Mother’s Day Photo Patchwork Pillow Tutorial

Prep Work: Purchase some treated fabric for your ink jet printer.  It is a little pricey, but you can buy it at Joann’s and use your coupon on it which makes it much more reasonably priced (~$12).  I recommend using the kind that is washable/color-fast because the images will be more durable than if you got the cheaper and non-washable version.  That stuff is probably fine if you’re crafting something that isn’t going to be handled or drooled on like a piece of wall art or something, but for a pillow, I would definitely use the washable kind.  Using your photo editor pick out some pictures and crop them to a square.  My pillow is has 16 pictures in it, and each image was cropped to 4″x4″.  I used 4 sheets of photo paper to print out my images for this project, but that will depend on the image size and quantity of images you will be printing out.  Print your images onto your fabric following the manufacturer’s instructions.  When I cut out my images I left a narrow margin where there was still white showing.  This will be included in the seam allowance when you stitch the pillow, but will allow more of your actual image to show outside of that allowance in the pillow top.  You could also not crop your images as tightly to take into account the seam allowances.  Remove the paper backing and follow the manufacturer’s instructions again on how to get your fabric to be color-fast.  This usually involves some combination of ironing and rinsing or spraying with water.  This is definitely the most time consuming portion of this project, and it is pretty boring to do (just being honest).  S0 pull up something good on your iTunes (I listened to Postal Service) and pour yourself a beverage (I had a G & T) and heat up your iron.

Get cracking:

Cut a piece of light-weight fusible interfacing to the size of your finished pillow top.  To estimate it, just lay your pictures end to end and cut the interfacing to size.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you will want to be sure each picture is lined with the interfacing.  I had to piece mine a little bit because it wasn’t wide enough since this was the kind in the package, not by the yard.  Put the interfacing with the fusible side facing up on your ironing board.  Arrange your photographs in a way that you find pleasing.  Look for color balance (dark vs. light), image subjects (close up vs. full body), age (young vs. older) and expressions (its much more authentic when they aren’t all cheesing for the camera) as you arrange your pictures.  Line the pictures face up on the fusible interfacing and iron them down following the manufacturer’s instructions on your interfacing.  Make sure you are neat with this arrangement because if they are all askew now, your pillow will look wonky.  When this is done, all of your images should be adhered to the interfacing and will now be like one piece of fabric.Fold up the bottom edge of pictures right sides together in preparation of your first seam.  I also like to give this fold a quick press with the iron.  It’s like your mother always told you, iron everything and it will turn out like a million bucks!Stitch along that seam.  I used a scant 1/4″ seam allowance and white thread.  Next time, I will definately use black thread because I think the seams will hide a little better that way.  I would also shorten my stitch length.  I didn’t check for that before I started and used 3.5mm and felt like the seams opened a little more that I would have liked when I pressed them out.  Experiment with your machine and some of that photo fabric scrap that you had left over to find a stitch length that works well for you.  It will be worth the few minutes of time in the final product.  Repeat this process with each horizontal seam and press them open.  When that is done, you should see that the white margins have been hidden in the seam allowances of the horizontal seams that were sewn already.  Now do the same thing with the vertical seams being very careful to stitch across the horizontal seams in the same direction.  You don’t want some sewn up  and others down because the pillow top won’t lay flat.I sewed mine all down like this. Press open your seams and when you’re done the back should look as nice as the front!See how all the white margins are gone now?  And look how straight each of your pictures is!  All those corners are perfectly lined up and you didn’t even have to pin anything!  Or swear!Cut two panels for your envelope back of your pillow cover.  It doesn’t have to be exact.  Mine were denim that I had left over which I cut to width and 3/4 of the length of the pillow.  The only thing that is important here, is don’t be skimpy with the overlap.  If you only overlap the two pieces of backing fabric by an inch or so then you will end up seeing your pillow in the gap at the back.  The cover is meant to fit snugly on the pillow which means it will tug at the back without a fastener- which is totally fine if you have left a few inches of overlap. Turn under one edge of each of the back flaps by about 1/2″.  Again, nothing exact here, just eyeball it.Lay the first backing piece down right sides together from the top of the pillow.  This will make the top of the pillow on the back overlap the bottom, which I think looks better than the other way around, but would still function equally well.Lay the other piece down on top of that one so that you have three pieces of fabric all sandwiched together.  Here is the only tricky part.  Sew all three layers together without pinning them.  Pins leave big holes in your pictures so just don’t do it!  Be very patient and keep everything lined up as you stitch slower than you want to so that the three layers don’t slip out of place.  I know it’s a drag to sew slowly, but do it like I do- adjust your speed governor.  At first I was telling my husband “Why would anyone want that feature?  Who wants to sew something at 15 mph?”  And now I understand that it is because I have no self control when it comes to the pressure foot and sometimes it is easier to sew slowly (even if it is painful) than to have to break out the razor blade or seam ripper (which is more painful).I sewed the edges under with a 1/2″ seam or so.  Again, eyeballing it, but slower.  Trim up your corners and seam allowances so that the pillow will turn out nicely and give you square corners.Enjoy your handiwork and package it up for mom, or grandma, or nana, or oma, or aunts or a godmother or sisters!

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