Create Beautiful Pillows with Unusual Design Techniques

Note from Amber: Pokey Bolton, host of "Quilting Arts TV", has written a wonderful post about her on-set visit with fiber artist Margaret Applin, stocked with great tips on using surface design for home décor projects. You'll love these tips!

I love discovering talented fiber artists in my own backyard, because I always dream of play dates and weekend retreats where we'll stitch from sunup to sundown. So when I found out fiber artist Margaret Applin was a fellow Massachusetts resident, I asked her to swing by our Sudbury office to share some of her gorgeous work in person. As someone who loves to screen my own designs on fabrics, imagine my glee when Margaret showed me a variety of Thermofax® screened imagery on quilts and home décor projects. I knew she'd make a great guest on "Quilting Arts TV," so I pleaded with her to tape for our latest series, which fortunately she agreed to.

Pokey Bolton and Margaret Applin on the QATV set.

On set, Margaret shared her process and design techniques for creating beautiful pillows featuring her photographs that she transforms into screened images. If you don't have a Thermofax machine to create your own screens, don't fret. You could turn your photos into stenciled designs, carve your own rubber stamps, or of course use commercial stencils, screens, and stamps, too–there are some beautiful motifs on the market today! 

Some tips I took away for creating one-of-a-kind pillows with featured imagery:

  • Screen or stencil your designs on solid-colored fabrics. Margaret suggests using 100% cotton fabrics, so you never have to worry about how high the temperature is for heat setting.
  • Batiks are great for sashing. The mottled coloring in batiks can really help to tell the visual story of your home décor item and tie everything together. (I personally think you can never have enough batiks in your stash, so load up on them, so you have them readily available to audition for new pieces!)
  • When trying out various images together, pay attention to scale. Consider

    Weeds and Wildflowers Patchwork Sofa Pillows demonstrated in “QATV” Series 900.

    which images will be the focal point and which will play more of a background role. Consider creating an item that has a theme, and stick to imagery that relates to that theme, such as a beach-themed pillow.

  • Vary the width of each sashing piece to make your pillow more visually interesting.
  • Once the top is constructed, accent with hand stitching or beading. Do this by cutting batting to the size of your pillow top and adhere using fusible webbing. Once you are finished with your embellishing, then attach the backing fabric and insert the stuffing.

Fortunately I convinced Margaret to tape a second segment as well, showing how she creates a series of art quilts using digital imagery. We had quite a lot of fun, and she wasn't the only guest who shared some innovative techniques and ideas.

For more stitching and quilt inspiration, check out the latest installment of "Quilting Arts TV,"  Series 900.

 Do you have some favorite surface designs you use for your home décor. Let me know on the Sew Daily blog.

Happy stitching!


Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


Easy Sewing Projects, For the Home, Pillows

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.