How to Make an Embellished Pillow

Add a special touch to a small, inexpensive gift that you handmake with love. The Theotokos with Christ Child is a wonderful comfort for people young, old, and in between.


  • Theotokos with Christ Child fabric: order one 8"x8" test swatch in a woven fabric (Petal Signature Cotton or Organic Cotton Sateen recommended)
  • Backing fabric: one test swatch of "St Helen Robe", or a 5" x 7" piece of scrap fabric
  • Stuffing: about 1 oz
  • Batting: one piece about 5" x 7"



  • Scissors
  • Sewing pins
  • Thread: gold and white
  • Sewing machine (with decorative stitches)
  • Turning tool, chopstick, crochet hook, etc
  • Hand sewing needle


  • Hand embroidery floss, needle, and hoop

Sewing Instructions

Prepare the fabric

  1. To keep the raw edges of the fabric from fraying in the wash and making a mess of loose threads, do one of the following methods: Sew the raw (cut) edges of the fabric with a loose zig-zag stitch; Cut along the edge with pinking shears; Put the fabric in a delicates bag and let it fray.
  2. Machine wash warm or cool with phosphate-free detergent on a gentle or delicate cycle.
  3. Machine dry on a low heat setting.
  4. Iron the fabric on the reverse side, or use a pressing cloth on the right side, on a hot or cotton setting. 

Cut out the fabric and batting

  1. Cut out the Theotokos icon and use it as a size pattern to cut out the backing fabric and a piece of batting.
  2. Optional: cut out the logos in a strip, fold in half, and insert as a tag on the side of the pillow to give it a professional look.

Embellish the Icon

1.  Pin the icon to the batting.

2.  Choose some decorative stitches, and test them on a scrap of fabric.

3.  With gold thread, stitch around the icon in as many places as you'd like, using one or more decorative stitch. With my Brother CS-6000i sewing machine I used a straight stitch for lines, #24 for the star on the cowl, and #49 for the frame.

4.  If you want a flat icon instead of a pillow, stitch around the frame after you've turned the project right side out (which will quilt the whole thing and make it more secure).

Complete the Pillow

1.  Match the front and back fabric with right sides facing. Pin the sandwich so that the batting is facing up, and plan for a turning hole on the bottom. Trim the batting if there is excess on any side.

2.  Sew around the rectangle about 1/4" from the edge of the fabric, leaving the turning hole open.

3.  Trim the corners and excess seam allowance; leave about 1/4" of fabric outside your seam.

4. Turn the pillow right side out, and run a chopstick (or similar object with a narrow dull tip) along the inside to make the seam fully right side out. You should see the stitches in the crack of the seam. Gently but firmly poke out the corners. Fold the fabric at the turning hole so that it matches the seam on both sides, then iron flat.

*5.  If you want a flat icon, close the turning hole by hand or edgestitch/topstitch a decorative frame, making sure to catch the fabric of the turning hole to close it.

6.  Stuff with your filling of choice; fill it as full as possible (really cramming it in there) for best results.

7.  Close up the turning hole by sewing a ladder stitch (also called an invisible stitch) by hand.

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