Patchwork Bear Pillow Tutorial

ChristinaFebruary 7, 2014

It’s my turn on the Pillow Collective blog hop today, hosted by the lovely Amy of Amy’s Creative Side.  I decided to go a little whimsical with my pillow.  I had sketched out a few ideas, but this one just kept pulling me back.  Originally I had plans of making this a round pillow, but to make a long story short, I decided to recover one of my square couch cushions.  I’m going to walk you through how I made it, but it’s so easy you could tailor it to fit any shape or sized pillow you want.



You’ll also need a pillow and a scrap piece of  batting.  The size of pillow you make will determine your fabric yardage.  In general, i’d say a 1/2 yard of fabric for your back is more than enough and then the rest of it can be scraps or fat quarters.  For this pillow cover I used just a little bit of 16 different fat quarters for the patchwork top.


First you’re going to need a pillow to recover.  I happened to have a so-called 20″ pillow stuffed very loosely into an 18″ pillow cover.  This time I would make my cover even smaller.  I like my pillows to be crammed into their covers so they are nice and fluffy.  I decided to make my background patchwork piece 16.5″, and since I wanted to use 2.5″ squares, I needed 64 of them.  I cut 2.5″ strips from my fat quarters and stacked them up into a few piles so that I could cut my squares from the strips faster.

If your pillow cover will be a different size, simple take the size you want it to be and divide it by 2″, the size of the finished square once sewn.  For example, if you want a 20″ x 20″ pillow cover, 20″ divided by 2″ gives you 10 squares, meaning 10 squares across by 10 squares down, 10 x 10 = 100 squares needed to make the patchwork pillow top.


After all of your pieces are cut, sew them into rows.  In this case I had 8 rows of 8 squares.  Press the seam allowances in opposite directions, alternating for each row so that you can line the seams up easier when you sew them together.  Sew the rows together, nestling and pinning each side of the seams.  Yes it takes time, but it’s worth it to have a top with perfectly matched points.  Press these seam allowances open.


Lay the patchwork piece onto a scrap piece of batting, just slightly bigger than the patchwork piece, and press with an iron to work out any wrinkles.  Be sure to use steam, this also helps the piece to stick to the batting just a bit.  Pin as desired and quilt.  For this piece I chose to quilt in straight lines, along each of the seams.   After you finish quilting the piece, go ahead and give it a good steam press to help the stitching settle in.

I did not use a backing fabric when I quilted this to the batting, but you could if you would like the inside of your pillow case to be finished.


Now you’re going to want to kick the cat off your patchwork piece so you can continue, because everyone knows a cat can’t resist a quilt, especially one just warmed by the iron.  Wolfgang would not leave this particular patchwork piece alone.  He was all over it several times, hence the sticky roller to the left of him.


Now it’s time to cut the pieces for your bear.  You will need to cut a body and two ears from your brown print fabric, a muzzle from your neutral fabric (I used a scrap of Essex Linen), a nose from your darker fabric (brown, black or dark grey would work nicely), two circles for the whites of the eyes, and two circles for his pupils.  I don’t have templates for you, so you’re just going to have to be brave and estimate all your cuts.


Start by cutting your bear body.  I first had a general idea of how tall I wanted him to be.  I only wanted him to come up about two-thirds of the way on the pillow top.  I laid my fabric onto the cutting mat, held it in place with my hand, and cut a rough shape out with the rotary cutter.  Be sure your hand is well out of the way as you cut!  This will give you a very organic shape, which I think works very well for this pillow.  If you aren’t quite brave enough to just cut, use a white marking pencil to give yourself a line to cut along, or draw yourself a template onto card stock first, and then use that to cut around.

Now that Mr. Bear’s body is all cut, you can begin to cut your other pieces to be proportioned to his size.  Start off by cutting them a little too big, because you can always trim them smaller and reshape them as you like.  The eyes and pupils will be especially tiny.  You can always make these a little bigger and then trim after they are sewn down.

I did not use fusible web for this, but you certainly could.  Just iron that on to your fabric before you make your cuts if you choose to go that route.  I don’t like how stiff it can make a piece, so I usually don’t use it.  Because we will have raw edges stitched, there will be some fraying, which the use of fusible web would eliminate.  You’re call.


Lay out bears face and position his ears.  I used a fabric glue stick to help hold everything in place and then moved it onto my quilted patchwork piece.  Now you just need to stitch around everything to keep him in place.


I started by stitching around his body and then went back and stitched around each ear, stopping when I reached the body.  I did these pieces with white thread, my 1/4″ foot and the feeddogs running.  To stitch on these next pieces, I switched to my darning/free-motion foot and dropped my feeddogs.  While you still have your white thread loaded, sew on the muzzle and whites of the eyes.  Now switch thread and sew on your pupils, keeping your movements small so that you have enough stitches to hold them in place.  Go around a few times.  Next, stitch on the nose and then give him a mouth.  Give him a quilt steam press with your iron and then square up your pillow top.



Finally you will need to create a pillow backing and sew up the pillow.  For this pillow I used a tutorial at Sew Inspired to create a hidden zipper panel for the back.  The size you cut your backing pieces will depend on your pillow size.  The main things to remember are: 1) use a big enough zipper, 2) cut your panels the same width as your patchwork pillow top , and 3) make sure to give yourself enough length of fabric, you can always trim the excess later.


I really love how the hidden zipper back turned out.  It was really easy and I think it will be my new method for finishing off pillows.   I had a really great time making this little pillow.  It’s cute and whimsical and not usually something I would make (but would adore if I saw someone else make it), so i’m really glad I just went for it and did it anyway.  I’m sure Brice will get a kick out of it, but i’m pretty sure Mr. Bear is going to live on the couch for a little while.  Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope you’ll take time to check out all of the stops on the Pillow Collective hop!


Now, i’m off to make the cat a quilt…

Take a peek at what everyone else is making!

Amy Ellis + April Rosenthal + Lisa Calle + Natalia Bonner + Megan Bohr + Amanda Woodruff + Heather Valentine + Amy Smart + Vanessa Christenson Maureen Cracknell Amanda Jean Nyberg + Dana Bolyard + Christina Lane + Heather Bostic + Audrie Bidwell + Amanda Herring +

Comments (11)

  • Bego

    February 7, 2014 at 3:17 am

    gorgeous! I love it! ♥
    thanks for sharing this fantastic tutorial

  • Pillow Collective – Day 5 | Amy's Creative Side

    February 7, 2014 at 5:59 am

    […] today have been generously given by Christina, Heather, Audrie, and […]

  • Pam Schoessow

    February 7, 2014 at 7:55 am

    Congratulations on your new machine! What fun! Love there bear pillow too. Thanks for the tutorial.

  • Jenn

    February 7, 2014 at 9:37 am

    This is so cute. I’m thinking ideas featuing a low-volume animal (maybe a grey elephant?) and a darker background. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Amanda Jean

    February 7, 2014 at 11:24 am

    This is so adorable, Christina. Nice work!

  • Míša

    February 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm


  • Amy

    February 7, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    I love your pillow Christina – such a sweet bear! Thanks for sharing :)

  • valspierssews

    February 7, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    Love this cushion. Thanks for sharing

  • Pillow Collective – Think Big Edition | Sometimes Crafter

    February 25, 2015 at 9:35 am

    […] last years Pillow Collective posts?  I made the most adorable patchwork bear pillow that still sits in our living room, and is loved by all.  This year Amy organized us for another […]

  • barbora

    July 3, 2015 at 12:03 am

    Great idea with the bear, thanks for sharing the tutorial!!

  • more pillow covers

    July 19, 2016 at 7:51 am

    […] to surprise her with a small gift. She loves bears and I have seen this wonderful pillow pattern at Sometimes Crafter. So last weekend I have started with the base cutting different red fabrics by Kaffe Fassett. […]

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