I made this throw pillow for my mom's birthday recently, using the instructions from Deborah Moebes's Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time. I've done the easy projects in the beginning, but this pillow is past the middle of the book. The main features: piping along the edges and a universal zipper, both of which are skill-stretchers for me. (I made a skirt two summers ago with a zipper, but it didn't turn out as well as this one did.) I got the beautiful fabric on sale last December at the local quilting/fabric store here.
Confession: I had meant to make this for my mom last Christmas, but after I missed the deadline I kept pushing it back for almost a year. The fabric is even called Lumière de Noël by French General -- Light of Christmas. I did begin the project last December; I cut the fabric pieces and started putting the piping together, but I think it was because the piping was so fussy that I felt like abandoning the project.
So fast forward to this past weekend, which was my FINAL deadline for this pillow. The fabric pieces and half-pinned piping had been sitting neglected in one of my fabric bins for many, many months. I finally took the plunge and tried to sew the bias tape around the 1/4"-cord to make the piping. Second confession: while working on finally finishing the pillow, I wish I had abandoned it ... or at least made a sample pillow beforehand to test the instructions. Here are my reasons:
1) I used a slippery polyester (poly/cotton blend?) red bias tape that I bought in a package at Jo-Ann's. It's 2" wide and is basically blanket binding. Next time I will use 100% cotton fabric for the bias tape, even if I have to make it myself. The pattern instructions strongly suggest the 100% cotton, but when I was planning out the project last year, I had no idea how to make my own bias tape. The slipperiness of the polyester made pinning and covering the cord very irritating. Fussy is the word.
2) The instructions in the pattern I used were confusing at times, even though I figured it all out in the end. Another thing I'd do differently is that I wouldn't baste the bias tape so close around the cord; some of the stitching shows up on the outside once you've put together the pillowcase at the end.
3) And, most critical, there was one very definite error that turned my pillow into the "shabby chic" thing you see here. Instead of trimming the seam allowance of the piping to 1/2", the instructions said to trim it to 1/4". (There was a photo of trimming the seam allowance that looked like 1/2" to me, but I figured, since I hadn't seen any errata about the book online, that the instructions were probably correct.) That's a big deal since it gave me a mere 1/4" of fabric to baste, pin, and sew three different layers together. NOT FUN. Also, instead of ending up with an elegant-looking fitted pillowcase for a 16" x 16" pillow form, I had a pillowcase that was about 1/4" loose all around, or a 1/2" loose each in length and width. Yeah, shabby chic. (Sure, I could have gotten another pillow form sized 17" x 17" but I didn't have time.)
4) Inserting the universal zipper turned out relatively well, but the instructions were a little confusing ... which part is the zip stop? which end is the top or bottom? (apparently the zipper pull is in the top position when closed, as seen below) ... I had to suss it out by looking at the photos. I'm just glad it worked out for me.
5) There were two different ways that the zipper foot for my sewing machine needed to be used: one way with the piping and another way with the zipper. The instructions weren't very clear on that. That's why I messed up on sewing across the zipper teeth. I didn't have enough time to fix it since all the mistakes pushed the project to the 11th hour already. And the inside/wrong side of the pillowcase is, whew, ugly.
HOWEVER, I did finally finish this project which was a long time coming. It feels good to be able to cross off something on my list that had been hanging over my head for almost a year. If I make another similar pillow soon, I believe I'd be more comfortable with the project, and I could get that fitted look instead. Hopefully everything would be neater as well.