My name is Ella and I like to sew unique developmental toys made from cotton and felt for children.
In this master class I want to show you how to make a decorative pillow-toy.
Decorative pillows have become very popular recently. Such a simple thing can harmoniously complete a baby’s crib or sofa. It's comfortable enough to sleep on and can easily be taken with you when travelling.
It's not only a pillow, it's also a wonderful toy!
You can make it even if you have never sewn before. However please bear in mind that this master-class is not simple, it can be quite challenging for beginners, but it’s a very interesting task because of its complexity!
I have tried to give you the most detailed and clear instructions possible.
This is my first master-class and I'm a little nervous, so please, write your comments giving feedback of what exactly you like or dislike, and let me know if these instructions are clear enough!
There is an interesting fact about the photos included in this tutorial – I took them with the help of a very old, antique soviet photographic camera. It’s very difficult to adjust the focus, so there were thousands of photos! But we managed to do it and I guess the photos turned out quite creative and stylish in the end!
This following tutorial consists entirely of the author's own ideas, instructions, patterns and photographs.
So, let’s begin!
Step 1: Preparation
I am giving you my choice of colors, but you can select any you like. It’s not necessary to use the same shades of color in your cotton and felt, you can use different ones – with patterns or not, bright or pastel. Choose according to your own personal taste and interior design! Also, you don’t have to match sewing threads with fabric but using the same or complimenting colors will result in a more coherent and appealing product.
All sizes in this class are in centimeters!
- Household sewing machine
- Needle for dense materials, size 80 (If not, use any).
- Fabric scissors
- Ruler in centimeters
- Template / Stencil with circles
- Fabric Pencil
- Sewing pins and needle
When working with felt I don’t recommend using a fabric marker – it can leave very dark marks! Use a fabric pencil instead :)
Be sure that your sewing machine is configured correctly, adjust the tension of the upper and lower threads!
1. 100% Cotton
As a base for the pillow, I strongly recommend you use 100% cotton or linen. As we are making this pillow for babies and young children, choosing hypoallergenic and organic fabrics are perfect for this project! However, it is possible to use any other fabric you wish.
If you want to use any stretch fabrics, don’t forget about back lining them for felt applique, otherwise your final result will not be as pleasing!
So, you need:
- Cotton for the cover (I have blue) - 40 cm x 100 cm
- Cotton for the inside (I have beige polka dots) - 80 cm x 40 cm
- Cotton for binding and front cover (I have yellow) - 40 cm x 40 cm
- Cotton for the front of the cover (I have green) - 20 cm x 40 cm
Don’t use extra thin fabrics! The cotton must keep its shape well and not let light shine through!
- Suitable density of the cotton: 120 - 150 g / sq.m
- Suitable density of the linen: 140 - 180 g / sq.m
For this pillow I use polyester hard felt, but you can use more organic felt if you prefer - for example wool, or 50% wool felt, you can also use soft felt. But if you choose other materials, don’t forget about the appropriate temperature settings for washing it!
- Suitable thick of the hard felt: 1 – 1.2 mm
- Suitable thick of the soft felt: 1.2 – 1.5 mm
- Suitable density of the hard or soft felt: 200 – 220 g / sq.m
Often felt is sold by the sheet, so you need 1 sheet of each necessary color. The size of the sheets can be A4, but you don’t need more than 15x15 cm of each sheet for whole applique.
I prefer Korean felt, it’s non-toxic, pliable to work with, and has a good range of color palettes!
So, you need:
- 12 sheets of felt
I have blue, light blue, dark green, light green, yellow, orange, red, crimson, beige, white, light brown, and black.
3. Additional materials
- Synthetic, cotton or wool hollowfiber, you need a rectangle 40x80 cm, recommended density: 150-200 g / m
- Synthetic, cotton or wool wadding, 300 g. If you prefer 100% wool wadding, please, don’t forget about washing machine settings!
- 12 spools of sewing threads according to the tone of the felt, 400 yards. It’s better to choose threads at a sewing shop, putting the thread on the felt sheet and choosing the closest shade of color!
- Threads for the base and the inside part, according to the tone of fabrics, you don’t need more than 1 spool of each. I have blue and beige.
- Velcro ribbon (soft and rough parts), you need 5 cm each. I chose the blue Velcro which matches the color of the base part of my pillow.
- Embroidery threads in black, pink and yellow colors, density shouldn’t be less than 125 grams / m. You can also use sewing threads.
Step 2: Cut Out the Patterns
I have included the pdf-file with the necessary patterns for this master-class. You can download them in A3 or A4 formats. If you prefer to print out on A4-paper, you need to join the 2 parts of the pattern. Use thick paper for printing! After printing you must cut out all the elements. Notice that the details on the pattern are superimposed onto each other, and you need to make a few copies of it! See the colored picture to understand how to find the outline and cut the elements correctly.
Now the patterns are ready to be used!
If you have a template or stencil with circles, you don’t need to cut out tiny elements like eyes by guesswork, it’s much simpler to draw them out with the aid of the template!
It’s better to mark the fabric on the front side of the cover (blue, yellow and green) according to the patterns, this helps you avoid any problems during the stitching of all parts “A, B and C”. So, cut out three pieces of paper.
Put the patterns of “A, B and C” together. Be sure that you have the necessary size: 35 cm tall and 30 cm wide! It’s very important!
If the picture is printed less than this size, push the lower and side borders when transferring the pattern to the fabric.
Be sure that you have this set of patterns like in the photo.
So, everything is prepared and we’re ready to get started!
Step 3: Cut Out the Base for the Applique
We’ll start from the front side of the cover. Take patterns “A, B and C”, draw around with the help of a fabric pencil. I use blue for the top part, green for the middle and yellow for the bottom.
It is essential to leave 1 cm margin around each piece when you are cutting fabric (not felt) - seam allowance! It’s not provided in the patterns!
After you cut out the fabric, steam iron it and lay it on the table to be sure that all parts fit together! The base for the applique is ready! We will sew the parts later, with the ready appliques on it.
When you draw straight lines, use a ruler (as in the photo below), it’s easier to accurately fit the pattern onto the fabric this way!
Step 4: Cut Out the Felt Elements
If you use my selection of colors, you can print the colored pattern (Step 2) and look at the colors of each detail. If you prefer you own color palette, change it accordingly and follow your customized picture.
How to cut the felt correctly? Put the felt sheet on the table, it doesn’t matter what side of the felt is on top. Take the patterns, put them on the back of the felt and draw around them with the help of a fabric pencil. In order to avoid wasting your felt try to put the details close to each other.
For drawing little circles it’s easier to use a template or stencil.
Cut out the details slowly and carefully.
To make your felt detail more secure, stop it from fraying and help it keep its form for a long time, seal the edges with a lighter! But Be Careful you must barely touch the edge of your felt to the flame or you can spoil the cut-out! Practice on another (scrap) piece of felt before doing it on your actual detail!
The last step of this section is to put all the details on the fabric. Be sure that you have cut out all the details correctly and check to see if they have all been sealed with the lighter!
You should have the following result like in the last photo for this step.
Step 5: Sew the Felt Elements Into the Fabric. Part “A”
It’s better to fix the detail onto the fabric with pins, or outline their position using your fabric pencil! It’s important to securely fix the felt during sewing.
If you don’t want to be confused about markings and colors, refer to the picture!
For all the felt details use a machine stitch A-2 or A-3.
Let’s start with the apple. We add the core and seed to the basic part of the apple.
How to sew precisely around the edge? - Don’t hurry! Sew very slowly and press the pedal gently turning the detail carefully! It’s better to practice on other pieces before.
You can sew the details by hand, using a sewing needle and a “forward needle” stitch.
Add the little “a” to the apple.
For a tidy and ‘professional’ look pull out the threads from the back and tie them together. Do this for finishing all felt details! It helps to keep them secure and avoids an excess of messy thread! (Look at the photos).
Always change the top and bottom spool of the thread according to the color of your felt! It makes your creation more beautiful.
We don’t join the apple leaf to the fabric. Instead we stitch around the edges and down the middle of the leaf.
Put the leaf and the brown stalk under the apple and sew the apple to the fabric.
Now add the big “A”.
Part “A” is now ready, and it should look like in the photo. Be sure that you have done everything correctly and iron the first applique using a steam setting on your iron.
You must Only iron the felt detail under a thin cloth! You can use high temperatures and steam! But if you don’t use a cloth, the felt will stick to the iron!
Step 6: Sew the Felt Elements Into the Fabric. Part “B”
Don’t forget to draw around the felt detail on the fabric or use sewing pins.
Let’s start with the bee. We don’t need to join the wings to the fabric, but instead stitch around the edges.
For the black felt use black thread only!
Place the black circles onto the white circles to make the eyes.
Place the bee’s wings and eyes according to the picture and add the bee’s body to the fabric.
Let’s finish the bee’s eyes and stitch around the white circles.
We need to add yellow stripes to the bee to make it a real bee =)
Take yellow embroidery thread and create the bee’s mouth, using a “back needle” stitch. If you are not sure about the shape of the mouth – you can draw it first.
Return to your sewing machine and sew the pot together with the honey.
Take black embroidery thread and make the bee’s legs, using a “back needle” stitch.
Our funny bee is ready!
Let’s sew on the little and big “B”.
The middle part is ready! Iron it under a cloth. Look at the photo, be sure that you have the same result.
Step 7: Sew the Felt Elements Into the Fabric. Part “C”
Let’s outline the detail’s position or fix it with pins.
We’ll start with the middle part of the cat’s eyes. Adding the black and green circles.
Sew the green eyes and pink mouth onto the cat’s face.
Take pink embroidery thread and create the cat’s mouth, use the “back needle” stitch.
Now we put the brown ears and little “c” under the felt cat and sew the cat’s body. The little “c” in this applique must look like a cat’s tail.
Add the paws to the cat.
And create the cat’s claws with the help of black embroidery thread, using the “back needle” stitch.
Add the little and big “C”.
The last part is ready! Iron it and let’s compare the results.
Step 8: Make the Cover
So, we have all the parts “A, B and C” and everything is ready to make the cover!
To fix all parts together use sewing pins.
Sew all parts together and seal edges. It’s better to use an overlock machine, if you have one. I don’t, so I’m using the “zigzag” stitch.
The cover is ready! Iron all the seams carefully under a thin cloth.
The height of the front cover should be 35 cm, the width - 30 cm!
Next, cut out:
- 1 rectangle 35 cm high, 30 cm wide (I use blue fabric)
- 1 rectangle 35 cm high, 12 cm wide (I use yellow fabric)
If you are using another color of fabric, be sure that you cut each one out in the right size. The big rectangle must be from the main fabric, the smaller one is for the book binding.
Do not forget while cutting to add the seam allowances - 1 cm each!
We now have the front and back parts of the cover, and the binding.
Look carefully at how the book will be assembled. The book opens to the left, so your front cover with the felt applique must be located on the left side, after it in the middle you have the binding, and then the back part of the book cover!
The height should be 35 cm, the width of the all cover is 72 cm!
Look at the photo below and be sure that you have the same cover. Check the sizes!
Step 9: Sew the Inside Part
So, now it’s time to cut the polka-dot beige fabric (you can choose your own fabric for the inside part of the book).
- 2 rectangles 33 cm high, 28 cm wide
- 2 rectangles 33 cm high, 10 cm wide
- 2 rectangles 28 cm high, 10 cm wide
- One rectangle 15x40 cm.
Leave 1 cm for seam allowances and cut out rectangles. Make sure that you have all the pieces.
We start with a pocket.
Here I’ll show you the simplest version of creating a pocket, feel free to use your own model of a pocket or don’t sew it!
Take the rectangle 15x40 cm, fold it in half. The height of the pocket must be 20 cm, width - 15 cm. We sew in a circle, leaving a hole of 5 cm for reversing and seal the edges.
Turn the pocket inside out and iron it.
Next, we take a rectangle 35x30 cm as the base, position our pocket in the center of it and join the pocket to the base.
Iron this part and be sure that we have the same results!
The inside part of the book will look like a rectangular pillow. Can you picture it? This is the same principle for making the inside part of the book!
We take the small rectangles (35x10 cm, 28x10 cm, 28x10 cm) and the base part with the pocket, and we join the rectangles to the base part. But we only sew the three sides! Two rectangles are above and below, one rectangle is to the right of the base. We don’t sew a rectangle to the left part of the base!
Process the edges and look at the photo.
Let’s join the side parts to each other, make seams in these places, where we have 10 cm, like forming the shape of the box.
When it is reversed, it should look like in the photo.
Don’t forgot to process the edges!
Next, take the last rectangle 35x30 cm and sew it onto the whole structure. You should have an empty part on the left of it. Visually, it should remind you of a bag with a rectangular bottom. Have a look at the photo.
This is the inside part of our pillow-book. Now we need to join it to the cover =)
Step 10: Sew the Inside Part of the Cover
Cut out the last rectangle from your main color fabric (I have blue), 72 cm wide, 35 cm high, add the seam allowances. Next mark the middle of this rectangle with the help of a pin.
Take the last little rectangle from the inside part (I’m using the beige polka dot) 10x28 cm, mark the center of it and attach it exactly to the center of the large one. That will be the connecting element between the cover and the inside part of the book. You need to connect the rectangles facing each other!
Now sew 1 cm away from the marked point inside.
Look at the stitching on the photo and check you did it right! The result should be like the photo.
I think you’ve probably guessed that the next step is to join the inside part to the cover of the book. While stitching the cover of the book will turn inside out.
First, mark everything exactly! Then sew and seal the edges!
After this we turn it the right way round and iron.
Check that everything is like the photo.
The hole for reversing and filling is located at the bottom of the binding!
So, the inside part of the cover is ready!
Step 11: Sew the Clasp
Our pillow contains a secret – it will open and close like a book and for this we need to make a Velcro clasp. This is a very useful and secure clasp and that’s why I’ve chosen it for this pillow. The clasp will close inward and will not spoil the cover.
So, cut out:
- 2 rectangles about 13 x 8 cm high.
Don’t forget to leave allowances of 1 cm for the seams!
I decided to make rounded edges so that it’s more aesthetically pleasing. Sew the rectangles together and seal edges.
Next you need to cut 6 cm (of each) the soft and rough part of the Velcro. I also used rounded edges for it.
I recommend you seal the edges of the Velcro with a lighter! Don’t worry, the edges won’t be damaged, and it will remain sticky.
Add the soft part of the Velcro 1 cm away from the edge.
Sew the Velcro not only at the edges, but also diagonally! It will fix it securely!
Look at the photo and make sure that you understand the position of the clasp on the pillow.
Find the middle of the back-right part of the cover and put a pin in place where your clasp will be.
Now look at how it will close inwards and stick where the rough part of the Velcro will be located on the inside left part of the cover.
Sew the second part of the Velcro to the inside of the cover. The clasp will be located between the inside and outside parts of the cover. So, you can simply fix it or you can sew it, if you want.
The clasp is ready!
Step 12: Assemble the Cover of the Pillow
The final step to get the full cover is to sew the outside and inside parts of the cover to each other.
First mark and fix them with pins. Leave the hole for reversing and filling on the back cover from the right side of the bottom, and also start sewing from this place.
Join the details and process the edges.
You must have the following result as in the photos (See the outside part of the cover and the inside part of the cover).
We’ll iron it later when the hollowfiber has been added, but you need to turn the cover the right way and see that everything is correct.
Check the functionality of the clasp in this step!
Step 13: Fill the Pillow
Congratulations! This is the last step!
We cut out from the hollowfiber:
- 2 rectangles 38 cm high, 75 cm wide
Then put the cover on the hollowfiber rectangle and fix it with pins. Sew hollowfiber to the cover (about 0.5 cm from the edge).
Сut the excess hollowfiber along the edge of the cover.
You should have the following result as in the photo.
Next, we take the second hollowfiber rectangle, attach the cover to it on the back side, sew it, and cut it along the edge.
Now the hollowfiber is sewn on both sides of the cover, like in the photo.
Turn the cover out, straighten the corners very well. Iron the product through the cloth - both inside and outside parts. Check that everything is the same as in the photo.
Let’s close the hole in the cover.
The cover is totally ready!
We need to fill the inside part of the pillow. Take the wadding and spread it everywhere inside.
After you fill the inside part, carefully sew up the hole in the bottom of the binding.
Carefully hide the threads with the help of a needle inside the pillow! Thus, they will not stick out and the pillow looks tidier.
Step 14: Caring and Washing
I’d like to congratulate you on creating your first pillow-book, now it is ready! You managed to complete a very difficult project, but it was worth it! Once again, you can iron the product with steam through a thin cloth.
Finally, I want to give you some advice about caring for your handcrafted creation.
For synthetic hollowfiber and polyester felt you can machine wash at up to 30 degrees and spin at a maximum of 800.
For wool wadding and wool felt – only hand wash with cold water. I recommend you use vertical drying – keeping the pillow raised. It takes 8 hours to dry out completely. Once again, ironing is possible at high temperatures, press gently, and iron the felt elements through a thin cloth only!
Now you have a unique, handmade pillow in your child’s room! I’m sure that soon it will become one of the most beloved items in your home =)
I hope you enjoyed the class and feel proud of the beautiful creation you made!
I’d love to see photos of your pillows in the comments!
Runner Up in the
First Time Author