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DIY Animal Appliqué Pillows for Children

Free Sewing Patterns | Pillows | Sewing

Learn how to make sweet animal appliqué pillows. Grab the free appliqué designs for an owl, elephant and lion and gets tarted sewing!

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Colorful pillow with owl appliqué on the front sits on top of a colorful quilt.

Hello Crafty Friends! Today I’m excited to share the sweetest little animal appliqué pillows with you. These are so fun to make and are so cute and colorful when finished.

I made each of my children one of these pillows before they were born as decoration for their nursery. They are also a great pillow size for small children sleeping in their own beds.

I made three animal appliqué patterns including an owl, elephant and lion. While I normally enjoy appliquéing by hand, I used my sewing machine to appliqué each animal to the front of a pillow. They are all designed to fit a small 12″ x 16″ pillow form. 

Small elephant appliqué pillow sits on a glider with a stuffed bunny.

Colorful lion appliqué pillow rests on a beige glider.

> View more DIY Pillow Tutorials!

How to Make Cute Animal Appliqué Pillows

Supplies Needed:

  • Free Appliqué Patterns – Grab the free files by filling out the purple form at the end of this post.
  • 12″ x 16″ pillow form
  • Fusible Web Interfacing – Wonder Under
  • Machine Embroidery Thread for Appliqué
  • Embroidery floss – for elephant’s ear and owl’s eyes/beak/legs.
  • Fabric
    • Back of pillow – 2 pieces (13″ x 10″)
    • Front of pillow – 1 piece (11″ x 15″)
    • Fabric Border – 2 pieces (13″ x 2″) and 2 pieces (17″ x 2″)
    • Fabric scraps for appliqué animal – reference pattern for sizes of each piece
    • Felt scraps for owl’s eyes, beak and legs
  • Batting or flannel – 1 piece (13″ x 17″)

> This pillow should not be placed in a crib with a sleeping child or used by an infant. 

Supplies needed for pillow including fabric, pillow form, embroidery floss and fusible web interfacing.

Step by Step Tutorial

Step One:  Cut out all of your fabrics.  

Use the dimensions under Supplies Need to cut the large pieces of fabric for the pillow case. To cut the fabric for the animal appliqué, use the fusible web. Lay the fusible web, paper side up, over the printed appliqué pattern. Trace the shapes.

Elephant, elephant ear and water drops traced onto fusible web interfacing with a pencil.

Cut the appliqué shapes out leaving space around the pieces. Next, iron each piece to fabric making sure to iron the piece onto the wrong side of the fabric. Let the fabric cool, then cut the pieces out directly on the line.

Line mane appliqué piece is ironed to the wrong side of orange patterned fabric.

Step Two: Appliqué the animal.

Peel the paper backing off of each appliqué piece and iron them to the front piece of fabric. Some of the pieces will be layers, so start by ironing the bottom pieces and then adding on. 

Lion fabric appliqué pieces are ironed onto polka dot fabric.

Owl appliqué pieces are ironed onto the front of the pillow.

After the animals are ironed in place, appliqué them using your machine and machine embroidery thread. I used a zig zag stitch on my machine and set my stitches to be about 1/4″ wide and very close together. I’ve found going slow, especially around curves is the key to getting a nice solid satin stitch. You can also appliqué the pieces with a looser zig zag stitch, buttonhole stitch or by hand with a running stitch. The tight zig zag satin stitch I did will keep the edges of the appliqué pieces from fraying when washed. 

Pillow covers with a lion and owl appliquéd on the top.

Hand stitch felt pieces like the eyes, beak and legs on the owl and hand stitch the fabric ear of the elephant. I used a small and simple running stitch in contrasting embroidery floss colors.

Owl appliquéd with fabric and felt.

Hand stitch the lion’s nose and snout using embroidery floss. 

Lion appliqué created with fabric on a pillow case.

Step Three: Create the front of the pillow by adding the border pieces.

The front of the pillow has a border on all four sides. Start with the top and bottom pieces. Mark in from each end at 1″ and 1.5″. With right sides together, lay the border piece on the pillow. It should hang 1″ off on each side. When sewing keep your stitching between the 1.5″ marks.

Fabric border laid across the top of the fabric with 1" and 1.5" marked.

Border stitched to the pillow on the machine.

Press your seams towards the border pieces.

Top seam pressed towards the border piece of fabric.

Stitch the right and left border pieces to the front of the pillow with right sides together. Start your stitching where the right/left border piece meets the top/bottom border piece. Press seam allowance towards border pieces.

Border pieces stitched to the front of the pillow and a spot is marked on where to start stitching.

A striped border is attached to the front of the pillow with the owl appliqué on the front.

To create the mitered corners, bring the border pieces together (right sides together) at each corner. Stitch a diagonal line from corner to corner. The pictures will hopefully help explain this since it can be tricky to describe! Press corners flat.

Border pieces coming together at the corner.

The border pieces are pinned together with a diagonal line marked in pencil.

Fabric borders on the pillow are mitered at the corners.

Step Four: Flat line the front piece with the flannel.  

I like to add a layer of flannel under the front of the pillow because it makes the pillow so nice and soft. You can stitch the flannel to the front layer of the pillow very close to the edge so your stitching is in the seam allowance (flat lining), or wait and sew all layers together in the next step.

Front layer of the pillow is laid over a piece of flannel.

Step Five: Sew the front piece of the pillow to the back pieces.

To create the envelope pillow case, start by finishing off the ends of the back pieces that will overlap.  Fold the edge under twice and top stitch. 

The ends of the back pillow pieces are stitched with the sewing machine.

Two layers of fabric both the ends finished.

Stitch the back pieces to the front piece of the pillow with right sides together. Overlap the back pieces. 

Back pieces pinned to the front piece with the back pieces overlapped.

Stitch around all four sides of the pillow with a 1/2″ seam allowance. Clip the corners and flip right side out.

Corner of the pillowcase trimmed.

Back of the pillowcase with the pillow from inside.

The pillow is finished! I love how cheerful the pillows turned out. My kids have used their pillows for over 5 years and they have held up so well after so many washes.

Nursery pillow with cute stuffed dog sit on a colorful quilt.

Owl Pillow lays on a blue baby blanket.

Owl appliqué pillow sits on a beige glider next to a stuffed bunny.

Happy Crafting! -Kim

Get the Free Animal Appliqué Pillow Pattern Files!

Fill out the purple form below with your first name and email address! The free file will be sent straight to your inbox! If you have already filled out the form below, don’t worry – you won’t be added to my list twice! This freebie is for personal use only. I hope you enjoy crafting something special. Please let me know if you have any questions :)

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