PTO Auction Pillows

Fabric Painting


It’s a scary thing when people at your children’s school learn that you can sew, isn’t it?  Of course, I am actually really happy to help but these projects are always more time consuming than I think that they will be!  At our elementary school, each grade makes something in art class to be auctioned at the PTO auction.  The second grade tends to do something fabric related which involves a little more parental assistance than some of the other projects and low and behold, I have a second grader. I came up with the idea of painting fabric with the kids which I would then turn into pillows.  I thought I would share the “how to” with you in case you would like to tackle something similar!

I worked with two art classes at two separate times.  Each time, the group was just over 20 children.  We covered a table with plastic cloths and set up two stations.  At each station, I set up a piece of prewashed Essex cotton blend white fabric cut to about 10″ x 14″ or so.  Then I set up cups of watered down fabric paint.  We called the children up 2 at a time.  One child would paint lines using one of the background colors then a second child would paint stripes inbetween using the other background color.  One class painted with olive and yellow.  The other painted with lime and aqua.  The paints were thinned substantially with water to encourage bleeding.  Then a third child was called up to stamp.  I used the foam children’s building blocks seen above to stamp.  They have great textures.  I squirted a little paint, not watered down, onto a paper plate.  They placed the stamp in the paint and then onto a scrap piece of paper and then stamped the fabric.  The fabric was then hung to dry.  Due to the wet backgrounds, there was a lot of bleeding but that was what I was going for!  I tried it with a drier background and more distinct stamping and didn’t like it as well.  Every child in the class was able to participate in painting the fabric.  And there was enough fabric made to make two 22″ pillows from each class.

PTO Auction Pillow


For this pillow, I used a simple brick patchwork, adding in some coordinating blues.  I particularly love the painted fabric when the children let some of the white fabric show through.  They were really opposed to that though!  I had to sneak some fabric away before it was “finished.”  They wanted to cover every bit of the white.

PTO Auction Pillow detailHere is a detail showing the colors of the handprinted fabrics.  It was a great project for collaborative learning too which is really promoted in our school system.

PTO Auction PillowThis is the second pillow from that class.  This one is a half square triangle design arranged in chevrons.  I am calling this set the “Sea” pillow set.

PTO Auction PillowThe other class created the “Earth” pillows. I tried to take into consideration the colors people tend to have in their houses.  I made wonky log cabin blocks for this pillow.

PTO Auction PillowThis pillow is a sort of staggered stacked coin patchwork.

PTO Auction Pillow DetailHere is a little detail of this “colorway.”

I think that the kids really had fun painting the fabric.  The finished fabric was fairly stiff. I had originally thought of appliqueing simple circles, etc. but I didn’t want to add any more stiffness using fusible adhesives so I opted for the pieced work.  My rotary cutter dulled quickly as did my needles!  I found that it was helpful to use a size 90 needle and I had to replace it half way through the pillow making.  I also ironed my seams toward the solids, away from the printed fabric, whenever I could to reduce bulk.

Now I am just hopeful that second grade parents will bid on these!







  1. Anna Kasper says:

    This is such a great idea – and a fabulous outcome! If I was a parent taking part in this auction, I would be on pins&needles hoping to be highest bidder! I may take this idea and use it with me university-age daughter, to make some unique pillows for her & her roommates to use in their 1st apartment this spring.

  2. They really turned out beautifully. Good luck with the auction, and I can’t believe these being anything other than very popular items!
    I remember so well those days of being called on to sew for school projects! And despite all the sewing lessons I gave my daughter and the fact that she has my old machine, I still have been called on to sew projects for my grandkids school. And this is long distance sewing HI to CA!

  3. The pillows are lovely, I would definitely bid on those!

    I made the mistake of telling someone I could sew and ended up sewing most of the costumes for my daughter’s third grade play. After that I became rather good at saying no to requests!

  4. Well of course they wanted to cover all the white, they’ve been taught to colour right out to the lines ;)

    Great job everyone!

  5. Lovely pillows! What a cool idea to get the kids involved.

  6. Too bad you can’t take on-line bids I bet you would make a ton of $.
    I know I would bid on them!!

  7. Looks great! I’ve managed to remain incognito for now. Bound to change though;)

  8. What a great project, and beautiful pillows!

  9. Beautiful art, beautiful teaching. You are a wonderful mother no doubt and an incredible artist.
    I am a 63 year old mom hat has 2 grown sons and this Valentines Day I will be celebrating with both of my grandchildren who were born this year, one Valentines Day and the other born 11/14/13. Think about those dilates, the day my youngest son was helping deliver his first child, my oldest young was helping create his first child. I am so happy. Amy you inspire me. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Sorry about the typo, dates was the word I thought I typed, I need to read and reread before I post. It was an accident, if anyone was offended by the “d” word please forgive me. I am so thrilled and thankful to have been blessed with my grandchildren. I found out 2 weeks ago that I am hemorrhaging. in my right eye and have Macular Degeneration in both eyes. I am losing my vision, so please pray for the medical world to find a cure and I do believe in miracles.

  11. These are wonderful cushions, Mums who sew are a great asset to any school. I can remember sewing art smocks when my children were at Kinder and now my daughter sews different things for the school where her husband teaches.

  12. Those are sooooo cute! They will sell in a snap! I’m in love with the wavy quilting:)

  13. Great tutorial, can’t wait to try this myself…without a class of 20!

  14. Congratulations to you and all the second grade artists! These pillows are unique and professional and should be popular at the auction.

  15. The pillows are Incredible – especially the blue ones. I would bid on them and hope to win. You are a good Mom. When the word gets out one can sew or is crafty in some manner, your names auto automatically goes to the top of the call list. One military chapel has an entire wardrobe of costumes for a large Nativity pagent thanks to my sewing machine and stash of fabric. Cleaned out a lot of “why ever did I buy this?”. So worth it though. The kids had a great time. And I had less stuff to pack and move.

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