DIY Boho Chic Patchwork Lumbar Pillow

When I made DIY “Fortuny” fabric pillows a few months ago, I made many test samples. It was a CRAZY fun stenciling spree! I painted different color paints on different color fabrics to see what paint+fabric combo I liked best. All this testing resulted in faux Fortuny pillows that I LOVE. And I loved the crazy mix of all the test patterns! They all coordinate together:

Stenciling Spree Samples

They reminded me of Turkish overdyed patchwork rugs, like this one for sale at SukhiRugs Etsy store:

Turkish Overdyed Patchwork Rug from SukhiRugs Etsy Store

So, I sewed all the sample pieces together to make a long slim bolster pillow:

Patchwork Bolster Pillow

The pillow now lives in India! It’s surrounded by other patterns, like a beige and white silk saree that I sewed into bedroom curtains, and a Moroccan star stencil pattern that will be on the wall as a “headboard:”

India pied-a-terre Master Bedroom Patterns

So here’s how to make a pillow like this …

First, wait for a silly cat high on catnip to clear out of the staging and sewing area:

Catnip Hangover

Lay out your fabrics. You can use printed fabric, like quilting fabrics. Or you can paint your own patterns on fabric, with stencils. All of the designs on my fabrics are stencils from Royal Design Studio, and all paint colors are their Stencil Creme paints.

Cut fabric into rectangles. Mine were about 4″ by 8″. Lay them out in the order you want them:


Layout 2

You might want to pick the the most prominent visual piece of fabric as a “focal point.” In my layout, the darkest piece of fabric with the four-petal flower shape draws the eye and that’s my focal point. Put the focal point a little off-center or toward the edge, not smack in the middle.

Next, sew the pieces together along the horizontal seams like the stitching diagram shows here:

Horizontal Stitching Lines

Sew with a 3/8″ seam.

Now, you don’t want a final piece with jagged, uneven edges like this. So, cut off the pieces that are sticking out and sew them on so you get an even rectangular block of patchwork:

Rectangular Patchwork Layout

After you sew, press the seams open. I know it can be a pain to iron! But ironing flattens the seams and makes the final result look professional. There’s a saying that when you sew, you might spend more time with the iron than the sewing machine. This is sometimes true. It’s worth it. Don’t skip this step!

Ironing Seams Flat

After you press seams, sew the strips together vertically, as shown in the stitching lines below. Sew with 3/8″ seams. After you’re done sewing, iron the seams open.

Vertical Stitching Lines

Next is an optional step. It’s a small touch that adds visual interest. Because the Turkish patchwork rugs have visible decorative stitching, I sewed over the top of the seams with a decorative stitch. You can use a contrasting color thread if you want this stitching to show up even more.

Decorative Stitching

Next, sew up the sides and install either a zipper or a flap opening on the back. I installed a zipper.

Rectangular Bolster Pillow


I wish I had a darker zipper, but I couldn’t find any that were long enough in stores, You can order zippers online in any length you want. But I didn’t have time. This pillow is for our apartment in India and we were leaving in a few days. The light zipper is really obvious but you won’t see the bottom of the pillow much. I can get OCD about things like this, and it bugs me so I might swap it some day! :)

After installing a zipper in the bottom of the pillow, I stitched up the sides and top, and added two long tassels found in the souks of Marrakech:

Finished Patchwork Pillow

It’s truly a global, nomadic decorating pillow:

  • Painted with patterns from around the world
  • Sewn in the style of a Turkish patchwork rug
  • Decorated with Moroccan tassels
  • Now lives in India with saree curtains and Chinese chest nightstands

Patchwork Pillow and Chinese Cabinet

Here it is in our apartment in India, a place which is still obviously a work in progress! I know this photo is underwhelming, to say the least, after all the build-up over the years on this blog about this apartment, But there’s water damage on the wall behind the bed now. There’s a rooftop on the other side of the wall, and during big monsoons, that area floods and soaks the wall. So that must be fixed before stenciling on the wall. But you get the idea of how it will some day look:

Patchwork Pillow

Finally, you know how there may be no more truly unique ideas in this world? You could get an idea you’ve never seen anywhere before, and at the same exact moment, someone else on the other side of the planet is doing the same thing. The day I intended to sew this pillow together, I opened email and found the latest products from CRAFT by World Market. And THERE was a patchwork long slim bolster pillow!

CRAFT by World Market Patchwork Pillow

So if you don’t want to sew this, see if you can buy it from global decor stores like World Market! This also shows a good fabric idea — you can use saree fabric remnants to sew a patchwork pillow.


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DIY Project: Artwork with Thai Palm Leaf Script

Before the paper books that we know today, people in some Asian cultures wrote on thin strips of palm leaves. Then they strung the leaves together into long skinny books. They used wood planks as covers. This is what they look like:


You can find these palm leaf manuscript “books” in Myanmar, Thailand, India, Indonesia. You don’t have to travel to get them. You can sometimes find them on eBay. Just search “palm leaf manuscript” on eBay. There’s a wide range of prices. You may not want to disassemble a nice expensive antique, so look for cheaper ones.

We found a palm leaf book in Thailand. We didn’t pay a lot for ours. It was about US$30. That was back in 2001. We were told that Buddhist monks wrote on the palm leaves in Pali script, which is similar to Sanskrit from India. I have no idea what our book says, or how old it is. The palm leaves are hardy and can last hundreds of years, even in the steamy hot Thai climate. So it could be old.

I thought the long palm leaf strips could make a bold graphic statement. So I made big framed wall art for a nook area in our apartment in Chennai, India:

Palm Leaf Manuscript Wall Art

To make this, first, you need a background, I used wide, long canvas. I painted the canvas black. I wanted a lot of drama and a really dark background so the palm leaves would pop.

I thought the black background was too plain. So I stenciled over it with a lighter black paint to add a subtle pattern. I used the Majestic Medina Damask Wall Stencil and shimmery Black Frost Stencil Creme paint, both from Royal Design Studio.

Stenciling on Black Canvas

Here you see the Black Frost paint contrasts enough with the dark black paint in the background:

Black Paints

I first tested out how different stencil options would look:

Testing Different Stencil Looks

Sorry these photos are so grainy. I was working with 3 light bulbs in the whole place, at night! So these photos are brightened significantly so you can see.

After stenciling, I installed the palm leaves over the black background with metallic copper scrapbooking “brads.” Brads are tiny lightweight fasteners:

Installing Palm Leaves on Canvas

Each palm leaf had two holes that were used to string all the leaves together. I simply pushed the brads through those holes.

The original plan was to simply hang the canvas on the wall, using the original wood covers of the manuscript for the top and bottom (you can see these wood pieces in the photo above). But, it gets very dusty in our apartment in India. When we come back to the apartment after being away for a year, we must clean EVERYTHING. Like, we even must clean dust off the wire whisks in the kitchen drawers!! Yeah! Dust gets into the drawers and gets stuck on the thin wires! So that’s why our apartment will be minimally decorated (less stuff, less cleaning) and that’s why we framed this wall art behind glass.

We took the canvas to United Brothers on Bazullah Road in T Nagar, Chennai. Frame, matte non-reflective glass and labor cost US$60 total. (A bargain for those of us from the U.S. — this is a huge frame!) United Brothers has locations around Chennai. I tested different frames. I chose a very thin black frame instead of the wider gold frame. This is because I didn’t want a wide gold frame to visually “fight” with other elements in the niche area, like the palm leaves and the lantern’s shadows. I didn’t want the frame to be a focal point.

Frame Choices

The wall art makes a dramatic space in this little nook area:

Palm Leaf Manuscript Wall Art

Palm Leaf Manuscript Mounted and Framed

It’s visible from the entire foyer/living/dining/kitchen areas of the apartment because we have an American-style open floor plan in the apartment. What’s hiding under the counter and behind the drawers? Our clothes washing machine!

Practical and Pretty

It’s a great combo of practical and pretty.


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DIY Project: Stenciled Coasters

This is a super short and sweet DIY project! Dress up your drinks with stenciled coasters. I made dramatic coasters with a mix of metallic and black paints:

DIY Stenciled Coasters

I made these stenciled coasters for our apartment in India. It’s hot and humid in South India. Drinks sweat. Drinks sweat A LOT. Humans sweat too. Which means we have to drink. And the drinks sweat. It’s a never-ending cycle of sweat.

We have nice wood and metal tables to protect. So I took coaster materials in our suitcases during our last trip to India:

Stenciled Coasters Supplies

I found these wood squares in the art section of Michael’s. There are also wood coasters in the woodcraft aisles. But they were thicker, and I liked the slim shape of these wood squares. I also found 4″ x 4″ cork at Michael’s.

To make coasters, simply glue the 4″ x 4″ cork to wood squares. I had wood glue with me, so I used that.

Then, paint base colors on the wood squares. Paint any color you want. I painted a mix of metallics — silver, bronze, gold and copper — with Stencil Cremes from Royal Design Studio.

Metallic Stenciled Coasters

Now, stencil shapes onto the wood squares. You can use stencils that fit within a 4″ x 4″ square. But you don’t have to be limited by that. You can use any size stencil — just stencil a small part of the design on a coaster.

I painted stencils with shimmery Frosted Black Stencil Creme. I took a bunch of stencils with me to India (also from Royal Design Studio), and chose a mix of stencil shapes that made an interesting combo on the coasters. You can see this design was bigger than the stencil so it ran off the edges, and that’s okay! It gives you more design ideas to play with:

Candlestick Table Top

I’m sorry I can’t provide step-by-step photos — I didn’t photograph the actual painting. I painted these really fast. My husband and I were chatting with our electrician and carpenter. They had helped us finish projects in our India apartment — a raised wood wall sconce and a silver leaf candlestick table. Both of those projects were painted with stencils, and they wondered how the heck I did that. They hadn’t seen things like this before. I said, it’s easy! They looked skeptical. I said, I’ll show you!

So I pulled out the coasters, which I had intended to paint anyway. While we were all sitting around the dining table and chatting, I painted and stenciled the coasters to show our electrician and carpenter how to do it. They were amazed.

I told them, I’d love to find a cooperative around Chennai and teach women how to stencil like this, and make products. Our electrician said he’d pay $10 for the coasters. He asked, how much did it cost to make them? I said, “uh, about $10!” We all laughed. No money to be made there! But I paid retail prices in the U.S. for materials. Our electrician said there’s free wood all over the place — he’s on job sites where lots of good wood, tiles and other materials are thrown out simply because the homeowners didn’t like them. Sometimes it’s new stuff that’s being ripped out!

Maybe some day I’ll do more with that idea of teaching other people in India to stencil. Meanwhile, these coasters are already doing their job, protecting our tables from the cold drinks:

Candlestick Table to Hold Drinks

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DIY Project: Wood Sconce with Embossed Stenciled Design

Do you ever see something on Pinterest, or a blog or catalog that YOU MUST HAVE. But it costs way too much? All. The. Time. One that got stuck in my brain like a little gnawing burr was this sconce from Shades of Light:

Shades of Light Vertical Embossed Wood Sconce

It’s the carved or embossed wood that caught me, and the exaggerated vertical line. This sconce has presence, and I liked that.

In the India pied-a-terre’s living room, there are two large windows with a sliver of wall in between. And there was electrical provision there for a sconce. What is perfect for a space like that? A long vertical embossed wood sconce like this!

This is my DIY sweet spot! Get inspired by something I can’t afford, then make it affordably. Here’s my final result:

DIY Embossed Wood Sconce

DIY Sconce with Embossed Wood Stencil


  • Plank of aspen wood (not much grain) from Menards
  • Table saw
  • Joint compound
  • Spatula
  • Sandpaper
  • Stencil – custom made with Cricut Explorer and mylar
  • Chalk paints for matte finish
  • Paint brushes
  • Sconce from Home Depot
  • Glass shade with imperfect bubbles, looks old
  • Metal pieces and screws

I bought a 48″ length of wood, but the wood needed to fit in a suitcase to go to India. I measured the space in our longest suitcase, and cut the wood down to 31″ — the max length that would fit in the suitcase.

Aspen Wood

This crushed me! I really wanted the very elongated vertical proportion. When I played with placement of the Home Depot sconce on the 31″ plank, the whole thing looked short and stubby. So I decided to also paint the 17″ piece of wood, take it to India too, and see if we could “make it work.”

I custom made the stencil. The stencil pattern came from a wood printing block from Jaipur. That is a whole ‘nother DIY process I’ll share in another post! When I saw this printing block on eBay, I saw it on the wood sconce, and that was that! The stencil was cut with a Cricut Explorer in mylar thin enough to cut, but thick enough to hold up to being slathered with joint compound.

Joint Compound Embossed Pattern

I used joint compound because it was in the basement, left by a contractor who was fixing walls. You can use any material that will create raised texture. I laid the stencil on the wood, and spread the joint compound like frosting over the stencil. I laid it on pretty thick, because I wanted a good noticeable raised pattern. To make the pattern, before the joint compound dries, carefully lift the stencil straight up. You can see in the above pictures, some areas are really messy. When the joint compound was half-dry, I simply put the stencil back over the design and applied more joint compound to build it up and smooth it out.

Joint Compound Raised Stencil

Let the joint compound dry. If you need to make repeat patterns, lay the stencil down after the joint compound is dry enough that it won’t smoosh. (A more technical term than squish!) Don’t worry about subtle ridges. Use fine sandpaper to smooth the joint compound if needed. I did not sand perfectly because I wanted my board to have the feel of old dinged up hand-carved wood.

After everything is dried and sanded, you can paint. Fun time! I chose chalk paints – a mix of Annie Sloan paints and Americana Decor — because I wanted a matte chalky finish.

Sorry for the poor light quality. I was painting on the kitchen floor at 3 a.m. after a cat woke me up for food. So rude!

Painting on Embossed Wood

I dry brushed several natural colors of chalk paints to make variations in color. As you see in the above photos, I first painted the lightest color of chalk paint, then I dry brushed the darker colors. I decided some dark areas were TOO dark, so then I dry brushed the lighter paint over the dark paint to tone it down. So don’t worry, if something doesn’t turn out the way you want, it’s just paint. You can paint over it.

The stencil is a two-part stencil, so it has two pieces to make the design. I used the first layer of the stencil to make the embossed pattern with the joint compound. Then I used the second layer of the stencil to paint a pattern with the gorgeous blue Florence color Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan. I lightly brushed natural chalk paint colors over the Florence to tone it down and make everything look old and dusty.

Painting Embossed Area

Stenciling on Embossed Wood

Painting Embossed Wood

Then, I packed the boards in a suitcase! The next steps happened in India.

DIY Projects in India

We screwed the two wood boards together with metal pieces that I treated to look old. I could have glued, patched and painted the wood to make the pattern continuous, but it would take too much work to make it look perfect, like it had never been cut apart. I decided instead to highlight the cut. It’s okay to turn a challenge into a “design element!”

Our electrician and carpenter helped with placement of the wood boards on the wall. We used my iPhone leveling app to get the board level. The carpenter drilled a hole to install the Home Depot sconce over the board. He screwed the wood boards directly to the plaster wall with two screws.

All the handling caused some chips that I fixed with paint. Yes I took chalk paints to India.


I don’t think the Home Depot sconce is the 100% ideal look for this wood board, but I was running out of time before our trip and was seeking an affordable sconce. It comes with a frosted glass shade. That wasn’t the look I wanted, so for $7 I got a seeded clear glass shade, all nice and bubbly! We still need to find a clear bulb. According to the electrician, “there are no more clear bulbs of this shape and size left in India.” ???

Here it is all finished:

Width of Room

You can see here with the width of the room and the large windows, the little Home Depot sconce by itself could look lost on the wall. But with the embossed wood, it has turned into an art piece that people notice and ask about.

DIY Embossed Wood Sconce

DIY Sconce with Embossed Wood Stencil


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