How to Make a DIY Initial Pillow (for Bed, Couch, or Chair)

This easy tutorial will teach you how to personalize a pillow with a custom applique.

An initial appliqued DIY pillow.

Today I will show you how to make a DIY initial pillow that is perfect for showcasing on a bed, couch, or chair.

Are you looking for a fun and creative DIY project to give your home a personal touch?

In this blog post, I’ll guide you through creating your very own applique pillow.

So whether you’re an experienced crafter or just starting out, this beginner-friendly tutorial will be easy to follow.

You’ll learn how to create a design, choose your fabric, cut, and attach your applique.

I also have other posts to walk you through making various custom pillow designs.

So, grab your sewing supplies and prepare to create a unique and lovely addition to your home decor.

I look forward to helping you discover the fun of applique!

What is the difference between an initial and a monogram?

Initials are 1 to 3 letters of a person’s name in order, usually all the same size. The first name comes first, then the middle name, and then the last name.

A personal monogram, however, has the last name initial in the middle and is sometimes larger. For example, first initial, last initial, then middle initial.

What is Applique?

Applique is a sewing technique where you adhere smaller fabric pieces in various shapes onto a larger fabric piece to create a design or pattern.

It’s a simple way to add a custom look, a pop of color, and personality to a project.

Applique can be done by hand or with a sewing machine.

Additionally, you can top it with embroidery stitches to adorn your applique, which adds texture and interest.

An applique would make a cute gift applied to a DIY drawstring bag.

Custom Applique Projects

There are so many creative ways to explore applique. In this post, we are starting simple, but when you see how easy it is, you’ll be ready for more!

An applique pillow design is an opportunity to create something personal and meaningful for you or others.

This could be a monogram or initials of your name, a favorite phrase, or even a pet silhouette.

The possibilities are endless, and the design can be as simple or complex as you like.

See the ideas below for how to use your creations.

Home Decor

One of the best things about an applique pillow is that it can add color and spunk to any room in your home.

Set it on your couch, armchair, or bed to add a touch of whimsy and style.

Mix and match different patterns and colors to coordinate with any room in your house.

Handmade Gifts for Friends and Family

An applique pillow makes a thoughtful and unique gift!

For example, you could create a custom design that includes their interests and style.

Or select a seasonal idea to mark a holiday or special occasion.

Selling your Handmade Products

Consider selling your pillows at craft shows or online.

Look for local craft shows, events, or farmer’s markets in your area where you could sell.

Many sites, such as Etsy and Amazon Handmade, are also dedicated to handmade product sales. These websites allow you to showcase your designs and reach a wider audience.

Turn your passion into a profitable business with a little marketing and branding!

Create your Design

For this tutorial, the very first thing to do is choose what monogram you would like to use and what you would like to put it on.

I will apply a single-letter applique to a pillow for this post, but many other creative options exist.

For example, you could personalize a blanket, throw, t-shirt, slipcover, stool, or frame the monogram.

You could use contrasting fabric scraps to create a bold design and add hand or machine embroidery over the top.

Ideas for your Applique

Below are examples from around the web using one or more letters as initials or more formal-style monograms.

Select your Typestyle

Next, you will choose the style of your type or font. Try browsing through the font library on your computer and check out font sites on the internet.

Creative Market or MyFonts are great places to start looking for fonts or monogram style type.

Find free monogram fonts at the 1001 Fonts website. If you only use one letter, you can trace almost any letter or shape you find!

You can also create your own letter or mark. Use your imagination to make it your own.

Whatever you decide, draw or print the letter style you like and size it to fit your pillow. Then, continue by following the tutorial below.

If you would like the font template I used, subscribe to get access to my download library.

After you subscribe, you will be sent a welcome e-mail with a password to log in and get access.

A PDF of the alphabet that I used is there to download. The letters are already reversed.

Choose your Fabric

Now, you’ll need to decide on fabric.

You’ll need to buy fabric for the pillow and a coordinating fabric for the applique.

Shop for fabric in your own stash or at a store.

This is the perfect time to use fabric scraps or repurpose materials you love, such as old blankets, linens, or clothing.

What Fabrics are Best for Applique?

100% cotton, linen, silk, or wool. Natural fabrics work best for applique projects.

It’s also the perfect time to use those small pieces or fabric scraps you’ve been holding on to!

Applique Materials

Below are the supplies you will need. Affiliate links are in color.

Fabric for the pillow
Fabric for appliqué
Fusible Web Heat N Bond
Iron Rowenta
Free PDF (if you subscribe) or
Create your own Artwork

Scissors sewing & paper varieties
Pillow Form not pictured
Thread or Embroidery Floss topstitching
Sewing Machine

How to Applique

Gather your project supplies, and follow the steps below. The instructions will be for a square pillow.

Measure your Pillow

First, cut the fabric square to the desired size for the front of the pillow, leaving room for a seam allowance.

Choose your monogram design

Decide which font you will use for your initial or monogram. (See more on that above in “Create your Design.”)

Freehand draw the letter(s) or use a stencil to trace it.

If you want the letter template I used, subscribe to access the free library.

After you subscribe, you will be sent a welcome e-mail with a password to log in and get access. A PDF of the alphabet that I used is there to download. The letters are already reversed.

NOTE You can also cut your monogram fabric using a Cricut Explore Air.

Prewash Fabrics

Prewash your pillow and appliqué fabric, hang it dry, and press flat.

Prepare the Applique

1 First, cut a piece of the fusible web slightly larger than your letter. Then, trace your letter onto the paper side of the fusible web adhesive.

There are many fusible web products. I am using the fusible web called Heat N Bond Lite web adhesive (affiliate link). It’s easy to use and works great!

HeatnBond comes in many varieties. Be sure to buy the “Fusible Web Adhesive,” read the package closely, and choose the right type for your fabric!

IMPORTANT Before you trace, letters must be reversed or mirrored to read correctly in the final position. Art and drawings, however, are different. They typically work in either direction, so it’s usually not a big deal if they are backward.

2 Cut out the letter (on the fusible web) loosely using scissors. Leave a 1/4 – 1/2 inch margin of web paper around your tracing outlines.

Place the fusible web paper rough side down on the letter fabric’s back (wrong side).

Now, follow the instructions on the fusible web adhesive package to fuse.

Typically, you use a dry iron (no steam) to adhere the web paper and fabric. It only takes a few seconds. This will help the letter hold its shape and prevent fraying.

NOTE In my design above, I added a flower applique (from the same fabric) on top of the letter and cut it out separately. AND Sorry, the iron is not pictured here. I forgot to get that photo!

3 Use scissors or a Xacto knife to carefully cut out the letter shape once the fusible web is fused to the letter fabric.

4 Peel the paper backing off the fusible web adhesive.

Apply the Applique

5 Carefully place the applique letter onto the center of the square piece of fabric with the adhesive side down

CAUTION (Not pictured) When satisfied with the layout, place a pressing cloth over the letters and fuse them with a dry iron on top of that. The cloth will help prevent burning the applique or the fabric. Fusing time will vary depending on the material and fusible web you use.

Follow the fusible web adhesive package iron instructions to fuse the applique letter to the fabric.

NOTE: I lightly fused the letter for my project, then layered the flower on top and fused it again.

It’s nice to add a little extra detail to your appliqué letters. One way is to stitch around the edges with a decorative, straight, or tight zigzag stitch.

NOTE: If you are doing a large pillow, many letters, or multiple pieces, you will want to add stability behind the fabric to add integrity. I did NOT use one for this pillow because it is small. I DID use it for this other handmade applique pillow with multiple letters, though.

If you do need to purchase a stabilizer (affiliate link), the Sulky brand makes many good ones. Don’t be intimidated. It’s very easy to use!

Stabilizers hold fabric flat and inflexible, so it is more easily stitched.

Topstitch the Applique (optional)

6 Now, it’s time to stitch around the letter.

Again, you don’t need a particular sewing machine to stitch around your letter. Any sewing machine that can do a stitch you like will work!

You can use standard polyester thread for the stitch. And you can also use “bobbin fill thread” in your bobbin. It is a fine, shiny, lightweight, strong polyester thread.

Consider changing the color of your thread to match or contrast your appliqué piece(s).

Use a transparent presser foot so you can see everything as you stitch.

Finally, sew around the edge of the letter using your desired stitch style. (I used a simple straight stitch).

Experiment on a scrap of fabric first to find the right machine stitch and the tension for your project.

The upper thread should be flat on the right side of your fabric, but the bobbin thread should not show.
Adjust the bobbin tension, if necessary, to get it right.

When sewing around the curves and corners, set your needle down into the fabric on the opposite side of the stitch to the way you want to turn.

Lift the presser foot and rotate the fabric as you go.

Finish your Pillow

7 You did it! Your applique letter is now complete and ready to be displayed!

8 Finish your homemade pillow according to your desired sewing method.

For example, you can add a back envelope closure, a flanged border pillow, or a zipper closure and add cording or piping around the edges of the pillow for a finished look.

More Pillow Projects

Personalized Pillow with Applique Name
How to Make a Flanged Pillow Cover
DIY Envelope Style Pillow
Holiday Applique Pillow

Have fun creating your DIY initial pillow. I can’t wait to hear what you make!
xo,
Cindy

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