How To Make a Shanghai Links Pillow

Use scraps of colorful fabrics and fusible web to create the optical illusion of overlapping links with the Shanghai Links Pillow by Quilter, Author and Teacher Renae Allen.

How to make a Shanghai Links Pillow

Finished pillow size: 17½” x 17½”


  • 1/2 Yard Fusible Web (Wonder Under, Steam a Seam, etc.)
  • 3/4 Yard Cream Fabric for Background – Cut (1) 18½” x 18½” square. Cut (2) 18½ x 13 rectangles.
  • 1/8 Yard Coral and Taupe Fabric
  • 1/4 Yard Navy Fabric (or fat quarter)
  • Batting piece 20″ x 20″
  • 18″ Pillow Form

Instructions to make a Shanghai Links Pillow:

1. Print (4) copies of overlapping pattern. Download this pattern here: Shanghai links pattern

Rotate each page, overlap design, trim where necessary to match design. Tape together.

How to make a Shanghai Links pillow
2. Make tracing templates by printing REVERSE link pattern pages on cardstock. Download this pattern here: Shanghai links template

Cut out the link pieces exactly on the line.

How to make a Shanghai Links pillow
3. Trace around each template on the paper side of the fusible web with a sharpened or mechanical pen. Cut the pieces apart leaving at least ⅛” allowance. Do not cut on the line because it will be much harder to cut the fabric pieces.

4. Iron the glue side of the fusible web to the wrong side of the link fabric.

5. Carefully cut each piece exactly on the line. Remove the paper backing.

6. Lay the background fabric over top the paper pattern.

How to make a Shanghai Links pillow
7. Place the link pieces on the back ground fabric using the paper pattern as the guide.

8. Iron the pieces on to the background fabric.

9. Machine stitch using the blanket stitch (check your machine manual for which stitch this is on your machine) the edges of the links using the Open Embroidery Foot #20. I used fine thread the color of the links, WonderFil’s Invisifil and Superior’s Bottom Line. Move your needle position all the way to right which allows you to use the inside edge of the foot as a guide along the edge of the fabric. One bonus on the newer machines is that you can reverse the pattern and sew from the left, too.

How to make a Shanghai Links pillow
10. Quilt.  (It isn’t necessary to quilt this but I always do.  It gives the pillow some dimension.) Layer the links top, batting, and quilt backing. “Ditch Stitch” quilt around the outside edges of links using the Walking foot #50 or free motion quilting foot.  I used Free Motion Embroidery Foot #24 with a mono filament “invisible” thread on the top, and a Invisafil in the bobbin.

How to make a Shanghai Links pillow

Don’t be afraid to back track over previous quilting to travel to the next link and avoid a few stops and starts.

11. Stitch all three layers together ⅜” from edge. I do this with the free motion foot but the walking foot is also a good option. When I use the Free Motion Embroidery Foot #24, I angle the quilt so the “toe” doesn’t catch the edge or the batting.

How to make a Shanghai Links pillow
12. Trim the batting and back even with the top.

13. Hem one piece of the pillow back piece by turning the long side under ⅜” to wrong side. Press. Turn again, press and stitch on the folded edge.

How to make a Shanghai Links pillow

Repeat for the second pillow back piece.

14. Overlap the two pieces and place over the top, right sides together. Pin.

How to make a Shanghai Links pillow
15. Stitch pillow back to pillow front with a ½” seam allowance.

How to make a Shanghai Links pillow
16. Clip the corners diagonally to reduce bulk and turn the pillow right side out.

How to make a Shanghai Links pillow

17. Insert pillow form.

How to make a Shanghai Links pillow

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