Sleep on a Spotted Jaguar Pillow

Ages 8-14

Jaguars live in the forests of Central and South America. Sunlight and moonlight filtering through the forest canopy create spots of light. On the jaguar’s back are rosettes. These are circles with spots inside that look a little like roses. These spots help the cat blend in. So the spots provide camouflage. Using a jaguar spot pattern, you can create a pillowcase with jaguar rosettes. (See photo below.) The directions are below.

Jaguar with Sharon Matolla

See the rosettes (spots inside circles) on this jaguar at the Belize Zoo. Zoo director Sharon Matola gave the jaguar sanctuary when farmers wanted to kill the animal. Photo provided by Sharon Matola

If you prefer black and white for your pillowcase, try a zebra pattern instead. Zebra camouflage isn’t about blending in with the environment. It’s about blending into the herd. Notice how a zebra’s stripes change direction from its body to its legs.

When zebras are close together in a herd, predators have trouble seeing where one zebra ends and another begins.

Two Zebras

Photo by Richard Brodzeller

Materials needed for each pillowcase:

  • Jaguar spot pattern (Click here to print)
  • One standard-size (20-by-30-inch) yellow pillowcase*
  • Small disposable plastic bowl for paint
  • 20-by-30-inch piece of cardboard
  • Wax paper
  • Tape & pencil
  • 4-ounce bottle of black fabric paint*
  • Newspapers
  • 1-inch foam brush

Before you begin:

Wash and dry pillowcase without using fabric softener.

  1. Wear old clothes.
  2. Waterproof cardboard by taping wax paper to both sides; then slip it inside pillowcase.
  3. With parents’ permission, print jaguar-spot pattern by clicking here. Put pattern on table next to pillowcase. With pencil, draw the outlines of the circular rosettes onto pillowcase, using pattern as a model.** Write an “X” inside each spot or rosette (so you will know where to paint).
    Step 1Jaguar pillowcase
  4. Pour 2 ounces (half a 4-ounce bottle) of paint into disposable plastic bowl. Lay newspaper underneath pillowcase so you don’t get paint on your work surface. Use foam brush to paint inside your penciled stripes.
  5. Dry flat at least 7 hours. Wait 72 hours before washing.

Note: If you want the pattern on both sides, turn pillowcase over and repeat steps 3-5. If you don’t want to try to use the pattern as a model again, you can just trace the spots on the first side through pillowcase.

Steps in Making a Zebra-Stripe Pillowcase

  1. Print out the zebra-stripe pattern. Follow it as a model. Use a pencil to draw the outline of wide stripes onto pillowcase. Write an “X” inside each stripe outline (so you know where to paint).
    Step 1
  2. Use black fabric paint and foam brush to paint inside the stripes (where the Xs are).
    Step 2
  3. Dry flat at least 7 hours. This shows the pillowcase next to the printed pattern.
    Step 3
  4. Gabbi Chee, who created this activity, holds her finished zebra pillowcase.
The completed zebra pillowcase

Get Creative with Camouflage!

Once you get the hang of it, you can use different colored pillowcases and different colors of paint to decorate pillowcases with any type of camouflage. You can look up pictures of other animals for new camouflage patterns. Or you can even make your own patterns. Tiger or kudu stripes, cheetah or giraffe spots…the possibilities are limited only by your imagination!

* We found two pillowcases for $6.99 at Target. We used Tulip® Soft Fabric Paint in Ebony Matte (regular price $5.29 at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores).
** No two jaguars share the same spot pattern. So it’s okay if your pillowcase doesn’t look exactly like ours. You can even make your own pattern!

Pillowcase photos provided by Gabbi Chee

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