A.K.A. How to turn an old nasty pillow into a new bag or purse!
This instructable came about from looking for old sweaters for this brimmed beanie instructable. I found my old Pokemon pillow and decided it would make a decent bag.
I still play Pokemon. You should too. :D
- An old pillow
- fabric to cover the inside of the bag
- needle/sewing machine
- measuring tape/ruler (optional)
- seam ripper (optional)
- D-rings, O-rings, square rings (optional for strap)
- Strap(s) or belt(s) (optional for strap)
Total time: About 2 and a half hours.
Step 1: Find a Pillow
I found my pillow in our hallway closet smooshed in with some old blankets that were very tempting to use as beanie material. Its stuffing was all eff'd from being washed the wrong way.
Pillows with a screenprinted or dyed design work best. Make sure the pillow you want to use isn't a family heirloom or something like that, or you may seriously regret making it into a bag. As long as the pillow fabric isn't too threadbare or delicate, it should work for making a bag out of.
Step 2: Disassemble the Pillow
Get a seam ripper or small pair of scissors and start taking out the seams of the pillow. I was lucky, and my pillow was a single piece of fabric folded over so I only had to take out three sides.
Take out the stuffing and discard or reuse for plushies!
If your pillow fabric has creases in it, feel free to iron it on the appropriate setting. I couldn't find our iron so I had to deal with all kinds of creases and folds that just wouldn't cooperate.
Step 3: Cut Out the Inside Fabric and Strap
For the inside of the bag, you can take a couple approaches.
If you think that your pillow fabric is strong enough to stand up to your wear and tear by itself, skip this step. In the much more likely event that you want or need to put fabric on the inside of the bag, continue.
Lay out your choice for the inside fabric.
If you have a two-sheet pillow (a regular pillow with two sides sewn together):
Lay one of the sides on top of the inside fabric and trace or pin. Cut out. Repeat for the other side.
If you have a single-sheet pillow (like the one I used in this instructable):
Fold your inside fabric in half once. Fold the pillow fabric in half as it would be if it were sewn up. Line up one side with the fold of the inside fabric. Then trace or pin. Cut out.
This is also a good time to cut out the strap or handles of your bag.
I just so happened to have a belt exactly the length I like my straps, so I laid it down and cut a 3.5-4 in. wide double strip of inside fabric the length of the belt.
If you don't know how long you want your strap, measure around your hips with a tape measure and add about 4 inches. Drape the tape measure over your shoulder to test the fit. xD Unless you have really tiny hips, then just wing it or look at another bag strap or pattern.
If you're cutting handles, cut at least 20 in. long double strips of fabric.
Pin double strips together.
If you decide to add pockets to your bag, now is the time to cut those as well. I like to cut out my pocket shape (double of course) with room to fold under the corners to strengthen the pocket and make it look nicer. Pin pocket sides together with the design/front side out.
Step 4: Optional Step - Pockets
If you did not opt to put pockets and the like on your bag, skip to the next step.
If you did decide to put a pocket or two or seven on your bag, continue.
Things to keep in mind when making pockets:
-Leave an edge large enough to sew down to the fabric, I leave almost a centimeter on my pockets extra.
-If you're making a doubled-up pocket, just cut one piece of fabric folded once on itself. It makes a nice top pocket edge.
-If you're only making a single-layer pocket, consider folding the top down and sewing it so it doesn't fray as easily, and it looks nicer.
-Some sewing machine needles will break, so take your fabric weight, weave, and thickness into consideration.
-A pencil holder can be made easily by putting a pencil to one side of the pocket, then sewing it up to the top.
-Only pin the pockets to ONE SIDE of the bag. If you're using the same type of pillow bag design as I do in this instructable, make sure the fabric isn't doubled when you pin or sew.
-Make sure you double back at the beginning and end of your lines. (this does not mean corners, just when you first start to stitch and your last few stitches at a time)
Try out different positions of pockets. Inside, outside, specialized pockets for things like mp3 players, pens/pencils, sketchbooks, etc. You could even use a separate fabric just for pockets.
When you decide on where you want to put your pockets, pin them there. You do not have to fold the edges under like I do, especially if you're hand-sewing or using a sewing machine that can't handle thick quantities of fabric. If you do decide to fold them under, keep in mind the hidden edges so you don't miss them entirely. I pin the folds to one layer of fabric only and then sew over the folds. It can be a strain on some sewing machines or hands, so be warned.
When you have everything as you like it, sew it on! :D
Step 5: The Strap/Handles
The strap(s) or handles of the bag can be tricky business.
Aside from making the strap the way I do it here, you can get a few D-rings, O-rings, or square rings and use some thicker belt-like straps (like the kind some belts are made out of, or even a belt itself) to make a potentially more fashionable strap. Those can be harder to sew, however. You can also add shoulder pads to straps if you plan on carrying heavier things. Look at some of your own bags for ideas.
With your strap/handles pinned inside-out, sew one long side, then the other. You may sew one short end with a temporary stitch if you feel that it makes inverting it easier. I did that. Some people would say not to sew either short end. It's really up to you and how thick or friction-ful your fabric is.
To invert the strap(s), you may want to use a long stick to push the fabric through itself, or you can use my "thumb and fingers caterpillar making a pinch pot thing" method. Which basically means to use your thumb to push the end of the fabric into itself, and just working along. It's hard to explain, but I think you can figure it out.
You may want to iron the strap particularly, as it will try not to be flat in a lot of cases. If you don't have an iron, or are lazy like me, pin the strap flat in some places to make it easier to sew on later.
Step 6: Sewing the Main Body
Again, remember to double back at the beginning and the end of your stitching. Also, I don't recommend making the top the last edge you sew, as it takes a lot of wear and tear, it often looks ugly if you do it last, and in some cases your handles go there, so the edge should be stronger. Unless you're doing it on purpose, just don't make the top of the bag the last part you sew.
If you have a two-panel pillow:
Pin one panel of the pillow and one inside panel together inside out, leaving one side open. Sew the top*, then the bottom (like a tube) and invert. Repeat for other panels.
*Unless you choose to sew the ends of your strap BETWEEN the inside and outside panels, in which case, pin the strap(s) on the inside when you pin the two panels inside-out, this way when you sew it on it will be the right way when you invert it.
If you have a single-panel pillow:
Pin and sew the inside and the outside together inside-out, leaving the two short side opens(like a tube). Invert.
**See warning above about straps inbetween the panels.
Step 7: Straps/Handles and Finishing Up
You can sew on handles or straps in a variety of ways. See the earlier step regarding straps and handles for alternative ideas to this one.
I have provided instruction for both handles and single-straps for both two-panel and single-panel bag pillows.
Remember to double back when beginning and ending your stitches!
If you have a two-paneled bag-pillow:
Sew the panels together on the left or right side, with the inside facing out.
If you have two handles, pin the ends where you want them on the top seams of the bag sides, leaving about 3 in. of strap or so to work with on the inside (you may also sew them on the outside if you want them there). You can have them going across the mouth of the bag or parallel to each side of the bag, depending on your taste. I like to fold under the short edge just a bit so that it looks nicer. :3 To sew them on, sew a square at each end that overlaps the bag, leaving about a quarter of an inch on each side.
Sew up the remaining open side of the bag inside out. Invert. YOU'RE DONE!
If you have one strap, pin one end overlapping the seam you just made by joining the panels. Leave about 3 in. of strap or so to work with. You may sew them on the inside or outside, and may want to fold under the short edge so it looks nicer. Same as with the handles, sew a square on the end overlapping the bag, leaving about a quarter of an inch on each side.
Sew up the open side of the bag inside out. Here's where it gets tricky. You may have to do some fenaggling if you're using a sewing machine so that you're sewing the other strap end flat onto the seam. It's not hard, just make sure the fabric is as flat as you can get it when you sew the strap on. Invert (if you sewed the strap on the inside), and YOU'RE DONE!
If you have a single-panel bag-pillow:
If you have two handles, pin the ends where you want them on the top seams of the bag sides, leaving about 3 in. of strap or so to work with on the inside (you may also sew them on the outside if you want them there). You can have them going across the mouth of the bag (which is harder to do with this type of bag pillow) or parallel to each side of the bag, depending on your taste. I like to fold under the short edge just a bit so that it looks nicer. :3 To sew them on, sew a square at each end that overlaps the bag, leaving about a quarter of an inch on each side.
Sew up the remaining open side of the bag inside out. Invert. YOU'RE DONE!
If you have one strap, pin one end overlapping the very middle of the panel. Leave about 3 in. of strap or so to work with. You may sew them on the inside or outside, and may want to fold under the short edge so it looks nicer. Same as with the handles, sew a square on the end overlapping the bag, leaving about a quarter of an inch on each side.
Sew up the open side of the bag inside out. You may have to do some fenaggling if you're using a sewing machine so that you're sewing the other strap end flat onto the seam. It's not hard, just make sure the fabric is as flat as you can get it when you sew the strap on. Invert (if you sewed the strap on the inside) and YOU'RE DONE!
Step 8: Afterthoughts
Found fabric is great to make bags out of. Especially old pillows and t-shirts.
I broke two needles working on this bag when sewing the strap on, so just be wary! It's the place with the most amount of fabric, especially if you fold under the edge. I ended up hand-sewing part of one of them because I didn't want to risk breaking my last needle.
I almost always wash my bags after I make them to get all the loose threads and fuzzies off the bag. However, some pillows are made of particular fabrics, so make sure you read the tag if the pillow has one to see about washing instructions. Some pillows may not have any, in which case it's really your call on what setting to wash it on, if you wash it at all. Pre-washing pillows prior to making bags is a good idea anyway. Who knows when the last time it was cleaned was? ..; Anyone could have slept on it.
Same goes for any found fabric that could have been used or worn by another person, excluding delicate fabrics and dry-clean-only.
Don't worry if your bag isn't perfect. Bags can be taken apart and reused, like pillows. It's part of the learning process. I had actually never made a strap like the one I used on this bag. I considered putting a pokeball shaped pocket somewhere on the bag, but it would have taken a lot more time than it would be worth.
Pillows that aren't square can also be bags too! Round pillows can be made into cute purses and handbags. Odd-shaped pillows can make odd-shaped bags. Some shapes may be peculiar enough that they require an extra strip of fabric connecting the two sides, making a more 3-D shape. The same method can be applied to a regular square pillow to make a more box-like bag. You're only limited by your imagination, really!
Happy Pillow Bag Making!