Quillow Tutorial

by Nova on May 26, 2011

Quillow |kwi – lo|


1: a quilt that folds into a pillow

2: a pillow that unfolds into a quilt.

So, it seems quite a few of you were keen to get the ‘how to’ on the Quillow I made recently :)

This is the first quillow that I have made and I took process shots along the way  so I could share the ‘how to’ of making a quillow if it worked out when I’d finished, which it did! Hurrah! I am certain there are other, better ways, but I’m happy to share how I made mine & would love to hear if you have an alternative way as I am sure I will make another.

After I had made it I had a thought that I guess it makes more sense to have the hidden pocket part (the part the quillow folds into) on the back of the quilt but I chose to have the pocket for the pillow on the front side as I was backing with chenille and was worried it might have been a bit bulky with an extra layer of chenille to fold in. As it turned out it was a perfect fit when I folded it up, so I think I made the right choice. It means the ‘foot cosy’ part ( when it’s all opened out) is on the front but who’s to say it can’t be turned over should the need for warming toes arise ;) If you decide to make yours with the pocket to the back it should be simple enough to piece it in in the same way as  described in the tutorial below. I guess there would be other ways around the bulk issue too, eg not using a layer of batting on the pillow front but I wanted a quilted pillow panel for this particular project. Anyhoo, it can certainly be played around with & adjusted  now we have the basics :)

Please note that the following instructions are written as a ‘base’ for you to make your quillow as you please, I haven’t written it as a step by step to ‘make one just like mine’- (but please feel free to do that if you wish ;)) with fabric quantities etc. I am also assuming you have a basic knowledge of piecing and quilting.  The beauty of it is that once you’ve figured out the construction (which is easy peasy I promise) then you can change it up to make whatever style or size you like! Yay!

I hope I explain the process I used ok, be warned I ramble in parts, so please bear with me ;) If you have any questions or suggestions please don’t hesitate to contact me  :)

Quillow Tutorial

So first, here’s the basics…

All seams ¼” unless otherwise stated.

I worked this quillow out with the formula of the quilt part being 3 square blocks wide by 4 square blocks long & if you stick to that too, it should work for any size block. The block size you decide on determines the size of the pillow part when your quillow is all folded up. Make all blocks the same size including the blocks for the pillow part. I chose to make my blocks 16” square (finished).  ( eta:: i’ve been asked a couple of times the size of rectangles I cut to make this 16″ block, so in case you are wondering too,here you go – each rectangle was 8 1/2″ x 3 1/8″ & you need 12 per block… so for this quillow  you would need to cut 144 rectangles)

You get to choose whatever block style you want to make too – anything you like from traditional to modern, improv or wonky, solid patches… whatever takes your fancy so long as it is a square block. I went with a traditional fence rail block.

Though that’s not to say you need to construct it as blocks, it would work just as well I am sure as a whole cloth ( or almost whole, you’d need to build the pocket in still on one side)

Step 1. Prepare 12 blocks for the quilt part of the quillow. Join 9 of these blocks together into a 3 by 3 design.

Step 2. Make a block for the front of your pillow and a block for the back of your pillow. These will be on show when it’s all neatly folded up so you might want to do somethign a little fancy, or personalize it or make a block the same as the blocks in the quilt part. SO many decisions!

Cut a square of cotton batting to the same size as your block and place on the wrong side of your ‘pillow front’ block. Baste and quilt as desired by hand or machine (no need to back the block at this point)

Here’s the block I made for the front of the  pillow part … a fussy cut,  improv pieced strip with random loopy hand quilting design.


Prepare a block for the back of the pillow; I used a plain solid for this with no piecing or embellishment. ( I din’t take an individual  picture of this  sorry but it’s just a square of solid fabric ;) You can see it in the next pic )

Now you have all your blocks prepared here is what your quillow  should look like at this stage.

Step 3. Set the 9 blocks that you have pieced together to one side.

To construct the pocket part of your quillow you will need the 5 remaining blocks.

Place the pillow front and the centre block together, right sides facing.

Sew along the bottom edge. I would recommend using your walking foot for this part as you are sewing through batting & 2 layers of fabric.

Open out and fold the blocks back on themselves so that the right side of each block is showing. Press the seam and top stitch along the sewn edge.

Step 4. Take the pillow back block, the right hand block and the pillow front block.

The image above  is just to show you which blocks to grab for this step, remember the pillow front is already joined to the centre block ;)

Layer the three parts as follows:

Pillow back, right side up.

Pillow front with the ‘front’ panel facing down & block part facing up.

Right hand block with right side down.

Align the blocks by the top edges, not the bottom edges. The bottom edge of the quillow front will sit a ¼” up from the bottom edges of the other 2 blocks. You can see this placement  in the image below if you look to the bottom left of the image.

Pin along the right edge and sew. Again, I recommend using your walking foot in this step as you are sewing through a few layers including batting.

Back stitch as you sew over the seam where the pocket opening is for extra strength.  You will need to feel where this is as it’s in the middle of your fabric sandwich at this point, mark the seam with a pin to make it easier to remember, but basically it’s really close to the bottom edge so you shouldn’t miss it. This area will get a lot of wear and tear as your quillow is folded up and unfolded so it’s a good idea to strengthen the seam at that point.

Open out  the top block  to the right hand side and press seams.

Place the left had block right side down on top the centre block, aligning the top edge as before. Pin and sew in the same way as before but this time  along the left hand edge.

Open out the top block to the left hand side and press seams. You now have a strip of 3 blocks with a ‘hidden’ pocket area – you will be able to pass your hand right through the pocket bit should the fancy take you!

Step 5. Pin back the pocket opening. This is to ensure it stays out of the way when you join the 2 parts of the quillow front.

To make sure you are pinning the correct part, take note that it is the opening where you can see the seam that you top stitched in step 3, the pocket seam should be sitting ¼” back from the edge.

With right sides facing, join this edge to the top edge of the 9 blocks you joined together in step 1.  Be aware as you sew past the pocket area that you are not sewing over the pocket seams.  Back stitch at the seams where the pocket is.

Open out, remove pins from the pocket and press seams.

You now have a quilt top that to all extents and purposes looks like a regular quilt top but has a hidden pocket ready to be folded into a pillow at a moments notice :)

Step 6 - Make and add the handle.  This step is entirely optional but a cute touch and it makes the quillow easy to carry for picnics, sleepovers, road trips etc etc. Adjust handle width, length to suit. I’ll give you measurements I used as a guide.

Cut a piece of coordinating fabric 10″ x 4 3/4″. Cut a piece of batting 10″ x 2 1/4″.

Fold the piece of fabric in half lengthways, press, then open out.  Fold both long edges in to meet the centre, press then unfold.  Place the piece of batting along the centre of the fabric

Fold the edges back in and then fold in half lengthways. Press & pin.

Sew along both long edges, once close to the edge and again approx 1/4″ in.  It’s a good idea to use your walking foot. I didn’t, hence the wonky stretched looked ;)

Position & pin the handle on the inside of the pocket tube on the top edge of the quilt, you will sewing it to the right side of the pocket front.  I marked the centre of the pocket front and pinned each end of the handle approx 1 1/2″ out from the centre mark.

Baste in position.  Pin the handle down to keep it out of the way for the next step.

Step 7 - Measure your quilt top & cut a piece of batting just slightly larger. Baste the quilt top and the batting together ( not the backing at this stage). So I didn’t have pins getting in the way I used spray baste.  When the batting is stuck down, trim back so the edges line up with the quilt top.

Select your backing and trim to the same size as your basted top.  I used a chenille for the snuggle factor but I’m pretty sure any  any backing would work just as well for example  flannel  or fleece would be soft & cuddly too.

Layer your basted top and back with right sides together. Pin around edges.

I used a 1/2″ seam allowance ( which I hadn’t allow for when making the blocks so if it might bother you, you will need to  adjust your block size accordingly to allow for this on the edge blocks) to sew all the way around the quilt, leaving a gap of approx 12″ on the bottom edge (not the edge where the pillow pocket is).  Back stitch at start and finish and also as you go over the pocket edges and the handles for added strength.

Clip the corners & turn right side out through the gap. Carefully push the corners out. Press the seam.  Pin the turning gap closed.

Starting at one side on the pillow pocket, top stitch around the edge  until you come to the other side of the pillow pocket. Do not sew across the pillow block so that you retain as much room in the pillow pocket section as poss for folding your quillow into later.  You will sew the turning gap closed as you top stitch, remove the pins as you go. Back stitch at the beginning and end.

After I took the picture above, I sewed around again closer to the edge so the final quillow has a double row of top stitching to help hold up against wear & tear on the edges. The above picture also shows how I only sewed up to but not across the pillow pocket section.

Almost there!

To keep the softness of the quillow I chose to quilt it by tying. There are lots of videos & tutorials on how to tie a quilt so I won’t go into that here.  I used Perle cotton, number 5 (I think), & tied the quilt at each corner of the fence rail so I ended up with a ties approx 8″ apart. Do not tie or quilt in the pillow pocket block.

There is definitely room to experiment with the quilting part too & I am sure you could machine or hand quilt it more intensely if you prefer.

& that my friends, is how I made a quillow :)



How to fold a quillow!

1. lay your quillow on a large flat surface. I find the floor is perfect for this ;)

2. Turn the quilt over, so the pocket is on the underneath side and at the top.

3.Fold one third over to the centre.

4. Fold the other third over to the centre.

5. Begin folding up towards the top, one ‘block’ or a ‘quarter’ at a time

6. Turn over so the pocket opening is on the top.

7. Slide your hands in to the pocket, grab the 2 top corners from the inside and kind of ‘flip it inside out’, a bit like when you put the cover on a duvet/ doona. You’ll probably need to wriggle it a tad  & you might huff and puff  a little bit too but it does get easier with each  flip ;)

8. Ta da! The quilt has transformed into a pillow :)

& here’s the back ( which I kept plain but you could go crazy if you like and embellish or piece or whatever)

Unfolding is of course much easier, just stick your hand into the pillow opening, grab a handful of quilt and start pulling!

I hope you make a quillow!  Little people ( and big people too ;) ) love them! I’d like to make  a larger version to use as a picnic blanket :) Though it looks like quite a few steps in the instructions it really does come together very quickly.

As I mentioned before if you have any questions or I missed a step or you have any tips or suggestions I’d love to hear. I hope you experiment with the basic process I’ve detailed here and come up with some great versions of your own :) I’d love to see!

notes ::  Finished size of the quillow quilt I made  is approx 48″ x 64″ & the  pillow folds up to approx 16″. I used a fat quarter pack of Pooches & Pickups by Laurie Wisbrun and mixed in some solids, checks, dots & stripes from the stash. Check out the sidebar on Laurie’s Blog for stockists of Pooches & Pickups and her other fun lines :)

 I’d love to see if you make something with one of my tutorials, please add a pic of your project  to the ‘a cuppa and a catch up’ flickr group if you like :) thanks so much!  x

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