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Mix and Match Pillows, part one

Interested in making a pile of colorful pillows like mine? Today I’ll give you some tips on choosing colors and fabrics. Then come back later for part two, and I’ll show you how to sew the pillow covers together. Sound like fun? (I hope so!)

Choosing your colors and fabrics

For my pillows, I decided on three colors: yellow-green to match the walls, red for that dramatic pop of color, and aqua blue because it looks nice with both of those colors and matches the new lamp.

I chose red for the main color because I liked how it stood out in the space, and still complemented it at the same time. The green and blue were used in lesser quantities, but were still important in terms of tying the pillows in to the rest of the room. If I had used entirely red fabrics, they might have seemed out of place.

Look around your room and determine what your main colors are. What color are your walls? The majority of your furniture? Your floor? A favorite lamp?

Use the colors that already exist in the room as accent colors, and choose a different, more bold, color for the majority of your pillows.

If you are having difficulty selecting a bold choice, try taking a look at a color wheel and choosing a hue opposite that of your room. For example, orange pillows would look nice in a blue room, because orange and blue are across from each other on the color wheel (and are “complementary colors”) just as the red and green are in my room. The same goes for purple pillows in a yellow room.

Colorful patterns are such fun, but the eye does need someplace to rest. That is why, when choosing fabrics, I would recommend buying some solids in your three main colors. After you’ve chosen the solids, you can then pick out a small handful of nice prints that feature those colors.

I like the idea of making about 1/3 of the pillows be entirely solid colors. The others can feature a pattern on the front, and a solid on the back.

Estimating yardage

The pillow cases we are making are an envelope style, which means that they are removable, but there is no fussing with zippers or buttons, and they are quite easy to sew.

There are three parts to an envelope pillowcase: one front, and two overlapping back panels.

The front should match the measurements of your pillow, plus 1/2-inch seam allowance on each edge.

My 18-inch square pillow required a 19”x19” front piece because:

18” + ½” for the left seam allowance + ½” for the right seam allowance = 19”

The two back pieces should overlap by at least a third of the width of the pillow. I find this works nicely when you cut one back panel the same size as the front piece, and you make the second back panel ½ the width of the first.

In my 18-inch pillow example, this would require the two back panels to be 19”x19” and 19”x9.5”

For one 18-inch pillow, I needed roughly one yard of 42-inch-wide fabric.

I covered nine pillows and bought about 10 yards of fabric (half of which were solid colors).

If you can afford to buy a little extra fabric, you should. It will give you flexibility when deciding on the print arrangements. Plus, any leftovers can be used to make a patchwork table runner or some bunting to string across the room – nothing has to go to waste!

For reference, these are the fabrics I chose (all of the prints are by Amy Butler, and the solids are Kona Cotton, all of which is available at, among other places):

  • “Dreamer Souvenir” in Persimmon Red from Lark
  • “Dreamer Souvenir” in Ivory from Lark
  • “Wall Flower” in Cherry from Lotus
  • “Full Moon Polka Dot” in Cherry from Lotus
  • “Full Moon Polka Dot” in Lime from Lotus
  • “Martini” in Lime from Midwest Modern
  • Red
  • Cactus
  • Aqua

Excited to start sewing?
Good! Go select your fabrics, and then meet me back here for part two! 🙂


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2 thoughts on “Mix and Match Pillows, part one

  1. […] again In part one, we talked about choosing colors + fabrics, and how to determine how much yardage you need. In this […]

  2. […] banners (two on the fireplace, and one above the couch) are new this year. I made them to go with the new pillows. They’re so simple to make, and oh! so versatile. In fact, I photographed the process and […]

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