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Make it Modern Pillows – May Tutorial

It’s Jamie again from Sew Brainy Designs and I’m back with my 2022 Make it Modern Pillows series! This year I’m bringing you some fresh and bold modern quilt blocks that were designed specifically to be 18″ pillows! They are quick and easy, plus they’re a good way to bust your scrap stash or show off that designer RBD fabric that you love!

In case you missed it, April’s pillow used flying geese to make some bold and bright arrows! You can get that tutorial below!

May’s pillow uses some simple shapes to make this fun plaid-ish pattern.

With the weather getting warmer, this combo is giving me some definite watermelon vibes! Yum!

You can never go wrong with pinks and greens!

Here’s my usual matchstick quilting design using Aurifil 50wt. white thread.

This month’s pillow features the Sparkler basics line by Melissa Mortenson that just came out last fall. The colors I used (in order from left to right) were Jade, Riley Green, Baby Pink, Rose, and Raspberry.

I love the little gold sparkles! A good variety of colors are available too!

Now let’s make a pillow!

May Pillow Tutorial

Pattern Notes

  • Please read through all instructions before beginning.
  • Seam allowances are 1/4″ unless specified.
  • WOF = Width of Fabric; pattern assumes yardage is a minimum of 42″
  • RST = Right sides together
  • Press all seams open (or in preferred direction) unless specified.
  • Fat Quarter Precut (FQ) = 18″ × 21″
  • Fat Eighth Precut = 9″ × 21″

Material Requirements

For the block (pillow top):

This pattern uses (1) background fabric [FABRIC A] and (5) accent fabrics [FABRICS B-F]. Below are the requirements to make ONE 18″ block.

For the pillow body:

  • (1) 22-24″ square piece of muslin or other fabric (for quilting the top)
  • (1) 22-24″ square piece of batting (for quilting the top)
  • (2) 13″ × 18½” pieces of backing fabric (for the pillow envelope)
  • (1) 20″ pillow form (my favorite one to use is the FJÄDRAR from IKEA!)

Cutting Directions

Cut the fabric below in the specified order and label each cut with the letter/number in the [bracket].

From FABRIC A, cut:

  • (1) 8″ square [A2]
  • (4) 3½” squares [A1]

From FABRIC B and C cut:

  • (4) 3½” × 6½” rectangles [B1, C1]

From FABRIC D, cut:

  • (1) 8″ square [D1]

From FABRIC E, cut:

  • (1) 6½” square [E1]

From FABRIC F, cut:

  • (4) 3½” squares [F1]

Piecing Directions

1. Create HSTs using the 8 at a time method (also known as the “Magic 8” method). 

Pair the 8″ A1 and D1 squares RST. On the wrong side of one square, draw a diagonal line in each direction using a fabric marker. Stitch a SCANT 1/4″ seam on each side of both diagonal lines. Cut along the red lines into 8 HST pieces. Press the (8) HSTs open and trim to 3½”. 

2. Lay out (1) A1, (1) F1, and (2) HSTs as shown below. Sew the TWO pieces in each row together and press seams. Then sew the TWO rows together and press seams. These will be the CORNER UNITS of the block.

3. Repeat STEP 2 to make a total of (4) CORNER UNITS.

4. Lay out (1) B1 and (1) C1 rectangle as shown below. Sew the TWO pieces together on the long sides and press seams. These will be the INSIDE EDGE UNITS of the block.

5. Repeat STEP 4 to make a total of (4) INSIDE EDGE UNITS .

6. Lay out the E1 square, the (4) CORNER UNITS, and the (4) INSIDE EDGE UNITS as shown below. Sew the THREE blocks in each row together and press seams.

7. Sew the THREE rows together and press seams.

Your block is now complete!

8. Layer the completed block on top of the 22-24″ batting and muslin squares and quilt the pillow top as desired. When you are done, trim the block to 18½”.

Note – if you add dense quilting like I did, your top may shrink a bit in size. Just trim it to the largest square that you can. You can trim the width of envelope backing fabric a bit in the next step if needed in order to match your actual top size.

9. Create a finished edge on the long side of each of the (2) 13″ × 18½” pieces of envelope backing by folding 1/2″ of fabric over the wrong side TWICE. Stitch a seam near the edge to secure it.

10. With the square top facing up, layer the envelope pieces RST on top of it as shown below and sew a 3/8″ seam around the edge of the pillow top.

11. Trim the edges of the corners a bit to reduce bulk. Turn the pillow case inside out and insert your pillow form. Your pillow is now done! Enjoy your fun modern make!

I can’t wait to see all the beautiful pillows everyone makes! They can be very addicting! Be sure to share them on social media! #makeitmodernpillows #iloverileyblake #sewbrainydesigns.

I’m also working on a 5-color version of all my blocks to make a sampler quilt. You can check out that post HERE on my blog. I’ll see you in May with some Sparker fabric and a fun plaid design!

Until later, happy quilting!


Jamie is the creative brain behind Sew Brainy Designs. This self-proclaimed science nerd loves bright colors, big blocks, Mid-century modern design, and using as few seams as possible. Find all of her Make It Modern Pillows on the Riley Blake Designs blog!

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