Elephant on my pillow tutorial.

My sister-in-law, Ashley, loved the elephant pillow in the photo above. When I asked her about colors and backgrounds, she requested a gray background with a yellow elephant.

I’m thinking making a pillow would cost more in shipping and would end up in the too-gross-to-launder pile more quickly. I’m a big fan of decorative pillow cases and covers (as opposed to decorative pillows) when you have little ones in the house. So I’m going to make a decorative pillow cover for Ashley and a generalized tutorial for you.


  • Fabric for elephant
  • Fabric for pillow cover (19″ x 42″ in my case)
  • Colored sewing thread or embroidery floss to add contrast to elephant
  • An elephant pattern or template
  • Pins and pin cushion


First, you need to decide on the size of your pillow cover. If you have a pillow, then measure it and note your measurements (refer to the tips below on how to do this). If you plan to purchase a pillow, then decide what size pillow you will purchase.

Pillow dimensions always refer to the pillow cover’s width and length while lying flat unstuffed. The measurements are taken along the seams from corner to corner and are almost always rounded up to the nearest whole inch.

Some great advice on measuring pillows from Pillow Decor:

Many people make the mistake of holding a tape measure across the center of a stuffed pillow and then assume that this dimension is the correct measurement of the pillow. If they order pillows based on this measurement, the chances are they will be surprised to find that the pillows they receive are actually much smaller than they wanted. The most common sizes of pillows for sofas are 18″x18″ and 20″20″. However, larger sofas and sectionals, especially those with deep seats or high backs, may be better off with 22″x22″ or even 24″x24″ pillows.

If you are trying to measure your pillows at home and your covers have zippers and removable inserts, take the inserts out before you measure your pillow. If your pillow is completely sewn up and you cannot remove the insert, pinch the two top corners of the pillow and pull the top seam as tight as you can while holding it next to a tape measure. If you cannot pull it completely straight, then add a little length to your measurement (usually 1/2 inch) to get an approximate size. You’ll probably be pretty close.

I am going to make an 18″ x 18″ pillow cover, so this tutorial will use those numbers. You can make adjustments as needed for your pillow cover size.

For the pillow cover, cut a piece of fabric that is the width of your pillow, plus 1 inch by double the height of your pillow, plus 6 inches. For my 18″ x 18″ pillow, I cut fabric 19″ wide x 42″ tall. The only gray fabric I could find in my stash was a heavy-duty light gray upholstery fabric.

Now choose your elephant fabric. The elephant in this photo is made from felt, which gets scummy quickly and isn’t the softest fabric for a baby’s cheek. It’s also hard to find nice yellow felt. So I need a nice, yellow-ish fabric that doesn’t feel like felt. I purchased 1/4 yard of yellow canvas that will look cute with white threads along the sides.


Now you need to cut this fabric into the perfect elephant applique. Time to start searching for a template….

You can print the template which suits your taste. After printing, cut it out and make sure it fits within your fabric measurements. You want to make sure there is a margin of at least 2-3 inches from the edge, otherwise, your elephant might look uncomfortably full.

I’m going to use Sarah Jane’s elephant template because I like the lines and her elephant reminds me of Eeyore, who ranks as one of my favorite creatures. I traced a few extra lines for threads along the interior trunk onto my fabric.


Since you are going to sew an envelope-style pillow cover, measuring and spacing is important. Grab that pincushion. Now fold your long fabric piece towards the center leaving an 8-inch overlap. Pin along the overlap.

Turn your pillow fabric over and center the elephant fabric on the front outside of your pillow. Pin your elephant to the pillow fabric.

You can now remove your pins along the overlap for easier sewing.

Topstitch your elephant to the fabric leaving about 1/4 inch in from the edge. You can use a zig-zag stitch if you prefer to have no exposed edges with this pillow. I’m going to shoot for exposed edges so I’m just using a simple stitch.

If you’d like to add an extra decorative touch, stitch around the elephant twice and cross over your previous stitches in a haphazard fashion.


After the elephant is attached, hem the short sides. You can fold them over a half inch and iron, then fold them over and iron again. Stitch down along the ironed hem.

Be sure to change your needle if you are moving to a heavy upholstery fabric (like me). I switched to a denim needle.


Turn your long fabric right side up and lay it down. Fold your fabric towards the center leaving a 6-inch overlap this time. Pin along the overlap (yes, you’ve already done this once).

Now stitch down the edges along the top and bottom, leaving a 1/2 to 1 inch margin from the edge. Backstitch to secure.

Cut away your extra fabric and pat yourself on the back (or the upper arm, whichever seems easier). Your elephant pillow cover is ready for its pillow.

I know Ralph doesn’t look quite like the big blue elephant, but he seems sweet in his own way. Or maybe that old parent bias is tainting my view.

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