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30-Minute Neck Pillows: Go Back-to-School in Style

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These little bow-tie shaped neck pillows are super for proppin' up your noggin as you watch TV or read in bed... or finish a last minute term paper on your laptop. They're also great for supporting your neck while sleeping. This is one of our original designs and remains a perennial favorite. They have the perfect contour and softness to cradle your head and neck in comfort. In fact, this project comes with a warning: once you make one and share it with friends and family, you'll be on the hook to make many, many more. Good thing you can finish one in under an hour.

Reactions are likely to run the gamut from love it to get your own to gentle snoring. If you make one for everyone, they'll be less of a struggle. In fact, if you're sending off someone to dorm life, be prepared to make enough for the whole floor!

We've made countless of these as gifts, and use them ourselves every night. If you like a cool, crisp pillow, use a quality 100% cotton décor fabric. If you're looking for warm and cozy, try flannel or plush fleece. Overall, we recommend a slightly heavier fabric for the best, longest-lasting results, although our samples in quilting weight cotton have also turned out nicely.

Many people tell us how well-received this pillow is by seniors or those who must spend many hours seated or in bed. It offers therapeutic support for the neck, allowing those hard-working muscles to relax. 

Despite the complex-looking shape, our bow-tie pillow is super easy to make. As mentioned above, this thoughtful gift only takes only about 30 minutes, start to finish.

The loop handles at either end are the perfect length to grasp and adjust the pillow into your perfect position.

Each pillow finishes at approximately 16" with a 14" circumference at the center and a 22" circumference at the ends.

Our thanks to Fabric Depot for originally providing the gorgeous cotton/linen blend fabrics from the Echino collection by Kokka for this set of three color-poppin' pillows. The drape of this cotton/linen blend fabric was wonderful to work with, and the rich colors and dramatic motifs were fun to fussy cut.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • ½ yard of 45"+ wide fabric per pillow – we recommend a slightly heavier décor weight, although we have made options with standard quilting weight cottons. We've also done successful sets in and cotton sateen.
    NOTE: While ½ yard is sufficient for one pillow, if you select one a fabric with a large motif as we did for these samples, we recommend getting ¾ to a full yard for the very best fussy cutting options. The photo below shows how we carefully mapped out the cuts for one of our pillows.
  • ⅔ yard of ¾" to 1" ribbon or tape per pillow; we used a twill tape in natural for this set, you could also use grograin ribbon, suede or even make a matching tie from the same fabric
  • ONE medium bag of premium polyester fiber fill; we used Polyfil® 100% Premium Polyester Fiberfill by Fairfield
  • All-purpose thread to match fabric
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle

Getting Started

  1. Download and print FOUR copies of our Neck Pillow Pattern.
    IMPORTANT: This pattern is ONE 8½" x 11" sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide line on the page to confirm your printout is the correct size. 
  2. Cut out the pattern pieces along the solid lines.
  3. Butt the four pattern pieces together, flipping two of the four pieces, to make one bow-tie shaped pattern piece. Do NOT overlap. Tape in place.  
  4. Using the assembled pattern, cut THREE pieces. 
    NOTE: As mentioned above, a careful fussy cut is a good option, but also remember to pay attention to whether your fabric has nap (like fleece) or any directional print to insure everything is oriented correctly.
  5. You'll see an ✱ on either end of your assembled pattern piece. On each of your three pieces, make a small V-shaped cut, about ⅛" in depth and width, at these two symbols. These are the points where you start/stop stitching and attach the center of your ribbon handles. While you can use a marking pencil, we've found this V-clip is easier to spot while sewing.  
  6. Cut the ribbon/tape in half into two 12" lengths. 

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. This pillow is essentially a chubby triangle, which is helpful to keep in mind as you are assembling; you need three sides to create the correct dimension.
  2. Pin two of your three pieces of cut fabric right sides together along one side, from one V-clip to the opposite V-clip. 
  3. Using a ⅜" seam allowance, stitch from the precise center point of the V on one side to precisely that same point on the opposite side. The other side remains open. Because of the narrow seam allowance and the curves, sew slowly to assure your stitching line is even and accurate. You might want to slightly reduce your stitch length for a smoother curve and tighter seam. For more about this technique, check out our full tutorial on Sewing Smooth Curves Every Time.
  4. Loop each 12" length of ribbon/tape in half to form a handle, aligning the raw ends. Pin the raw ends in place at the center of each V-clip with the loop falling to the inside.  
  5. Place your third fabric piece into position against the remaining raw edges of the original two pieces, matching all the curves and sandwiching the loops between the layers.
  6. Stitch your second seam, again from V-clip to opposite V-clip. 
  7. You are starting and stopping the seam to include half of the ribbon/tape as shown below. Backstitch over the ribbon/tape to give it extra security to hold up to its job of tugging the pillow into position.
  8. Pin your remaining open seam as shown, leaving a 3" - 4" opening along the inner curve for turning right side out and inserting the filler. 
  9. Stitch the third and final seam from one V-clip to the opposite V-clip. As before, remember to backstitch over the ribbon/tape for strength and remember to lock your seam at either side of the 3" - 4" opening.
  10. Turn the cover right side out. Use a long, blunt-end tool, such as a chopstick or knitting needle, to gently round out all the curves. Pull the loops out into position at either end. 
  11. Press in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
  12. Stuff with filler until pleasingly plump but not so rock hard it's uncomfortable.  
  13. Pin the seam allowance at the opening ...
  14. ... and hand stitch closed. 
  15. When finished, a comfortably stuffed pillow looks about like this: 


Project Design and Instructional Outline: Alicia Thommas   
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild


Comments (30)

Nondizzyblonde said:
Nondizzyblonde's picture

Thanks for this tutorial. It was really easy to follow, although with the stuffing and handstitching it does take about an hour - still a quick make though! It was perfect for using up a smallish piece of Amy Butler fabric I had left over from another project.

I made it with only one handle as I think it is easy to adjust without them, but I wanted to keep one as now it means I can hang it off door handles, door hooks, etc. 

I am in the UK, and had no problems printing the pattern to the correct size, just remember not to choose the "auto fit" option on your printer.

Thank you again, and I will be making many more as Christmas presents.

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

@ Nondizzyblonde - So glad to hear our pattern worked out so well for you! Thanks for letting us know what you did to customize the handles. It's always good to hear what others do to make it the very best for them. They do make GREAT Christmas gifts! 

TracyG said:
TracyG's picture

Just finished this pillow using a scrap of flannel. I'm in the middle of chemo, and with no hair, the flannel is soft on my bare head. It's perfect to bring with me to my infusions and to use while is sit in the chair for several hours. Thanks!

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

@TracyG - I bet it is wonderful in flannel. We're so glad to hear this works well for you during chemo!

Irene Campbell said:
Irene Campbell's picture

Hi I am almost finished my first neck pillow - looking great, and the instructions are terrific.  Has anyone tried putting a bag of rice in the centre section so it can be a heat pad as well?  or is that too big to fit in the microwave?

Drugstore Cowgirl said:
Drugstore Cowgirl's picture

I've been a user of "dog bone" pillows going on 25 years.  They are also great to put between your knees if you are a side sleeper.  My first one was from a drugstore in the early 90s made by a local company that the manager allowed them a display stand near the assistive devices.  After the store stopped selling them I looked to the web but it was a real crapshoot trying to find one that was of good quality and/or comfortable.  The one I use now for my head is getting old - the fabric is getting thin.  My knee one is still going strong and became essential after knee replacement surgery.  I bet once I get the basic pattern down as explained here, I will be able to come up with a slight variation for a knee-sized dog bone.   

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

@Drugstore Cowgirl -sounds like a good plan. Let us know how it turns out for you. 

Jany said:
Jany's picture

As soon as I read my email on this pillow, I went to my fabric stash, got a piece of upholstery fabric that someone had rescued from the dumpster at a drapery sewing store, printed out my pattern and sewed one up. it is great for TV. I have trifocals and I need to watch out of the correct magnifuication.

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

@ Jany - Good job! We did say it was a fast project - and you have proven it!

Emma I said:
Emma I's picture

hi I'm a novice sewer and have just completed this and im as pleased as punch.  Your instructions are so easy to follow.  Thank you, I would love to upload a pic.

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

@Emma - that is excellent news! We'd love to see a picture. You can email us at info@sew4home, but better yet - let everyone see and share a photo with us on Facebook (sew4home) or via Instagram (sew4home_diy). Thanks for letting us know about your success.

Kristina D said:
Kristina D's picture

Hello! I'm excited to try this pattern, and am about to head to the craft store now for supplies, but I just realized.... I'm in Europe and I don't know if it will work to print the pattern out, as they only have size A4 paper here. Any thoughts?

Caroline from France said:
Caroline from France's picture

I'm in Europe too, and printouts on A4 paper work just fine. Make sure that you don't "fit to size" on your print options, though.

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

@Kristina - We haven't tested it on A4 since we're here in the states, however, it's just the width of the paper that would be a problem, and then, it's only about 1/4" narrower. It's a matter of how much border your printer will force - that's a question I can't answer because every printer is a bit different. Give one piece a try, printing full size, and check the guide arrow to confirm the print out ot size. If just a bit of the pattern runs off in to the margin of your paper, you can problem draw it back in as it's unlikely to cut off much at all (if any).

Kristina D said:
Kristina D's picture

Well I printed it with no problems in Europe :), and gave my first a try tonight...... it came out quite good! But.... let me just say, from a novice sewer perspective...... 30 mins was nowhere NEAR what I needed lol. I think that's a bit optimistic.... I didn't even have the pattern printed, put together, and cut out in 30 minutes

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

@Kristina - But you still finished it and with success - so Yay! Who cares about time? It's all relative, right 

Renee Canales said:
Renee Canales's picture

I was so happy to find this pattern.  My best friend just had surgery for a brain tumor and suffers from incredible headaches.  Her Go To item is this Dog Bone Neck Pillow she calls her "Woobie".  Like the Velveteen Rabbit, her's is really well loved and ready to become "Real".  She would like me to make her a new one, but can't give up her Woobie so I could copy the pattern.  Thanks to you, I can surprise her with a new "Woobie"!!  She will be estatic!!

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

@Renee - Thanks! We're happy you have such a worthy recipient for one of these little pillows. Let us know how yours turns out. 

Diane Beavers said:
Diane Beavers's picture

Great project and yes, under an hour is all you need . I just finished stitching one up, stuffing it now and will test it while TV watching this eve. Thank you so much for this tutorial, it's precise and the tips and tricks are right on.

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

@Diane - Thanks! You get the "first-to-finish" award for the week 

mimi2 said:
mimi2's picture

I made a couple of these out of left over polar fleece. They are just grea t for travel. I really love the last no ribbon loops- they provide a comfortable handhold and keep the pillow exactly here you want it while you sleep!

Mimi2 said:
Mimi2's picture

sorry. "Last no ribbon loops". Should have read "long ribbon loops ". Sometimes I hate autocorrect!

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

@Mimi2 - Thanks! Ribbon loops or no... this is just a great little pillow. And yes, I always hate autocorrect!

Caroline from France said:
Caroline from France's picture

Like Penny G, I have made several of these for myself and for friends. They are great for extra support for arthritic necks in bed or even in the car, and wonderfully easy to run up. What I have done at the same time, is make a small pillowcase for them:

- I just measure the length and width quite generously. I then multiply the length by two and a quarter, add in seam allowances and cut a strip of fabric: 2 1/4 length + allowance x width + allowance.

- I then hem the two short ends of the strip.

- I then fold the strip in three to get the length of the pillow + a flap on the inside to hold the pillow in place. Sew it all up together, finish off the seams with a zigzag to stop fraying and that's that.

Dead easy: it takes no time to do and it's much more convenient to wash a pillowcase than to wash the whole pillow!

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

@Caroline - Thanks for sharing your option!

Terry Collins said:
Terry Collins's picture

I love these pillows, and prefer more stuffing rather than have them soft and squishy.  But, since I had a hard time sewing the opening closed with all the stuffing, I came up with a solution:  When cutting out the three pieces, cut two of them so that they have about 1" or 1 1/2" of extra fabric right abovewhere your opening will be. This way, you have plenty of fabric to work with to help sew the opening closed.  Problem solved!  (Prior to using this method, it was very difficult to sew closed, and the stitching would show in places, and sometimes the fabric would tear.)

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

@Terry - Thanks for letting us know what made it easier for you.

Penny G said:
Penny G's picture

I have made a ton of these to give as gifts (minus the ribbon...I find it gets in the way).  I work with a group of women who give small gift baskets to ladies who are going through a tough time as way to enourage them & let them know we are thinking about them & praying for them.  These are especially good for women (or men) who have had surgery,  It provides support under the arm, knee, etc.  Thanks for the pattern!

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

@Penny - Thanks! So glad you love the project. 

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