Creative articles about sewing

Denim pillow with storage space, part 1

I am a collector of jeans: not worn out jeans or jeans with holes (!), but good, solid jeans, purchased in thrift stores. I am always looking for the XXXL sizes, never the skinny jeans, because I need a lot of denim/fabric. I am collecting classic five-pocket jeans with special features, like pockets and distinctive hems (some of them even had fringes!), but also jeans in different colors. And how about those bell bottoms/flared jeans! It is not to wear them, but to cut them up for different projects. No stretch,  all 100% cotton.

I wash them after purchase to be sure they are clean (allthough they should be pre-washed at the thrift stores) and store them for future use. I recently received an order to make a denim pillow: not just any pillow, but with storage space.

For this project I will use a back pocket. I need a piece of fabric with the pocket, but as large as possible, with as much extra fabric above and to the sides of the pocket, and even more fabric underneath. I will use different colors of denim for this pillow: dark blue’s, stonewashed etc. The pocket doesn’t have to be aligned, because I would like to give the pillow a whimsical look.

I have cut some strips from the jeans with the fringed hem: I want to use the fringes; emphasize them. I will avoid the double seams this time, cut ‘around’ them, but with some projects I have used these too, for special appearance. It all depends on my design.

The piece with the back pocket is cut back to a square: this will be my focus point and ‘centerpiece’. I don’t need a special size at this point, because strips will be added to get the right measurement for the pillow case. So I just square it up.

I have sewn small and wider ribbons on some other denim pieces: using my Braiding Foot #21 and a neon orange sewing thread (top and bobbin). 

The ribbon is pulled back through the beveled hole at the front of the presser foot, and the ribbon will be ‘caught’ in the groove underneath. You can work with ribbon or yarn up to 3mm in width, using a zigzag stitch to catch this material (couching) or a decorative stitch. Couching is a simple way to add color and texture to fabrics: it will bring both ribbon and thread together. The ribbons I’ve used are in different colors, but my top and bobbin threadwill be just the neon orange, so I don’t have to change threads all the time.

I am not using a stabilizer underneath the denim fabric: my pieces of fabric are very thick. If you are using thinner fabrics, like chambray, a stabilizer is advised to prevent too much shrinkage, caused by the zigzagstitches. Another easy way to avoid this is to increase the stitch length.

My braiding foot #21 has an opening of 5.5mm: which means the decorative stitch or zigzag width cannot be wider, because your needle will break. The width of 3.6mm, by default indicated on my machine when setting up this presser foot, is wide enough to catch the ribbon, which is 3mm wide.

This is fun: working with different colors of ribbons. 

I have added some wider ribbons too (aprox. 10mm), using my Open Embroidery Foot #20C and placed them in the opposite direction. I have embellished a couple of random pieces of denim this way: they will be cut back to the right size when added to the pocket piece.     

When stitching wider ribbons to a piece of fabric, I am always using my Bohin Glue pen, to glue the ribbons instead of pinning them. Sometimes you will have to lift the ribbon and replace it, because it will be stitched over the smaller attatched ribbons. They have become a bit thicker because of the couching, so you will need some extra to be sure the ribbon doesn’t pull too much. I have used decorative stitches, all 9mm in width, to cover the ribbon. 

I have lengthened some stitches too, to prevent shrinkage. Use a sample of fabric to see how the stitch is made and inrease the stitch length gradually to see if the color/ribbon is still showing, and not just the stitches/thread.

After sewing ribbons onto the denim piece, I have cut this piece back to a certain size: I will use it for the top of the pillow case. 

For some pieces I have used lovely colored Zigzag ribbon (available in 3 colors): don’t they look wonderful on the denim? Embellishing these fabrics is so much fun. 

Want to know how I made the pillow cover? Just look at my next post: see you then.


Sylvia Kaptein
Sylvia’s Art Quilts Studio:

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