How to Make Scented Pillow Inserts

It’s been a while since I’ve done a “how to” post even though they always end up being some of the most viewed on the site.  This week I needed to make quite a few scented pillow inserts for our scented hooked pillows and thought I would just document this very simple process and share it with you.

As you can see in the photo above, you will need:  cotton muslin, fabric shears, a ruler, or better, quilting squares, straight pins, a sewing machine, and whatever scented deliciousness you’re stuffing your inserts with.   Please see the end of this post for suggestions on where to buy some of the ingredients.

Before we go further, one of the stuffing materials I use often is buckwheat seeds.  Buckwheat seeds are nice because they hold heat and cold better than buckwheat hulls, and are therefore great for microwaving or freezing once inside your finished pillow.  A heated or cooled buckwheat seed pillow can be used for aches, pains, headaches, or just soothing, especially when scented.  I scent mine using essential oils, or as you can see in the mix in the photo, I also use actual plant flowers or leaves, in this case lavender flowers.    Please DO let your buckwheat seeds sit at least overnight to completely absorb the essential oils.  This way you will never end up with oil spots on your inserts.

A lot of people like to save money by using rice, but I do not think it does quite as well thermally, and I also think rice is sometimes vulnerable to having a latent infestation with critters/moths.  Buckwheat seeds also, vs just the hulls, have a heft to them that I think is soothing when the pillow is in use.   The 6″ x 8″ buckwheat seed inserts shown here today are one pound each.

A second note:  Yes, the table in my work studio is an old air hockey table (although it still works for air hockey) because think about it.  It’s white (perfect for tracing patterns), it has little holes all over it that look like and serve as a grid, and it’s huge.  I hope to look at this blog post five or ten years from now after I have built a beautiful separate building for all of my business and homesteading needs, replete with a custom made table, and have a bit of nostalgia.  For now, though, this is what it is!

Okay.  Clearly you’ll want to measure out your pillows on the muslin.  I find that a quilting square and an art pencil are perfect for this.  The square keeps my lines nice and neat and, well, square to one another and the art pencil makes a very faint line which is less likely to show on the finished insert.  Yes, we turn them inside out after sewing, and yes, the insert is hidden inside our hooked pillows, but I just like to keep even the hidden parts of my work as clean as possible.

I measure the pillows so that the fold is along the longest side, if they are rectangular.  I also leave an extra inch for the seam.  So, in the case of my inserts for a 6″ x 8″ pillow, I measure the muslin 13″ x 9″ (12″ x 8″ with the extra inch for stitching).  If I have more than one insert to make, I draw them side by side.  A note about making these in advance:  I don’t.  I want the scented materials in my pillows to be as fresh and fragrant as possible, so the inserts are made very shortly before the finished hooked pillow is shipped.   Here is what they look like prior to cutting out.

Just cut along the lines you have carefully measured, and then you’ll be ready to fold, pin, and sew.

After sewing, pop the pillow right-side out, like so!

Now it’s time to stuff!  I use a measuring cup and a funnel to stuff the insert when I am working with buckwheat seeds.   Also, when working with buckwheat seeds, I pin TWICE.  I pin once down at the fill line to keep the seeds from wandering up and out while I’m sewing the insert shut, and I pin again closer to the top to keep the ends aligned while sewing.  You can see my finger imprints on the finished pillow where I pressed down on it.  This demonstrates how nice and moldable to your body buckwheat seed pillows are when you are using them heated or chilled.

On the other hand, this IS Maine after all, and sometimes I’m using Maine balsam fir as a fragrant stuffing for our pillow inserts.  The process is essentially the same, except with balsam I tend to stuff the pillows more firmly, as they are not meant for heating or chilling or conforming in any way.  I fill them much closer to the top of the pillow, pin ONCE this time, and sew them shut.

That’s it!  As you can see, this is not hard to do.  However, if you would like inserts pre-made for you, you can buy the balsam inserts on our Etsy shop, and I will be adding buckwheat varieties as well.

Here’s a resource guide for the variety of materials used:

I hope you have found this helpful and will give a try to adding scented inserts to your own hooked pillows!

Happy hooking! – Beth

 

 

And the Universe Said, “Yes.” – Squam Art Workshops, Spring 2015

Chalkboard1

I am rarely at a loss for words.  I’m an avid writer of blog posts, and an even more able chatterer (unless the context is public speaking…then all bets are off).  Words are my thing.  I usually choose them carefully and aim them true, but here I sit finding it difficult to find the right ones to convey everything I experienced at the Squam Art Workshops last week.  The last time I was this verbally lost over an experience I had taken my oldest son and fellow Thoreauvian, then 17, to Walden Pond. The blog post that followed that trip was called, “Speechless…for a change.”

For months prior to teaching at Squam I had been contemplating what my proper direction in this craft really should be.  Like all big decisions, the answer was right there all along.  You know how this feels.  The answers are located right in the center of your being, it feels almost like they’re sitting at the center of your body, and therefore the old turn of phrase “gut feeling” applies.  We treat these gut feelings like heartburn or hangovers.  We ignore them when we’re very busy doing whatever it is we think we should be, or when they don’t seem convenient.

But at Squam, you’re living in that space where the answers are, and the pressing and influencing expectations of others, or even of yourself, fall away.  You are encouraged to be in the present moment, to be attentive to process, not product, and to shelve your preconceptions and let the retreat unfold for you as it will.  As it is said at Squam, this is where the magic happens.

DreamCatcher
The lacy dreamy dreamcatcher at the Squam Art Workshops. We were encouraged to write our dreams on a feather and pin them to the bottom. I actually pinned the dream of a dear friend on to this, because at Squam, you feel as though all of your own have come true.

Squam feels magical, but I would be remiss if I did not say this:  the magic is made in part by the vision and hard work of Director Elizabeth Duvivier, her assistant Forrest Elliott, and every single person who helps her, including the staff at Rockywold Deephaven Camps on Squam Lake.  While I am a true believer in the manifestation of dreams, I believe equally that none of that manifestation takes place without the hard work behind the dream.  Elizabeth and everyone involved do that hard and heartfelt work, and to them I am so grateful.

Of course, I went to Squam to teach rug hooking at the beginner level.  I owe this to Elizabeth’s generosity in inviting me, on taking a chance on someone and something completely new to Squam, because my friend, poet Sarah Sousa, called my work to her attention last year.  As I was explaining to my own teacher and mentor yesterday, I learned so much from my students that I am still processing it all.  At Squam, students are uncommonly open, adventurous, and filled with energy.  They are also collaborative and incredibly kind.  I’m not sure there is another teaching experience quite like this.   There are those that are as good, but Squam brings together artists and artisans with a unique kind of creativity and camaraderie, and to teach them is really an honor.   I hope I lived up to it.

ClassCollage1
Zodiac, the home to our class, Modern Heirloom, at Squam.
Classroom1
I brought a little wool for my students…

I want to apologize for not getting pics of my first of two classes.  To my students in that first class, you are every bit as dear to me as those in the second!  I was simply very focused on running that first class for the first time and did not break out the camera.

Here are my amazing and beautiful students from the second session.  Every student I had, from both classes, picked up this craft in a heartbeat and immediately started making it her own.  Some had stories to tell of how their fore mothers had practiced rug hooking, and of the hooked pieces that had been handed down.  Since part of our mission is to keep this heritage craft alive and thriving in to the next centuries, it was so rewarding to see the enthusiasm and creativity at work in these wonderful women.

ClassCollage2
We hooked inside…
ClassCollage3
We hooked outside…
ClassCollage4
The variety of interpretations of the pattern was really fun to see.
ModernHeirloom
This was the prototype design, but every student created something very unique to her own aesthetic and style.

Why did I choose a dock and dragonfly for the prototype design?  Well, this is Squam lake, our venue…

Lake2

LakeCollage1

LakeCollage2

Having grown up summering on Little Sebago Lake in Gray, Maine (see a previous post on this here), I really feel at home and in my element in this kind of environment.  It centers me in a way no other space can, and this contributed to the magic I felt at Squam.

Also contributing to the magic?  Great lodging and great food.  I shared our cottage, aptly named “Bungalow,” with Sarah Sousa.  We had a great time catching up, having not seen one another in person in almost two years.

CabinCollage

DiningHall
The food was amazing. Whatever your dietary choices or restrictions are, you are well taken care of.

RDCCollage1 RDCCollage2

And then, of course, there was yarn bombing.  Lots and lots of yarn bombing.

YarnBomb1 YarnBomb2 YarnBomb3 YarnBomb4 YarnBomb5 YarnBomb6 YarnBomb7 YarnBomb8 YarnBomb12 YarnBomb13 YarnBomb16

And the chalkboards…every day at the dining hall…

ChalkboardCollage

The Squam Art Fair and Ravelry Revelry, held on the last evening of the retreat, is a hand made paradise.  The amount of talent and creativity in that one room is humbling.  It is open to the public, and I highly recommend you visit it – and shop! – whenever it is held.  I did not get many pictures of the fair because I was a participant with a table, however, there are many pics out there on the net.

ArtFairCollage1 ArtFairCollage2

I went to Squam not knowing exactly what to expect.  I was a bit nervous about teaching for the first time there.  Would I be good enough?  Would my class be engaging enough?  After all, this was a very accomplished group of students who had already worked with some very well known teachers.  Would I be enough?  What I discovered was two-fold.  On the one hand, I was enough.  I received the sweetest feedback on my class from my students, and I want to reach through the screen and hug every one of you.  On the other hand, I have so much to learn and so many directions in which to grow.  I was enough, but I can be so much more.  This is one of the primary lessons of Squam.  We are enough.  Right here and right now, in this moment, we are enough.  And yet, we are filled with potential at every point in our lives to do more and be more and catch our dearest dreams.

In the midst of these lessons, I gained clarity.  Questions offered up for weeks and months were answered resoundingly in the affirmative, and that’s a gift.   I do not believe my experience is unique.  I think this was happening all around me, in the lives of my fellow “Squammies.”   If we give ourselves the space and the freedom, the answers come.

The little fairy village below was on the wooded path between the dining hall and my classroom.  Literally and figuratively, love and spirit can be found along the paths at Squam.   Hope to see you there next year.  In the meantime, happy living and happy hooking.  – Beth

FairyVillage