" ". The Smiling Cat: Springtime, Butterflies & New Pillow Covers

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Springtime, Butterflies & New Pillow Covers

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In the days before central heat & air, preparing the house for summer involved more than just turning a dial from heat to cool.  Storm windows were replaced with screens, heavy curtains were exchanged for lighter ones that didn’t block welcome breezes.  Lightweight cotton spreads were were put on the beds, while the quilts were stored until fall.  Now many of these practices have become a decorating choice rather than a necessity.  Along with cotton bed spreads- changing table linens, slipcovers & pillow covers are easy, and inexpensive ways to brighten your home’s decor for Spring.  Pillow covers, in particular, are versatile and so easy to make.  The covers can be filled with an insert, or can be used to cover an old pillow.  The following is three variations of a basic pillow cover pattern which can be found HERE.

This first pillow cover is made of a water color cotton print, it looks like melted crayons to me.  It’s just the basic pattern, but with large, decorative buttons on the front, instead of small utility buttons on the back.


This second pillow cover uses a foundation- pieced butterfly pattern.  Foundation piecing may seem complicated, but this is very easy.
First just print out this Butterfly  PATTERN and trace it on to plain, white cotton or light-colored scrap fabric.  You could also just paper-piece it if you like.  I prefer using a fabric foundation-and I always seem to have fabric scraps I need to use up.

When foundation piecing, the fabric is placed on the front, but is stitched on the printed lines on the back.  So, to begin, cover the #1 section with a small piece of white fabric, facing right side out. Then, cut a piece of the butterfly fabric that’s a bit bigger than section #2.  With the right side of the fabric facing toward the white fabric, line up the edge of the #2 fabric with the line between #1 & #2, overlapping it.

Sew on the line between #1 and #2.  Then fold open and press.

Next, cut a piece to cover section #3, position as before and sew on the line between #2 and #3.

Again, fold open and press.

Continue with this until all the sections are covered.  Then sew the other two pieces of the butterfly, and sew these together to make a complete butterfly.

Press seams open on the back.  For a more detailed explanation of foundation piecing, see my previous post, Rainbow Chevron Block Table Runner -Here.

I made three of these little, 4” butterflies from different fabrics, and stitched on the little, black antennas, and decorated the wings with buttons.
I then framed the butterflies with blue strips and thinner pink strips.  I finished by sewing a blue, pink & white floral fabric to the top & bottom.

Also used this white & floral fabric for the back, completed with four white buttons.  Again, I finished the pillow cover using the basic pattern which can be found  HERE.

This last pillow cover is a simple patchwork pattern of vintage cotton & linen, though it does involve a little fussy cutting.

To fussy cut is to target and cut a specific motif that's printed on fabric, rather than randomly cutting yardage as we normally do.  I wanted to use the white embroidery of this peach-colored vintage cotton  This is usually done using a template-there are many kinds of these available.  I usually just make my own.  I save clear, plastic coffee lids to make templates for fussy-cutting.  I cut a paper shape, tape the shape on the coffee lid, then cut it out.  After I decide what area I want to use, I trace around the template with pencil, and cut it out with scissors.  Usually the goal is to cut identical shapes, but I cut these randomly.  

After I cut as many of the 2-1/2” squares of the coral cotton as I could, I matched them with 2-1/2” cotton linen squares.

Next, I chain-stitched them together using a 1/4” seam allowance.

I hunted through my fabric stash & found a few other fabrics to add to the pattern, green gingham, a yellow plaid, and a floral, vintage cotton handkerchief.

Next, I cut the other fabrics into 2-1/2” squares, and arranged them randomly-then sewed them together, again using 1/4” seam.  It’s funny but, I’ve found it’s harder to arrange patches randomly, then to follow a pattern.  You’d think it would be the other way around.

In the end, I had a 18-1/2” square.  I layered it with thin cotton batting and a cream colored backing.  I decided to try using a twin needle that I bought for a different project, but hadn’t used.  It was much easier to set-up & use than I’d thought.  Happy with the way it looked-I stitched down each seam.  I started in the middle, and worked my way out.  Also, I kept turning the square around so that it didn’t start to curve in one direction. 


Happy with the pillow top, I finished the cover using this PATTERN

Well, that’s all for now.  Please leave a comment so I know that you stopped by- Carole
Blogger Labels: Springtime,Butterflies,cotton,decorating,foundation,easy pattern,fabric,paper piecing,piecing,scrap fabric,buttons,home decor,fabric strips,fussy cutting,simple pattern,motif,embroidery,template,pillow pattern,sewing pattern,vintage fabric,spring colors,housewares,handkerchief,quilted,SewEtcetera,Carole May,quilt block,variations,pattern pieces,quilting,fabrics,patchwork,templates,patches,pillow cover,top stitching,twin needles,linen


  1. I was searching for a butterfly paper pieced pattern and luckily came across your blog! I love your pillows and its nice to find a simple design that I can embellish if I want to. Now I've just got to decide on some fabric! Thanks!

    1. You're very welcome Moody Cat! I'm happy to help. Thanks for stopping by, Carole

  2. I found this site as I was looking for butterflies that would be easier for a beginner (me). We are each doing a row for "On my Street" and I was trying to decide between birds or butterflies. I think I have found my choice!! Thank you!!

  3. You are very welcome Barb! Good Luck with your project-

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