Marilyn Monroe Retro Pillow

All right mamas, it took all month for me to get to it, but my retro-themed pillow is done!

I joined a challenge by sew la vie! and Ricochet and Away! with some other fabulous ladies this month. The theme was a quilted and/or appliqued pillow with retro squares. It’s a great way to try out some new methods on a small project.

Well, I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of the decor of the 70’s or 80’s, so I went a little farther back than that to the late 50’s and early 60’s, when pop art was just emerging. Naturally, I picked an icon from that time for my inspiration:

What do you think? (If you like it, I would love it if you took a quick minute to click and vote… it sure would mean a lot to me!)

But back to business. :) This was a really fun challenge. I know I generally bring you a tutorial, but that would be impossibly long. I will touch on a few methods I used to make this work, because I’ve already had a couple questions.

First of all, let me just say, I love heat-n-bond. I use it for all my applique projects. Not only does it give you a nice temporary bond while you’re working to get your pieces placed, but it makes for an excellent surface for tracing and trimming clean lines.

I chose an image of Marilyn Monroe, and cranked up the contrast until I was just working with black and white. A few tweaks in my editing software to simplify the design and clean up the edges, and I had an image I could cut-and-piece fairly simply, while still keeping her recognizable. (I probably asked fifteen people to reassure myself, who is this a picture of? A tip… don’t ask the up-and-coming generation. It’s just depressing.)

Then, I MEANT to reverse my image before I printed it, but I forgot. (I have used this method before when I translated one of my grandma’s watercolors to a quilt, and I learned the hard way then.  You’d think I would have remembered!) No big deal – when I cut out my pieces, I just flipped them over so that I was tracing the reverse onto the paper side of my heat-n-bond. You have to iron them and cut them out backward because you’ll be flipping them over for the applique.  So, the white cutouts you see in the upper left is the backside of my black silhouettes. 

Once I had my pieces, I ironed the adhesive side to the backside of my black cotton, and cut the pieces out.


Then, I popped the paper side off and ironed my black face pieces to my squares. It helps to put the image underneath to line up the facial features, if you’re using a fabric you can see through.


The heat-n-bond gives you time to applique the pieces without losing your placement, but it’s not a permanent bond, so you still need to be careful until everything is secure.

I used a raw-edge applique approach. It’s what I’m most comfortable with and it’s probably the most forgiving. I was already using a tricky enough design that I hesitated to ruin it by attempting a new stitch. I actually quilted and appliqued at the same time, because I really didn’t want two sets of lines.

Now here is the only place I question my choices. When I quilt, I like to wash it afterward to see it puff up. I did that here, but I’m not sure if the puffiness *really* goes with the grace and sexiness Marilyn Monroe is sort of known for. But, no take-backs, LOL!

Then all that was left was to stitch my front and back sides together and insert the pillow form. I top-stitched around the edge to give it a piped-edge effect, because that’s what I like. :)

Overall, I’m really pleased.  It turned out just like I had hoped! 

Want to see the gorgeous entries?  Here’s our linky!  And best of all, anyone can go out and VOTE (starting in October)!



  1. Ricochet says

    Andy Warhol eat your heart out! Love your pillow! Stitching around all those tiny shapes must have been pretty tedious, but the results are totally fab! I'll have the voting page up Oct. 1. If you're still interested, please feel free to set up a linky party for our collection.
    Rikka J.

  2. Ladybird Ln says

    Oh my goodness, this is so much fun, I love the bright colors and retro feel, you are amazing!


  3. Becky says

    Your pillow is so simple yet STUNNING! Doesn't it feel good to be done?! I can't wait to see all our pillows are lined up. Thank you for showing us how you did that technique. I've never worked with heat and bond before, I'll have to give it a try.

  4. Keren Duchan says

    It is absolutely gorgeous!!!! I love it! I am so amazed that you made the Marylins yourself. I love the extra stitch you added around the pillow edge – I've wanted to do that and never have. It's inspiring and beautiful, the colors, the layout, everything works. It's perfect!!!!!!!

  5. Anonymous says

    Love the fake piping. I never want to take the time to get the look I like, but that is so easy and looks great!

  6. syvannark says

    About asking the up and coming generation about who she is.. My poor 3 year old knows!! Im a lil crazy over marilyn so she is immediatly recognizable to him.. Great job beautiful pillow!

  7. Scrappy Sugar Girl says

    I voted for you because you have the best pillow! I absolutely adore it. I think this would be a great seller on Etsy. Put on my facebook page because I have lots of friends who love Marilyn.

  8. Erin of says

    I am so impressed! I have yet to attempt a pillow and this one is SUPER! Thank you so much for sharing at Savvy HomeMade Monday!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *