Recently, my sisters family got a new dog named Penny and my niece instantly fell in love with her. Penny is a tiny little Basenji and is definitely a dainty thing which makes her easy to cuddle. I decided to make my niece a custom photo pillow for her birthday with Penny as the star so that she could take the dog she loves to cuddle to bed with her. I had seen similar pillows on Etsy for around $75-$100 which is out of my budget for gifts, so being able to make one for her for just a a fraction of that was perfect. You could also use this same technique to make pillows with objects on it or other animals. How cute would a pink sprinkled doughnut pillow be??
Here is Penny in all her cute petite glory.
Materials you will need to make your custom photo pillow:
The first thing I did was start with a photo. It’s easiest when you have your animal on a hard surface (like below) so you don’t have grass or other items covering their paws (like above). It’s also easier to remove the background if there is more contrast between your animal and it’s background. Once you have your photo, you are going to have to remove the background and replace it with white. I used Adobe Photoshop to do this but I also found a great simple website to do this, Edit Photos for Free that is pretty easy to use and it will take you less than 5 minutes to cut your background out for free. I’m sure there are a lot of other editing programs, so if you have one you are familiar with, go for it.
Once you have your photo on a white background, you are going to need to get it printed on fabric. There are a few ways to do this. One is to get it sublimated or printed at an online company such as Spoonflower or Fabric on Demand. Or, you can print it on a heat transfer material and iron it on, the only issue with this is the size is limited to the transfer and your printer size, which is fine if you want a small pillow. Or you can use a DIY technique like this. I was able to print mine using a sublimation printer which uses heat to get the ink adhered to the fabric.
Once you have the fabric, cut a wide border around the image, I made mine about 1 1/2″ wide. Tip to keep in mind: The first time I cut my shape, I cut around all the legs and ended up with thin toothpicks once I sewed. It looked horrible. It’s better if you cut a looser shape that surrounds all the legs and doesn’t create too sharp of turns.
Once you are finished with the photo fabric, you will want to place the face of your photo fabric to the face of the sherpa and cut the back material to the same shape.
Pin your fabrics together.
Use a sewing machine to sew the two pieces together. You could also hand sew this if you don’t know how to sew or don’t have a sewing machine.
Leave a gap when you sew so you can turn it right side out.
Stuff the pillow with your fiberfill to it’s desired fullness (I filled it pretty good so it would keep it’s shape). Sew the opening closed and you are done! You are left with a super cute and custom photo pillow that will be loved by your receiver (or you!). This is the third pillow I have made like this and I’m sure it won’t be my last!