Friday, November 17, 2017

Tutorial: Handmade Pillows Using a Flour Sack Towel

About a week ago, I shared over on Instagram a pillow I made using a cute Christmas Flour Sack towel I found at Walmart. Yes. Walmart. The response was way more than I ever expected. I honestly think that we collectively as Instagram quilters have caused a run on these towels at Walmart.

In my store they were located in the seasonal houseware section near the new Pioneer Woman Christmas collection. I didn't find them with the main section of dish towels. You can only buy them in store, but you can view them online and check your local inventory.

Here are links to the two deigns I used so you can check inventory near you. There are other designs, but I didn't link them all here. You can find them by searching for 'holiday flour sack towel'.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Meet Me Under the Mistletoe 

I really think they turned out super cute and I hope you enjoy making one, or several this Christmas season!

  To make one 18" pillow you will need:

1 flour sack towel *
3/4 yd of fabric for borders and backing*
* There is enough toweling to use for the envelope back, but you will need two towels. If you do this you will only need 1/4 yd fabric for the borders. If you use the toweling for the envelope back, you can use the existing hem from the towel. Cut two pieces 18" x 13.5". The toweling is thin, so I did reinforce the pieces with Pellon SF101.
14" square of fusible interfacing, I love to use Pellon SF101
2 1/4 yds pom pom trim - I purchased mine from Creative Trims on Etsy, this type specifically

Seam allowances are 1/4" unless otherwise stated. 

1. Unfold the towel and unpick the bottom hem.  Yes, I know I hate using my seam ripper too. However, you need the extra material to square up the design and center everything nicely. It takes about 2 minutes and it's worth it. Iron towel to remove wrinkles and creases. 

2. Measure the design from top to bottom to determine the size of the center.  You want some white space around the design, so don't measure too close.  For the towels I used, I decided on 13.5" FINISHED /14" UNFINISHED. You will cut the towel design to 14" square.

 3. To make this a little easier and to accurately center the design, cut a piece of fusible interfacing 14" square or the same size as the UNFINISHED center. Fold this into quarters, and finger press to crease.

4. Take the towel and fold in half as shown below. You are lining up the top and bottom of the design. When I folded it, I lined up the holly leaves from the top and bottom. The towel is thin enough that you can see through or you can hold it up to a sunny window if needed.  Finger press or press using an iron to create a crease.

5. Repeat in the other direction, this time lining up the sides of the design.  Press to crease.

6. Unfold the towel and interfacing. You will have creases on the towel and interfacing. Place towel right side down and place the interfacing on the back of the towel, adhesive side down.  Line up the creases to center the design. (This was hard to photograph because it also shows all the other creases, but it was easy enough to line up.) Adhere the interfacing following the manufacturer's directions.  After adhering, trim leaving about 1/4" on each side.

7. Do a final trim to square up the center to 14" square. Your design is now perfectly centered! Press well.

8.  Next cut your borders.  I wanted my pillow to finish at 18".

Here's the math incase you want to make a different size
18" (finished pillow)  - 13.5" (finished center) = 4.5"
4.5" / 2 (for two borders) = 2.25" (finished borders)  + .5" (seam allowance) = 2.75" unfinished borders/what you will cut your borders

Cut two 2.75" x WOF strips for your borders. Attach borders as you would for a quilt. Press borders away from the center.

9. I have a serger and at this point, I serge all my raw edges. Totally optional.

You now have a completed pillow top! Yay!

For finishing you have quite a few options. If you choose to add pom pom trim, follow the steps below.  For the other steps in completing a pillow, refer to my post Tips for Perfect Pillows and refer to the appropriate sections.

To learn how to prepare your envelope backing pieces scroll down to section 3.
For an 18" pillow you will cut {2} envelope backing pieces 13"x 18".

To learn how to attach the envelope backing pieces scroll down to section 4.
If you add pom pom trim, follow the steps for an UNBOUND pillow.

To learn how to bind a pillow scroll down to section 5.
First, attach the backing pieces as outlined in section 4 for a BOUND pillow.

Attaching Pom Pom Trim

I love attaching pom pom trim to pillows! It totally gives a fun and unique look and I think it's a little quicker than binding a pillow.

1. First, you want a mark around the perimeter of the pillow to line up your trim. Since I serge around all my pillows, I use one of the stitching lines from my serger as my mark. If you don't serge your pillow top, and most probably won't, I recommend sewing a basting stitch around the perimeter of your pillow about an 1/8" away from the edge. (Do this in a contrasting color so you can see the line.) I do this so the edging from the pom pom trim isn't lost in the seam allowance. You could also mark with a pencil or other marking tool. Do whatever is easiest and makes sense to you!

2. Starting from the bottom center, line up your pom pom trim with your mark and with the pom poms towards the center of your pillow.  Leave a nice tail of pom pom trim free so you can overlap the ends when you finish.  Sew the pom pom trim using a narrow and short zig zag stitch. If you use a wide zig zag, you will pull the edge of the fabric in and you will loose the fabric edge. It's SO much easier to sew it down with a zig zag stitch rather than a straight stitch. Trust me. Use a matching thread color so it blends in nicely if you sew beyond the future seam allowance.  Make sure to sew on the actual trim and not go off onto the fabric too much.

3. When you get to a corner, stop about 1/2" from the edge and remove the pillow top from your machine. Work the trim to follow the corner (it does this very easily) and start sewing from the adjacent side. Continue all the way around the pillow.

4. As you approach the beginning, you may need to clip off a few of the pom poms so you can overlap the ends. Overlap the ends and point the ends away from the pillow top as shown below.

5. Continue sewing over the overlapped trim, maintaining the seam allowance. Backstitch to secure. I prefer to leave the tails long, just in case, so I don't trim.

6. You've attached your trim! Yay! To finish your pillow, refer to my post Tips for Perfect Pillows and scroll down to section 4 and follow the steps for an UNBOUND pillow. When I sew on my envelope backing pieces I use a 3/8" seam allowance. Also make sure all your cute pom poms stay turned towards to the center of your pillow.

Happy Sewing!


  1. SUPER CUTE!!!! I bought several of these towels for the kitchen but this is a much more festive way to use them! And they won't get stained near as badly as cooking! Thank you for the tutorial :)

  2. I enjoyed reading this article. PLease continue publishing helpful topics like this. Regards, from Bedding stock

  3. Thank You for this tutorial I also bought quite a few of these towels! 😂

  4. Thank you for sharing your tutorial! I snapped up a couple of these!!!

  5. Thank you so much for the tutorial. I was able to order the entire set online and they just came today! I can't wait to get started!

  6. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I have made several and given them away as gifts and have received many compliments.They are just as CUTE as they can be. Merry Christmas to you ! Just love, love these pillows !

  7. Hello! I love your blog and I love this pattern. Last year I purchased a bunch of these tea towels and made lots as gifts for friends and family. I have a bunch leftover and would love to teach a class at my local quilt shop using your pattern and my extra towels. Would it be alright if I taught a class using your pattern with credit to you and your blog?


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