Friday, July 09, 2010

Beginner Sewing: Child's Pillow and Pillow Case

This project is a little more time-consuming, so if you are not feeling really confident about sewing, you may want to wait for an easier project coming up in a future post.

The process for this child's nap-pillow---a little cushion to use for a nap on the couch, is almost the same as for the very first post in which I showed how to make one of those nature bags. The only difference is that there is no handle, and the inner pillow is stuffed and sewn up. Look to the previous posts on beginner sewing, to find instructions if needed.

It is really important to pre-shrink your fabric. Fill a pan with lukewarm water, and put your fabric in it, and leave it soaking for 10 to 20 minutes.  The water will remove the starch, some extra dyes and other things produced by the cotton mill. The fabric shrinks when it has been wet, and when you pre-shrink your fabric before you sew something, you prevent the finished garment or project from shrinking after it has been washed.

  The fabric I like best comes from the cotton mills in the Southern States, and there is good cotton from other sources, such as northern England and India. 

For less wrinkling on cotton fabrics, gently press or squeeze out the excess water, and hang it on a line or fence outside, to dry. Here is one yard of the cotton fabric I have been working with in previous projects. I hope you are not tired of it yet.

Ironing goes hand in hand with sewing, so the next thing to do is press with a very hot steam iron. It makes it easier to cut a straight line, and easier to put your pieces together. Ironing creates a wee bit of static-cling, which is an advantage in sewing, when putting pieces together to stitch. If you use a tissue pattern, iron it on low heat, and it will cling to your fabric.

What you see above is a piece of muslin, cut in a rectangle, the size desired for a child, and stitched on 3 sides. I've shown how to turn a corner so that it will be square when you turn it inside out.

If you are a beginner and just getting used to needle and thread, you might cut across the corner, as in the above photo, but do not worry about it. Just make sure you stitch across the rest of the corners exactly the same way. It will end up being a more rounded corner, but still look fine.

Mark your stitches with pencil if you like. I am using a darker thread so it will show up better in the picture.  Leave a half inch between your stitching and the rough edges, as you see. If you sew too close to that raw edge, your stitching will come undone.

Now, turn the piece so that the stitches are on the inside, and it looks like a bag. It does not matter which end you left open. Be sure you have fastened off your stitches by stitching in the same place several times and making a circle with your thread, pulling your needle through, and  making a knot.

On that open edge that you did not sew, take a hot iron and press it down one fourth or one half inch. You just need to fold it once, as you see, above.

Now it is ready to fill with some kind of soft stuffing. You can get fiber-fill products made of cotton, wool, or polyester. If you do not have stuffing, you might try several layers of thick quilt batting, cutting it just smaller than the pillow, and insert it, like this.

Insert the stuffing or batting, making sure the corners are filled, by pushing it in with your fingers.

With an over-cast stitch, close up that opening, keeping the folds down and joining the top edges of both sides.  I like to take an extra stitch inside the over-cast stitch, to secure the stitching. That way, if one stitch comes undone, the whole thing will not unravel. It is like tying a knot in every stitch. You will have to find someone to show you how to do this.

If you need to distribute the stuffing a little better, shake the pillow from each side. Remember that it does not have to be perfect. You will find that with each small success in sewing, you will strive for more perfection, but these small projects are designed to get you used to working with the needle and thread and the fabric.

Cut a piece of folded fabric a little larger than the pillow, leaving it longer on one end, like this. Notice that one side is folded, and the long side may be the selvage, which is the finished woven edge from the mill. If you put the selvage on the long end, as shown, you will not have to hem that end. Now, beginning at the folded edge, stitch one fourth inch from the raw edges, all around the two unfinished edges. There is very little sewing, for the child's pillow case.

If you do not use the selvage on that end, you will have to iron down a fourth inch, and then fold that down again and press. Stitch as in previous projects.

Turn it inside out and, if you have not used the selvage edge for the opening, iron it down twice and stitch around it. Fasten off.

Here it is plain, and it will do just fine for a little person who falls asleep on the couch. If you want to add trim, just stitch it on, turning the ends under, to make it neat, and fasten off.  By following previous instructions for bags, you can make a matching bag for this pillow, and use it  for an adult, when on the train or plane, or on a car trip.

With sewing, you do not have to stay indoors all day. You can move your sewing equipment to the porch and enjoy the fine weather.

Next in the sewing category: adult pillow case, men's handkerchief, ladies handkerchief, eyeglass case.

How to get time to sew:  Leave the house clean in the evening, and, after the dishes are washed in the morning, and the beds are made and the floors are swept, just get out a basket where you keep your sewing things, and work on one small item. 


Lydia said...

A suitable size: cut the two muslin pieces one foot wide by two feet long, or according to how you want it to look.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lydia,
Thanks to your inspiration in a previous post, I spent the day teaching my young niece to sew a decorative pillow. Her thrill at learning basic sewing skills was so inspiring. She looks forward to making gifts for others, like this project.

My own interest in sewing is reborn with these satisfying projects.

Thank you,

Anonymous said...

Dear Lydia,

I just want to thank you for making these tutorials easy for the beginner.

My little girls and their mommies are going to love these when they have their sewing lessons. And yes, I agree that each little girl should take home a finished project each time they have a sewing lesson.

You may not realize it, but you are helping to raise little Keepers of the Home too. ;)

Blessings to you, Janet.

Anonymous said...

So, so cute!! :)

Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia,

I always put my new cotton fabric through the washing machine, and then put it through the dryer, to make sure that it has been shrunk all the way, and that it won't shrink any more after I sew it. Then I iron it and cut. I am afraid that if I don't do this up front, someone may accidentally wash it on hot and machine dry it, after garment is made, and ruin it.

After I make the garment, I treat it with a lot more care (wash on gentle, hang dry, etc.). I want the fabric's first treatment to be the roughest that it will ever get, so that I can see the true nature of the fabric.

Is there a reason that you hand soak the new fabric? Just wondering if I'm doing something wrong.

Lydia said...

Good question. It was only one yard, and I felt I needed a lot more fabric to justify using the machine, even if the setting is on "mini." Also, when teaching little girls, they just love to put the fabric in the water and wash it and hang it out. I was taught to do it this way by the lady who taught me to sew. She did use the dryer afterwards.

I usually put it in the rinse cycle of the washer if I have 3 or 4 yards.

Lydia said...

Thanks for mentioning the importance of washing the fabric as soon as you get it home. I bring mine in from the car and put the bag on top the washer. That way, as you say, someone else will not assume that it has been washed and then cut it. My washed and ironed pieces are at the opposite end of the house; my unwashed pieces are always put in the laundry room, straight from the store.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much I can't find a small pillowcase for my son's pillow and I wasn't sure how to make one that looks like an actual pillowcase. This does the trick.

Anonymous said...

I am really enjoying these tutorials! Thank you!

TiffanyK said...

I love this pattern. Where did you buy your fabric?