Practice Improv Piecing on this Patchwork Pillow

This morning, while the Quilting Arts team reviewed the projects we have for this year's issue of Modern Patchwork magazine, we noticed we have several patchwork pillows. Too many? No way! Each one is different in design and style, and all are so pretty we couldn't possibly eliminate any of them.

Patchwork pillow with improvisational piecing by Candy Glendening, from 101 Patchwork Projects + Quilts.

I think pillows are one of my favorite patchwork projects to make. They come together quickly, they're always useful, and they are the perfect way to learn patchwork quilting techniques.

Take, for example, improvisational piecing. This contemporary patchwork piecing technique may look difficult to put together, but it's not really hard when you get the hang of it. If you've wanted to learn how to make a patchwork quilt with improvisational piecing, but you don't want to commit to a big project, Candy Glendening's Sketchy Stripes pillow is a good place to start.

This pillow, featured in 101 Patchwork Projects + Quilts, is a perfect project for using small scraps and a great introduction to improvisational piecing.


  • Fabric for front: 19" x 10" rectangle, 19" x 5" strip
  • Backing fabric, 2 rectangles 18½" x 12"
  • Fabric for stripes, 4-5 colors, approximately 15 pieces: 6" long and 2"-4" wide
  • Batting, 19" x 19"
  • Muslin, 19" x 19"
  • Pillow form, 18" square
  • Walking foot


1. Lay out the 15 fabric scraps in a pleasing arrangement. Overlap the first 2 pieces ½"-1" (right sides facing up) and use your rotary cutter to cut a gentle curve through both layers at once. Remove the waste pieces and lay the pieces together, right sides together, with the beginning of the raw edges meeting. Slowly stitch the pieces together, adjusting the edges to meet as you come to them. Note: Candy demonstrates how to stitch the pieces together on the Quilting Daily community video page.

2. Press the seam allowance to 1 side and then continue to add pieces in this manner until you have a strip that's at least 19" long. Trim the strip to a final size of 5" x 19".

3. Stitch the 2 rectangles of front fabric to either side of the pieced strip, pressing the seam allowance toward the main fabric pieces.

4. Layer the front with a piece of batting and muslin, and quilt it using a walking foot. I chose to quilt organically curving lines across the front, continuing these lines to "stitch in the ditch" between each of the stripes. When the quilting is complete, press the front and trim it to 18½" square.

5. Press a narrow ¼" hem on 1 long side of each back piece and topstitch it in place. Place the pillow front (right side up) on your work surface, and layer both back pieces on top (right sides down). Overlap the back pieces at the center back and align the raw edges all around. Stitch completely around the outside edges, turn right side out, and press well.

6. Topstitch ½" in from the edge around the perimeter of the pillow, completing the pillow with a pretty flange edging.

I love how the simple design showcases Candy's beautiful hand-dyed fabrics and how the lines of the pieced patchwork and quilting mimic each other.

Whether you want to learn a new technique or are looking for a contemporary patchwork pattern, we have many resources for patchwork quilting projects in the Quilting Daily Shop.

P.S. What's your favorite way to learn a new patchwork technique? Do you start on a small project or plunge in on a big one? Leave your answer below.


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