Oliver the Owl nursery pillow with piping

How to sew this cute owl nursery pillow

Did you see the owl applique I made following the instructions and pattern as one of the projects in the Fun with Fusible Applique course?  He was destined to become a nursery pillow, nothing ‘too cutesy' by request, but still colorful and fun.

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But so far he's just on a plain ivory colored cotton panel so I thought he needed a bit more color.  I wanted to make a patchwork border, but couldn't face sewing lots of little squares together!  It's just not me.  Match this fact with my lack of sewing time this week, a raging headache and just being overall in a big rush and he didn't exactly turn out as I had imagined.  Moral of the story – sewing can't be rushed if you want to do it properly.

Watch out everyone, there's another sewing failure on the way!

Making the patchwork border


Ok so I thought this is a quick and not terribly accurate method, but hey, its a cover for a nursery throw pillow, not the Sistine Chapel.  I cut four long strips of fabric 2 1/2 inches wide.  I wanted the final squares to be 2 inches, plus 1/4 inch on either side for the seam allowance.  I cut 2 strips in each fabric and sewed them together along the long sides.  That wasn't too bad.

How to sew this cute owl nursery pillow

Then I cut them in half through the middle, and sewed one set to the other.  Now I had 8 squares.  Perfect.  Just roughly what I wanted on each side (not thought it through already).  I cut across to make each 3 inches wide, being 2 inches for the square and then 1/2 inch on each side for the seam allowance.

How to sew this cute owl nursery pillow

So now to make a frame around Oliver.  I used my quilting square ruler to decided roughly where the borders should be, drew around, then placed the first strip facing down without even trimming the fabric and sewed a half inch from the edge (I'm rushing here, measuring is for those with more time).  Then I trimmed down to the edge of the patchwork.  First side completed.

How to sew this cute owl nursery pillow

I did the same again for the next side, sewed then trimmed, and then repeated again for the 3rd and 4th sides until the border was complete.  I had been hoping it would be quick and easy and give a reasonable enough finish without exact fussing and measuring and lots of tiny pieces.

How to sew this cute owl nursery pillow

I'm all for quick and easy – my sewing time is limited.  But well, my lack of planning showed through here – what a mess.  Instead of blindly following those lines I drew,  should have made more of an effort to properly line up the squares in the corners – but in my haste I just wasn't looking.

Here is the cover front all neatly pressed.  Those square don't look very square just yet because they include the seam allowance on the edge.  I'm hoping it will look right/better once completed. (Sigh, too late to turn back now.)

How to sew this cute owl nursery pillow

Adding the piping

I've just recently made an effort to make some proper piping and learn the correct way to apply it.  In fact, I used this pillow as my example in the how to make and apply piping article.  I had made and used piping before in my Woven Fabric Pillow, but if you look closely, it wasn't exactly perfect and not sewn tight enough to the cord.  This nursery pillow was a gift so I made the extra effort to get a nice finish on the piping this time. (Shame I hadn't made the same effort with the border.)

So I made up some piping and basted it into place on the border edges.

How to make your own basic piping and attach it to a pillow or cushion cover

The back of the pillow

As the pillow was for a nursery, I thought it might need to be washed quite often so I just made a simple overlapping envelope on the back so that the cover could be removed easily.  This also means there's no zip that could scratch, no buttons that could come loose.  Plus, I'll be honest, it was also a quick and easy option when I had no time for anything else today.

How to sew this cute owl nursery pillow

I made the simple back, placed it on top of the front and matched the edges.

Then I sewed along all 4 sides and carefully around the corners with the zipper foot, making a nice tight seam along the piping for this final pass. Turn it the right way, and it's done.

How to sew this cute owl nursery pillow

I decided not to trim the corners on the pillow because often the inserts are a bit floppy in the corners and the seam allowance there helps to keep the corner from collapsing.

How to sew this cute owl nursery pillow

So here he is finished.  Actually I like it, but I do feel I should have taken more time and care with the border – that let's it down, especially after I took so much care with my applique in the first place.  But I seriously doubt anyone will ever notice, except me -and you of course.

How to sew this cute owl nursery pillow

Do you admit to your sewing mistakes?

Do you always feel it necessary to point out your sewing mistakes?  It drives me mad that sometimes I find it hard to accept a compliment.  If I wear out a dress I made and someone comments how great it looks, I can barely stop myself from saying “Yes it's not bad, but I did make a little pleat in the hemline here, look.”  Why do we do that?  Or maybe it's just me.

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9 Responses to Oliver the Owl nursery pillow with piping

  1. Denise says:

    I always admit mistakes – it’s how we learn and how we teach. Kind of funny though because most of the perfectionists I know are craftsy people (not the site but the type of people). I’m the same way but have learned that I can live with imperfections when it might cause me more stress to fix it. If it’s an easy fix, I live with it and most people don’t notice it. I think your pillow is adorable. Loved your idea for doing the strips one way and cutting the other way instead of piecing. Hate that! My suggestion next time would be to make them a lot longer so that you can match up for those corners. Then you won’t feel like you failed (even though I don’t think you did with them the way they area). Great job!

    • Deby Coles says:

      Ah, I was just in too much of a rush knowing the baby was imminent and my sewing time was limited! But you are right, longer would have been better, and no one notices our small mistakes anyway except us.

  2. Joy Harvey says:

    Deby, I think the Owl looks great – just call your edge a ‘wonky’ border!
    I think your first quilt will suit just fine, colourful and made with love. We all have to start somewhere and no matter how long you have been sewing/quilting there is always something else to learn or another way to improve what you do! Keep sewing and quilting


    Very cute pillow!

  4. Brenda says:

    I am exactly the same way! I can’t stand any imperfection in my own work but yet I buy ready to wear and have to fix some of the mistakes often! Seams not caught, etc…
    Your binding looks great to me but what do I know? I didnt’ sew it! LOL!!!!
    Seriously, looks great to me!

  5. Ha, ha… I point out my mistakes all the time, much to the annoyance of my family. A cute pillow, Deby. I’m sure it will be well loved.

  6. Karen says:

    OMG me too. How hard is it to take a compliment!! Look at RTW and their faults are ok but not yours. Why?? You make lovely clothes. Thank you K xXx

  7. Jessica says:


    Thanks for sharing your latest project! I think the pillow is stunning!
    I also like to do appliques for my projects.

    But for me those little mistakes make a selfmade project special and unique.
    It´s charming that it is not perfect. If you want a perfect one, just buy it in the store.
    But what is the fun in that, right?

    We are women, it is our nature not accepting compliments easily, but we should anyway! You can really be proud on the outcome


    • Deby Coles says:

      Thank you. Yes, I think it does have a home-made charm that you can’t get if you just buy something. I know it will be appreciated just because I made it, not because it’s perfect.

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