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Road Trip Pillows

These road trip pillows are
an easy project, a great gift,
and a sure way to infuse some much-needed sanity
into your next family car trip.

I can describe 2016 as a year of NEW for my family.  Early in the year came a new baby.  In June, we bought a new house, and the move brought a new state, new neighborhood, new schools, friends, etc.  Of course, for the new house, we also purchased COUNTLESS new things, from the essential (a kitchen trashcan) to the utilitarian (a sectional for the family room), to the purely decorative (gorgeous new wallpaper for my daughter’s room).  Needless to say, we have acquired many, many new things… SO MANY!  We have shopped so much, in fact, that when Christmas came along, we dreaded the idea of spending even more money on even more stuff.  So, we decided to spend the money on memories, not things this year.  Instead of physical gifts, my husband and I gave my family a trip to Washington, DC. 

DC is only a short car ride away from our house, less than three hours, but anyone who has ever traveled with children knows that a three hour projected trip often turns into five, six hours in the car.  Kids have to use the bathroom and eat and stretch their legs at regular intervals, and there is no such thing as a quick stop at the rest area.  Now, THE BEST THING that could happen on a long road trip is kids taking a nap.  So, when I saw an idea for a car pillow on Pinterest, I instantly thought: Christmas presents!  The pillow is small enough to be carried into the car, and it attaches to the seatbelt, so kids can comfortably sleep and the pillow will not slip or fall.  Of course, I improved upon the original concept, making it washable, and adding a handle and a pocket, so the pillow could also be a bag for books or paper and crayons or small electronics.  I made one for everyone but the baby, and then an extra one for my niece, because who would not want for a road trip pillow for Christmas?  I absolutely LOVE how these turned out, and I hope to inspire others as well.



  • 1/2 yard of canvas or heavy cotton muslin, cut into the following pieces: 15 x 15 inches, 15 x 3 inches, and 15 x 13 inches
  • 1/2 yard of main fabric, cut into the following pieces: 15 x 3 inches, 15 x 13 inches, and 15 x 11 inches
  • 15 x 11 piece of minky
  • 1 fat quarter of coordinating fabric, cut into a 15 x 15 inch square
  • Coordinating scraps of fabric cut to: 5 x 8 inches, 5 x 8 inches, 8 x 3 inches
  • 1 package of coordinating piping
  • 1 strip of Velcro 3.75 inch long (I used Velcro Sew On Soft and Flexible) 
  • 1 zipper - 14 inches long
  • Fusible interfacing (I used Pellon SF101 Shape-Flex) cut into the following pieces: 4 x 7 inches, 7 x 2 inches, 4 x 5 inches
  • 14 x 14 inch pillow form



  • The finished pillow measures 14 x 14 inches.  
  • The seam allowance is 1/2 inch, unless otherwise indicated.



Part 1: Make the pocket (and my no-fail way to sew on piping)

  1. Pin piping along long edge of minky, ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE FABRIC, and sew piping on. The key here is to try and sew as close to the piping as possible, without of course going over the raised part of the piping. Conveniently, if you purchase pre-made piping, there is a seam. I always aim to stitch right over it when I sew. The seam should be 1/2 inch away from the edge of the minky.

  2. Lay the minky and attached piping on top of your main color, right sides together, and pin them together. With the minky still on top, the stitches from Step 1 above can be seen. Sew over the original seam, sewing all three layers together.

  3. Turn right side out, and marvel at your amazing work with the piping. Press, but DO NOT IRON THE MINKY. The MINKY WILL MELT.


Part 2: Pillow back: sew in the zipper (and my tutorial for a hidden zipper in a pillowcase)

  1. Press the zipper.  Press through a piece of fabric, so the iron will not melt the plastic zipper parts.
  2. Pick up your pieces of main color and the corresponding pieces of canvas. Keeping the right sides of the main color together, make a sandwich: canvas, main color, main color, canvas. Pin. The canvas will reinforce the quilting cotton, to make the pillow sturdy and durable.

  3. Mark two inches from the end of the fabric, on both sides. Sew to the marked line. Make sure to backstitch a few times at the line, which will render that point very secure. Do this on both sides.

  4. Set your stitch length to the longest your machine allows, and stitch from one end to the other. Do not back stitch or secure your threads in any way. Leave them loose. Remove the pins. Open and press the seam open on both sides.

  5. Place the zipper under the newly created seam (on the wrong side of the fabric). The zipper should be closed. Pin it in place FROM THE RIGHT SIDE of the fabric. The end, where the slider rests, is a little tricky, so pin any way that seems comfortable for you. When pinning, make sure the top of the zipper pull is facing out.

  6. Working with the right side of the fabric on the top and the zipper hidden from view, sew in the zipper. The stitches should be approximately 1/4 inch from the center. Start sewing about 1 to 2 inches from the slider, whatever feels comfortable. Do not start too close or the seam will be crooked. Work around the zipper.

  7. Once this part is complete, take the fabric out of the machine and slowly push the slider down to a part where the zipper has already been sewn in. To ensure that the seams will be even and neat, keep enough space between the slider and the part that needs to be sewn.
  8. Without the slider in the way, finish sewing in the zipper.
  9. Put the seam ripper to good use and take out the large stitches created earlier. DO NOT get carried away and take out the good stitches.

  10. Finally, slide the zipper open and closed a few times. Take some time to appreciate how nice it looks, how it can barely be seen when it is closed, and how neatly it has been installed.


Part 3: Pillow back: make the seat belt wrap 

  1. On the back side of one piece of 5 x 8 inch fabric rectangle, iron on the 4 x 7 inch piece of interfacing. Make sure it is centered, with a 1/2 inch margin all around.

  2. Sew the two 5 x 8 inch pieces of fabric together, right sides together. Sew three sides, leaving one side open.
  3. Trim away excess fabric in corners, and turn right side out. Press flat.
  4. Then, fold in about 1/2 inch of the opening, folding the unfinished fabric inside the pocket made by the two layers. Press. Topstitch the entire seat belt wrap all the way around, closing the open end in the process.
  5. Sew the pieces of Velcro onto both ends of the seat belt wrap. Keep in mind, the piece will fold like a loop, with the ends folding one over the other, so the Velcro will go on two different sides of the wrap.

  6. Mark the piece in this manner, along the edge: 1.5 inches, 3 inches, 2.5 inches. Mark a rectangle between the 1.5 and 3 inch marks. The rectangle will measure approximately 3 x 4 inches.

  7. Pick up the pillow back. On the wrong side, in the center, iron on the 4 x 5 inch piece of fusible interfacing. The rectangle should be vertical. Measure carefully to make sure that the edges are evenly spaced and are truly in the middle of the pillow.

  8. On the right side, find the center, then measure out a 3 x 4 inch rectangle. Pin the seat belt wrap to the pillow back, with the 3 x 4 inch box within the 3 x 4 inch box.

  9. Topstitch the box in place, and make an X in the middle. It is a good idea to sew twice over the whole thing, just to make sure this piece stays on forever.

  10. Close the seat belt wrap using the Velcro, open it, then close it again.  Take a moment to take pride in your work.  Open the Velcro, then close it, then open it again.


Part 4: Make the handle

  1. On the wrong side of the 8 x 3 inch fabric rectangle, iron on the 2 x 7 inch piece of fusible interfacing.
  2. Fold the piece in half, right sides together, and sew all the way down the rectangle. Leave a ½ inch seam allowance.

  3. Then, using a safety pin, turn the piece right side out. In other words, attach the safety pin to the end, and then work the safety pin all the way through the tunnel. Once it emerges, you can flip the piece right side out.

  4. Press, then topstitch all the way down the sides of the handle, approximately ¼ inch from the edge.


Part 5: Assemble the pillow

  1. Place the 15 x 15 inch square of fabric, right side up, on top of the corresponding piece of canvas. Then, place the pocket made in step 1 on top. The minky should face up. Baste the three pieces together, approximately 1/4 inch from the edge.
  2. Pin the handle in place at the top. Start the handle approximately 4-5 inches from each side (make sure you measure the same distance from each side so the handle is centered).

  3. Pin the piping all around, rounding the corners. Snip the piping where needed so it lays flat.

  4. To join piping: Cut it a bit too long, so there is about an inch extra. Then, take out some of the securing seam on the bottom. Cut the inside rope to a length that will fit exactly to where the first end begins. Then, fold the excess fabric under, and wrap over the starting piece of piping.
  5. Stitch the piping in place, working all the way around the edges of the pillow, like you did when making the pocket.

  6. On the piece that will be the back of the pillow, loosen the zipper and leave about a 2-3 inch opening. Leave a 2-3 inch hole, enough that a hand can fit through.
  7. Place the back of the pillow on your work surface, right side up, and cover with the pillow front, with the piping attached. Keep right sides together, with the piping in the middle. Pin together. The stitches from step 5 are visible on top. Pin. Sew over the stitches made in Step 5, sewing all layers together. Then, go over the seam one more time with the sewing machine, just to make sure the stitches will be sturdy. The recipients of these pillows likely will not treat them gently.
  8. Finally, trim excess fabric and finish the edges. I went around the entire edge with a large zigzag, but you can be as fancy as you like.

  9. Turn the pillow right side out and press. Again, TAKE CARE TO NOT IRON THE MINKY.

  10. Insert the pillow form, and zip the pillow case closed. 

  11. Take a few minutes (I would not consider a half an hour excessive here) to admire your handiwork!


The pillows are quite easy to make, and the payoff is huge.  It took me a day to make five of them.  They make a gorgeous gift and are sure to make your next road trip a bit more pleasant.  Please let me know how yours turned out.


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