Monica had quite a few yards of beautiful, roughly woven, natural, cotton fabric which she inherited from her seamstress/weaver great-aunt. She kept this in her basement waiting for inspiration to strike.

In an unrelated post a while back, we wrote about some cool brass stencils we found at Earthwise. They were originally from an old granary in eastern Washington. Monica talked about waiting for inspiration to strike before doing something with them.


Inspiration did indeed strike Monica, genius that she is, and she put the two together and came up with the idea of making stenciled pillow shams. Our goal was to make these shams look like they were made from old feed sacks – intentionally casual, and “un-designed” (learning as we went that making things look “un-designed” is the hardest challenge of all!). We did a little test using fabric paint in light gray, black, red and then stitched willy-nilly over the top with dark brown top stitching thread. Another thing I just learned is that “willy-nilly” is not recognized as a word by spell-check, yet “wiily-billy”, “willy-silly”, “willy-dilly”, “willy-hilly” and “willy-filly” are. What does “willy-dilly” even mean?


Test on fabric with fabric paint and top stitching.

Back to the pillows….

We used Martha Stewart’s Crafts paint and mixed it with a fabric medium (2 parts paint to 1 part medium). After heat setting for 30 seconds with an iron it is washable.


Martha Stewart craft paint + fabric medium.


Mixing paint + fabric medium, 2 parts to 1.


Laying out stencils, lightly applying gray paint, stenciling black type.

We had large numeral stencils from another project (doesn’t everyone?) and used those for the background numbers, choosing numbers that correspond to the numbers on the granary stencils. We lightly brushed on the paint inside the stencils, overlapping the large numbers and small type. It looked best when the paint was irregular and didn’t get applied in too heavy a coat.


Fabric panels lying out to dry.


Top stitching over the top of the stenciled type, placing the zipper on the back.

After the paint dried, we top stitched the decorative stitching. We sewed on big metal zippers on the top of the fabric on the back panel to give access for the pillow insert. Finally we sewed back to front and top stitched the edge. The finished result – click on images to see slideshow:

We had a lot of fun on this project – sewing like girls instead of hammering like girls.

5 thoughts on “Pillows

  1. What cool stencils to find. I love the look of your pillows. Everything you make would be a small fortune at Restoration Hardware, but your stuff is way cooler. I have some fabric medium I bought a while ago to make a rug (never found a plain rug to stencil?…Might have to make a rug and then stencil it…LOL). I should get more organized in 2013. I was thinking those copper stencils would look cool framed in a wooden box and lit from behind…they’d put a cool shadow on the wall….I should stay off Pinterest LOL. Happy Holidays!

    • Framing them with back light is a great idea, they do cast really cool shadows. Stenciling a rug sounds great – although if you are anything like us, you may not want to wait until you weave one! :) I wish we could find a market for some of the things we make – the problem is that it takes quite some time, don’t know if our pricing would be where people would want it to be. We are in the process of opening an Etsy site with some things we’ve made, so stayed tuned! Have a great holiday Boomdee!!!

      • Hey, that’s a really good place to start I think. I can’t wait to see your shop there. People shopping there will recognize your efforts and appreciate what it takes to make ‘one of a kind’ treasure for your home. Uniqueness should have a value. I’m having an awesome Christmas, hope you are too.

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