Celtic Appliqué Throw Pillow

Celtic Appliqué Throw Pillow

Begun in a class with Nancy Lee Chong, this appliqué lesson became a Celtic Appliqué Throw Pillow. Bias strips, stitched with needleturn appliqué, became an intricate design with Nancy’s pattern and instruction. I added border fabrics, machine quilting and a pillow form to complete the project. The button back closure keeps the cover secure.

Nancy provided the background fabric (with the pattern already traced!), pre-cut bias strips, a Clover Bias Tape Maker, matching Aurifil (her favorite) thread and hand appliqué needles. She showed us tricks for making perfect bias tape and how to place the beginning and ending of the bias strips to achieve the continuous over-and-under Celtic knot pattern. Here is my finished appliqué. It needs a press with the iron, but I wanted a photo right away!



Then I had to decide how to finish the project. I had a 20 by 20-inch pillow form, so I added borders to fit that size. I asked for feedback from Facebook friends, and this combination was the favorite.

Each of the hand-dyed fabrics by Judy Robertson picks up the charcoal gray of the bias tape. I had enough of that fabric left over to make a narrow border between the green and orange borders. I like how that narrow bit of gray takes the eye back to the central appliqué motif. As a quilter, I wanted to quilt the pillow top, so I layered fusible cotton batting between the top and a pre-washed muslin back.


One of my favorite marking tools is the Clover White Marking Pen. It makes a clear, narrow line that is easy to follow. I could even see it on the cream-colored background. To remove the marks, just press with a hot iron. I’ve used this marker for years and it has never “ghosted” back on me on cotton, linen, silk or polyester. But definitely test any new marking tool before using it on your project. Your mileage may vary!

Audition, audition, audition! I was certain I would love this variegated gray thread for the quilting stitches. Guess again! I thought the gray might enhance the appliqué, but, instead, it detracted from the intricate handwork.

Fortunately, I stopped, removed the offending gray stitches, and quilted again with a cream thread that matched the background. The straight-line quilting was easy with my walking foot. It has a guide in the center that kept me on the straight and narrow, so to speak.

I considered an easy envelope closure for the back, but I am a pillow musher, and the pillow form shifts too much for me. A zipper would have been great, but I didn’t have one in the right size or color. Then I realized I have a collection of beautiful buttons from an annual button exchange with friends. I had so much fun revisiting the wonderful gifted buttons, and found the perfect closures for my pillow back!

Other machines may do this, too, but I love the feature on my Bernina that allows me to hold my selected button up to the screen and dial the setting until it matched the actual button in my project! I set my buttonhole stitch to automatic and let the machine do the rest. I don’t have to measure anything – just mark where I want the buttonhole to start.

Perfect buttonhole. The machine adds locking stitches at the beginning and end of each sequence. I used to fear buttonholes, but not any more.

Here is the back of the throw pillow with the button closure. Martha’s five textured buttons make the back of the pillow fun to look at and keep the pillow form from shifting in the case.

And here is the finished pillow! Time to curl up with a good book – or another stitching project!

Browse through all of our applique projects and inspiration on Create Whimsy.

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