I’ve been seeing “printed” pillows all over Pinterest. For example, this pillow from Anthropologie. So simple, but so cute. I think it’s a fun alternative to framing a quote. However, the $198 price tag seems a little high to me. Seriously, that’s how much it costs. You could buy about eight pillows from Target for less than that. Not that I ever buy decorative pillows. I make my pillows. It’s infinitely more cheap—we’re talking roughly $5 a pillow, give or take—and really not hard or time consuming.
Thus, I wanted to try my hand at making somewhat similar pillows for my mom and mother-in-law for mother’s day. I’d seen various ideas on Pinterest on how to accomplish this. There’s the stenciling approach, which I considered, but it seemed really time consuming. Plus, I felt there was a good chance I’d mess up the spacing or something. I kind of wanted to be able to just print something out and somehow transfer it to the fabric.
So I tried out the wax paper transfer method, and was not so successful. In fact, it was a total failure. It turns out my printer isn’t wax paper friendly. No worries, though; it did no permanent damage to my printer.
I went back to the drawing board. I’d seen a super simple way to transfer print to wood, but I wasn’t sure if it’d work on fabric. So I gave it a go on some scrap fabric and it actually worked! It’s a good tutorial, so you can find the details there, but essentially all you do is print out a mirrored version of what you want to transfer, tape it to your fabric (ink side down), then brush on a little water and rub with a blunt object (I used the lid end of a Sharpie marker). It doesn’t make it very dark, but, as you can see, it’s definitely dark enough to make a good outline to go over with a fabric marker or permanent marker.
The possibilities are endless with this method. You could transfer quotes, names, monograms, silhouettes, etc. The Graphics Fairy is a good place to get fun old-timey graphics that are public domain. You just have to keep in mind that small and intricate lines and letters may not transfer as well as big and bold ones.
I found this quote on Pinterest a while ago and wanted to use it on my pillows. I was originally planning to make up my own version, but I decided I really liked the fonts/layout on this version. So I adapted it to work for my pillow. By the way, you can buy this print on Etsy, so I’m hoping I’m not infringing on a copyright by using it for a project. It’s kind of to be expected when it’s such a nice, big image with no watermark.
Anyway, this is what I did in Gimp to make it work for my pillows. I’ve mentioned before that I love Gimp, and I’ll continue to say it. It’s similar to Photoshop, but it’s free.
1. Mirror it: Image > Transform > Flip Horizontally
2. Get rid of the color: Image > Mode > Grayscale
3. Start making it print-friendly: Colors > Threshold
4. Continue making it print-friendly: Slide the little black arrow around until you find that sweet spot where the black and white are all in the right places, then click Ok.
5. This is what mine looked like when I found that sweet spot
6. Crop down as much as possible
After that I printed it out on normal printer paper. I printed mine out through Gimp, but MS Word or another similar program would work too.
I then measured out how big I wanted my pillows to be. I printed out my quote to be as big as possible, so I wanted the quote to take up a majority of the space with a little bit of border. I wanted the whole quote to be visible after getting stuffed, but I didn’t want it to look disproportionately small in comparison to the pillow.
When I figured out the size I wanted my pillows to be, I ironed my fabric and cut it down to size. You could cut two pieces—front and back—but I just did one piece folded over to save sewing up one side. I centered my quote (inked side down) on the front of the fabric and stuck it in place with a piece of tape on all four sides. I then unfolded my fabric and began to transfer using the above method, focusing mostly on the edges of the letters. After I was done transferring, I removed the taped-on paper, put my fabric on some cardboard, and then began outlining and filling in with a Sharpie. By the way, any fabric would work. I used plain old muslin because I liked the softness and simplicity, but there are lots of options.
After I finished filling everything in, I let the marker dry for a little while to ensure that I didn’t accidentally transfer the quote to the back of the pillow while I was sewing it up. I then folded it over, right sides inward and sewed up all the sides (except the folded one, of course), leaving a 2” hole at the bottom middle of my pillow. You need this hole to turn it right side out and stuff it. You will sew this hole shut by hand later on. I did mine at the bottom middle for two reasons. 1. The bottom is a more subtle location in the event that you botch the hand-sewing part (but you won’t because I found an awesome method). 2. Hand-sewing seems like it’d be a little trickier in a corner, what with the stuffing and such.
I then turned the pillow right side out and ironed it, taking care that the hole was folded inward smoothly and evenly. I tried to avoid ironing the quote because I was worried about the ink somehow sticking to my iron, but it would probably be ok. I then stuffed it as full as possible with some polyester fiberfill I got from Joann’s for about $4. I feel like fiberfill is more cost effective than buying a pillow form, and you have a lot more flexibility with the size of your pillow.
Sewing the hole up by hand seems daunting, but I promise it’s not very hard or time consuming. I found a method that closes up pillows beautifully. I was amazed at the results. Honestly, I might be the only one who can find where the hole used to be. Her method of starting and finishing are genius, so definitely don’t skimp on that part. You have to go to a previous post to find a tutorial on burying the ending knot inside the pillow, so be sure to check that out because it’s awesome.
I loved how these pillows turned out! I want to make one for myself now. Plus I’m thinking of doing a monogrammed or striped pillow—so many possibilities!