Spring may not be in the air just yet. But maybe you can nudge it along with a project to brighten your nest.

Spring may not be in the air just yet. But maybe you can nudge it along with a project to brighten your nest.

One quick way to change a room is with seasonal pillow covers. They are a great way to brighten your favorite room with spring color. A bright piece of fabric or a collection of recycled fabric bits and pieces is all you need to get started. Either way, you will love the results.

What you'll need
Fabric, scissors, pins, needle and thread (or a sewing machine), tape measure and a pillow to cover.

Collect and lay out the pieces you will be using for your pillow cover. Be creative. Most of us live with so many fabric items we could make hundreds of pillow covers without leaving the house to buy fabric.

A tablecloth, colorful shirts, crocheted pieces, neckties and embroidered pieces can be combined for a great-looking pillow cover. A trip to the thrift store or the fabric store can also get you some extra colors to add to your project.

Getting started
To create your own rectangular or square pillow cover, you'll need some measurements:

Take a tape measure (or a string) and wrap it around the pillow, overlapping the tape for 6 inches across the back. Because the ends will overlap, this design doesn't require a zipper or other closure.

Measure the pillow in the other direction and add 1 inch extra for the seam allowance along the edges you are going to sew. The other direction (where you wrapped the tape measure around) will be one long continuous piece, so the only sewing will be to finish the ends.

Cut out pillow cover using the measurements you have for your pillow. Fold both ends of the overlap under twice. Press and stitch down to finish.

If you are NOT adding piecing to your pillow, fold fabric into the pillow size (with right sides to the inside), overlapping the finished ends with the extra 6 inches. This will be the back, unless you want to add ties and other design elements and make this the front (so many options).

Allow a half-inch seam allowance and sew up both sides. Turn and tuck your pillow inside. You're done.

Piecing your pillow top design
To do fabric piecing, cut out your pillow cover using the measurements you took for your pillow (as above). Fold both edges of the overlap under twice, press and stitch down to finish.

Fold into pillow shape and mark the side fold lines.

Here are two ways to do the piecing:

1. Crazy Quilt Style:

a. Start with one piece in the center.

b. Lay a second, smaller piece face down, covering part of the raw edge of the first piece. Stitch across second piece and open face up.

c. and d. Continue adding pieces, spiraling out from the center as you cover the raw edges with different pieces (as shown), stitching across the straight edges and opening each piece as you move on to the next.

e. When you get to the edge of the front — for your last piece along the side — use a long, straight fabric strip the length of the side. After you stitch and fold it out, top-stitch the other edge under.

2. Strip Piecing:

Using strips of fabric (they can be different widths):

a. Start at one side of the pillow front. Stitch (face down) the first raw edge and flip to right side.

b. Next lay second strip (face down) on top of the first one and stitch along the edge, covering the raw edge and leaving a 1/4- to 1/2-inch seam allowance.

c. Continue with more strips and work from one side of the pillow top to the other.

d. After stitching and turning the last strip, turn the last raw edge under and topstich down.

Sewing up the pillow cover:

Once you have the pieced design completed, you are ready to sew up your pillow cover, finishing the raw edges on the sides.

Using the original measurements you took:

1. Fold the pillow cover where the side seams would be (with the right side of the pillow top enclosed on the inside).

2. Overlap the flaps with the extra 6 inches on both ends.

3. Sew down both edges, closing-up the pillow cover. Reach into the overlapped slit and turn the pillow cover right-side out. Put your pillow inside and start decorating.

Diane Ericson is an Ashland artist who is the designer and illustrator for a line of sewing patterns and art stencils; she makes jewelry, clothing and accessories and stencils chairs in her studio at the Ashland Art Center. Visit her Web site at www.dianeericson.com.