Incongruence. {A pillow tutorial}.

Edited to add:  My little tutorial was featured today (Thurs.) over at the Under the Sycamore blog- and I’m just a little excited. I mean, she’s the big leagues, and the inspiration for me going out on a limb and believing I could actually give homemade gifts in the first place. Thanks, Ashley!

Before I begin this DIY pillow post, I feel I owe each of you a monumental disclaimer. Here it is:

I. do. not. sew.

No, really. I have a sewing machine. Which has sat in our front closet buried under a cabinet full of Legos for the last, oh, 4 years? This is probably making my mom and sisters laugh right now, knowing that I am actually posting a tutorial that involves sewing. Without a machine, of course. I can make little fabric yoyos and cute little pins and headbands, but other than that, let’s just say that I’m in some fearsome company:

  • My mom’s a seamstress. As in, she used to get paid to sew. And she knits.
  • My oldest sister Melinda sews- adorable little clothes. See? And she knits.
  • My older sister Katie paints. As in, beautiful landscapes. And she makes these delightful hand-felted flowers. And she knits.
  • My younger sister Colleen creates beautiful tatted designs. Things similar to this. She scrapbooks. And she knits.
  • My youngest sister Kara is another seamstress/decorator/doer-of-all-things-Martha. And she knits. (I almost got a beautiful cable throw from her at our Christmas Yankee Swap. Almost.)

I mean, no pressure, right?

(You may have it figured out by now, but, yes, I am a middle child. Surprised?)

I don’t sew (with a machine). Or knit. I have little to recommend me, I fear.

So, thank you for letting me get that off my mind.

Let’s begin now.

I saw these placemats at Anthropologie. Which is my favorite store. ‘Just letting you know in case I haven’t mentioned that before…

Problem is, I don’t use placemats. (I have enough laundry, thankyouverymuch.) Plus, they were $18. Each. No, thank you. So, I kept thinking about those placemats, and then I thought about a post I had read on a blog showing how to turn a placemat into a pillow.  (The name of the blog escapes me… so if you know it, shoot me an email so that I can give credit. Note:  a blog reader found it for me! Here’s where i saw it online: Elm Street) An $18 dollar placemat I cannot justify, but an $18 dollar Anthro pillow? Yes, please.

So I decided to make 2 pillows for our Ryan Family Yankee Swap. (A Yankee Swap which is so much fun, it deserves a post all its own. Don’t worry, Matt. I won’t.) I figured I’d make something that my sisters and I would like, just in case I brought it home at the end of the night. See, my sisters and I have similar tastes. Well, 2 or 3 of them do, anyway. (I bought 3 different designs, hoping I’d get around to finishing some for myself. Or someone else. Sometime.)


1. Pick a placemat you like. Target has some pretty ones that are wicked cheap- as in, less than $18.

I couldn’t resist all the spiffy little details:

2. Rip the seams with a cute little seam-ripper. Note:  I ripped the top horizontal seam. Next time, I would do a side seam instead. Less ripping. Which means less sewing. Which, well, makes me happy.

(Excuse the orange paint on my hand. Another project. I’ll tell you about it sometime. When I find the courage.) Notice the stitching and interfacing? That’s why they are not cheap. Anthro makes a quality placemat, as I found when I tried to rip the double-hidden seam. (Is that a real sewing phrase? Double-hidden seam?) Note:  I’m not really left-handed. Honestly, I’m so pathetically right-handed that I can’t press the shutter button on my camera with my left hand.

3. Sew on little details to embellish the pillows. Or don’t, if you want it plain. I added fabric yoyos that I had on hand for my Etsy shop, and sewed some beads on, too– but you could add random scraps of fabric, or make pretty flowers or fabric yoyos of your own.

-3a. Realize that you’ve never given anyone a homemade gift before. Try not to panic. (If it weren’t for reading this blog, I wouldn’t be in this situation… :))

Some ideas for embellishments here:

jones design co.

heather bailey

jen renee

4. Grab some polyester fiberfill. (I got mine at Joann’s.)

5. Stuff the placemat pillow. Stuff some more. We don’t want any bunching here.

6. Pin the opened seam closed, making sure there are no ripples. This saves a lot of headaches. And carpal tunnel symptoms, too.

7. Sew the seam closed. With a back-stitch or maybe a whip-stitch. I did not take a photo of my seam. Because I don’t want to be laughed at.

8. Make sure the pillows match your living room. Just in case.

9. Clean up the royal mess you’ve made on the couch. (There is a couch under there.) And clean up the bedroom. (The light was better for photos in there…)

10. Make sure your scissors weren’t touched. See that little smiley face doodle and the stars on the handle? They look friendly, don’t they? They really are meant to be seriously menacing to my kids- as in, “Guys, these are my fabric scissors. They’re marked. They are not for paper. Don’t touch them. I mean it. They’re mine.”

11. Check on aforementioned (too quiet) kids. Huh. Still playing.

In that case, what else can I make? (Yup, another Under the Sycamore idea…)

December 29, 2010 - 7:43 am

Shannon - Well Betsy, as my Mom would say….”You’re talents lie elsewhere!” And that my friend, is in photography! So fear not….YOU have your talents too! And just for the record. I have an Aunt that is a seamstress, a Grandmother who knits, sews and quilts, a mother that sings beautifully, a sister who farms, and another sister who acts. I also have a brother that is percussionally,(a word?), inclined, and I….well, I help catch babies :)

December 29, 2010 - 9:32 am

Jill - Wow, Betsy…these pillows are gorgeous. You did an awesome job. I wish I was there for your Yankee Swap…BTW, what is a Yankee Swap?

December 29, 2010 - 9:40 am

Betsy - @ Shannon: That made me smile. :) I do seem to remember hearing a beautiful singing voice coming from you, tho’!
@ Jill: A Yankee Swap? Oh, it’s fun. Here’s a little link to what it’s about:

December 29, 2010 - 11:42 am

Cheryl - As I was reading the beginning of the post, I started laughing and then I read that you predicted that. Ooops!

December 29, 2010 - 2:11 pm

Colleen - Very Funny post! Loved the step by step instructions!

December 29, 2010 - 4:03 pm

Jayme - Let me say, verbatim, what I just emailed to Rebekah “Have you seen the disgustingly beautiful and creative pillows on Betsy’s blog yet? Or the simple yet artistic plates right below the pillow DIY project? ‘scuse me, i’m throwing up in my mouth a tiny bit…” Sorry for the grossness but that’s what someone with talent makes me want to do :) Nice job, Betsy!

December 29, 2010 - 9:15 pm

Sharon - Oh Betsy! you made me smile through this entire post! Loved the pillows! I am SO in trouble with the links to the other websites, tho. It took me an hour to get to the end of your post! :)

December 29, 2010 - 10:40 pm

danielle - girl!! this is fabulous. and so are you. even though we have never met i feel like we have by following each other’s blogs …so, we can pretend away :) although, i would REALLY like to indulge in some coffee, biscotti, conversation, crafting and photo taking with you in real life, friend :)

December 29, 2010 - 10:59 pm

Bethany - Thats it! Im on it…..crafty projects here I come!!!!! :)yay:)

December 30, 2010 - 9:35 am

Jess - wicked cool pillows! I know you didn’t want to be laughed at, but it was so funny to me that you wouldn’t shouw your seam..I laughed anyway! ..but I wasn’t laughing *at* you…ok??

December 30, 2010 - 10:06 am

Jennifer - Love the pillow, love the plate, love this post!
(ETSY shop!)
All the best to you in the new year!!

December 30, 2010 - 12:55 pm

Ang - Hi! I found your site through Under the Sycamore and I’m in love! Your pillows are adorable, but I really like the “read” letters…where-oh-where did you get them?!

December 30, 2010 - 1:12 pm

Betsy - @Ang: Hello to you! As far as the letters, they are from (surprise!) Anthropologie. I got them a couple months ago. They sold them in the kids’ section, separately. They offered the entire alphabet. Good luck- and thanks for visiting! :)

December 30, 2010 - 2:10 pm

Yanet - WOW! I LOVE those pillows! After I saw them on Ashley’s post, I went to your Etsy shop to see if you sold them. I know you did your tutorial and all and as great as it is, I’d just want the instant gratification. Know what I mean? I’m redoing my living room and putting in a nice and comfy white loveseat. A couple of those pillows would look just perfect there!!

Great finding you. Happy New Year!

December 30, 2010 - 2:30 pm

anna - very cool! and that dandelion plate is spectacular. :)

December 30, 2010 - 3:15 pm

Jenni - Love your handmade items! I have NO idea if you got the pillow idea off of my blog, but back in 08 I did a little dig with a placemat. Here is the link:

December 30, 2010 - 3:15 pm

Anna - oh my goodness, that diy of yours is very very clever! I would’ve never thought to use placemats for pillows! great work on the dishes as well! :)

December 30, 2010 - 4:49 pm

Luisa salcedo - Love what you did with the pillows. I don’t know if this is the blog but a few weeks back I found the tutorial for pillows on this blog:

December 30, 2010 - 5:56 pm

Betsy - @ Luisa: Yes! That’s it! Thank you so much for the link! I’m going to add it to the post. :)

December 31, 2010 - 12:14 am

Melinda - So funny I looked at the very first picture and thought ” Those have to be Anthro pillows” and I have not seen them on the website yet!! Funny gonna make them myself cause we live 1000 miles away so no one will know I am copying you :) Also when Mom told me you put pillows that you made in the Yankee Swap I was a little shocked since I know all about you and sewing :) Love you

December 31, 2010 - 10:10 am

danielle - you are famous! seriously.

January 1, 2011 - 9:54 am

Whitney - You did an amazing job!!! What a fabulous idea to use Anthro placemats. I’m so glad you found the idea on my blog! :)

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