Art Quilted Pillows: A Tutorial (Part II) : On the Tide...
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Art Quilted Pillows: A Tutorial (Part II)

by Andrea Kelter on 03/24/15

Hi Everyone!

When we left off last week, we had our art quilted pillow set up and ready for quilting, and were going to enjoy a glass of wine in celebration...

But now, we're back and ready to quilt.

The first thing I do when quilting a pillow like this is to stabilize it to prevent shifting of the layers - either by quilting a detail that is prevalent throughout the piece (for example, the white lines around all the Cosmos elements - see photo below), or by quilting around the edges, just outside of the eventual trim line.  In the case of Cosmos, the pillow has no border, so I quilted a double line barely outside of the white line in the design - and that added to the stabilization of the entire pillow front.

Once the pillow front is stable, I study it to start finding the natural elements within the fabric design that lend themselves well to quilting.  In the Cosmos pillows, the first thing I saw were the pillow centres, where all the yellow stamens of the flowers were.  And these became the first element I quilted, using a variegated yellow thread, in very tiny pebbles that trailed off into the outer edges of this section of the fabric.  My goal was to create movement in the fabric in a subtle way, rather than to show off a lot of quilting.  The pebbles are tiny, some are smaller than the head of a medium size basting pin.

For the lobster panel, I stabilized it by stitching the outline of the sign (in neutral beige thread that blended into the beige background at the top and sides, and in red for the bottom portion of the sign.)  You want the quilting to appear to be there as if placed by Nature, rather than looking like a forced element.  With the lobster pillow, the next step was to outline the lobster, and the type in the top and bottom panels - always using a thread that blends.

If you preferred, you absolutely could use a stand-out, or contrast, thread - but I really want the quilting to add dimension subtly, rather than being the hero of the piece.  So my choice is always to go with threads that blend.

From there, I focus on quilting movement into the fabric (in the case of the Cosmos pillows), accenting curvature in the petals, etc. until I reach a point where I feel the pillow is at the right balance of fabric design and quilting design.  Cosmos is shown below, from the back, with the quilting done and ready for the next step.  Fresh Lobster is shown below it, also fully quilted.

All of my pillows have envelope backs, because I like the idea of blending washability and durability with fantastic fabrics and intricate quilting.  Beautiful, but functional, is my motto!

I double my fabrics for the envelope back, and I often use two different fabrics to create visual interest.  You definitely don't have to, but I love the way it looks.  On the bottom panel of the envelope back, I stitch three lines of top-stitching beginning about 1/4" from the fold, to keep the fabric from stretching.  Each line is about 1/8" apart.  On the top panel of the envelope back, I finish the fold edge with a designer ribbon that complements the pillow design.  The Tideline Quilts label is secured under the ribbon edge.

Because of the complex fabrics and quilting, I usually do not bind my art quilted pillows. So, to finish them, you place the back panel that you want to have end up on top (in my case, the panel with the ribbon and the label) right sides together with the pillow front - and I pin it carefully into place making sure there are no puckers or excess fabric (which will cause gathers when you stitch around the edges).  Then place the second piece of the back, also right sides together with the front, and pin it into place.  I work with about a four inch overlap (on average) for a square pillow.  For rectangular pillows, I reduce the overlap to about three inches.

Next, I quilt around the outer edge twice, using a generous 1/4 inch seam, and very small stiches (2.0mm).  I also stitch across the corners diagonally, to reinforce them.  Stitching around twice is important, particularly where the back panels meet the front, as this is the area of greatest stress on the stitching.

You can now trim your threads, and turn the pillow case right side out by bringing it through the envelope opening.  I use a "thang" to make sure each corner is properly inverted, but any pointed object will work (just don't poke too hard, so you don't go right through!).

Ta Da!  It's time to insert your pillow form, plump everything up, make yourself a Mojito to celebrate - then sit back and admire your beautiful new pillow!

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading this tutorial, I hope you find it a little bit helpful.  I'd love to see photos of any pillows you making using this please, post them!

It's Linky Tuesday over at Freemotion by the River, so I'm going to link up with Connie and get inspired by all the beautiful quilts everyone is working on...

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