Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Giant Rainbow Pillow Knitting Pattern

Last year, I spent quite a while working on my Blending a Spectrum project, and for Tour de Fleece, I spun a shaded rainbow blended from just red, yellow, blue and black.

I’m trying to build up a reference of blended handspun yarn colours to help me to blend exactly the colours I want from just two to five colours.

The obvious thing for me to knit from 24 spectrum colours was a rainbow cushion, and so I set about designing and making one.

Having worked out how to knit a rainbow, I thought it would be quite useful, and pretty fun, to knit a giant one for my daughter’s bed, but in colours to complement her bedroom.  

She has a metal bed frame, and although I love the look of it, it’s really not comfortable for her to sit up in bed to read, or just sit back and relax.  I had the idea to make a rainbow cushion that was wide enough, and dense enough for her to lean on comfortably without being bothered by the metal poles behind it: Almost like a cross between a cushioned headboard and a support pillow.

This giant rainbow pillow is knitted on 3 separate 150cm circular needles to accommodate all of the stitches.  It uses Judy Becker’s magic cast on, but as you are working with 3 needles, you don’t need to pull the needle cable through as you do for magic loop.  

I’ve made a video of me casting on for the large rainbow here

This video shows in more detail how to do Judy Becker’s cast on, and other items I’ve made using it.

If you’ve ever tried, or seen anyone knitting socks with Flexi-Flip needles, knitting on three circular needles uses the same principle - but on a much larger scale!

Materials used to make the Giant Rainbow Pillow

Full Disclosure - This post contains affiliate links to products similar to ones that I purchased myself.  If you purchase via the links, I may receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no cost to you.  Any income from my blog goes a small way towards funding future blog posts.

Casting on 

Using Bernat Blanket yarn in colour 1, and two pairs of 8mm 150cm circular knitting needles held together, cast on 300sts using Judy Becker's magic cast on.

(After 1 round)

At this early stage, the stitches being joined together at the base will be a little awkward to work with.  You will find that you are frequently having to adjust the stitches and the cable of the needle.  I assure you, after a few rounds, this will get significantly easier!
This was my first time circular knitting over 3 circular needles and the main thing I learned was that it makes it a lot easier if you move the stitches on the non-working needle onto the needle cord.  Having the non-working stitches on the cord also makes it easier to keep the edge stitches tight - preventing a ladder from forming between half rounds.

If you prefer working from a chart, as I do, here is how to knit the rainbow in graph form - 

Otherwise, here are the written instructions - 

Rounds: 1-2 k
Round 3: (k1, p1) repeat to the end.
Round 4: (p1, k1) repeat to the end.
Round 5: k

After 5 rounds

Round 6: *k5 (k8, k2tog) 14 times, k5 repeat from * to the end of the round for the reverse side. (272sts)
Rounds 7 and 8: k
Round 9: (k1, p1) repeat to the end.
Round 10: (p1, k1) repeat to the end.
Round 11: knit
Change to colour 2
Round 12: *k5 (k7, k2tog) 14 times, k5 repeat from * to the end of the round for the reverse side. (244sts)
Rounds 13 and 14: knit

After 14 rounds

Round 15: (k1, p1) repeat to the end.
Round 16: (p1, k1) repeat to the end.
Round 17: knit
Round 18: *k5 (k6, k2tog) 14 times, k5 repeat from * to the end of the round for the reverse side. (216sts)
Change to colour 3
Rounds 19 and 20: knit 
Round 21: (k1, p1) repeat to the end.
Round 22: (p1, k1) repeat to the end.
Round 23: knit
Round 24: *k5 (k5, k2tog) 14 times, k5 repeat from * to the end of the round for the reverse side. (188sts)
Round 25: knit
Change to colour 1
Round 26: knit
Round 27: (k1, p1) repeat to the end.

Round 28: (p1, k1) repeat to the end.

Round 29: knit

Round 30: *k5 (k4, k2tog) 14 times, k5 repeat from * to the end of the round for the reverse side. (160sts)

Rounds 31 and 32: knit

Round 33: (k1, p1) repeat to the end.

Round 34: (p1, k1) repeat to the end.

Round 35: knit

After 35 rounds

Change to colour 2

Round 36: *k5 (k3, k2tog) 14 times, k5 repeat from * to the end of the round for the reverse side. (132sts)

* Divide for rib opening band

As you can see from my later images, I originally intended for this to be a buttonhole band, but as I wanted the cushion to be very densely stuffed, I eventually decided that it looked much better sewn up at the end.

If you don’t need the option of being able to easily cut the running seam stitches to wash the pillow cover, you can just ignore this section and continue working rounds 37 - 41, following the charted pattern above.

* Round 37: k66, k12, (k1,p1) 21 times, turn                 

Rib band rows 2-5: (k1, p1) 21 times, turn

Cast off 42sts in rib

Rejoin the yarn at the left base of the rib and k12 to complete round 37.

After knitting the rib band

Round 38: knit to the base of the rib band, turn and cast on 42sts, turn and knit to the end from the stitches on the other side of the rib band.

Round 39: (k1, p1) repeat to the end.

Round 40: (p1, k1) repeat to the rib band opening, (k1, p1) 21 times, (p1, k1) to the end 

Round 41: knit 78, rib 42, knit 12

Round 42: *k5 (k2, k2tog) 14 times, k5 repeat from * to the end of the round for the reverse side. (104sts)
Change to colour 3
Rounds 43 and 44: knit
Round 45: (k1, p1) repeat to the end.
Round 46: (p1, k1) repeat to the end.
Round 47: knit
Round 48: *k5 (k1, k2tog) 14 times, k5 repeat from * to the end of the round for the reverse side. (76sts)

Rounds 49 and 50: knit

Graft the front and back stitches of the rainbow together using either Kitchener stitch or Finchley graft -  whichever method you prefer.

I use Kitchener stitch as I learned it first, and I’ve got it memorised now, but do look into the Finchley graft if you are struggling to get started with Kitchener.  The rib opening will allow you to graft it inside out and then turn it the right way around again.  

If you have omitted the rib opening, then you will need to partially graft it closed with Kitchener stitch, slide the remaining stitches onto the needle cord, stuff the pillow, and then slide the stitches back onto the needle to finish grafting the stitches together with Kitchener stitch.

Sewing The Cushion Insert

As I wanted to stuff my cushion as densely as possible, it made sense to make a cushion insert.  I also wanted to open up the possibility of washing the knitted rainbow cover.  To make the cushion insert I used some leftover dress fabric.

I simply laid my empty knitted rainbow onto two layers of lining fabric, placed right sides together, and cut around it.  I wanted my cushion liner to be slightly larger than my rainbow so I cut the lining fabric about 3cm larger, all the way around.

I then stitched all the way around my pillow insert beginning and ending at one of the flat bases of the rainbow shape.  I left a generous gap in the centre to allow me to turn it the right way around, but also to allow me to stuff it easily.

Reclaiming the polyester stuffing from an old duvet.

I knew that I wanted to stuff the pillow as much as possible, so that if you leaned on it, you wouldn't feel the metal poles of the bedpost behind it.  This was going to take a lot of stuffing!  We had a lumpy, 20-year-old king-sized duvet that was destined for the bin and so I decided to see if I could save some of it from landfill by cutting it open to reclaim some of the stuffing.

To do this, I used a pair of heavy-duty fabric scissors and cut all the way around the edge, removing the seam stitches and freeing up the filling inside.

I then used my fabric scissors to cut off all of the stitched sections holding the duvet filling in place.  This allowed me to completely remove all of the fabric on either side of the duvet.

This is the inside of the duvet with the fabric removed.  You can see that the outer layers of polyester filling have become compacted and are unusable, but the inside section of fibre is still quite intact - if a little squashed.

Luckily, the lumpy outer layers of the duvet filling had bonded themselves together into a continuous web, which I was able to peel away from either side of the usable polyester filling.  Any large sections of usable filling attached to this outer layer could be pulled off easily by hand.  

Here's all of the polyester filling that I now have leftover having stuffed the pillow insert with reclaimed duvet filling.  It was a good few hours' work, but being able to salvage well over a kg of fibre filling, that would have otherwise been thrown away, was very satisfying.

Once I'd stuffed as much fibre filling into the pillow insert as I could, I stitched it closed by hand.

I then stitched the rib opening closed sewing over the ribbed edge.  This will be the back of the pillow, so I wasn't too worried about the stitches showing, but the chenille yarn helped to camouflage the stitches quite a bit.  I just need to make sure I've got some of the Bernat Blanket yarn on hand if I ever need to cut the stitches to wash the cover and then sew it back up.

...And here is the completed giant rainbow pillow - with an apple for scale!  Thankfully my daughter loves it, which, at the end of the day, is all that really matters.  

She even made her bed for the first time in a very long time, so she must like it.  It means that her bed is so much more comfortable for her now too.

I do hope you've enjoyed reading about how I made my Giant Rainbow Bed Pillow.  If anybody makes one, I'd love for you to share it with me on Instagram  Gosh, I would love to see it knitted up in rainbow colours - that would be amazing!

Copyright - I have provided the free pattern for personal use.  Make it for yourself or give it as a gift, sell it to raise funds for charity, but please do not sell it for profit.

Some of my other Knitting blog posts -    

Virtually No-Sew Knitted Hearts

Bohemian Wreath Knitting Instructions


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