How to take a pillow from Zero to HERO.
Recently, a guy I went to high school with (and junior high… and grade school… we may have even been in the same kindergarden class…) contacted me and said he had an idea for something to be stitched on a throw pillow, and immediately thought of me. See, I force my embroidered “art” on all my Facebook friends and then rub their faces in in it and say, “Look at it! LOOOOOK at it!” I guess it pays off once in a while. His idea was to have “Go balls deep” put on a pillow. Some chicks may have been put off by being thought of with this phrase, but not this gal. The only issue was he was specifically non-specific. He just gave me the phrase and some colors, and told me to go nuts. So to speak.
I sometimes have anxiety issues when it comes to making things for other people. If I just make them to amuse myself, and someone else likes it, awesome. But when it comes to making it FOR someone, I get all crazy and all I can picture is rejection. Even when it’s just a crocheted baby hat that I could make in my sleep. And with such little guidance on this project, I was a little frightened. But, I do love being challanged and pushed to create something I wouldn’t usually come up with on my own.
I always like to pretend I have some air of mystery about myself, but I really don’t. I’m a giddy spaz that can’t keep anything to myself. I even modeled my wedding dress for my hubby the day I bought it, after having told him he wouldn’t even see it until our actual wedding. So much for tradition and silly superstitions, right? Anyway, in the spirit of my inability to keep anything remotely mysterious, and since this was my first time doing a pillow, I thought I’d document my progress and make a little photo tutorial in case anyone else would care to make one. And the best part: No sewing machine! So here’s how we take a pillow from zero (whaaa, all lonely and a tag sticking out like a total loser):
To HERO (Yes, those are lady pillows. They know a winner when they see one.):
First, you take your boring pillow and look for the outside seam. Every pillow has one, because you can’t sew it shut from the inside, dummy. It’s usually the end with a tag sticking out, but if yours is missing the tag, just look for it. You’ll know what you are looking for when you see it. Once you find said seam, rip that bitch apart. But carefully, please! You have to re-assemble later!
Hopefully your pillow stuffings will be encased in a second “case”, but if not, just shove the stuffing into a bag and save for later.
Oh, yeah. You’ll need something to put ON the pillow, so draw something up, use a pattern or find an image online. Just try to make sure it’s public domain, ok? Don’t steal stuff, cause that’s just not awesome. I usually draw my own embroideries, but I couldn’t quite do what I was trying to do, so I needed some help. Don’t judge me. Then you just tape some tracing paper to your screen and trace the image. Then write something witty. :-)
I hope you like tracing, because you are going to have to do it again. Flip your tracing paper over and trace the back of the whole thing with a washable, iron-on fabric pencil. And push HARD on that pencil. I didn’t, and had to trace it AGAIN, and some of my lines still were kind of faint on the pillow case.
Find the center of your pillow and the center of your drawing, line them up then tape your image to the pillow.
Make sure it’s secure and won’t move at all, because you don’t want your lines to be blurry or doubled. Oh, and make sure you don’t iron over the tape. It melts. Luckily for me, it didn’t melt into the fabric, but it could, so watch out. And, use some common sense and make sure you’ve got the front of the pillow (the side with the piping or ruffles or whatever), and that your open seam is on the bottom.
Once you have your image on your case, center it in an embroidery hoop and make sure it’s DRUMHEAD TIGHT!
Oh, and let’s put the inner ring INSIDE the case, ok kids? Otherwise you’ll be embroidering through the front and the back, and good luck getting the stuffing back in that way. I thought it would be a giant pain in the ass putting my hand inside the pillow for every stitch, but it really wasn’t that bad. You totally get used to it. I think the pillow kind of liked it, too.
Now that you’ve done all the prep work, get stitching! Mine was a big image, and there are lots and lots (and lots) of stitches, but just take them one at a time. You probably wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t love to stitch.
I chose to do this entirely in back stitch, because I think it’s the best stitch to get around all those curvy lines. I’m not offering any tips on the actual embroidery, because I taught myself and would probably teach you wrong. But there are tons of great embroidery tutorials and how-to guides online, so it would be in your best interest to check those out instead of have me try to go into it and confuse you.
In the vision I had of the finished product, it involved some satin stitching. I have done it a few times, but am by no means an expert at it. Well, I tried it on here, but since I’m a total perfectionist, I just couldn’t handle that it turned out a little wonky, so I decided to take that stitching out and have the letters be open. I would have liked to fill them in, but I just don’t think the fabric could have supported that many stitches in one area.
I was actually kind of sad when the stitching was done, because this was a super fun project. Ok, maybe not ‘running around downtown Chicago’ fun or ‘hula-hooping for 40 minutes straight’ fun, but a relaxing, nerdy kind of fun. But then again, I was super excited when the stitching was done because I could finally see the finished product, and it was GLORIOUS.
Now you have to wash it to get the pencil marks out. I know! Shhh, it’s ok baby. It will be alright. I was scared, too, because you never know what can happen in water. DMC floss is usually colorfast, so I recommend using that. Don’t try to pinch pennies and use that stuff that comes in the friendship bracelet kit. Shell out the 38 cents per skein; it’s worth it. Just fill a sink, put in a couple drops of detergent and give it a few swishes. That’s it. Then hang it to dry.
Now you have to get out the ironing board, AGAIN. Yeah, yeah, I know. I won’t even iron my husband’s work shirts, but it’s a necessity for this project. Turn it inside out, because you don’t want to iron on the top of embroidery. You’ll smash your stitches and it won’t look cool. Slip a towel into the pillow case to absorb some heat and cushion your stitches.
Iron both sides, then make sure you press the open raw edge that you will be sewing shut. That way you don’t really have too much need for pins. I hate pins.
Cram the stuffing back in then stitch that bitch up! I sewed mine by hand. It really wasn’t bad at all, but you could use a sewing machine if you want. I find hand sewing is more precise, plus I hate my sewing machine’s guts. In case you, the loyal reader, haven’t noticed, I really tend to only to projects that can be done soley by hand. When you get a machine involved it’s like bringing in another person, and my sewing machine is a bitch that speaks in tongues. I just don’t get her.
Done and done.
See? It wasn’t that bad. Sure, there are a lot of steps, but none are especially difficult, and it turned out SO RAD. *Sniff sniff, weep weep* I’m gonna miss him. Someone’s apartment is now going to have 100% more awesome.