Little boy holding a dad deployment pillow with a picture of him and his dad.


As you all know I crochet and make things out of need and what fits in my life currently. So in this post, I am sharing with you the process I went through to make my kids their daddy doll/ pillow.  It is a three-day process because I left the transfer paper on the fabric to sit for 24 hours as instructed before washing everything. I highly recommend doing the same. Transfer the paper, waiting 24 hours, wash them, tumble dry on low, and iron them again. I am very happy with the results and I think you will be too!

So as you may have guessed my husband is currently deployed. We aren’t going to be away from each other for too long but enough that the kids have expressed their emotions in different ways because they miss their dad very much already. It has been a few days since I have gifted them their daddy pillows. Victoria welcomed it with absolute love and hugged it right away. The older kids may react a little different, it just depends on the child. My son (4yo) is very close with his dad so seeing him in the pillow I think it stirred up some mixed emotions and used it to be silly and started hitting the couch with it. It’s ok, all emotions are valid especially right now, he is a little upset because he doesn’t understand why dad isn’t back home yet.  So just be prepared emotionally if the big reveal doesn’t go as you hoped, they will come around. That same night he asked for his daddy pillow as he saw Victoria carry hers around all day. He fell asleep with it while I rocked him to sleep for the first time in years! He has warmed up to it after seeing dad on a video call.

Matt has been deployed twice before and one of them was while we were married but with no kids yet. Seeing them miss their dad is hard, trying to keep them from being distracted and happy while I am missing him is hard. But I know I have my family who all check in with me every day, friends on Instagram that ask me how I am doing, my wonderful neighbors, and I have my blog that is my outlet to not sit around all day. So if you are going through a deployment know that I get it, take it day by day. Be kind to yourself. And I hope this DIY craft keeps you busy and that you have fun and enjoy it. <3

With Love,

Ariana Hall

I have also documented the process in video format, so if you would like to sit back and relax grab a snack and a drink so you can watch the entire process from start to finish!

Let’s get into the materials I used:

I purchased THIS transfer paper for dark material.

I had the fabric cut .5 yards. Keep in mind the material you need for the transfer paper. Mine was 100% cotton.

A printer (ink)

Some fabric scissors and/or rotary cutters.

Chalk or fabric marker to map out your shape

A sewing machine

Ballpoint pins

Measuring tape/ruler


Hard surface to iron

A needle and thread (for the end)

Poly-fil to insert in the pillow can be found HERE.

THE PHOTO  – IMPORTANT – You need a photo of dad or mom. This can be full-body, half like mine but just make sure to have a clean, bright background and good lighting. I just used my phone which is the One Plus 6T.

Pillow measurements:

  • Photo after it was printed and cut measured 9.5×5 inches.
  • Pillow final measurements are 12×7.5×3

Notes on the materials I mentioned:

  1. The transfer paper. Make sure you read the back and be sure you have the needed printer and if either you are printing on white or dark fabric.
  2. Get a good clear photo with dad or mom alone or with the child. I used my phone – One plus 6T
  3. Half a yard of fabric was quite a bit more than I needed but I didn’t mind since I didn’t know the outcome of the shape and size yet. It was $4.50 for .5 yard.
  4. A chalk and embroidery pen is what I used and can be found in most craft stores and isles. They help guide when cutting without damaging the fabric.
  5. When ironing on the transfer paper you want to make sure it is on a harder surface area other than just your regular ironing board but that doesn’t mean it won’t work. I just personally used a wooden board instead.
  6. Make sure to remove all the water from your iron just in case the instructions don’t tell you. Super important.
  7. Ballpoint pins are a dream and highly recommend them if you don’t already have some. Especially with this project. Helps both front and back of the pillow are steady.
  8. Poly-fil should be added to the inside of the pillow being mindful to spread and adjust the squish factor of the pillow. Making sure it doesn’t turn out too dense. We want it to be cuddly and huggable!
  9. Be familiar with the ladder stitch. In the end, when you are done with filling the pillow with poly-fil you will have to close the opening by hand and the ladder stitch is amazing for that.


The process is broken down into steps:

Step 1 – Make sure you have all materials mentioned above.

Step 2 – Familiarize yourself with the transfer paper instructions and do a practice run if you have extra on hand.

Step 3 – Once you have your photo, upload it to your desktop and print it out using the Inkjet paper typesetting or as instructed in the transfer paper printing chart.

Step 4 – Cut around the photo like I did or as you wish. (final dimensions mentioned above) Rounding the edged are recommended for less lifting.

Step 5 – lay your fabric in a clean flat surface with the inside out. And have your measuring tape, chalk or fabric marker ready. Make sure to have the fabric folded in half to make sure you cut the front and the back of the pillow.

Step 6 – The shape turned out to be from measuring 2 inches away from the photo all around. Here you can decide to make it rectangular, square, bigger, or smaller. There is no right or wrong shape just what you like best.  This step is where you decide the shape and adjust to the photo.

Step 7 – Use the chalk to draw out your shape and use the ballpoint pins and place them inside the pillow to help keep the fabric steady when cutting around it. After that, use your scissors to cut your pillow shape.

Step 8 – Remove all the ballpoint pin from the fabric and turn them right side out. It is time to get your Iron and board ready to transfer the paper to the fabric.

DONT FORGET to remove the backing paper before you iron!

Step 9 – Make sure there is no water in your iron. Iron the fabric prior to the transfer paper and let cool to have it lay flat if you need to. Place the design where you want it and cover the image with the silicon sheet provided for you. Use the pressure and times recommended or as needed.

Do Not throw away the silicon sheet! We will use it again. 

Step 10 – Lay them flat and let them sit for 24 hours.

Step 11 – Put them in the wash in the delicate cycle and then tumble dry on low.

Step 12 – I then iron the fabric and using the silicone sheet I save to go over the image once again.

Step 13 – Turn both sides inside out and place the pins around again to prepare it for the sewing machine. Leave a gap of about 2.5-3 inches at the bottom of the pillow to insert the poly-fil. (I suggest starting at the bottom and ending for that reason)

Step 14 – Sew around the pillow and using the backstitch ( go back and forth twice) to secure the stitch. Cut off the thread.

Step 15 – Now it’s time to pass the right side of the pillow through the opening we made and make sure the edges are even and pulled out.

Step 16 – Fill with poly-fil. Make sure not to overfill it. Take your time and adjust it as you go.

Step 17 – Using the ladder stitch close the rest of the pillow and you are finished!

Step 18 – Gift them! And enjoy!


I hope you enjoy making your pillow/ plush for your kids and family. Thank you for being here and let me know what you think in the comments below!

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