just how big you want your pillow to be.  Use the fabric tape measure to consider different sizes.  Lay it out on the floor and picture what size might work best for you.  Remember, once you fill it up with the stuffing it will seem to shrink in size a bit because it is getting higher as you stuff it!  We made our pillow 30” square and it’s plenty big, even for an adult.  If you use the size we used it might make it easier for you to follow along with the dimensions.

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3. I always draw up the project I am trying to make before I get started cutting.  This is fun because it’s like a puzzle.  You need to think about how this pillow will be constructed.  For instance, will we cut two pieces, one for the top and one for the bottom, or can we save some time and cut one long rectangle and eliminate some cutting and sewing?  Well that’s just what we decided to do.  So draw up a long rectangle and mark the measurements on it.  For a 30” square pillow, the short sides are 30” and the long side should be 60”, right?

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Well, almost.  We have to add seam allowances to all sides.  Seam allowances are 5/8” of extra fabric that you add to your finished dimension so you have room for the stitching!  Draw the seam allowances on your pillow drawing and add 5/8” for each one all the way around.

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Then, here’s where good ol’ Math class comes in handy.  Add together the width of your pillow, plus two seam allowances of 5/8”.  Do you remember how to add fractions?  Well, 5/8” plus 5/8” equals 10/8”.  This fraction can be reduced to 5/4” or 1 ¼”.  Add this to your width and as you can see for our pillow we now have 31 ¼” wide.  Do the same for the length.  The addition of the seam allowances brought us to 61 ¼” for the length.  Now THIS is what we will cut out of the fabric; a rectangle measuring 31 ¼” by 61 ¼”.

Cutting the Fabric:

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4. It’s best to cut off the selvage edge of your fabric before measuring and cutting out your pillow.  The selvage edge is the white strip along the edge of your fabric that may list the name of the manufacturer and show the colors used in the printing of the fabric.  Because the selvage edge on our pillow fabric was printed over and extra narrow, we didn’t cut it off.  It became part of the measurement of the cut size for the pillow since it was going to be lost in the 5/8” of the seam allowance anyway.

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5. So now it’s time to measure and cut.  If you have cut off the selvage edge, or not, start your measurement along the long edge for the pillow width and measure into the fabric.  Make a mark with a fabric pencil (or a regular pencil is OK) at 31 ¼”.  Move down the fabric and continue making marks every 6” – 10”.

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Make sure to mark the entire fabric even though you only need 61 ¼”.   Once the fabric is marked, you may use a straight edge yardstick to draw a solid line to cut along.

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Cut the width of the fabric.

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6. The next step is to cut the length.  If you purchased two yards of fabric you will now have a rectangle measuring 31 ¼” by 72”, right?  Yes, because a yard is 36” so two of them is 72”!  Well, since we have discovered that we need the length of our cut piece of fabric to be 61 ¼”, and we want the corners to be square and the ends to be straight, we have to fold the rectangle in half.  Press down at the fold so the fabric lays very flat and measure from the fold towards the raw edges, one half the dimension of 61 ¼”.  So do the math, half of 61” is 30 ½” plus half of ¼” is 1/8”, right?  Add the two together by turning ½ into 4/8ths and you have 30 5/8”.

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Measure from the fold to the raw ends several times along the width at 30 5/8”.

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Draw a pencil line connecting your marks just like you did with the width of the fabric.

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Then, follow the line with your scissors, cutting out the length of your pillow.

Pinning the Fabric:

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7. OK, let’s get this pillow fabric folded over in half with the right sides facing each other and the wrong side on the outside facing us.

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8. There are three sides that need to be pinned together for sewing.  Start by lining the fabric up as evenly as possible. Then, along the side, starting at the fold, insert a pin, making sure that the pin is not visible where the stitching line will be at the 5/8” mark of the seam allowance.

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Then, using a few fingers as a guide, insert pins along the side until you reach the end.

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Do the same on the opposite side as well.

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The last side to be pinned is the side opposite the fold.  Pin in from the edges only about 10 – 12 inches and leave an area in the center open so the pillow can be turned right side out and have an opening for stuffing!

Sewing the Fabric:

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9. Remember that our seam allowance is 5/8”.  Find the 5/8” mark on the sewing machine and line up the edge of your fabric.

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Lower the presser foot and the needle to hold the fabric in place.  Notice that I start about ¾” into the fabric and I will begin by going in reverse and then switching to forward to stitch over my first line of stitching which will in essence put a knot in the end of the stitching line.

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Use both hands if necessary to keep the fabric in alignment as you stitch across the pins along the stitching line.

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When you get to the corner, stop at as close to 5/8” from the end as possible.  To check when you are getting close, keep the needle in the fabric to hold it in place, raise the presser foot, and spin the fabric to see if it is close to the 5/8” stitching line going along the next edge of the fabric.

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If you are close, go ahead and line the fabric up along the 5/8” mark, lower the presser foot, and continue stitching until you reach the pin just before the opening.  At this point, stitch in reverse to “knot” the threads, remove the fabric, cut the thread and move to the pin on the other side of the opening and finish stitching the rest of the pillow.

Trimming the Seam Allowances:

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10. After the sewing is complete, remove the pins and clip any hanging threads.  Then, cut the seam allowance in half until you get to the pillow opening.  Cut at an angle and leave the 5/8” at the opening.

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Angle cut the corners of the pillow as well so there isn’t too much extra fabric trying to fit into the corners when you turn the pillow right side out.  This will help you to have crisper corners.

Turning the Pillow Right Side Out:

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11. OK, things are getting exciting now!  Turn the pillow right side out by pushing a finger into a corner and using your other hand to push the fabric into your fingers on the inside and then pull out the corner.  Do this with the two farthest corners from the opening and the other corners will follow.

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To get really crisp corners I use the point of my scissors to push the fabric out of the corners from inside the pillow.  This can be dangerous if you press too hard and poke a hole in the fabric so be very careful!

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With the pillow turned right side out and the corners as crisp as possible, you may want to iron the pillow.  This will be the last time it will be flat and able to be steamed nice and flat.

Stuffing:

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12. When stuffing the pillow, push handfuls of the polyester fiberfill into the far corners first making sure they are filled nicely.  Fill in the rest of the pillow moving toward the opening.

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Work specifically with each of the four corners to get enough of the stuffing in them so they look full and even with the others.

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Continue adding and moving the fiberfill around until the pillow is smooth and filled to the opening.  Don’t overfill because it makes it too difficult to pin the opening closed and stitch the seam.

Hand Stitching the Pillow Closed:

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13. Pin the opening closed trying to match up any patterns like in this stripe.  You may need to use a pin every ½” to keep the opening closed tight with the pressure of the stuffing behind it!

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Thread a needle using double the thread for strength and tie a knot in the end.

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Start the needle inside the seam and come out on one side.  This allows you to hide the knot.

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Move the needle to the other side of the seam and punch through to the front side in essence wrapping the thread around the seam.  This will be a visible stitch line but it is an easy stitch for children to accomplish.

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In the end, the stitching doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to hold the pillow opening together.

Yes, it may not be long before this pillow needs a cleaning, or one of the seams rips out.  But the point is that your child created it.  They learned something along the way and they enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment that creating something from scratch can give.

It’s never too early to start teaching our kids how to use tools, sewing machines, even the equipment in the kitchen.  Since many of the classes that highlighted these topics, like Home Economics and Shop, are being eliminated in our schools, it’s our responsibility to show our kids just how much fun it can be to create and fix things and keep a home in working order!

Shari

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