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Seatbelt Pillow: Passenger Comfort On The Go

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In today’s world of never-ending product disclaimers (I once bought a beach ball on which one quarter of the sphere was covered with warnings of everything I should not attempt with the ball), we feel compelled to tell you that this seatbelt pillow is not for the driver. However, your passengers are allowed to doze off, and this adjustable pillow lets them do that in comfort. No more banging their heads against the window or risking a neck cramp just to get a little shut-eye on the road.

Our simple design features two adjustable overlapping tabs to attach the pillow to a seatbelt’s crosspiece. 

The tabs are secured with Velcro® so they’re fully adjustable to fit any belt as well as to position the pillow to best fit the height of the passenger. It’s great for adults or kids.

We added a cute pocket on the front of the pillow to hold a cellphone, pad and pencil or to keep a few snacks handy.

The main pillow is made from super soft Cuddle fleece by Shannon Fabrics. We chose Cloud Spa Cuddle in Latte. The pocket and tabs are standard quilting cotton; they take just small cuts – you may have the perfect scraps already in your stash. 

We recommend a premium quality polyester fiberfill for the stuffing. This will make the pillow soft and comfy yet firm enough for good head and neck support. 

Customize your colors and patterns so each person has their own unique look. The project is fast and easy enough to make seatbelt pillows for all your passengers in a single afternoon. 

This would be a great gift idea. Of course, you’ll need to add your own disclaimers to the gift tag: no pillow for the driver, no using the pillow as a flotation device, and no pulling it off and bopping your sister over the head

Our seatbelt pillow finishes at approximately 6½” wide x 25” long.

Sewing Tools You Need

  • Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
    NOTE: Although we often recommend a built-in fabric feeding system or a Walking or Even Feed foot when working with plush fabrics, this project was small enough that it wasn’t really necessary. That said, if you traditionally find thick, soft fabrics challenging, you may want to go that route.

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • ¼ yard or scraps of 58”+ wide Cuddle luxury fleece or similar; we used Cloud Spa Cuddle in Latte from Shannon Fabrics
  • ⅓ yard or scraps of 44”+ wide quilting cotton; we originally used Fringe in Navy on Bisque from the Valley collection by Sherri & Chelsi for Moda Fabrics – a fabric from our S4H Stash that is no longer readily available, however, as mentioned above, you need just a little bit of fabric from which to cut
  • ¼ yard or scraps of 20”+ mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used 45” wide Pellon Décor Bond
  • ONE small bag of premium polyester fiber fill; we used Poly-Fil Ultra Plush in an 8oz bag
  • ¼ yard or scrap of bias tape; we used a scrap of Wrights Extra Wide Double Fold Bias Tape in Navy
  • ¼ yard of ¾” - 2” Velcro® in a color to best coordinate with your cotton fabric 
    NOTE: 2” wide Velcro® can be more challenging to find. You can stack 1” or even ¾” wide strips as an option, which is what we did. 
  • All purpose thread to match Cuddle, cotton fabric, and Velcro®
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Pressing cloth
    NOTE: Don't try to press the Cuddle without a pressing cloth, but you can, of course, use an iron on the cotton.
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle

Getting Started

  1. From the Cuddle, cut TWO 7½” x 26” rectangles. 
  2. Use a drinking glass or similar to gently round all four corners. 
  3. All four corners of both rectangles should be rounded in the same manner with the same tool so they will all line up and be flush when sewing together.
  4. From the cotton, fussy cut the following:
    TWO 7½” wide x 8½” high panels for the pocket
    FOUR 6” wide x 7” rectangles for the tabs
  5. From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
    ONE 6½” x 7½” rectangle for the pocket
    FOUR 5” x 3” strips for the tabs
  6. From the Velcro®; if using 2”, cut TWO 3” lengths – if using ¾” or 1”, cut FOUR 3” lengths
  7. Keep the bias tape as one length. It will be cut to fit below. 

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Create the pocket

  1. Place the two 7½” x 8½” pocket panels wrong sides together. 
  2. Measure 4” up from the bottom along the right raw side edge and place a pin. Then draw a diagonal line from the top left corner down to this pin. Cut along this line. You can also use your cutting mat’s grid line to measure and cut the diagonal line, which is what we did. 
  3. If you are using a directional fabric, as we did, make sure your motif is facing right side up.
  4. Cut a matching diagonal on the pocket’s interfacing panel.
  5. Place the interfacing on the wrong side of one pocket panel. There should be ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing all all sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place. 
  6. Place the two panels right sides together and stitch along the bottom straight edge only, using a ½” seam allowance. 
  7. Fold the panels wrong sides together again. The bottom edge is now a finished seam and the top diagonal edge and both side edges are still raw.
  8. Find the bias tape. With the panels wrong sides together, slip the tape over the diagonal raw edges and pin in place. The length of tape should extend beyond the pocket a bit at both ends. This is correct. 
  9. Thread the machine with thread to best match the bias tape in the top and bobbin. 
  10. Edgestitch along the length of the bias tape. Go slowly, being careful to insure you catch both the front and back of the tape in this one seam.
  11. Trim the excess tape flush with the fabric.

Create the Velcro® tabs

  1. Find the four 6” x 7” rectangles. 
  2. Fold one rectangle in half, wrong sides together, so it is now 6” x 3½”. Press to set a crease.
  3. Unfold wrong side up so the crease line is visible.
  4. Find a 5” x 3” interfacing strip.
  5. Place an interfacing strip on one half of the fabric tab. One 5” edge should align with the center crease and there will be ½” of fabric extending beyond the interfacing along both sides and across the bottom. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
  6. Repeat with the remaining three tabs.
  7. Open up and flip over each tab so they are right side up and flat on your work surface.
  8. Find the Velcro® strips.
  9. On each tab, position the one or two Velcro® strips (remember, you have either one strip at 2” x 3” or two strips at ¾”  - 1” x 3”) on the half of the tab with the interfacing. 
  10. The strips should be ¾” in from the right raw side edge and ¾” from the center crease. Pin in place. The strips are pinned to the right side of the fabric.
  11. Pair up the tabs (you have one overlap tab and one underlap tab for each position). If you have a directional print as we did, remember that your tabs overlap. Place the hook side of the Velcro® (the stiff side) at one end of a tab pair so the motif will be right side up when folded. This will be the underlap. Rotate to place the loop side of the Velcro® (the soft side) at the end of the second tab in the pair so the motif will be upside down when folded. This will be the overlap. 
  12. The photos below show the finished pillow, but the positioning is clear so you can see and understand how our directional motif was postioned. 
  13. In the first photo, you see both tabs open to the side. The plain back of the underlap is open to the left and the loop side of the Velcro® on the back of the overlap is open to the right.
  14. In the next photo you see the underlap tab lapped into place and the overlap tab still open to the opposite side. 
  15. In this final photo, the overlap is folded into position, which means the Velcro® is now adhered between the layers. The back side of the overlap, with the motif right side up, is facing out.
  16. The second pair of tabs is done in the same manner. 
  17. With the Velcro® strips still just pinned in place, test how your tabs overlap. Working with Velcro® can be a bit of a brain-bender because your two separate halves must come together to adhere. With a directional fabric, as described above, it takes a bit more brain-bending to keep the pieces straight. 
  18. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the Velcro®.
  19. With the tabs still a flat single layer, stitch the Velcro® in place around all four sides. 
  20. If you’ve used two strips butted together, you’ll also need to stitch down this centerline. We used a narrow zig zag to stitch both strips in one pass.
  21. With the Velcro® stitched in place, re-fold each tab right sides together along the original crease line. Pin along the side and the one end that is closest to the Velcro®. The opposite end remains open. 
  22. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the cotton fabric. 
  23. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along the side and across the one end of each tab, pivoting at the corner. 
  24. Clip the corners.
  25. Turn each tab right side out through the open end. Using a long, blunt tool, like a chopstick, knitting needle or point turner gently push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. Press flat.
  26. Edgestitch along both sides and across the finished end. This edgestitching is optional, but gives the tabs a professional look. On our first prototype (in the photos below) we didn’t use it, but on the final sample (as you can see in the main images above), we added it in.

Place the pocket and tabs 

  1. Find the two Cuddle panels with their rounded corners. 
    NOTE: The Cloud Spa Cuddle we selected is double-sided, which means the back looks the same as the front. Make sure to pay attention to keeping right sides together as explained below in the instructions if you select a single-sided fleece. 
  2. Place one panel (this will become the front panel) right side up and flat on your work surface.
  3. Place the finished pocket right side up on the panel. The bottom seamed edge of the pocket should sit 4½” up from the bottom raw edge of the panel. The taller side of the pocket should be flush with the left raw edge of the main panel; the shorter side of the pocket should be flush with the right raw edge of the main panel. Pin the pocket in place. 
  4. Edgestitch the pocket in place across the bottom seamed edge only. 
  5. If you are worried about the pocket shifting, you can also machine baste the long and short sides in place. Keep these basting seams within the ½” seam allowance; ¼” would be good. 
  6. Place the remaining Cuddle panel (this will become the back panel) right side up and flat on your work surface. 
  7. Velcro® each pair of tabs into their correct underlap/overlap positions. 
  8. Place one pair towards the bottom of the panel and one pair towards the top. The bottom edge of the bottom pair should sit 4½” up from the bottom edge of the main panel. Make sure the bottom edge of the tabs matches up with the bottom edge of the pocket on the front panel. The raw edges of the tabs should be flush with the raw side edges of the main panel. Pin the tabs in place
  9. The top edge of the top pair should sit 4½” down from the top edge of the main panel. The raw edges of the tabs should be flush with the raw side edges of the main panel.

Assemble and stuff to finish

  1. Place the two main panels right sides together, sandwiching the pocket and tabs between the layers (remember, our Cloud Spa Cuddle looks the same on the front and the back). Pin in place, leaving an opening along the bottom for turning and stuffing. 
  2. Using a ½” seam allowance stitch all around. Go slowly around the corners to maintain even, smooth curves. And remember to lock your seam at either side of the opening at the bottom.
  3. Turn the cover right side out through the opening. Smooth out the curved corners with your finger or a long tool, such as a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner. Roll the seam between your fingers to flatten. Do not press. 
  4. Open up the tabs.
  5. Fill with the polyester fiberfill to a comfortable firmness. You don’t want it too hard or it will be uncomfortable as a pillow, but you also don’t want it too soft or your head will sink down to the seatbelt. It should be “just right,” Goldilocks!  
  6. Take a handful of loose fiberfill and fluff the fibers with your fingers to remove any clumps. To do this, gently separate the fibers as if teasing hair. Insert these small handfuls of fiberfill, starting with the outer curves and working toward the the opening. We have a tutorial that covers more pillow stuffing tips and techniques.
  7. Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Pin closed. 
  8. Using your hand sewing needle and thread to best match the Cuddle, hand stitch the pillow opening closed. Keep your stitches small so the fiberfill won't poke out.

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Leah Wand

Section: 

Comments (16)

Cathy Bennett said:
Cathy Bennett's picture

I made one of these as a gift for last Christmas, for a family member. Turned out beautifully! Just got a request to make 2 for a cousin's children. Easy to make and so cuddly for long or short drives!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Cathy - That's so great ... you are on a roll! And, we agree -- they are fast and fun 

Lara said:
Lara's picture

Perfect timing, we're leaving next week to drive from Michigan to Florida, I'm making 3 for out trip (obviously the driver doesn't need one) and one for my parents on their drive back.  This will be wonderful.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Lara - Yay! We love it with the "projects stars align." Have fun and let us know how yours turn out!

Marilyn Cotsamire said:
Marilyn Cotsamire's picture

another great feature is that it should keep the seat belt from  rubbing against my neck.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Marilyn - We've heard that from others... those belts can really cut into you sometimes. We hope you'll try the project!

Barbara F said:
Barbara F's picture

Thank you, I'm going to make at least 2 as gifts and myself one

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Barbara - You are so welcome. Glad to hear you're making enough to keep one for yourself! 

JeanP said:
JeanP's picture

Perfect timing! I have this on my list to make for my nieces for birthday gifts! The pocket shape is a nice touch!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@JeanP - Thank you! It will make a great gift. We thought the little pocket was a handy extra

Ann D. said:
Ann D. 's picture

If you turned it around, padding toward the person, it would be a great cushion for someone who had a masectomy or other surgery.  Mom had a little rectangular pillow she used for several weeks after hers. 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Ann - Thanks for the lovely alternative idea!

MollysMom said:
MollysMom's picture

This is just what I need. I can't wait to make it.  when we travel any distance I can't seem to stay awake and am always nodding off.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ MollysMom - Thank you! We wish you sweet dreams as a road-trip passenger 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Paula - It's super easy. Let us know how yours turns out. And remember: no dozing while driving