A Finished Quillow and Some Quillow-Making Tips

Social-distancing gifting! #1 Son receives his quillow

I first discovered quillows through an experienced quilting friend. I was fascinated when I saw her reach inside a patchwork cushion and pull out a quilt! How cool is that!

Phoebe Moon gives a good definition of a quillow at the start of her tutorial:

quillow is a quilt with a reversible pocket strategically sewn on the quilt so it can be folded up to fit inside the pocket, making a pillow.

A little bit of transatlantic translation is required at this point. In the UK when we hear ‘pillow’ we think specifically of the soft, generally rectangular, pad we lay our heads on at night. We use the word ‘cushion’ to describe the supportive/decorative additions we add to our sofas and chairs. Cushions are generally square, ranging from 14″-20″ in size and I think I’m right in saying these would be defined as ‘throw pillows’ in the USA. A ‘cushion’ in the US describes the padded seat of a sofa or chair.

So, here in the UK think, ‘a quillow is a quilt that can be turned into a cushion’. Hope that helps? I’ll probably tie myself in knots writing the rest of this post as I mix up the wording right, left and centre! 😀

First a bit of the history behind the quillow I’ve made. (You can skip this if you like and head down to the ‘How I turned a quilt into a quillow’ section if you are just after some tips).

Turning Twenty by Tricia Cribbs

The story of my quillow begins about a decade ago, soon after I first started patchwork quilting. I had a grand idea to make each of our three children quilts. After completing a beginners course I chose to make a Turning Twenty quilt for our daughter. I bought fabrics in her favoured dusty palette with plenty of purples (her favourite colour, my least favourite). I made the quilt top and then spent several years hand quilting it. Her impending marriage finally spurred me on to finish it! As Anna’s quilt progressed in fits and starts I started collecting fabrics for a quilt for our eldest son. He was then in his mid-teens and had been a loyal supporter of Newcastle United Football Club since he was four years old. It was a no-brainer that his quilt would have to be based on the Club’s colours of black and white. Whenever I went to a quilt show I hunted for B&W fabrics that weren’t covered in flowers (surprisingly few) and gradually the collection grew. A passionate sportsman, Stephen had developed a love of cricket alongside his interest in football. I managed to add a large piece of colourful fabric depicting cricket players to the monochrome collection. And that is what his quilt remained: a collection of fabrics hidden in a drawer…

…Until last November when our younger son added ‘blanket’ to his Christmas wish list. Of course, for ‘blanket’ I read ‘quilt’ and set about designing and making his Christmas gift. But how could I give a quilt to the youngest son without making a quilt for his older brother? I opened up the drawer of fabrics, pressed them all and cut up the pieces to make a Turning Twenty quilt. That was far too ambitious – finish two quilts in December! Ho! Ho! Ho! But I did make the quilt top. It kinda scared me – it looked so bold, so black and white, and so big up on my design wall. Yep! You guessed it! The quilt top got tucked back in the drawer.

Then the pandemic happened and I had a morbid thought – what if I succumb to the virus without completing Stephen’s quilt? He’d be the only one of our children without a quilt of his own 🙁 The scary black and white monster went back up on the design wall and I made some decisions: no borders, it was big enough; and I’d have to adapt it to be a quillow because I remembered Stephen being as fascinated by these transforming cushions as I was.

Turning a quilt into a quillow – some tips

I made the quilt in the usual fashion. Layering the patchwork top, wadding (Hobbs Premium 80/20) and backing (a single duvet cover, opened out and cut to size) to make a quilt sandwich. The quilting was an adventure as this was the first time quilting with my new domestic sewing machine, Julie the Juki. I used the walking foot to stitch lines echoing the patchwork design. Then I switched to free motion quilting to meander in the dark ‘on point’ squares top left and bottom right of the design. On a much smaller scale I FMQ a loopy design around the cricket characters. Quilting with Julie was a lot of fun and took very little time.


Tip: Keep quilting lines fairly wide apart as it’s easier to fold the quilt if it is soft and squishy. Most of my quilting was about 2½” apart.

Now to the quillow pocket and a bit of designing on the hoof.

A quillow pocket is reversible. One side will show when the quillow is folded up into a cushion, the other will be seen on the back of the quilt when the quillow is opened out. I decided to make a patchwork design for the side that would be on display when the quillow is a cushion and use a single piece of fabric for the reverse side.

The patchwork side of the quillow pocket.


The reverse side of the pocket showing on the back of the open quilt (excuse the Quilt Holders – just can’t get the staff in this lockdown!).

Tip: To work out the size of the pocket take the measurement across the width of the quilt and divide by three. As my quilt was 60″ wide I designed a pocket to be 20″ square. I added a half inch seam allowance all round.

To make the pocket I first pieced the patchwork front – made from leftover quilt fabrics – and then teamed up layers to make a mini quilt sandwich: first a piece of wadding about 22″ x 22″; then the reverse side fabric, right side facing up; then the patchwork front, right side facing down.

Tip: As my fabrics had a directional pattern I was careful to lay the patchwork front in the opposite direction to the reverse side fabric – so the cricketers were head to toe!

To make the pocket: Pin the layers together in the order above and then stitch a ½” seam around three sides. Leave open the side with the bottom edge of the reverse fabric and the top of the patchwork front (This open edge will be stitched into the quilt binding). Remove the pins and turn the sandwich inside out. Push out the corners.

Working from the patchwork front, pin baste the pocket before adding some quilting. I kept the quilting simple, just echo stitching around the patchwork squares.

Tip: To help keep the pocket in shape I added a row of stitching a quarter inch in from the top edge.

Time to attach the pocket to the quilt. 🙂 Pin the pocket in place on the back of the quilt, midway along the bottom edge: Reverse side of pocket facing up and the open, raw edge of the pocket lined up with the bottom raw edge of the quilt.

The open side of the pocket positioned on top of the raw edge of the quilt.

Now to test out your sewing machine… Attach the quilt binding as you would do usually. When you get to the bottom edge of the quilt your machine will be stitching through the quilt sandwich, the pocket sandwich and the binding! Eeekk! I chose to stitch the binding to the back of the quilt first and then machine stitch it to the front.

Pocket stitched into the quilt binding (pocket is the green fabric to the right of the photo).

Nearly finished… Time to stitch the side edges of the pocket to the back of the quilt.

Tip: Watch how Rob of Man Sewing attaches a quillow pocket to a quilt (the relevant section is about 13 minutes into this YouTube tutorial). I used his solution of just stitching the pocket down in four places. The stitching will show through on the front of the quilt: Rob’s method minimises the stitches ‘interfering’ with the look of the patchwork or quilting design on the front of the quilt.

Pocket securely stitched in place.

Tip: The pocket will get pulled about quite a lot as the quillow is transformed from quilt to cushion and back again so be sure to anchor down the stitching securely.

If you’d like to see how to fold the quilt into the pocket watch the end of the Man Sewing tutorial .

And here is the finished quilt front:

Whew! I hope that wasn’t too wordy! Let me know if you have a go at making a quillow 🙂

I’m linking with the Peacock Party over at Wendy’s Quilts and more – she is sharing her finished Anna Marie Horner quilt. Also linking with Michelle for the Beauties Pageant, appropriately enough Michelle is sharing some handy tips on how she is tackling her collection of Works In Progress!

Update: Linking with Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs for the Favorite Finish Monthly Linkup. Always worth a visit to see a gallery of quilted loveliness from around the world.


6 thoughts on “A Finished Quillow and Some Quillow-Making Tips

  1. Very nice instructions based on tutorials and experience. Good gift for children to take to sleepovers or in a car traveling. Can also be used as a book rest in your lap when reading sitting cross legged on the floor or ground.

  2. Your quillow gift turned out great! You have reminded me of the quillows that my Mom made for her grandchildren. All of the kids loved their quillows from Grandma! Now those kids are grown and having kids of their own! 🙂

    • Ah! The memory of those gifted quilts must bring back many happy times. There isn’t much of a tradition for giving quilts in the UK. It’s definitely something we should do more of 🙂


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