Introduction: (Totoro) Travel Pillow & Sleeping Mask

About: Hi. I'm Ellen, PhD student by day and sewer/crafter/maker by night. I believe anyone can be a maker, so I post videos on YouTube about what I make and how I make it to offer some help. I believe that if you m…

To be a bit more comfortable during my travels, I made myself a travel pillow and sleeping mask. I couldn’t resist making them look like Totoro’s face and belly to make it a super cute travel set.
In this Instructable, I show you how to make a pattern for both items and assemble them. The process involves mostly machine sewing, some hand sewing and a bit of embroidery. There’s also a whole bunch of stuffing involved…

You can easily use the same steps to create a travel kit based on any of your favorite characters. For example, my husband was quick to request a Psyduck Pokémon set, which you can see in the picture. So get creative, get sewing and travel in style!

What you’ll need:

- Pattern paper

- Fabric in grey and beige (stretch fabric works best)

- Black fleece (small piece, for the inside of the sleeping mask)

- Matching thread

- Polyester stuffing

- Embroidery thread

- Wide elastic

- Sewing machine

- Pins

- Needle for hand sewing

- Scissors

You can watch the video or read the steps here, whatever you prefer.

Step 1: Travel Pillow - Make a Pattern

I taped two pieces of A3 paper together and folded it in half. I sketched out a shape for the pillow that I thought would work. This isn’t an exact science; you can just work out a shape that looks good to you.

I measured around my neck and checked if the pillow won’t be too tight on the inside. I then added 1,5 centimeters of seam allowance all the way around and I cut it the pattern out.

This is the master pattern. If you want, you can move straight to cutting fabric and sewing from here. But I want to make the pillow look like Totoro’s belly, so I’m going to divide the pattern into two pieces.

I drew a shape for Totoro’s belly that I liked and grabbed some see-through pattern paper. I folded this paper in half as well, and lined up the fold with the fold in the master pattern. I traced the inside piece and continued the seam allowance all the way around. I did the same for the outside piece. Now I have two pattern pieces, that together form the complete pillow.

Step 2: Travel Pillow - Cut Fabric & Assemble Front and Back

I pinned the outer piece to a double layer of dark grey fabric. I cut it out, giving me two identical pieces.

I pinned the inner piece to an old T-shirt I got from the second hand store. It’s got some bleach stains in it, so I made sure to avoid those. I cut it out, again ending up with two identical pieces.

To attach the inner and outer pieces together, I marked the center points with pins. I placed the pieces right sides together and pinned them along the curve. Pinning opposing curves together can be a bit tricky, similar to attaching sleeves to armholes. It helps to use a lot of pins and move the top piece in line with the bottom piece bit by bit.

I sewed all the way around, making sure the fabric wasn’t folded over where I was sewing. That can happen easily when sewing opposing curves, so keep checking and adjusting the fabric. I cut small notches into the seam allowance along the curve to take the pressure off the fabric and help it lie flat. Cut close up to the stitching, but not through it. I repeated the pinning, sewing and notching for the other side of the pillow.

My ends didn’t line up completely, probably because one of the fabrics is much more stretchy than the other. So I cut the ends to line up better. This changes the shape of the pillow a bit, but I’m okay with that.

Step 3: Travel Pillow - Make It Look Like Totoro

To make it look even more like Totoro’s belly, I’m adding three chevron shapes to each side. I cut the fabric shapes a bit bigger than I wanted them, so that I can fold the edges under and get a nice clean look.

Because the fabrics are so stretchy, I hand stitched these pieces on. They will avoid the bunching up of the fabric that is likely to happen if you use the machine. I used a double thread for extra strength. I kept folding the edges of the fabric underneath and used a whip stitch.

Step 4: Travel Pillow - Assemble the Pieces

Now the pieces are ready for the final assembly. I placed them right sides together and pinned them to each other. I then sewed all the way around, but leaving a gap of around the width of my hand for stuffing.

I cut notches in the seam allowances again to take the stress off the fabric. Then I turned the pillow the right side out and stuffed it with polyester filling.

To close the pillow, I folded the seam allowances inside and used a ladder stitch, going back and forth between the two sides. This leaves a nearly invisible seam.

Step 5: Sleeping Mask - Make a Pattern

For the sleeping mask, I again started with drawing a pattern. I made a few paper mockups to try to minimize the amount of light seeping in by my nose until I ended up with my final design.

To make the mask look like Totoro, I drew an ear pattern for him and figured out the design for his face.

I added 1,5 centimeters of seam allowance all the way around to finish the pattern.

Step 6: Sleeping Mask - Cut the Fabric

I pinned the pattern to a leftover piece of fabric from the pillow and cut it out. I cut a second piece out of black fleece, which will be the soft inside of the mask.

For the ears, I copied the shape onto the fabric twice, folded the fabric over and roughly cut around them, giving me four pieces. For this type of precision work, I’ll be using the chalk line as a stitching guide instead of a set seam allowance.

Step 7: Sleeping Mask - Make It Look Like Totoro

For the ears, I placed two pieces of fabric right sides together and stitched on top of the chalk line, leaving the bottom open. I then trimmed the seam allowance down, cut notches around the curves and turned them inside out.

For Totoro’s nose, I cut a piece of black fleece in the right shape and again used a whip stitch to attach it. I’m not folding the edges under here, since fleece holds its shape very well and doesn’t ravel.

For Totoro’s sleepy eyes, mouth and whiskers, I’m using embroidery. I simply made multiple small stitches in a row with thick black embroidery thread. For the eyes and mouth, I used two lines right next to each other. The whiskers are single lines.

Step 8: Sleeping Mask - Assemble the Pieces

I placed the mask pieces right sides together and pinned them down. I then placed the ears in between the two layers, pointing towards the inside. I marked the location where the elastic will be. Then I stitched all the way around, leaving a gap on each of the sides for the elastic. I trimmed down the seam allowance and cut notches to help the fabric go around the curves.

I turned the mask right side out through one of the gaps for the elastic and folded the seam allowances inside. I placed a piece of wide elastic inside one of the gaps and stitched it closed. I checked the length of the elastic and then placed the other end in the other gap. After stitching this closed too, the mask is done.

And that completes my Totoro travel kit!

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