Introduction: Pilelow - Pillows From Recycled PET Bottles

About: Product Design Student @ LUCA - School of Arts Genk.

After finalizing my first year as a product design student, I look back at all the projects I've realized. Projects that where only made for school and projects that where only build for Instructables, for the DIY community.

Last month I decided to participate in my first design competition. This design contest, only for students, is held by OVAM, which is a part of the Belgian government.

And now, I bring Pilelow to the Instructables-community!

Step 1: Things You Need for This Instructable:

- PET Bottles (a lot)

- 2 pieces of rectangular fabric (I used some thin sheets of plastic, so that you'll see the inside of the pillow)

- sewing machine

- 2 wood screws

- 6 or more washers

- a small piece of wood

- the small knife of a pencil sharpener

- a knife or cutter


- a workbench vise

- a pair of pliers

Step 2: Create the Filling - Part I

To create the filling for the pillows we'll be using PET bottles and we'll transform them into multiple strings.

To do so, we'll make this little 'PET-string-maker'.

This little tool consists of 2 wood screws, 6 washers, a small knife (I used one from an old pencil sharpener) and a small piece of wood. Divide the washers equally over the two screws, then put the knife of the pencil sharpener (UPSIDE DOWN) between the washers as seen in photo two.

If you want thicker strings of PET, just add more washers under the knife of the pencil sharpener or remove some if you want thinner strings of PET.

Step 3: Create the Filling - Part II

Now, we'll transform the PET-bottles to strings. Make sure that you clamp your 'PET-string-maker' in a workbench vise as this will make all the work a lot easier.

Start by cleaning your bottles with some water and remove any of the branding labels on the outside. Cut off the bottom and start cutting the bottle. I always use my right hand to pull the string and my left hand to hold the bottle in a vertical position. It may come in handy to use a pair of pliers to pull the string as the string tends to get stuck between the wood and the knife.

In the last photo, you'll see that you can get a variety of strings by using different bottles.

Step 4: Designing the Pillow

There are two designs (at this time), as seen on the cover photo. The left one, a more normal, square(-ish) pillow and another more experimental, tetrahedron pillow. I'll demonstrate how to make the tetrahedron in the following steps as this is the hardest one to make.

Step 5: Making the Pillow: Part I

Start by laying two rectangular pieces of your chosen fabric on top of each other.

To make the start of your sew-line, I always stitch for 2 centimeters using the short straight pattern (pattern 1 on the sewing machine) followed by a reverse stitch of 1 centimeter, still using the short straight pattern. Then I switch to the short triangle pattern (pattern 4 on the sewing machine) for the remaining 1 centimeter of my starting sew-line. Finally I switch to the medium triangle pattern (pattern 5 on the sewing machine) for most of the sewing work. I do like this pattern and this is the strongest stitch when I'm using the plastic sheets for the pillow.

When you need to stitch a corner, stop sewing when your needle is still in the fabric. Lift the sewing-foot of the machine and turn your fabric in a 90 degree angle. Drop down the sewing-foot and continue to sew.

Make sure that you stitch exactly like in the small drawing. That means leaving open a small space on top (we'll later use this to fill the pillow) and leaving open the entire bottom (we'll close this in the next step).

To end the sewing-line, I tend to do the same steps as when starting a new sewing-line just in the reverse order.

*I do like to cut off the remaining of the plastic as seen in the last few photo's to get a cleaner result*

Step 6: Making the Pillow: Part II

Now we'll sew the bottom of the pillow. In order to get the tetrahedron form, you'll have to align the previous made stitches on top of each other as seen in the first two photo's. When perfectly aligned, sew them together.

Step 7: Filling the Pillow

Before we fill the pillow, you have to turn the pillow inside out. You can do this easily by putting your hand through the space we've left open before and then pull the corners one by one through. By doing this you already get a glimpse of the final form (see photo 4).

Now you can fill the pillow by putting the strings through the open space in the pillow. Make sure that you don't rip open your previous stitches as I did (see the last 2 photos).

It's very difficult to tell how much bottles you need for one pillow. That all depends on how big the dimensions are of the two rectangular pieces of fabric. This is a project that I've been working on for over a year now and I always keep my PET bottles/strings in those big blue IKEA bags...

Step 8: Closing the Pillow

Closing the pillow is rather easy. You can hand stitch it (photo 1) or sew it with your sewing-machine. Either way, you won't see much of the way you closed it when you display your pillow.

Step 9: The Square(-ish) Variant

In order to make a more traditional pillow, align the two pieces of rectangular fabric on top of each other and sew them together in a continuous sew (as seen in the photo - RED LINE). Then again, put the inside out, fill it with the PET strings an close the pillow!

Step 10: The End?

Congratulations! You made your very own pillow from PET-bottles. In case you might want to throw the pillow away, don't forget to recycle the PET strings!!! The bottom and cap that we didn't use in this project are still recyclable.

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable!

As always, questions or remarks?

Drop a comment below.


Sew Cool Contest

Participated in the
Sew Cool Contest

Plastics Contest

Participated in the
Plastics Contest