Graduation Presents: Crafting a Photo Pocket Pillow

As we celebrate milestones, a picture indeed can be worth a thousand words. Celebrating graduation is one of these nostalgic times where this notion rings true.

Whether you have a pre-schooler or a high school student graduating, it’s certain that there are loads of photos documenting highlights of their year.  As I was scrolling through Instragram, I came across a lovely picture of my BFF’s daughter, Caroline, celebrating her high school graduation.  That image sparked an idea and got me thinking about personalizing a gift for her since we live far away and weren’t able to celebrate in person.

Last year, I made a photo memory book for my son’s teacher when he graduated from preschool.  It was such a big hit and got me hooked on using photo transfer paper for crafting projects.  So inspired by the book project and Caroline’s photo, I started to think about what I could make for her…something she could take with her to college.  I’d been hearing from her mom, Susan, about their preparations for Caroline’s University move in August.  I decided a personalized pillow she could add to her dorm room décor would make a perfect graduation gift…and you can create it only an hour!



  • A decorative pillow
  • A photo
  • Photo transfer paper, ironing paper that comes in a kit
  • A printer
  • Scissors
  • Fabric for the photo transfer (I used 8” x 8”)
  • Tulle fabric (I used 10” x 8”)
  • An iron
  • Hand sewing supplies: needle, thread, fuseable bonding web tape, pins,
  • 1 yd. trimmings

As I started gathering the materials for this project, I thought it would be cool if Caroline could switch out the photo in her pillow.  I decided to make her photo the backdrop for a tulle pocket so she could add a photo of her choice and customize her décor.


  • Select photo and add any text that you might want.  Be certain to leave a border for sewing
  • Format photo to a good size for your pillow and print on photo transfer paper
    • I designed mine using a square because of the popularity of Instagram’s format.  Now Caroline can print out any of her photos and slip them right in
  • Trim excess paper and peel off backing
  • Iron the photo to fabric following the directions
  • Reinforce the top of the tulle window by hemming the top with the fusing tape so it measures down to 8” x 8”
  • Fuse the photo fabric and tulle together on 3 sides leaving the top open as the pocket
  • Sew the trim along the TULLE ONLY of the pocket then sew to both layers of fabric on the other three sides
  • Take out the pillow insert so you can sew the pocket on
  • Center the photo pocket on the pillow
  • Stitch the photo only on the top, leaving the tulle and trim free so it can open as a pocket
  • Stitch other three sides to pillow, sewing through all layers: trim, tulle, photo and pillow


I added a photo of Caroline and her mom to show her how it works, but she can add in any she likes in the future.  I can’t wait to see the first photos of her dorm room.  The move from high school to college is such an exciting time of transition, and hopefully Caroline will use/see this pillow on a daily basis making her feel loved and supported as she gains her independence.

Whether you are celebrating a little one moving up to kindergarten or a momentous high school graduation, personalizing a gift with photography will give someone a keepsake to cherish.