At some point, many little ones start looking for a toddler pillow to sleep with. A small very firm pillow can be a sleepy-time comfort to a child. I’ve made these for many years as gifts with an envelope pillow case (easy to wash!), an appliqué (I like to do cross-stitch!), and piping edge or a ruffle. Here’s my steps to DIY toddler pillow.
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To make this DIY toddler pillow you will need fabrics, notions, and polyester fiberfill.
- For the inner pillow: scrap fabric or coordinating solid fabric 32 inches x 13 inches. If you are purchasing, this would be ⅜ yard. You will also need about a ⅓ bag of polyester fiberfill.
- For the outer pillow: fabric 39 inches x 16 inches (for 45-inch-wide fabric, you will need ½ yard).
- For pillow piping edge: coordinating fabric 11 inches x 11 inches, 60 inches of 3/16” piping cord (or you can use premade piping bias tape in an appropriate solid color).
- OR for ruffle edge: coordinating fabric 22 inches x 22 inches
- Size 14 sewing machine needle
- Zig zag foot and zipper foot
- matching thread
- sewing marking pen (or chalk)
- Wash and dry all the fabrics and press.
- First, make the bias tape for the piping. Take your 11 inch square and cut it in half along the diagonal. You will have two triangles that are 11 inches on two sides. With right sides together, place two of the 11 inch sides together and sew a ¼” seam.
- Open up this parallelogram (the seam should be a diagonal). Measure 2 inches down from the top edge and draw a straight line across with the sewing marking pen. Continue marking lines 2 inches apart.
- Try to roll this piece into a tube with the right side of the fabric inside (the seam should be a diagonal across the tube). Here’s the tricky part: before sewing the tube, you have to slide the lines over so that when you cut you will get one long spiral strip. I find if I cut ½ inch or so on the first line, it helps me see where to slide, pin, and sew ¼ inch seam allowance. Cut along the markings to make one long strip about 60 inches long.
- [Note: if this is just too hard to maneuver, just cut the marked strips apart and sew them all together into one long strip with ¼” seams.]
- Fold the strip in half lengthwise with the right side out. Place the piping cord inside the fold. With a zipper foot on the machine, sew a long stitch right against the cording (6 stitches/inch or 3.5 mm).
- To make a ruffle instead: Follow the directions above beginning with a 22 inch square. When marking the parallelogram, measure 5 inches down from the top edge and continue marking lines 5 inches apart. The long strip should be about 96 inches long and 5 inches wide. Right sides together, sew the ends together to make a circle. Press in half, wrong sides together. Set the machine on a wide zig zag. Put a second spool of thread in a contrasting color on the spindle. Put the raw edge of the ruffle at ⅜ inch. Place the contrasting thread on the fabric directly in the center of the foot. Zig zag over this thread. When done, place a pin at the beginning of the thread and wind a few turns of the contrasting thread around the pin. Pull the other end of the contrasting thread to make the circle 60 inches long. Place a pin and wind the thread around it to secure. Slide the gathers to evenly distribute.
- Cut out the inner pillow pieces. Mark 16 inches by 13 inches. Round off the corners (use a cup or jar lid to help). Cut two pieces and sew wrong sides together with a half inch seam (10 stitches/inch or 2mm). Leave a 4 inch opening on one long side.
- Turn the pillow right side out. Stuff with fiberfill. Push the first handfulls into the four corners. Keep stuffing until you get a good firm shape.
- Fold in ½ inch on each side of the opening and top stitch closed by machine or by hand.
- Cut the outer pillow front. Mark 16 inches by 13 inches. Round off the corners.
- Cut two outer pillow back pieces. Mark 12 inches by 13 inches. Round off two corners to match the front piece.
- Using both back pieces, iron ½ inch along the straight inner edge towards the wrong side of the fabric. Fold ½ inch again and iron. Top stitch along the center of this hem.
- Fold the appliqué piece into fourths. Place a pin at the exact center. Fold the front 16” x 13” pillow piece into fourths and place a pin at the exact center. Line up the two pins and pin the appliqué to the right side center of the pillow.
- Fold in ½ inch along each side of the appliqué. Top stitch very close to the edge.
- Starting at the bottom of the front piece, place the piping on the right side, matching the raw edges. Pin all the way around the front pillow piece. Clip the seam allowance at the corners enough to allow the fabric to lay flat.
- At the bottom, overlap the piping about ½ inch. Using a zipper foot, baste together.
- If adding a ruffle: Place the ruffle on the right side of the front piece, matching the raw edges. Pin all the way around the pillow piece. Draw up the gathering threads if needed to make a good fit. Baste together.
- Lay the front of the pillow right side up. Place one back piece on the front, right sides together, matching raw edges and putting the hem towards the center. Pin.
- Place the second back piece on, right side down, matching raw edges and putting the hem towards the center. The two back pieces should overlap by about 3 inches. Pin.
- Using the zipper foot, stitch the pillow together, staying as close to the piping as possible.
- For ruffle: Once this sandwich is made, all the ruffle should be towards the center of the pillow. You may want to stitch on the front side to make sure you are stitching just past the basting in a ½ inch seam.
- Turn the outer pillow inside out. Press. Stuff the inner pillow into the pillow cover.
- Bias strips – single and continuous from University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service
- How to ruffle from Craftsy
- Stitching a perfect gather from Nancy Zieman
Let’s talk story
I started making these pillows long ago, when crib pillows were still okay. I like making a first or last initial for an applique or use theme fabric that will mean something to the child or coordinate with a nursery. My brother carried a pillow around with him as a lovey during his preschool days and that must be my inspiration for a child to have a pillow of their own.