How To Make A Fun Repurposed Denim Fish Pillow

Fun Fish Pillow DIY From Upcycled Jeans

Every summer when I visit my parents in Portugal, I love to spend an afternoon strolling around the local gift stores. Fish is the predominant theme when it comes to Portuguese gifts, that’s probably because they eat more fish than anyone else in the world. That is where I got the inspiration for making a fish pillow.
My fish pillow, of course, had to be made from repurposed fabrics. I used my 2 favourite fabrics for recycling denim and sweater felt.
Using a pair of jeans for these fish pillows allowed me to use the interesting bits such as seams, buttons, and pockets to add details to the fish. I was also able to bleach stencil fish scales onto the denim fabric.
I’ve included the pattern I used for these denim pillows so that you can easily make them yourself.
Combining denim with other fabrics to make interesting pillows is a popular upcycle of mine. In the past, I’ve combined denim with sari trim to make boho jeans pillows and I’ve made my son an iPhone denim pocket pillow.
unique repurposed denim fish pillow
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What you need to make a denim fish pillow

Denim and sweater scraps for fish pillow.

How to make a denim fish pillow

  1. First, you will need to make a paper pattern template. I drew my fish out onto paper and then cut it out into different sections, tail, head, body, and fin. I have scanned in the pattern I used which you can download and print out and use. Note the body template of the fish would not fit on one side of paper so it has been printed over two pages.
    Fish pillow paper pattern

  3. Place the paper pattern onto the material and draw around allowing for a 1cm seam allowance. Then cut out the shape. Flip over the paper pattern and do the same again. As you will need 2 pieces of fabric for each body part.

  5. I used denim fabric for the body, tail and fins of the fish. For the head, I used the felted sweater fabric.


    To make the bleached scales on the denim fabric..

  7. Place the stencil onto the cut out denim body. Using a paint brush paint bleach onto the stencil. Leave for about 20mins to allow the bleach to work and then wash and dry the denim fabric.


  9. Next, layout the fish pieces for each side and then sew them together. This is also the time to sew any embelishments to the fish such as a fin on the body or an eye. I used the button from the jeans as the eye for the fish pillow. For the fin I just cut up a bit of the jeans pocket.


  11. Pin the two sides of the fish right sides together and sew. Leave an open gap of about 3 inches in the belly of the fish.

  13. Using the hole that you have left, turn the fish pillow right side out and stuff with fibre. Once you have finshed stuffing the pillow stitch up the hole.


  15. Finally you can leave your fish pillow as is or add further embilishements such as glueing denim seams to the body to add further detail.
    Upcycled Denim fish pillow, free tutorial and pattern.

I loved the repurposed denim fish pillow so much that I made another one. I think the pillows look more interesting if you used denim from more than one pair of jeans that way you get lots of lovely shades of indigo.
When placed outside on my sofa with shibori dyeing out side they look like the fish are swimming in the sea.
Repurposed denim fish pillows on Shibori dyed sofa.
Make a fun and unique repurposed denim fish pillow for your home. Complete with bleached denim scales. Very simple to make, full step by step tutorial with a free pattern included. #diypillow #nauticalcrafts #summercrafts
Denim fish pillows
For more free home sewing projects check out
Don’t forget to check out my other denim crafts and DIY’s.
Unique upcycled denim and repurposed jeans ideas for the home.

34 Responses

  1. Pam

    I love these and will be making some. Thanks for the inspiration

  2. These are so cute, they make me want to go round up some denim odds and ends right now! Thanks for sharing with Party in Your PJs!

  3. These are gorgeous Claire, would look perfect in a bathrom (although I think my cat Boo would be very interested in them too!) Xx

  4. I love these pillows! I really love fish and denim is the perfect fabric for them! I really like how you incorporated parts of the original jeans into the fish, for example the button eyes and the pocket flap fins! So creative, thanks for sharing! 🙂 Lisa

    • Thank you, Lisa. I love to use as many different parts of a pair of jeans in my denim upcycle projects as possible, I think it gives them character.

  5. Was amazed to see a project that I had missed thinking it was from last year, and now I see it was just from a few weeks ago, amazing! i’m so inspired by the idea of using the stencil to bleach the fabric, amazing. I’m adding this to the features of craft schooling Sunday, just can’t resist!

  6. What a fun idea and a great upcycle project. These are great for summer decor. This was the most clicked from our last Snickerdoodle Party and all of the co-hosts will be featuring your repurposed denim fish pillows at today’s party. Hope you’ll join us!

    • Thank you so much. That is lovely to hear, and yes I will be there.

  7. Love these – and agree the different denim works well, as do the scales. They’ve got a distinct feel of portugal about them, are smart but ugly enough to be authentic fishes (not ugly ugly of course!) #homeetc

  8. Claire you are the queen of denim. You can repurpose it into anything at all!

    • Thank you, Mary. I still have a pile of old jeans calling out to be repurposed.

  9. these are so cute !! you are so creative!

  10. Oh wow! Super cute and I love the use of the stencil. Portugal is such a colorful country. There’s the blue and white that seems to be everywhere and then there’s the iconic colorful rooster. Thanks for sharing with us at Creatively Crafty #ccbg 🙂

    • Thank you. Yes Portugal is very colourful, they do like their blue and white tiles. Very sunny too.

  11. These are great, and they do look brilliant on your lovely outside seating. I’ve seen quite a lot of fish decor items around, they are really fun.

    • Thank you, Julie. They do look good outside especially with this lovely weather we are having.

  12. The Queen of Denim strikes again and in such an awesome way 😉 Love your fish Claire. OMW they look amazing. Such a fun and unique idea

    • Ahh, thank you Michelle. Still plenty more denim upcycles to come.

  13. What a fun project, Claire, and a great way to utilise the hard to use bits of jeans. The scales totally make the fish pillows. Showcased today.

  14. These would be great at a beach or lake house.

  15. Love these, I once made something similar with watercolor on cotton sheet material for Father’s day table display with vintage fishing gear.

  16. Great project as a gift for friends who have a lake home ~ thanks!

  17. Such a cute idea! You could even just do some shibori reverse bleaching if you don’t have a stencil. I like that they can be hung by a rope when not in use.

    • Thank you. I love shibori but haven’t tried the reverse I’ll have to check it out.

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