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Old Fashioned Crafts: Colonial Friendship Pillows

By Brenda Hyde

In Colonial times women made Friendship Quilts with their friends and family members. Each person embroidered their name in the center of a quilt block, and the women held a quilting bee to hand stitch the pieces together. This was a very special keepsake during these times. You can do the same thing, but in the form of Quilted Friendship Pillows. You can create a small version of the Friendship Quilt by holding your own quilting party where everyone can leave with a special keepsake. You'll need to prepare ahead of time before your quilting party by doing several things:
  • Decide ahead of time who will be involved. You can do this with girlfriends or family members. Grandmothers, mothers, granddaughters, aunts and nieces would be a good choice. Call each person or send an invitation explaining they need to bring a small quilt piece with their name embroidered for each person. So, if you've invited six people, then each person should bring six squares with their name. The more people you have the longer you'll need to give everyone to create their blocks.
  • The size of the squares depends on the amount of people. A good size though would consist of 9 five inch by five inch blocks. If you don't have 9 people invited, then use some of the blocks in-between with no names. This would also give each person some to fill in later if they wanted to. You can make any size you wish though-as long as they form a square which will be the front of the pillow when finished.

The Day of The Quilting Party

You'll need supplies to finish the pillows during the party. Ask around, because usually you can gather up what you need without running out and purchasing it yourself. You'll need:
  • Muslin or cotton material for the back of each pillow. It's not expensive, and someone is bound to have some on hand.
  • Pillow forms or batting to stuff the pillows. Again, ask if anyone has extra, or instruct everyone to bring their own.
  • Needles and thread to stitch the blocks together and finish the pillow, straight pins, scissors and ruler.
I think it makes this project more memorable to sew the blocks and finish the pillows by hand as everyone visits. Halfway through you can invite everyone to take an afternoon tea break and serve several hot teas with cookies and tea bread.

Finishing the Friendship Pillows

Lay the squares down three squares over and three down to form the front of the pillow. Pin together and handstitch. Once the front is done you can cut a piece of material the same size for the back and sew together three sides, insert the pillow form or batting and sew shut the last side.

This is a very simple project. There are SO many variations you could incorporate to make it easier or more challenging. If you feel there isn't time to do this with quilt blocks, then cut pillow fronts and pass them back and forth among the guests to embroider names. Even simpler, and something you could do for children, is to use fabric paint. Have an adult sew each pillow together instead of handstitching.

Each group of friends or family members is unique. Consider what would be the most memorable and fun for all involved. Whether the end result is a handstitched quilted pillow or a simple painted pillow, it will be a keepsake that will always be treasured, along with the memories of creating it.

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer, wife and mom to three kids living in the Midwest United States. For more old fashioned crafts and activities visit Brenda at

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