1. Cut your fabric. You’ll need 1 (17×17) square and 2 (17x 13) rectangles. These dimensions are for a 16×16 square pillow form, just add 1″ in each direction from the pillow form size for other pillow sizes.
  2. Apply freezer paint bird. First, cut your freezer paper down to 8 1/2″ x 11″ so it can go through your printer.  Make sure you load the freezer paper so it will print on the paper side, not the plastic side.
  3. Download Jessica’s bird template.
  4. Cut out the image, making a stencil. I used regular paper scissors, and a craft knife in certain places that are tight.
  5. Center the freezer paper on the right side of your 17×17 square and iron in place.
  6. Put cardboard under your fabric, and paint the stencil using fabric paint. Let it dry at least an hour, then paint a second coat. The brand of fabric paint I used requires you to iron to seal the paint once it’s dried, just follow the directions on your paint if there’s additional instructions.
  7. Peel off the paper once it’s dry.
  8.  Add Trim. I pinned and top-stitched along each side of the trim, going the full length of the pillow.
  9. Applique leaves. I just hacked out leaf shapes from 2 different colors, white burlap and chartreuse suede left over from the slipcover I made for the chair this pillow will go on.  You could use the bird template as a pattern to cut your leaves if you don’t want to just hack them out.  I played around with the leaf arrangement until I liked it, and pinned the leaves on.  Usually with applique, you reinforce the fabric with fusible interfacing, Heat N Bond, lots of starch, or I’ve even used a coffee filter in a pinch.  Because these fabrics were thick and quite stiff, I didn’t reinforce them, but just sewed them straight on the pillow.  If your leaves are quilting cotton, I’d recommend using one of the above reinforcing methods on the back.
  10. You also have lots of different options when sewing on your leaves.  You can just sew a straight stitch around, blanket stitch, zig-zag, etc.

    I chose to use a zig-zag with a width of 2.5 and a length of almost zero, creating a thick, solid looking edge.
    I used the blue thread to applique my leaves on, but after I thought a dark chocolate brown would have looked cool too, to use a contrasting thread to stand out. Because the blue fabric of my pillow was just thin cotton broadcloth, I added scraps as I sewed each leaf on to reinforce the blue pillow.  Once the leaves were sewn, I trimmed off the excess scraps. If you’re using medium to heavy weight upholstery fabric, you probably don’t need to back your leaves like this.
  11. Construct pillow back. Fold and press a long edge of your rectangles 2″, folding the right side onto the wrong side.
  12. Fold the raw edge under, to tuck it right into the fold you just ironed.  So now you have a hem that is 1″ folded twice.  Sew down the hem.
  13. Once both back rectangles are hemmed, place them together, both right side down, and overlap one over the other, to make a 17×17 square.  This has the hemmed edges overlap in the center 4″.
  14. Sew the 4″ of overlap on each side to secure them, with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Now you’ve made the back of the pillow cover, and the overlap creates a kind of pocket to get the pillow form in and out.
  15. Sew pillow cover together. Take the front and back, and place them right sides together.  Remember to put the opening of the back perpendicular to the trim, so the pocket opening is horizontal on the pillow.
  16. Sew around the entire square with a 3/8″ seam allowance (the line just to the right of your presser foot edge)
  17. Trim off the corners.
  18. It’s finished! Press it if you need to, (I starched mine since it was just broadcloth), jam the pillow form in, and plop it on your couch.

Sewn Bird Pillow Cover Craft Tutorial c/o Country Woman’s featured blogger Jessica Kelly of Running with Scissors.

To read more about Jessica and her blog, check out our blog and craft spotlight.