A pet photo pillow, also called a pet portrait pillow, is a throw pillow personalized with a photo of a person’s beloved pet. They normally also sport the pet’s name, though this is optional. Throw pillows make a great touch to someone’s home; everyone likes having some, and most people do not have enough of them. These throw pillows are sure to become lifelong favorites.
A pet photo pillow is incredibly easy to make. You need very basic sewing skills and a little bit of competence with either a printer or a photocopier. Alternatively, you can also take your photo to Kinko’s (or other photocopy shop) and let them do the parts dealing with technology.
The first thing you need is a photo of the pet. If you are a good photographer (or, for that matter, a good artist!) and you happen to live nearby, consider taking a special portrait photo just for this project (or painting a portrait picture, etc). On the other hand, most pet lovers have photos of their pets that they really love (and many of them helpfully post those photos on Facebook). Choosing the right photo to use will probably take more time than the entire rest of the project.
Once you have your photo, you need to transfer it onto the fabric. There are three different methods for doing this. In most cases, the easiest one is to print onto iron-on transfer paper – especially so if you started with a digital picture.
Different types of transfer papers are made for different technologies. Most transfer papers work with ink jet printers (NOT laser!), but some will work with color photocopiers, and some will work with other technologies. Match the printing device and the paper, or it won’t work well (and you may wind up with a mess). If you don’t have the right equipment for the job, Kinko’s does.
You will need to purchase some iron-on transfer paper, obviously. You can get this from office stores, computer stores, craft stores, and chain discount stores like Wal-Mart and K-Mart.
When using iron-on transfer paper, be aware that your picture will transfer onto the fabric as a mirror image of the original photo. Therefore, you should print a mirror image of the original photo onto the transfer paper, so that when you transfer a mirror image of THAT picture, you will have the original picture again. Some printers offer an option to print a mirror image; if so, just choose that option, and print, and you’re good to go. The other option is to flip the image using some image manipulation software program such as Photoshop, Gimp, or Paintshop Pro. (Don’t forget to save the mirror image as a new file.)
It’s generally good practice to print a test image on regular paper, first – transfer paper is expensive, so make sure it prints smoothly on cheaper regular paper first. Check and make sure the printed image is satisfactory in terms of physical size and in terms of image quality and resolution. Once you’re satisfied with the test image, simply load a sheet of transfer paper into the printer (make sure the correct side is up), and print. Trim the paper close to the image.
Now, choose the fabric you will use. A pillow has two sides, front and back. Your picture goes on the front. For this, choose a plain solid fabric. In most cases, a bright white is the right color choice – pictures show up best on white. A cream color can also look very nice. A light beige color might give the picture an “antique” look, which some people find charming and quaint, but I do not recommend it in most cases. White really is best. Choose a high thread count cotton (a pima cotton is ideal) for most pillows. For the back, you have options. The nicest-looking pillows use cotton print backs that bring out one or more colors in the picture on front – and, if possible, match the décor of the room the pillow will live in, as well. Solid color backs can work, too. You can leave the solid color plain, or you can decorate it with embroidery, beads, or whatever else tickles your fancy. (Be careful, though – if you use beads, buttons, and other 3D objects, the pillow becomes less useful as a pillow and more of a decorative object.) Alternately, you can put a second picture – either the same one or a different one – on the back side.
Cut your two pieces of fabric into nice squares. Throw pillows traditionally range anywhere from 16″ to 20″ finished size. Cut your squares 1-1/4″ larger than your desired finished size. Do not wash them.
Set your iron to the cotton setting. Iron the white fabric. This serves both to make sure it has no wrinkles, and also to heat it up for the transfer. Carefully lay your transfer paper on the fabric, picture side down. Make absolutely sure it is placed correctly, because there are no do-overs. Press with an iron. Press hard and move slowly and smoothly across the transfer. Remove the paper, and it is done.
Optionally, add the pet’s name now. You can do this many ways. You can use Photoshop, Gimp, or Paintshop Pro to print letters onto transfer paper and iron that on at the same time. You can embroider the name on, or use cross-stitch. Place the name wherever looks best with the picture. Directly underneath the picture often works quite well, but to either side or arched over the top also can look great. You can also opt to place the name on the back side.
Add any other embellishments you plan now, too. Many people prefer a simple, clean look, so further embellishments are not necessary. However, if you feel inspired, add borders or corner decorations, or go wild decorating the back side.
Place the two fabrics good sides facing each other. Line everything up and pin it all together. Sew all along all four edges using a 5/8″ seam, but leave a small hole about the length of your thumb (or a little longer if you have small thumbs) in the middle of the side you started sewing on. Turn the pillow inside-out.
Stuff the pillow with cotton batting. Stuff it tightly for a firm pillow good for using as a back rest or for decorative purposes, or stuff it loosely for a more snuggly pillow good for laying your head on.
When the pillow is full, sew up that last little hole by hand. You’re done!
Although the first pillow you make might seem difficult if you’ve never made a pillow before, you’ll quickly get the hang of it. You can easily make one or two of these for every pet lover on your gift list.