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We crafters acknowledge that we enjoy making things that are both beautiful to display and practical to use, while saving money. And while these reasons are primary to our crafting pursuits, there is one more reason: We make something by hand because sometimes we cannot find what we want in any store.

Such is the case with this pillow design, which at first glance looks simply like any other pretty pillow. What is less obvious is that the pillow is not made from a whole piece of printed fabric. Instead, it is a custom-designed fabric that combines velvet and drape fabric, using a machine applique technique.

The pillow does not take long to complete, but it is important to plan. Put fabrics of your own choice together, but be sure to test your fabric combinations for good results. Ideally, you want to make certain the two fabrics are similar in weight and weave. If they are not, you will need to back the pillow front section to prevent shifting. Also, you want to pair colors that look good to your eye. You also want to decide where the pillow will be placed in your home. Some fabrics require dry cleaning, which is an added cost.

As you may know, velvet has a nap, a term that refers to the direction of the short threads that make up the plush of the fabric. If you brush your hand across velvet, it will leave a mark and cause a shift in the surface sheen, caused by your hand changing the direction of the short threads (or nap). Decide which way you want the nap for each pillow section to go by running your hand across the fabric. If you want the front of your pillow to have the nap going up, and you want the pillow back to have the nap going down, simply position the sections that way before you sew the pillow together.

The second consideration when working with velvet, especially for this project, is to understand that a fabric in one weave (the applique) is being sewn to a fabric of a different weave (velvet) using a sewing machine stitch. It is important that you adjust the tension on your machine to make certain the stitches are even and neat across the edge of the applique as you sew. It's a good idea to test the technique on a few scraps so that you can get the feel of this technique and adjust your machine as necessary.

You should also be aware that the presser foot of your machine will leave marks on the velvet when you sew the applique piece to the velvet backing. Don't worry about them. As with carpet, the marks on the velvet can be smoothed over with your hands and disappear completely.

The pillow in the picture is made from a velvet in a medium baby blue color, and is decorated with a rose applique cut from a field of leftover drape fabric. The style of the pillow is definitely shabby chic, a term often used to describe the eclectic combination of materials, often recycled ones, that form a kind of casual yet high-style look. I added a soft pink ball fringe to the edge of my pillow, fringe originally meant for a bathrobe. I loved the pink color against the blue, and the movement and silhouette of the fringe against the chair. Most of all, I enjoyed the style contradictions in this design, especially when I placed the pillow on a kitchen chair repainted in mint green.

Estimated working time: 1 1/2 hours

Estimated cost: $29.60 to $34.70 -- pillow form, $8.90; velvet, $10; remnant drape fabric, $8; thread, $1.10; straight pins, 49 cents; fabric glue, 89 cents; tissue, 10 cents; optional fringe, $5.10.


To make one velvet pillow, 15 inches square, with applique, you will need:

Pillow form in 14-inch square

1/2 yard cotton velvet in light blue

Remnant medium-weight drape fabric with rose motif, or as desired

Tissue paper

Thread to match velvet

Straight pins

Ruler and scissors

Fabric glue

Sewing machine

Optional: 2 yards ball fringe in color, as desired

1. Lay velvet right side up on cutting mat, nap facing down, or as desired.

2. For pillow front, measure, mark and cut 16-inch square using ruler, straight pins and scissors.

3. Repeat Step 2 to make pillow back; set back section aside.

4. To cut out applique, lay drape fabric on flat work surface and cut out desired motif using scissors.

5. Cut around leaves and flowers, preserving details with simple curves and straight designs for easy sewing. (Featured motif measures 13 1/2 inches wide.)

6. To prevent cut edge from fraying, place applique on protected work surface and carefully apply thinned fabric glue in very, very small dabs to edge of cut edge, using finger; let glue dry completely.

7. To secure applique to pillow front, center and pin applique to velvet, securing pins inside contours of applique to reduce marring velvet.

8. To prevent applique from shifting, back velvet with sheet of tissue paper, cut to size, pinning in position as in Step 7.

9. To machine-stitch applique motif to pillow front, set sewing machine to zigzag and stitch around motif, making certain stitches are even and centered across raw edge. (Note: Guide fabric slowly through feeder for accurate stitching.)

10. Pull away back tissue and discard, and remove all pins.

11. Optional: To attach fringe, lay woven edge even with cut edge of velvet, pompom facing toward pillow center, pinning edge around four sides, and overlapping raw ends to finish.

12. Machine-stitch woven edge to velvet, using straight stitch.

13. To assemble pillow case, lay velvet sections together, right sides together, all edges even, using straight pins to secure. (Note: For fringe, make certain balls stay out of seam.)

14. Machine-stitch sides 3/8 inch from edge, leaving large enough opening to insert pillow form.

15. Clip corners and turn to right side.

16. Insert pillow form and whip-stitch opening closed.

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