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How to Turn a Quilt Block into a Pillow – French Seam


Hey lovelies!  I wanted to show you the French seam today.  It’s pretty easy and has a lovely finish.  Before we jump in…. if you are looking for the free motion quilting tutorial for this particular pillow top I’m working with, you’ll find it here.  If you are liking the fabrics:  the gold is here and the aqua floral here.

Seam Methods

  • Zig Zag Seam – This method is the quickest, and you can use it for any type of pillow and for any reason.  Think of it as the go-to method.  It’s meant to be similar to a serged edge when you don’t have a serger.
  • French Seam – This is my favorite method and the one I use the most.  It’s beautiful, easy, and makes you feel fancy, but you only want to use this method when you don’t have any points along the edge of your block.  For example, if I’ve got triangles smack on the edge of my block, a french seam will cause you to lose your points on those triangles.  You need space, like a border that goes around your block or nothing but negative space on the edge of it.  Make sense?
  • Binding – Just like a quilt!  You can bind your pillow just like you do a quilt.  It takes more time and more fabric than the other methods, but works just fine and you probably already know how to do this method.  It also adds a lovely touch!


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So on the outside, a French seam just looks like any old seam.  It’s on the inside that’s where the magic is.  I prefer this method to all the others, because I feel the quality of the work is just much better with this method.  It’s like it has “more” if you know what I mean.  However, it does have a few drawbacks.  You can’t use it if you have points on the edges.  The French seam uses up so much “edge” of the pillow for it’s seam that it’s best used for one single fabric pillows or something with a wide border.  It also shrinks the finished size of the pillow in size much more than the other methods.

If you are new to pillow making, here’s a few details below.

The Details

Pillows are made up of 5 layers:  The top, batting, and bottom (this bottom is inside the pillow and you can’t see it from the outside), and lastly your two pieces of backing.  Plus, an insert or cushion to go inside of it.


  • For the bottom, I usually try to use a fabric that doesn’t matter, old, ugly, old sheets.  Basically, anything.  That fabric you bought four years ago that you see in your stash and you wonder what in heaven’s name you were thinking when you bought it.  It’s a good time to use up stuff you might throw away since you won’t see it.
  • You can buy the cushion inserts at any craft store, on Amazon, or you can make your own.  Whatever finished size your block is, that’s the size cushion you want, nevermind that your pillow could end up a bit smaller depending which method you use.  For example:  the above block measures 18.5″, but I’d want an 18″ pillow insert for it.  Unless you are planning on making your own insert, it’s best to make a block into a pillow the size that pillow inserts tend to be.  Think 15″, 16″, 18″, or 20″.  It’s hard to find a 17″ pillow insert.
  • You can buy your own fluff if you make your own insert, BUT, here is something I prefer to fluff.  Okay, let me be completely honest.  I don’t prefer this to fluff, but I like to reuse and repurpose when I can, it makes me feel all good and helpful inside.  And I create a LOT of fabric waste and I can fill a trash can full of this stuff or I can keep it in a bag in my closet and use it to fill my pillows.  I’m not talking about your fabrics scraps, I’m talking about all those little bits of fabric that are unusable.  Think selvedges, or that smidgen you cut off the edge of your fabric before you actually start cutting what you need.  I even save the batting from squaring up my quilts after quilting.  All of this can be your “fluff”.  A word of advise, a little goes a long way.  You don’t have to pack your pillows until they drop with a loud thump.  A pretty major disadvantage to doing this is you end up with lumpy pillows.  I would not do this for any pillow I planned on laying on or sleeping with, but for throw pillows, what the heck!



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The Tutorial

  1. Make your block.
  2. Cut your batting and bottom 2-4″ bigger.
  3. Layer bottom, batting, and quilt block.  Baste and quilt.
  4. Square up the block.  Trim away all extra batting and backing.
  5. Time to cut the backing.  You need two pieces.  Take the height of your block and cut a strip of fabric with the same measurement.  In my case, it’s 18″.
  6. Now you want to subcut that strip by the width minus 3″.  In my case, my width is also 18″, so I’ll subcut my first piece 15″.  Your second piece is always 12″.  So I’ll have one piece that is 15×18″ and another that is 12×18″.
  7. On both pieces, find the 18″ side (just one of the sides) and fold and press it 1/4″.  Repeat this one more time.
  8. Sew along just beside the fold and press it again.
  9. With your pillow top right side down, you’ll layer first the smaller backing piece and then the bigger, right sides up (wrong sides together).  Make all edges flush with each other and pin.
  10. Sew a scant 1/4″ along edge.
  11. You can go ahead and cut a bit of the corners off if you want, so that your pillow turns easier, but to be fair, French seams don’t turn very easily anyway.
  12. Now turn your pillow so that the right side is on the inside and the wrong side is on the outside.  Give the edges a good press so that the seam is on the outer edge.
  13. Sew along the edge of your pillow again, but this time with a 1/2″ seam.
  14. Turn pillow right side out and stuff it with your insert.  You may find with a French seam (depending on how you like the look of your pillows) that you can go down a size in pillow form.
  15. Beam with pride!




So that’s that.  Also, I’m planning on putting a bunch of these gold pillows on my front porch, so there should be a whole bunch more FMQ video tutorials to come.

Thanks for reading!




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