Before I start talking about the finishing of a pillow I think it's a good idea to start with the front of the pillow. This is the most important piece, it's the side you'll look at after all. If you were going to plant a tree in your yard, you'd make sure the ground was properly prepared first, right? Well, that's what you need to do here. A pillow might be a nice quick project, but there's nothing wrong in making sure you have the best foundations before you start.
You've made a patchwork piece - whether it's using up an old quilt block like this that Jane quilted beautifully for me (thank you Jane!)
Or you have specifically made yourself a perfect pillow front, and you need to turn it into something quilted and ready to add a back to.
My ingredients list for a great pillow front are as follows;
- fusible fleece - whether it's pellon, vilene, or heat n bond (or any other make that I haven't used) this stuff is amazing for pillows. It's a polyester fleece, so it doesn't shrink - which is great for pillows because although a quilt looks beautiful all wrinkled up and vintagey with a shrink on the first wash, a pillow can just look like it needs a good press when it's wrinkled. On one side of the fleece there's a fusible resin (it feels rough) that when pressed adheres to the fabric and means you don't need to baste. It's a permanent fix (the resin doesn't wash out) - so it also means you don't have to quilt as heavily (if at all) if you prefer. It adds body without being stiff. I also don't use a lining inside my pillows when I'm using fusible fleece - that might be a little lazy, but the fleece side of the fusible fleece works a treat - it doesn't pill or go tatty in the wash.
- If you don't have any fusible fleece or you would prefer to use some batting, a low or mid loft batting is best. Something reasonably thin and lightweight. I use cotton battings in my quilts, so that's what I have on hand at home and that'll be what I use in my pillows if I don't have time to wait for the post to bring me more fusible fleece. It will shrink, so I do find I'm pressing my pillows quite well after I wash them. If I was shopping for batting specifically I would buy a cotton/poly mix or a poly like this pellon legacy batting below or quilter's dream (select weight is classed as mid loft, but it's still nice and thin, like a 1/8" loft).
- 505 spray baste. If you don't have any of this or have never used it before, then go out right now and buy some. I struggle with spray basting quilts bigger than baby size, that is probably more to do with the cats and the dog trying to get in on the action, but for pillows it's amazing. You simple lay the backing (lining) on the floor (you need a tiled floor, or do it outside - not on carpet or polished wood), lay the batting and the pillow front on top (like a regular quilt sandwich) and fold half of the pillow front and batting up out of the way. Spray, then gently smooth the folded bits backdown, spin around and do the other side. Then repeat for the patchwork top/pillow front - fold back halfway, spray, fold back down and smooth, spin round and do the other side. See the pictures below for reference.
- Frixion pens for marking quilting lines (available at staples and other stationary stores for less than you'll find them at quilt stores, often on sale and in multi packs with multiple colours). Whether I use spray baste and regular batting, or fusible fleece, I mark my pillows for quilting after I've basted. If I was to use pins, I'd do it before. I am pretty crappy at quilting, I don't enjoy it much and I cannot for the life of me free motion quilt to a standard that I am happy with, so I quilt straight lines. Sometimes I like the lines to be a little more 'organic' and wonky, but I always start with a few marked guidelines, to help me out. The frixion pen ink disappears when you iron it. Completely. Some people mention a faint ghost line remaining, I have tried pretty much every colour and on every colour of fabric and I've never once had a problem with that. I'm not saying it doesn't happen - I'm just saying I've never experienced it so I can't show you an example. I do, however, test on my fabrics before using them - just to be safe.
- A good quality thread for quilting. For pillows I like quite dense quilting. It help give the pillow a more structured look and they sit up better with a lot of quilting. I use aurifil 50 wt cotton thread (the orange spool), because that's what I use for everything - hand piecing, machine piecing and machine quilting. I'm not bothered about having a whole selection of different weight threads for different projects, I just want a thread I know my machine likes and I can rely on to work. 50 wt is a really fine thread and you don't see the stitches as heavily as you would if you used a heavier thread. You see the quilting texture instead. For me and my not so great quilting skills, this works best. If I was better at quilting maybe I'd like to see my stitches more? (US stockists include pink castle fabrics and fat quarter shop and UK stockists include the village haberdashery and m is for make)