Hello and welcome to the Making Life for the third part of a 3-part-series teaching you how to make your own pillow and pillowcase cover. In part one, we learned how to make a pillow form, sometimes called a pillow insert. Next, we learned how to make an envelope pillowcase to cover the pillow form.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to decorate your envelope pillowcase using iron-on vinyl and a Cricut. Once you learn this simple technique, you will be able to make loads of custom pillows right in your own home.
Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
What You Need to Make an Iron-On Pillowcase
- Cutting Machine
- Iron-on Vinyl (also called Heat Transfer Vinyl or HTV)
- Iron or Heat press
- Ironing board
- Cricut Tools
- Cricut mat
- Plain envelope pillowcase
Different Cutting Machine Choices
Just about any cutting machine will work for making iron-on pillowcases. I’ll talk about some of the popular models so you can get an idea if you don’t already own a cutting machine.
Cricut Explore Air 2
I have a Cricut Explore Air 2 and I have almost no complaints about it. I’ve loved using this for all sorts of projects and it’s stood up well over the years that I’ve had it. I thought it was downright magical opening the box and using it for the first time. They certainly make the unboxing process really fun and interesting and give you an initial project which makes it more special and teaches you how to get started.
This puppy is a workhorse, and it can be plugged into your computer or can be connected wirelessly to your desktop, laptop, or mobile device.
With the Cricut Explore Air 2, you can cut out stencils, regular vinyl, heat transfer vinyl, and paper. In fact, you can cut over 100 different materials from leather to vellum.
If I were to purchase a Cricut machine right now, I would probably choose a Cricut Maker (which I will discuss in a moment) because it offers more options than the Cricut Explore Air 2. But at a lower price point, the Explore Air offers you can make a ton of projects and it’s a great machine.
2. Cricut Maker
The Cricut Maker is the newest in the Cricut cutting machine line. Frankly, if I were in the market for a cutting machine today this is the one I would choose. I’m blown away by the things you can do with this cutting machine — and possibly the most intriguing part is the rotary cutter that makes cutting fabric much easier.
It’s a pretty sweet setup for people that like to sew and it’s something I wish I did have. Maybe someday. The Cricut Maker can cut up to 300 materials with a blade made for thicker materials. Another interesting thing about this upgrade is it no longer has a dial on the machine to pick your material, it’s all done directly on the computer in the Cricut Design software.
3. Cricut Joy
I just learned about the existence of the Cricut Joy. This is a mini-portable version of the Cricut that you can take on the go. You won’t be able to do big projects on this but you can do small HTV projects with this mini. You can cut 50 materials with the Cricut Joy and you can use it for cutting and writing, but you cannot use it for scoring.
I would probably not recommend this if you’re planning on only getting *one* cutting machine, but it could be a good choice if you’re looking for an additional one that you can take with you on trips or for quick small projects.
Best Heat Transfer Vinyl
The next important thing is your iron-on vinyl or heat transfer vinyl. Though there are many options, there are three that I’m familiar with.
Cricut Heat Transfer Vinyl
Cricut has their own line of iron-on vinyl. I’ve never had a problem working with this brand and I’ve had positive results. Personally, I’ve only ever used Cricut’s brand and Joann Fabric’s HTV line (I think they discontinued it as it’s no longer available at the store where I live).
Cricut’s iron-on vinyl comes in a variety of colors and styles.
Types of iron-on vinyl you can get include:
- Sport flex
- Every-day iron on
2. Siser Heat Transfer Vinyl
Siser is another popular HTV brand. They come in a bunch of different colors and they have an “easy weed” variety to make it less of a hassle to weed those tiny details. This brand is known for being durable through the wash and is generally reliable.
Iron or Heat Press?
I don’t own a heat press, but I can see why it would be valuable. It would be very helpful and useful for making t-shirts and other flat iron-on projects. Personally, I would say if you’re only doing a project every once in awhile for hobby reasons, an iron will do everything you need it to. If you’re planning on selling products, I would invest in the heat press. I think it would be a total game-changer.
Step #1 Make Your Design in Cricut Design Space
I wanted the design to be in two separate colors so I made the arrow gray and the words pink. It doesn’t really matter what colors you set them as on the computer, but it can give you a better idea of what it will look like once it’s cut out.
Set your design to the appropriate size of your pillowcase using the grid in the Cricut Design Space. I think it tends to look better when your design takes up a larger space on your pillow. If your design is too small, it will look like there’s too much vacant space around it. If it’s too large, it won’t fit on your pillowcase.
Step #2 Make Your Settings Correct
When your design is finished, it’s time to “make it!” It’s super fun to hit the “make it” button when you’re ready!
If you’re using Cricut Explore, you also need to adjust your settings manually on the machine. Select the Iron-on for this.
The type of HTV that I was using was a bit thicker than normal, probably because it was the shiny iridescent kind (and Joann Fabric’s own brand that I think they discontinued). When I set it to iron-on it didn’t fully cut through the material.
To fix this problem, I switched the dial to “custom” which allowed me to change the settings in Cricut Design Space. When you select custom you the Design Space allows you to change the settings digitally. It looks like this:
Cricut has a longer tutorial about using custom material settings if you would like to learn more about this process.
My design is going to cut into two phases because I’m using two colors. Depending on your design you may have a single cut or multiple ones. One thing to always remember about iron-on cutting is to set it to “mirror.” Which is the little tab in the picture above. If you forget to do this step, your design will come out backward. You will be sad. You will have wasted your vinyl. I’ve done this before, so I’ll say it again.
Don’t forget to select “mirror” before you cut!!
Sorry for yelling there for a minute. But you’ll be glad for the reminder when your pillow design isn’t backward 🙂
Here’s my design on “mirror”:
Step #3 Cut That Out!
At this point, it’s time to cut! I love this part. It’s so fun to see the Cricut working. Make sure your iron-on vinyl is smoothed out with the scraper. You can get one like this in a set of Cricut tools. Put the shiny side down onto the sticky part of your pat. The duller side should be facing you.
Load your cutting mat into the Cricut and press the button. Enjoy watching the Cricut do its thing.
Step #4 Time to Weed Your Iron-On
The next step is to weed your design. In case you haven’t heard of weeding, it’s when you remove the excess vinyl to reveal your final design. When the Cricut (or another cutting machine) cuts out the design, it doesn’t remove the remaining vinyl surrounding it. That part is your job.
Some people love this part, and some people hate it. I happen to enjoy it. I think it’s pretty peaceful.
The weeding tool looks like this and it’s the best Cricut tool:
With the HTV or iron-on vinyl, it will have a shiny plasticky side, and that’s what will help you transfer your iron-on to your material. When you’re ready to weed, you can keep the whole piece of vinyl on the cutting mat and it will keep it in place for you while you remove the excess vinyl. When it’s finished, it will look like this:
One tip would be to refer back to the original design to make sure you don’t accidentally remove the wrong parts. This is something that is fairly easy to do, but following your original picture will help.
Also, note that my design looks backward. This is how it’s supposed to look! When it’s put on the pillowcase it will be correct.
Step #5 Put Your Iron-On Vinyl Design On the Pillowcase
The next step is to iron your HTV onto the pillowcase. First place your design in the center of your pillowcase (or wherever you think it looks good.) To make it easier to center, you can fold your pillowcase in half. Iron the edge of the pillowcase to make a crease. This will give you an idea of where your center is when you place your iron-on vinyl.
The HTV should be placed shiny side UP so your design will no longer look backward. The vinyl will be against the fabric and the plastic will be towards you.
Once you’re happy with the placement, you’re almost ready to iron. If you’re using the heat press the next step will be a little different, but I don’t own one so I’ll show you how to do it with an iron.
Some people iron directly on the plastic, but I put a barrier between my iron and the HTV. We used a hand towel which may be overkill…and may make it a little harder for the heat to transfer properly. Other people use a scrap piece of fabric. I would like to use this method next time I use HTV.
Press your iron down on the decal for 15-30 seconds. If you have a larger image, move the iron around until you’ve heated every part. Pay particular attention to the edges of your design because it’s easy to miss it. Do not slide the iron because it may smear your decal.
Once you’ve ironed on the front side of the pillow you can flip it over and iron the backside to help make it stick.
Set the iron aside and check the edges of your decal. When you start to peel back the shiny plastic if the design doesn’t stick to your fabric, repeat the process. Again, be careful not to slide the iron.
If the HTV releases, go ahead and take off all the plastic and discard.
Let the piece cool and you’re done!