Thursday, March 21, 2013

Giant Pillows

I am trying very hard to bring more balance into my life these days. Being a Libra and all, I'm already reasonably balanced when it comes to some things. I'm pretty good at not thinking about work when I'm not at work. And I'm okay at not thinking about my personal life when I am at my desk. Throughout the course of a week, I flutter between nights home in my pajamas, nights out with friends and too much wine, and nights spent working my ass off at Bikram yoga. But still, there are always ways we can work out the kinks, straighten our postures, and better integrate our yin and our yang. I worry too much about the future, for instance. I can literally feel myself drop out of "the moment" sometimes, obsessing over the past. Sometimes I audibly sigh in yoga when I'm supposed to be quietly breathing through my nose. Also, I'm not great at letting things roll off of me--once I'm upset, I tend to be upset for awhile.

In my aspirational quest to bring more balance into my life, I have embarked on two things this week, one a little more embarrassing than the other. The first is that I have started doing daily meditations with Oprah and Deepak. I know...go ahead, read that sentence over again. It's so new-agey/pop-pscyh, it kind of hurts. And is awesome. I love Deepak's pretty mumbling voice, the way his accent softens the vowels as he leads us into meditation, making a lengthy Sankrit word sound like it is one long uber-syllable. It is a 21-day challenge, and the purpose is to bring more unity between the mind and the body, helping our brains learn to listen to what our bodies are telling us and (eventually? I think?) heal ourselves with our minds. I don't know, I'm only on day 9. But I LOVE it. I've actually always wanted to try meditation, drawn to the idea of sitting quietly with nothing but your thoughts for 15 minutes a day. Whether you're trying to heal your body or bring balance to your life or find happiness or whatever, it doesn't really matter--what does matter is how fascinating those 15 minutes are each day. Sometimes I think of pickles. Sometimes my brain wanders to an obscure moment in the past. Sometimes I visualize a project I am ready to undertake. Sometimes I fall asleep (oops!). And sometimes I think of nothing at all. Ah, blissful nothingness. No matter what, I always open my eyes at the end and feel, well, peaceful. Capable. A little more patient. A little more willing to try again, even though I don't want to. And besides, if David Lynch has decided that meditation must be part of his daily practice, then there must be something to it, right?

The other thing I've done to bring balance into my life--and which, consequently, ties very well into a daily sitting-upright meditation practice--is to make these two giant pillows.

I didn't mean to make such giant pillows. I ordered them online at Target, and they arrived in this ginormous box a few days later. We needed new throw pillows for our couches, but holy cow, these are some THROW PILLOWS. They come in at 26 inches, and they are truly a delight.

When it came to making pillowcases for these monsters, like most things in life, I made this project much harder than it needed to be. I first pieced together a pillow front and back to match the exact dimensions of the pillow. But when I slipped the completed pillowcases over the inserts, they were sad and droopy...way too big. It was through this process of trial and error that I discovered I prefer my pillows to be nice and snug, extra plush, with just a little bit of bounce to it. If you want to make some great, over-stuffed pillows of your own, I've included instructions below. Minimal sewing skills required! Relaxing satisfaction guaranteed! Just ask Camper, who likes to play "mountain goat" over the mammoth pillows in order to get to his favorite spot at the window, where he practices his own form of meditation while watching pedestrians go by.

To Make These Giant Pillows:
You'll need pillow inserts, fabric, scissors, measuring tape, thread, iron, pins, and a sewing machine.

Begin by measuring your pillow. Write those numbers down somewhere. Subtract two inches from your measurements to find out the size of the piece of fabric you should cut for your pillow front. (So, for instance, if your pillow is 26" x 26", you'll want your pillow front fabric to by 24" x 24".) 

For the back of the pillow, you'll want to cut two pieces of fabric so that you can make an overlapped opening--that way you can remove your pillow insert and wash the pillowcase, which is especially useful if your husband decides that the pillows are his favorite for napping and also likes to sit on them while eating ice cream. Your two pieces of fabric for the back should be the same height as the pillow front (24"), but widthwise they'll need to overlap by 4". To get this measurement, divide the pillow front width by half (12") and then add 4" to the width. So you'll have two pieces for the back that are 24" tall x 16" wide. 

Once you've cut out your fabric, you'll want to finish the opening of the pillow back. On one of your pillow back pieces, fold over one of the 16" edges about 1/4" to the wrong side and iron; then fold again 1/2" and iron. Pin the fold in place and sew. Repeat on the other pillow back piece.

Next, lay the pillow top fabric on the floor with the RIGHT SIDE of the fabric facing down. Lay the pillow back pieces on the pillow top piece with the RIGHT SIDE facing up. You want to align the edges of the front and back, and the two back pieces should overlap each other in the middle. Pin all around the edges, then sew around all four edges with a 3/8" seam allowance. Trim away excess fabric around all of the edges so your seam allowance is about 1/4", and then iron all of the seams open. 

Turn the pillowcase inside out and iron the edges again, making sure the seams lay nice and flat. Then sew all around the perimeter of the pillowcase again with a 1/2" seam allowance. (This is called a French Seam! You're neatly enclosing your seam allowances so there are no raw edges on the inside.)

Turn the pillowcase right side out and stuff with the pillow insert.

Place pillow on couch and meditate (optional).


  1. Your bed is so pretty and inviting!

    Re: meditation. Not lame or hokey. I don't technically practice meditation, but I have in the past, and I actually think that many of my runs reach meditative status at least part of the time. It's amazing the places my mind will go and how refreshed and weirdly cleansed I feel after I'm done.

  2. I've often thought about practicing meditation and do not think you are lame at all.
    (I also find Deepak's voice soothing.)

  3. Oh, you both make me feel so much better about coming out of the meditation closet! (And also the Oprah and Deepak closet.) And Erin, yes! Refreshed and weirdly cleansed is exactly right. I wish I didn't hate running so that I could experience your runner's meditation. Well, one thing at a time I guess?