Discovered: Sew simple pillows

Posted: May 02, 2008

If you've never made a pillow before, The Pillow Book (Chronicle Books, $24.95), by Shannon Okey with photos by Gemma Comas, is a good place to start.

For one thing, it contains basic advice about fabrics and pillow accents: nothing too precious if you have kids; nothing dry-clean-only if you anticipate stains; nothing too tempting to cats (tassels, fringe and the like); no mixing materials with different washing requirements. Plus, the book offers a solid foundation in those core steps of sewing prep: pre-wash, pre-shrink and pre-press.

Included are instructions for more than 25 projects billed as being "simple to sew . . . for every room and every mood." And that's true to a great extent. Almost all the stitches required are straight lines. Even for the dog bed Okey features, you just line up several rectangles and sew them together end to end. Pattern pieces are provided for anything that isn't made up of squares or rectangles. No real sewing on tight curves or having to use markers to precisely match the pieces. No sewing with one-directional patterns or having to match up fabric nap.

Each pillow project sticks to one main skill, whether it's making a buttonhole, sandwiching trim into a seam, or inserting a zipper. Okey also relies on ornamented fabrics to eliminate sewing steps. Instead of using the sewing machine to stitch dandelions onto solid fabric, for example, she uses material with a raised floral design. Instead of piecing together fabric to make stripes, all you need do is tack down a striped ribbon on top of a solid pillow.

Four of the projects require skills outside the scope of this book - embroidery, knitting, machine quilting and piecing fabric into a quilter's design. But Okey presents a true range of styles and techniques.

This isn't a book in which the projects differ only in fabric color and the size of the square blobs produced. Okey sets her readers onto a path that can take them into more personalized projects.

- Amy Junod

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