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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Home State Pillow Tutorial

Throw pillows are such a great way to give a quick decor update without breaking the bank; and what better way to show a little state pride and show off some cherished fabric bits!  I have always loved incorporating elements of text and geography in my home decor, and I couldn't resist writing up a tutorial so you can make one of these cuties for yourself.

As a Louisiana girl, born and raised, of course I made that state first...and promptly neglected to take photos of the process (oops!).  The second time around, I documented the steps properly for you, but instead I decided to make my current home state.

This tutorial is for an 18" pillow, but you can easily modify the instructions if you want yours smaller or larger.  So, let's get started!  You'll need-

*a handful of small fabric scraps for your state
*18" square of solid background fabric for your pillow front, I used Kona Prepared for Dyeing
*1/4 yard of black fabric for binding and "home" appliqué
*1/2 yard muslin for pillow lining, make sure you use 42" width
(muslin can be a little thin for regular quilting, but it works just fine for pillow lining)
*1/3 yard pillow backing fabric
*18" square piece of batting
*2.5" square, solid red fabric for the heart
*Heat n Bond Lite (you could make 4-5 pillows from a single package, depending on the shape of your states)

First thing's first, my friends.  You need to get the shapes you'll need for your pillow, namely your state, a heart, and the word home.  With a simple internet search, I found a state outline online for free.  This is the trickiest part of the whole process, so hang with me here.  Since this pillow is larger than a standard piece of paper, you will need to be creative to get the size you need.  I have a projector for trunk shows and classes I teach, so I was able to project the state onto my wall and trace it.  I know most people don't own a projector though.  In that case, print your state onto a standard piece of paper, and take it to a copy store and have them enlarge and print it for you.  It's not expensive to do this, and it's worth it!

Tennessee is a long, skinny state.  Some states just want to be difficult, and you just have to roll with it.  Since the pillow is 18 inches square, I made sure that it was about 16 inches at the widest point, so it would fit nicely.  Hmmm...that doesn't look exactly like Tennessee, does it?  You're right!  It's a reverse image, and that is super important.

Whatever method you choose, you need to be sure you trace a reverse image of your state.  This is true for any appliqué project you make.  To get the reverse shape of your state, just insert your picture into a word document, click on Format Picture, and then Rotate.  Click on Flip Horizontal, and your state will magically become the reverse image.  Easy as pie!

Whether you get your state shape from a copy shop, or use the projector method, the next steps are the same.  Just trace your shape onto the paper side of the Heat n Bond Lite.

I like to trim my state pretty close to the traced line.  By trimming the state, I only sew my scraps until I have a piece exactly big enough with very little waste.  There is no right or wrong way to sew your scraps.  Just grab pieces and sew until your piece is just a little larger than your state shape.  

If you need more guidance on improv piecing, check out my tutorial HERE, but keep in mind that for this project you will use the same method, but with smaller scraps.  If you're not into the scrappy look or want to match a specific decor, you can also choose to make your state from a single fabric you love!

Once you have your scraps put together, iron the Heat n Bond for just a couple of seconds to fuse it to your improv piece.

You'll follow the same process for the word "home" on solid black fabric, as well as the heart on solid red.  To get the reverse image of text, type your text into a text box on a word document.  Click on Format, then Shape.  Go to 3D Rotation, and in the first X box, type in 180.  That will flip the text on the page.  Since this is smaller than a regular sheet of paper, you can print it out easily.  Again, just be sure it is the reverse image.  

Just an FYI- I use the font "Better Together" and when I printed my word out, I used a black marker to make it just a little thicker, but you can use any font you like.  I actually used two separate sizes on the two state pillows I've made.  Just play around with it, and make it whatever size fits best with your state's shape!

Once you have all three of your shapes fused to Heat n Bond Lite, carefully cut out around each one.  Take your time around all of the little curves, and your patience will be rewarded.  When cutting out the inner loops of your text, you may want to use a razor blade or an X-acto knife, but careful cutting with small, sharp scissors will work as well.

Once your shapes are cut out, peel the paper off of the back of your state, position it on the 18" square of background fabric however you want, and iron in place to fuse it to the background.  Iron your state first and stitch around it with white thread, just a couple of millimeters from the edge.  After you stitch around your state, fuse your heart in place over your hometown, and stitch around it separately.  Then place and fuse your "home" text, and stitch it down.  I like to change my thread and use black for the text, which is why I do it last.

This is raw-edge applique, meaning that the edges of your state, text, and heart are left unfinished.  When the pillow is washed, the edges will curl and fray just a little bit, giving the pillow extra texture that I love, but the Heat n Bond Lite will keep it from unraveling too much.

To start and stop your stitches, you have a couple of options.  You can either backstitch to lock your stitches, or you can pull your threads to the back and tie them off in a knot (and trim the tails).  Since the state is larger, I don't have a problem backstitching to lock my stitches in place there, but the text is so delicate, that I like to knot my thread on the back to make it look neater on such a small space.

Ta-da!  At this point, if you don't want to make a pillow, this would be a cute little mini quilt, or it would even look great as-is framed as wall art.  This is destined to become a pillow though, so let's get to it!  To turn this into a quilted pillow, it's time to cut into the backing fabric and muslin.

From the muslin, cut
*an 18" square, plus two 12" x 18" rectangles

From the backing fabric, cut
*two 12" x 18" rectangles

This basic pillow construction is for an envelope closure backing with six inches of overlap.  It's quick to make, easy to change out the pillow form, and it looks very neat.  If you prefer a zipper back, or even another method, feel free to do that and just adjust your measurements accordingly.  

Before we even worry about the backing, use the 18" square of muslin, and 18" square of batting to make a quilt sandwich with your pillow top, and quilt it however you like, just as you would a mini quilt.  I decided to quilt an outline around the state, and stipple in the white background space with my favorite Aurifil 50 wt. in White.  This makes the state puff out a little bit and gives it a great 3D effect.  I quilted as closely as possible to the text, but didn't quilt through it.  This small space is a really great place to get creative with your quilting if you desire.

To make the envelope closure back, sew the 12" x 18" piece of backing fabric to a 12" x 18" piece of muslin, along the long, 18"side, right sides together.

Open it up and press toward the darker fabric.  This will be the finished edge of your pillow back.  Don't worry about the other three open edges right now.  We will take care of those soon!  Repeat for the other 12" x 18" backing and muslin pieces to yield two total backing pieces.

Time to attach those backing pieces to the back of your pillow front.  Place your state face down and lay the two backing pieces on top, lining up the edges with your pillow, and making sure that the two finished edges are positioned correctly, as shown in the photo.  Notice how those two finished edges overlap by six inches?  this will give plenty of room for the pillow to expand around the pillow form, and still stay closed.

With your walking foot, stitch all the way around the edge of your pillow to secure those two backing pieces.  I like to increase my stitch length just a little bit for this.  Start sewing on the side of the pillow, where the two flaps overlap, to help anchor them.  Don't forget to backstitch to start and stop!

At this point, even without the binding trim, you can see the pillow taking shape.  See why we didn't worry about the three open edges on those backing pieces?  When we attached them to the pillow front, they're all sewn up.

Almost finished!  This pillow just needs a binding!  I know that lots of people don't bind their pillows, instead choosing to sew the pieces right sides together, and then just turn it out.  That's fine too, but I like the little extra detail that the binding gives, and I love that with this method, there are absolutely no raw edges on the pillow, inside or out.  Just bind the pillow as you would a mini quilt, using two strips of black fabric, cut the full 42" width of fabric, selvage to selvage.  Since this is a smaller project, I cut my strips 2 1/4" wide for a little narrower finish, but you can go with 2 1/2" if you prefer.

If you need more guidance on machine binding your pillow, you can check out my full tutorial HERE (it's easy, I promise).

Once it's all bound, just stuff your pillow form in, making sure to push the stuffing all the way into the corners for a nice, full pillow.  This pillow has an 18" form, but if you like a super puffy pillow, you might like to use a 20" form.

I always love to find methods that are versatile.  The method I've shown for pillow construction is the same method that I use for any pillow, regardless of what I decide to do on the front.  In fact, you can check out my Christmas pillow tutorial HERE using the same steps.  

The process for appliqué outlined in this tutorial can be applied to lots of different things as well.  You can change the design on the pillow to suit a holiday or sports theme, or you can even apply the steps to appliqué something entirely different as I did HERE and HERE.  

Projects like this are perfect for sewing up a quick but thoughtful gift, or even for just taking a break from something bigger.  They are easy to personalize, and an inexpensive way to change up the decor of a room.  So, pull out some scraps and get ready to show your home state love!


  1. That's a lot easier to make than I first thought. Thanks for sharing the secret.

  2. Thank you for the tutorial on this!!

  3. Thanks! It's obvious that you're s teacher b/c you write excellent tutorials.

  4. Fabulous tut, Kelly! I think there are a couple of these in my future, if only I could get them done before the holidays. Perfect gift idea!

  5. Oh I love it! Will have to make one for my home state, Alabama :)

  6. That was a great tutorial. Thanks for all of the details!

  7. Great!! Thanks for sharing!
    Hugs from Brazil

  8. Kelly, This is absolutely fabulous and would make great gifts! Can't wait to try it! Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. Fun project! I’m a Louisiana girl, too - born and raised there. Now in Alabama, so I’d be making two as well. 😉 I love making pillow covers so this is right up my alley.

  10. Wonderful! What a great idea! Thanks for the tutorial! My Christmas sewing list just got a little longer!

  11. Wonderful tutorial! I can't wait to do My Old Kentucky Home! Where did you find your outline of your state?

  12. great idea!! Beautiful pillow!!

  13. Yep, definitely doing some state pillows for Christmas. Great tutorial, thank you!

  14. I think I will try this, but my home state shape is kind of boring! Wyoming is basically just a square. Still it is home and I love living here!

  15. Thinking the fabric patches could be made the general shape of the counties in the ☺

  16. Really love this! Thank you for putting up the tutorial.

  17. This is great. Thanks for all your time and for sharing. Can’t wait to get started.

  18. It's beautiful. Thanks for sharing the tutorial. I've never put binding on a pillow. I think I might give it a try.

  19. Love it Kelly! I may have to make one only use college school colors in certain parts of the pattern for my Vol & Vandy friends-haha.

    1. well, as an LSU girl, I can't say I approve of those fabric choices, but I am sure your Vol and Vandy friends would love that, lol!

      :) Kelly

  20. I made a Houston version of this with a few modifications. Would post a photo if I could. Just finished it, thank you for the tutorial!

  21. Can I order the outlines of the states from you or somewhere so that they are the right size?

    1. No, I don’t have those. I just pulled up an outline on the internet and then used trial and error with my projector to size it properly. A copy store can definitely enlarge it for you!

      :) Kelly


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