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30-Minutes with Workroom Tech: Episode Twelve / Custom Pillows

In episode twelve of the Sew Much More Podcast: 30-Minutes with Workroom Tech, Ceil DiGuglielmo and Susan Woodcock talk about custom pillows.

You can listen to this episode here: Custom Pillows with Workroom Tech Podcast

Can you imagine a room without pillows? Pillows are not only used for comfort, they are an important part of the overall interior design. Pillows add personality to a room!

What is Your Pillow Preference?

Imagine a neutral sofa. Now imagine what pillows you would use. I’m serious… I want you and the podcast listeners to close your eyes and imagine a plain, sofa with no pillows. Let’s say it’s an off-white sofa. Imagine you are adding pillows to this off-white sofa.

What do you see? Keep your eyes closed… use your imagination. Get a good mental picture. Now open your eyes.

What did your pillows look like?

Did you see solid, neutral colors with textures like velvets and nubby linen? Neutral color pillows with texture and trim from Samuel & Son's Passementerie

Samuel and Sons pillows

Did you see colorful prints, florals or stripes?

Maybe the pillows you imagined were made with antique textiles, embroidery, or needlepoint.

Were your imaginary pillows embellished with trims or ruffles?

"I bet not one person listening to the podcast imagined using no pillows, or only one pillow", Susan said. "We all have a pillow preference in our own homes, and our clients do, too".

See how pillows can transform a white sofa in this short video...

The Latest Trends

Natural elements such as prints featuring leaves, twigs, birds or insects. Texture is a big trend, and woven patterns. For pillow shapes, basic square pillows are always in style but shapes like long rectangles, and long round bolsters on beds, and seating pieces are very popular.

"I am seeing less fringe on pillows, and more braid and tapes, just like we are seeing on draperies and Roman shades" Susan said. The pillow below was fabricated by Susan for a designer client in linen with a micro twist cord and inset, flat tape.

Linen pillow with inset tape.

Pillow Forms or Inserts

"I mostly use a down & feather blend; either 10/90 or 25/75" said Susan. "But workrooms, and designers have strong preferences for pillow forms"! Many people feally prefer a polyester pillow. Some people like a pillow that is squishier; others want a tight, rounded, and filled-out look.

For a polyester pillow, the gel-fiber or synthetic cluster will stay fluffy and not get compressed like the old polyester fill from years ago.

When ordering pillows, you really need to know your supplier. Some companies sell by the cut size and not the finished (sewn) size so when you order an 18-inch pillow form, it’s really 17-inches finished. Others sell by the finished size. An 18-inch pillow from one supplier might have more filling than another supplier. There is not a standard.

Cutting Allowance

You will see a wide range of allowances for cutting pillows. Some workrooms add seam allowances to the finished size but others deduct anywhere from 1/2-inch to 2-inches from the finished size of the pillow form for a tight fit. That varies based on the workroom and client preferences. "I usually add 1/2-inch seam allowances. For a pillow form that is 20 x 20 inches, I will cut the fabric 21 x 21 inches", Susan said, adding... "If the client wants a tight-fill for a 20 inch pillow , then I will order a 22 inch form".

For neckroll or bolster pillows, Susan cuts the fabric shorter than the finished length so that the ends fill out nicely. She prefers down & feather blend bolster forms, too.

Pillow Closures

Susan uses an equal amount of zippers, buttons and hand-sewn closures for pillows. "I also use Velcro closures", she said, adding... "I can almost hear the groan of disapproval from the audience! But sometimes Velcro works out fine, and I have clients that request Velcro. It doesn’t look much different than a zipper closure". The floral pillow shown below has a Velcro closure.

A knife edge pillow with Velcro closure

Susan likes to use a welt cord foot when adding zippers next to welt cord. She prefers invisible zippers for a pillow without welt cord, or in the seam on the back of a pillow sham. "My biggest tip is to use a zipper that’s wider than your pillow and to mark each side of the zipper before you unzip it for sewing".

A knife edge pillow with welt cord and a nylon coil zipper.

Susan often uses button closures for pillows. This can be on the front, or back of the pillow. "I’ve seen some pillows made with faux button closure, where there is a zipper hidden under the flap", Ceil shared. Susan agreed..."that’s a smart thing to do, especially with a tightly stuffed pillow because the button closure will gap between the buttons". Covered buttons, pearl, metal, ceramic, wood and horn. With large size buttons it might be best to use a fabric loop, instead of a buttonhole.

The needlepoint pillow pictured below was one of a pair.

The buttons were off-set on the left of one pillow, and on the right of the other pillow.

This pillow features an inset needlepoint, fringe and button closure.
The reverse of this pillow has an off-set button closure.

For wooden toggles, fabric loops worked better than buttonholes.

A micro welt cording adds detail to the overlap

Pillow Details: Flange

A small flange in the seam is really popular. Susan's favorite way method is to stop and start the flange pieces at the corners, or pleated at the corners. A flange that is mitered at the corner is much more challenging to make. The examples below show a very small 1/2-inch flange with an open corner, and a 1 inch flange pleated at the corner.

Small flange with open corners on a boxed pillow.
A flange pleated at the corner with Turkish corner pillow.

When sewing a mitered corner flange, Susan suggests making the flange like a picture frame, and then fitting the pillow to the flange instead of cutting the fabric and then fitting the flange to the fabric cut. Susan shared, "I will cut the front and back larger than needed, fit the flange then trim off excess. If it isn’t exactly the same on each side, nobody will notice when the pillow is stuffed".

Another option is to put the flange on the face of the pillow. Susan's instructions for a pleated flange applique can be found here: Pleated Flange Applique Pillow

Pleated flange pillow with bias cuts

Pillow Details: Ruffles

Ruffles are not as popular now. "I actually made some pillows with a gathered ruffle last year and I will admit, I was rusty!", Susan said. See the photo below. The photos are made with an embroidered linen, velvet cording and button closure.

Pillows are personal. If there is one thing we learned at the beginning of this podcast it’s that pillows are really reflect a personal style.

Pillows with gathered ruffles and button closure.

Pleated ruffles require 3 times fullness, so it’s a style of ruffle that uses quite a bit of fabric. "I pleat by eye..." Susan said, "...but there are pleating tools you can purchase. Unfortunately there isn’t a pleating attachment for box-pleated ruffles". Susan also recommend that you don’t press the ruffles so they are softer and precision isn’t as important. Sometimes she will pleat to pattern. For a check fabric, ask the client if they want it cut on the straight or on the bias. The sample shown in the photos below shows how different it looks.

When sewing ruffles to the pillow you need to round off the corners. It doesn’t look good to try to force it around a corner at a right angle.

Boxed Pillows

Use the same design and sewing methods when making boxed pillows, as when making boxed cushions, except for the zipper. You will insert the zipper in the seam, next to the welt cord and not in the center of the boxing. "My Mom taught me to mark the centers on each cut, before you do any sewing", Susan shared. "You want to pin together the sides at the marks, and all the corners so they line up properly. Then you do whatever you have to do to sew it so that the fabric fits". The pillow below was a challenge because of the notched corners with boxing and inset ribbon.

Boxed pillow with cut out corners and inset ribbon

It's always good to use a true, boxed pillow form, but you can certainly use a knife edge form by pushing in the corners. When using a knife edge form for a boxed pillow, order the finished size > plus the boxing > plus 1-inch. For example: an 18-inch square pillow with 2 inch boxing would be 18 + 2 + 1 = use a 21 inch knife edge pillow.

There are many more pillow methods and ideas to share. Look for more pillow topics on future podcasts!

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