Heat Press Pillows: Explained + How To Make

Published by Patrick on

So before I get into how you can make your own heat press pillow, it’s worth asking:

What is a heat press pillow anyway? Can I get away without even using one?

Let’s go into it.

What is a heat press pillow?

Heat press pillows are a bit of foam completely wrapped in Teflon (which makes them heat resistant). They come in all different shapes and are placed inside a shirt or between any two layers of fabric while you’re applying heat transfer vinyl.

If you’re working with something with zippers, buttons, or seams you really want to make sure you have an even press of your material. That’s where the pillow comes into play.

Just think about the physical action of pressing with a zipper on the material. If you’re pressing down, instead of the vinyl sitting flat directly on the material you’re going to have a small area (the size and length of the zipper) which is raised up.

In turn, that raised up part is going to make contact first and prevent any other part of the garment from making proper contact and transferring the heat into the material and HTV.

Enter: the magical Teflon pillow.

Suddenly, your heat press is able to press down firmly on the entire surface. Sure, the zipper is still in there, but now it’s pressing down into the foam of the pillow in between it and the press while the rest of the material is also pressing in, but not quite as much.

Just think about how when you set your head on to your pillow at night how it softly sinks in, but the rest of the pillow stays fluffed and even. Well, if you were to add a heat press… I wouldn’t recommend it but the vinyl transfer would still come out fine even with your head in the way (assuming the pillow was thick enough).

Okay, enough pillow talk, let’s talk about when using a heat press pillow is necessary.

What kinds of projects require heat press pillows?

Well, you can kind of use your intuition on this one, but you get a good feel for it over time.

I’d consider using one if the project involves:

  • heat & vinyl (of course)
  • lettering
  • thick seams
  • zippers
  • snaps
  • buttons
  • onesies
  • the clothing is uneven or bumpy
  • a v-neck shirt if you’re pressing on to the backside

(I even just learned how to sew an invisible stitch, but I’d still consider using one)

You get the idea.

Typical sizes of the pillow are:

  • 16″ x 20″
  • 12″ x 14″
  • 5″ x 18″
  • 6″ x 8″ (onesie-size)
  • 10″ x 10″ (t-shirts, small canvas bags, pillowcases)

Now you might be wondering, do I really need a pressing pillow in each of these sizes?

The answer is: maybe. It is nice to have different sizes for different garment sizes, but it’s not really practical to buy 6 different Telfon pillows, even if you find yourself using the heat press quite a bit. Plus, they’re not exactly cheap.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to spend money on useful tools as much as the next person. At least, that’s how I justify owning both a Cricut Maker and a Silhouette Cameo 4, but that’s for another day. Back to HTV…

If you do decide to purchase one, I’d start by doing just that, only getting one pillow to start. If you really find that you’re using them a lot, you can always grab some more later.

So, should we learn how to make a Telfon pillow?

How to make a heat press pillow

So, this will be a bit unconventional, because I don’t think actually making a pillow for heat press from scratch is the best idea. It’s a lot of work and involves materials that you probably aren’t keeping around your crafting room.

Better than that, there’s a huge bunch of common objects you can use in a pinch:

  • a piece of cardboard (pretty rigid and common around the house)
  • a silicone cover sheet
  • mousepad
  • another t-shirt placed inside

Okay, now that you’ve hopefully found something around the house that you can use (or you got one shipped VERY FAST from Amazon)…

How to use a heat transfer pillow

This part is pretty simple.

You’re just going to take the pillow (or whatever you’re using as a substitute) and stick it in between the layers of the shirt.

With the pillow in there it’s likely going to be a tight fit in the press, so make sure you really press down to get everything to lock. That it’s a bit harder to press is kind of the point of pressing pillows, you’re generating a lot more pressure and it’s going to be more evenly spread.

That’s it! Feel free to send over any questions you might have.

Categories: DIY


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