Thursday, May 2, 2013

Caribbean Inspired Scrap Pillows

We took our honeymoon to the Caribbean in January...after months and months of cold dreary days winter days, we were blown away by the bold and beautiful sun-drenched colors of the Caribbean!

Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda, BVI

I just had to bring some of that joy back home with us!

I've been aiming us towards a loosely-defined beach inspired living room.  Our initial inspiration for the room were some palm tree coasters Tommy picked up on his first trip to St. John, USVI.  We love that Tommy Bahama feel they have.  That said, I've been avoiding in-your-face beach stuff like shells and starfish pillows - they're a little much for suburban DC.  I also found some glass coasters at Anthropologie over Christmas and had to bring those home, too.

Over-the-top beach is too much, but beachy colors are OK, right?

I saw these pillows in the West Elm catalog the day after we got home - they were so whimsical and fun!  The colors weren't really doing it for me though.  Time to DIY my own knockoff scrappy pillows!

Lucky for me, I have a quilter Mom who has been making hundreds of sunset quilt kits (buy one here!).

that snorkeler is me!

The 12" blocks she sells leave scraps that are far too useful-looking to throw away.  I called her up and "ordered" an shipment of assorted scraps.  Thanks Mom!

I pressed and starched all the pieces to make them behave nice, then I cut 1/2" strips on the bias, at least 5" long.  I planned ahead to let the edges fray a little in the wash - cutting the fabric on the bias keeps the fraying from getting out of control.

I did this for all the fabrics she sent me, and ended up with a pretty fabulous collection!

Next I cut four 5" strips of muslin.  The goal is an 18" pillow, so 18"/4 = 4.5", but then you have to add 1/4" on each side for the seam allowance, which gets you up to 5".  I cut the muslin strips longer than necessary, since I was sewing the colorful strips on at an angle.

I laid down a variety of strips with controlled randomness.  At first it didn't look right, so I called Mom!  I was using too much red.  Narrowing the colors to blue, green, and yellow helped a lot.

Something else wasn't quite right.  Mom came to the rescue again to remind me that I had forgotten to leave white space.  Duh!

I tried just sewing the strips on, with no pins or guides, but that was a disaster.  They were crooked and messy, and it wasn't working.  I also tried using the same color thread for them all, and that look bad too.

Instead, I measured where each strip should start, then pinned the strips down.

I used five different colors of thread, matching as close to the various colors as possible - yellow, turquoise, sage, navy, and cerulean.  Much better!

Once the panels were done, I trimmed off the excess, lined up the stripes, and sewed the panels together.

Then I squared up my pillow front and cut it down to 18.5" square.  At this time, I also cut an 18.5" muslin square for the pillow back.

I sewed the front and back together, and installed an invisible zipper along one side.  This was a complete pain, and I wouldn't do it again!  Save yourself the trouble and just make a pocket for the pillow form!!!

I ran them through a vigorous wash cycle with a Shout Color Catcher (so those pretty blue dyes wouldn't ruin the muslin) to get the frayed look I was going for.  Bright color + fraying = Caribbean, right?

I inserted the pillow form (a higher-quality one I got on sale at JoAnn), and was done!  Oh yeah, except then I made two more...

This project took sooo loooong, but most of that time was spent cutting strips from 35 fabrics (I have lots of leftovers), getting the colors right, and installing those stupid zippers.  Live and learn.  Along the way, I also had a little accident with my rotary cutter.  Those buggers are sharp, so keep your fingers out of the way!  My pillows probably cost about $15 each, but took a bazillion hours.

In the end, it was all worth it. 

I'm not sure my pillows are much cheaper than West Elm's, but I adore them!  Even better, my husband hasn't stopped talking about them since I put them in the living room.  He says they're colorful and fun, yet soft.  Men are all about functionality - I'm glad he keeps me in line so our house isn't just pretty, it's comfortable, too.

And to top it off, the cheerful colors remind me of a happy honeymoon and keep the dreary weather away a little :)

I'm considering offering these in my Etsy shop!  Let me know in the comments if they're something you'd consider buying one day.  Do you get inspired by items in stores and make your own, but even better?


  1. how fabulous! I love all the piles of scraps, yummy!!

  2. Oh, wow! I love this! Thanks so much for entering One Crafty Contest!

  3. I love these pillows, I would definitely purchase one of these, but it does seem like you have to be super careful putting it all together. Would your shop offer the pieces to put it together or already put together pillows? I think the option to swap out colors would be nice -- but your pillows really do remind me of a pretty beach, good job!

  4. What a cool project! I love the colors, and thanks for the step by step photos. I have a sewing machine and I'm totally tempted right now!



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