How to Make a Cactus Pillow (+FREE Pattern)


Every summer growing up, we left our house in Southern California and drove to Phoenix, Arizona to spend a few weeks with my grandma and cousins….which in hindsight, seems a little backwards. Not the hanging out with family part, but the leaving-Orange-County-with-ocean-breezes-and-driving-to-the-AZ-desert-in-July part. Right?
But as a kid you don’t notice the heat.  And we LOVED our grandma’s house, full of dress-ups, a pantry of treats, a swimming pool and trampoline in the backyard, and plenty of summer monsoon storms. I have many memories of doing cartwheels on her grass in the rain, and can still smell that scent of raindrops on the hot cement. Do you know that smell? Every once in a while we’ll get it here in TX (when the weather is dry) and it takes me right back to childhood summers.

On those awesome drives across the desert, we had plenty of time to gaze out the window at dirt and rocks, Joshua trees, and miles of cacti. Specifically the Saguaro Cactus (pronounced suh-wahr-oh)…which I had stared at for years as kid, but never fully appreciated till I was an adult. I mean, I always thought they were cool and unique with those awesome arms, and how amazingly tall they can get.
Did you know they can live for 150-200 years?
And that some don’t get arms till they are 75 years old?
Some don’t get arms at all, and are called spears.
And it’s actually illegal to cut down or damage a saguaro cactus.
They’re pretty special.

And I guess that’s what I took for granted. All those summers, driving past cactus and never realizing that the only place in the whole world that the Saguaro cactus grows is in the Sonoran desert (parts of Arizona, Mexico, and a small part of California).
This quintessential image of a cactus that we see everywhere in artwork, clothing, and pop culture trinkets….they only grow in this one place!
That’s amazing.
I have a new appreciation for these desert giants.
So let’s enjoy their beauty….let’s make a Cactus Pillow!

I had so much fun drafting this pattern—which only took about 7 tries, to get those arms just right….which is like minutes, in the lifespan of a saguaro.
The printable pattern is a 6 page PDF, which you can download and print from your home computer.  Just piece the pages together and cut out the shape!

Then decide how you’d like to your cactus to look.
Like people, each one is unique.
Does your cactus have many spines (prickles), or just a few spines? A flower, a piece of budding fruit?

In this project I’ll show you how to make a cute fabric flower to go along….which, technically looks more like a Prickly Pear flower (another type of cactus which is plentiful in Texas and other parts of the world). A true saguaro bloom is white, with a yellow center, and they grow in bunches on the top of the cactus head.  I found this image on, which is the city where my husband Casey grew up. We have a lot of Arizona in our blood.

I love that you can make this cactus pillow from many types of fabric. I used a solid olive-green flannel from Jo-Ann Fabrics for my main cactus. Then I mixed it up with prints from my Day Trip collection. Look how cute it looks on Lucy’s bed with her Sherpa Fleece Blanket! So many options.

Okay. Have I rambled enough? With my love letter to a cactus?
Owen’s ready to use it as a punching bag.

Actually, Owen really loves stuffed animals (and he’ll probably hate that I’m sharing that). The pictures above made me think of this road trip below (also through the desert) a few summers back to their grandparents’ house. We stayed in this funny little motel in the middle-of-nowhere Texas. And they each brought along their stuffed animals….which of course had to be photographed in front of the awesome pink motel exterior.

And here’s another pic from one of our many summer road trips. This was taken as we pulled in to our hotel in Tucson, AZ after a 15-hour drive. They paused long enough for a pic before we hit the swimming pool.

Okay. I’m done talking.
Let’s sew!
Click the play button below and enjoy.
Or you watch it on my CHANNEL HERE:

Happy saguaro Sunset.

TUTORIAL: How to Sew a Reversible Skirt

Clara is my girl that loves to wear skirts. Like LOVES them.
I’ve tried making her shorts and nope. She doesn’t want them. Lucy however, is the opposite and will wear shorts and jeans every day. I love how we each have fashion preferences that are built into us. Fashion Nature.

So since it’s summer, and since a pretty stack of fabrics showed up in my mailbox, I decided to make Clara yet another skirt…but with a reversible twist!
It’s so simple, yet this is the first time I’ve done it!
I’m excited to share the steps with you guys.

And I’m especially excited to share these fabric beauties with you. Ahhhhh, isn’t that the prettiest line up of colors and designs in the photo above? These fabrics are part of the Everlasting Fabric collection by my Art Gallery sister-designer and friend, Sharon Holland. Do you guys follow Sharon on IG and on her site? She is such a treat, as a person and an artist. I have loved learning her process for design, and trying out one of her quilt patterns. (I still need to share my finished quilt with you!)

Sharon asked me to be part of the Everlasting Fabric Blog Tour (click the link to enter her fabric giveaway) which has an adorable story behind the fabrics. You have to click over and read it. This red fabric had me at first sight. So I had to say YES!
Yes to sewing in the midst of summer.
Yes to a skirt with two personalities:

And Yes to taking more pictures of Clara. She always keeps me smiling with the poses. I love it. And if you really want to reverse this post, to way back in the day…here’s the last time I took photos at this same wall. Lucy was even younger than Clara is now! In fact, I don’t think Clara was even born yet. Oh little Lucy and Owen. My how time flies. (And how photo skills improve. I think.)

Okay, ready to sew??
Grab your pretty fabrics and let’s make this simple, reversible skirt.

Use a 3/8 inch seam allowance, unless otherwise noted.

• Select two cute fabrics.
I used two prints from the EVERLASTING Collection.

I used quilting cotton for both layers, but you could use many different types of fabric for this: silky fabrics, lace, rayon, knits, etc.
I used 1 yard of each fabric, for my 7 year old daughter, with a 22 inch waist.

• CUT 2 rectangles of each fabric (see diagram below).
WIDTH of each piece = 2 times your waist measurement.
LENGTH of each piece = Desired finished length, plus 1 inch.

The dimensions of the skirt are up to you, but I think this skirt is extra fun, when it’s extra full. So I like to make the finished total width to be 4 times the waist measurement, which means you will cut each fabric piece 2 times the waist measurement.

For example: Measure your child’s waist, or your waist. My daughter has a 22 inch waist, and I want the finished skirt to be 15 inches long (from her waist to knees).
So I am going to cut 4 pieces (2 from each fabric) that are each 44 x 16 inches.

NOTE: It’s important that both skirts are exactly the same dimensions and size. If any fabric shifts as you sew, no worries. Just keep trimming and “squaring up” the pieces so they stay the same size as you go. This skirt is very forgiving.

With right sides of the fabric together, sew the two Red pieces together along one of the side seams, and press open. Do the same for the Pink fabric.

With right sides together, sew the two skirts together along the TOP.
Press the seam open.
Now press the last 4 inches of each of the long edges over, a 1/2 inch. This will help in a later step.

With right sides together, sew the two skirts together along the BOTTOM….BUT DO NOT sew the 4 inch ends that we pressed under. These ends will create an opening for us in a later step.

Turn the whole thing right side out, and press the two long seams well.  It’s helpful to get your fingernails in there and really pull out the seams, so you don’t have any subtle folds.

This is the exciting part that makes the whole reversible process work. It will feel a little awkward to bring the remaining side pieces together, since they won’t lay entirely flat. But just do your best, and watch the sewing magic unfold!

Bring the two red sides together (with right sides of the fabric together) and pin in place. Continue pinning all the way down the side seam, along the pink fabrics as well. Then sew the side seam together. Tuck that seam back inside the opening we left at the bottom.

And BOOM, you’ve got a tube of fabric, double-sided, just waiting to become a skirt!

Using coordinating threads for both your fabrics, sew a casing around the top of the skirt, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches wide. It just needs to be wide enough for your elastic to go through. I like to use 1 inch wide elastic. But if you wanted a really chunky waistband, you could use 2 inch wide elastic and sew your casing 2 1/2 inches wide. It’s up to you.
MAKE SURE TO LEAVE a 2 inch wide gap in the casing, so you can get the elastic in and out of the casing. I like to leave the gap on the side seam, so it’s on the same side as the bottom opening.

•  Cut the elastic the length of your waist. So for my daughter, I cut it 22 inches long. I find that this particular skirt tends to be slightly heavier than other Simple Skirts that I’ve made, because you have two layers of fabric. So a slightly tighter waistband helps it stay up better.

• Place a safety pin on one end of the elastic. Insert the safety pin through the opening at the bottom of the skirt, and start to string the elastic through the casing. Push the elastic through with one hand and shimmy/gather the fabric with the other hand. Secure the other end of the elastic to the fabric with another safety pin. Push the safety pin all the way around till it comes out the other side. The skirt will be very gathered. So just do your best to keep shimmying the fabric around and spacing it out.

• Overlap the two ends of the elastic about 3/4 of an inch. Make sure the ends are not twisted inside or out. Sew the ends together using a zig zag stitch.

• Sew the casing closed using a straight stitch, following the same stitch line we sewed earlier.

Final step! Pull those open edges of the skirt together. Make sure the raw edges are still tucked under (the edges that we pressed over a 1/2 inch in an earlier step), pin them together, and sew around the entire hemline, using a 3/8 inch hem allowance.

And you’re done! Yay!
One adorable skirt, with two personalities.

Check out all these other add-ons you can do with your skirt:
Sew trims or rick-rack to the bottom
• Add a separate waistband
• Add a faux drawstring to the waist (though keep in mind, when the skirt is reversed, you will feel that on the inside of the skirt.
• Add a fun sash around the skirt
• Add outer pockets
Make a skirt from an old scarf or repurposed fabric
Add a monogram
• Use a unique fabric

I considered adding some lace to the bottom of the red fabric, which would have been adorable. But sometimes simplicity is my favorite option. Cause then you can accessorize the look with fabric braids. Ahhh. I need to try this in my own hair.

Thank you Sharon, for letting me be part of the Everlasting Fabric tour!
Sharon is hosting a fabric giveaway here if you want to enter!

Beach Towels


Why have I never thought to do this before??
To make my own beach towel!
(well, a semi-homemade towel…with CUTE FABRIC ATTACHED?)

Maybe it’s been done before and I’m just now arriving at the towel party.
But I’m totally loving it!
It’s like a quilt, but a towel. And it’s super easy.
And dude, those pom-poms. Can they look any cuter all rolled up???

My kids are already excited about their new towels (and that summer is only one month away. Yay!)

For this project, I’m using my newest fabric collection called SUMMER SIDE, which just hit stores this week. It encompasses everything I love about summer: bright colors, stripes, sunglasses, hanging by the pool or the beach.  Summer time is my ultimate happy place.

You can purchase Summer Side fabrics here, or search online fabric shops (or just do a google search for “Dana Willard fabric”).

And if you can believe it, this is also my first time sewing with pom-pom trim. Whaaaaa? Not sure how that happened. Or, didn’t happen. But it’s such a darling trim. And I learned a few things along the way….so I’ll share my tips.

Let’s make beach towels.

• 1 bath towel, any color (appx 27 x 52 inches) OR 1 1/2 yards of terry cloth
• 1 1/2 yards of a fun fabric ( I recommend the Summer Side of life)
• 2 yards of pom-pom trim

There are a few different ways you can make your towel. You don’t need to use a bath towel for this—you can simply use terry cloth fabric (found at most fabric shops). And if you plan to make a larger size towel, I would recommend doing that, since bath towels are typically only 27×52 inches (appx). But I do love the ease of picking up a simple white towel when I’m at the store. Do what works for you!

The basic concept is this: it’s like we’re making a giant burp cloth.
Sort of. Here’s what I like to do:

1. Cut your towel and fabric pieces.
– Trim off the edges of the towel (to reduce bulk in your seams) and square up the sides and corners of the towel (since most towels are not perfect rectangles).
– With right sides of the fabric and towel together, spread your fabric over the towel and smooth it out as best as you can. Pin the two layers together with about 8-10 safety pins around the surface. This will help keep the layers from shifting as you cut and sew.
– Cut your fabric piece to the same size as the towel piece. I like to do it in this order because when I’m using a directional print, I want to make sure I’m cutting nice straight lines with the sunglasses on my fabric. But, you could flip flop the steps and lay the fabric down first, with towel on top, and trim around both layers at once. Just do what works for you!
– When your pieces are cut, pin the layers together along the two long sides of the towel. Leave a 10-inch gap/opening on one of the sides. This is where you will turn the whole thing right-side out when we’re done sewing. I like to mark this with double pins so I remember not to sew in that area.

2. Attach the pom-pom trim.
– Cut two pieces of pom-pom trim the length of the short sides of the towel.
– You want to sandwich the trim between the towel and fabric layers, with the pom-poms pointing IN, so the trim is sewn right into the seam. The best way to do this is to baste/sew it to the fabric edge first. Trust me, this will make the process SO much easier (rather than sandwiching and winging it, which I’m often prone to do. But don’t skip this step!)
– Sew the pom-pom trim to the two short ends of the fabric first. (I prefer to keep the fabric and towel layers pinned together for this step since everything is so nicely matched up right now). Sew down the middle of the trim piece, and I found that a ZIPPER FOOT is super helpful here. You don’t need one, but my standard presser foot kept catching on the pom-poms as I sewed. So a zipper foot works great.

3. Sew down the two short sides of the towel.
– With the pom-pom trim in place, sandwich the towel/fabric layers back together and pin them in place.
– Still using your zipper foot, sew down the two short sides with the pom-pom trim. Go slow here, stopping periodically to make sure the pom-poms are smoothly tucked inside, so they are sewn evenly into the seam. Use your right hand to tuck them in as you sew from pin to pin.
– Make sure you are using a seam allowance wide enough to hide the trim piece inside the seam. When you’re done, only the strings and pom-poms should be poking out of the towel. You can see in the image below, I sew about 1/4 inch over from the first line where I attached the pom-pom trim.

4. Sew down the two long sides of the towel, leaving an opening.
– Now switch to your standard presser foot. This foot gives you more control because it has a wider surface area to press down on your fabric.
– Sew down the two long sides of the towel, leaving the 10 inch gap/opening on one of the sides! Just sew down, and when you get to the double-pins, do a forward and back stitch. Then move down to the other double pins, forward and backstitch, and start sewing again to the end.

5. Turn the towel right-side out and pin the opening closed.
– Use your hand to poke the corners out, smooth everything out, and do a quality inspection before pinning or sewing anything closed. Make sure the pom-pom trim looks good, and that the trim edge is hidden in the seam. If there are any mishaps, no big deal! Just pick them open with a seam ripper and sew that area again.
– Trim any excess pom-poms from the corners.
– Fold the open edges into the towel, and pin the opening closed.

6. Add a Hanging Loop.
This step is totally optional, but I think it’s fun to have a small loop in the towel for hanging on a hook, or even in a bathroom. How cute would these look in a BATHROOM??– Cut a small piece of trim, twill tape, ribbon, or bias tape (sewn closed). About 5-6 inches long.
– Find the middle point of the towel, on the long side with the opening. Tuck the ends of the trim piece into the opening so it makes a small loop/hanging piece, and pin in place.
– Sew a top stitch around the entire towel, about 1/8 inch from the edge of the towel, sewing the opening closed as you go.

7. Sew two quilting lines on top of the towel, to help hold the layers together.
This is optional. I like to measure and mark the towel into thirds, sewing a line at each 1/3 section.

With this particular fabric print, it’s easy to eye-ball a straight line. But if your print does not make an obvious line, you can measure and draw one with a fabric marker. Or I like to measure and pin, creating a line that I can sew right down:

And….drum roll….or pom-pom shake??
You’re done!
Go get cozy by the pool.

Or share with a friend.
Oh these two girls. I realized the other day that only have five more summers of Lucy at home till she’s off to college. And suddenly the count-down is on to do ALL the summer things.

Happy sewing my friends!