Each Thursday on the Journal we post DIY projects and ideas. On Thursdays following our highlight of the Swatch of the Month, we will be creating projects made from our completed swatches as a source of inspiration for those of you following along. At Alabama Chanin, swatches start out as a design concept for new collections, but as we have discovered over the years, you can do almost anything with them.

We have chosen to take the swatches from the past three months and create decorative pillows. We re-worked the swatches from January, February, and March using the Neutrals color scheme, in order to create a cohesive look for the entire project. Follow the instructions for creating a pillow on page 109 of Alabama Studio Style, making accommodations for the size of your chosen pillow.

Whatever their size, these pillows make great accents for a couch, chair, or bed. I love them in simple color-blocked versions and, as we’ve done here, with the front side embellished with swatches.

March’s swatch, the Beaded Fern, is appliqued to a 12” x 20” double-layer White pillow, lined with White piping, with a whipstitch and Dogwood thread.



One 12” x 20” rectangle and one 12” x 15” rectangle of pattern paper or butcher paper
3/4 yard of 60”-wide medium-weight organic cotton jersey, for front and back
1/8 yard of 60”-wide medium-weight organic cotton jersey, for piping
Supplies for March’s Swatch of the Month (or your fabric swatch of choice)
Basic sewing supplies: scissors, rotary cutter, cutting mat, ruler, tailor’s chalk, needles, thread, pins
12” x 20” pillow form

Note: We found it easier to whipstitch the swatch onto the pillow face before constructing the pillow, itself. Consider applying these swatches using varying embroidery stitches – like herringbone, rosebud, or Cretan (as demonstrated in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design) for a more elaborate finished look.

Using a pencil and ruler, draw a line parallel to the 12” side of the rectangle of pattern paper or butcher paper. Label the line “Grain Line” and the pattern itself “Pillow Front.”

On the 12” x 15” rectangle of pattern paper, draw a line parallel to the 12” side, and label it “Grain Line” and the pattern itself “Pillow Back.”

Note: We added a few inches to our Pillow Back pattern because we like the back of our pillows to have a little more overlap than the original pillow construction instructions found in Alabama Studio Style.


Cut the fabric for the Pillow Back’s top and bottom layers in half widthwise, and layer the two pieces right side up, making sure that the grain line on both pieces runs in the same direction. Place the Pillow Back pattern on top of the two aligned layers, again matching the direction of the pattern’s marked grain line with the fabrics’ grain lines.

Using tailor’s chalk, trace around the pattern’s edges. Then remove the pattern, and cut out two pieces at once, using your rotary cutter and cutting mat, and making sure to cut in a smooth line just inside the chalked line so that you remove it entirely. You now have two pillow-back pieces.

Reposition your pattern piece on the remainder of the two fabric layers, and repeat the cutting process so that you have a total of four pillow-back pieces.

Next lay out another double layer of the fabric, right side up. Place the Pillow Front pattern on the fabric, making sure the pattern and fabric grain lines run in the same direction. Trace and cut out the pattern.

When finished, you’ll have four fabric Pillow Back pieces and two fabric Pillow Front pieces.

Now you are ready to stitch your chosen swatch onto the outside Pillow Front.

The back of the pillow is formed by two double-layer pieces that overlap at center back, making it easy to remove the pillow and clean the case. To construct the Pillow Back, begin by laying the first set of two Pillow Back pieces each wrong side up and aligned on top of one another so that the fabrics’ grain lines run in the same direction. On one short edge, fold under the two fabric layers together 1” to the wrong side, pin the fold in place, and press the fold with a hot iron to make a crisp edge. Using a straight stitch, stitch 3/4″ from the folded edge along its length, making sure to wrap-stitch the beginning and end of your seam.

Repeat the process above for the second set of pillow-back pieces.

Using the rotary cutter, cutting mat, and large plastic ruler, cut 1 1/4”-wide fabric strips from your cotton jersey scraps across the grain to use as the piping around the outside seam of your pillow. You’ll need about 82” total cut strips for the piping.

To make the piping, press the strips in half lengthwise, with wrong sides together, using your iron and being careful not to stretch the fabric while pressing it. Starting at the mid-point of one edge of the pillow, pin the folded piping along the edge of the Pillow Front, aligning the piping’s raw edges with the pillow front’s raw edge and overlapping the piping’s raw ends about an inch if you need to add a new piping strip. After pinning piping around the pillow’s four edges, overlap the piping’s beginning and ending raw ends in a double “U” formation, which helps keep the piping from curling after washing.

Lay the Pillow Front with the pinned piping right side up. Place the two back pieces on top of the front, wrong side up with the raw edges of the two layers aligned. The back pieces’ folded edges will overlap at the center.

Pin the Pillow Front and Back together by removing each pin, securing the piping, and reinserting the pin in place to include the Pillow Back. Work pin-by-pin, starting at the four corners and then continuing along each edge between the corners.

After pinning the Front and Back together, insert your needle into the pillow back, and using a straight stitch, begin stitching the front and back together at the upper right-hand corner, 1/4” from the raw edge. Be sure to wrap-stitch and knot off at this and the other three corners. Repeat this process until you’ve sewn around all four edges of the case. Now you have two knots in every corner: one for the beginning of your line of stitching and the other for the end.

Turn your pillowcase right side out and insert the pillow form.

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1 comment on “DIY SWATCH PILLOWS

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  1. Linda Stutterheim

    I just love this Fern Stencil, just wish I could zoom in closer on it!!! Also love the Fern Stenciled Skirt in your book. Actually, I love everything.