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30-Minute Therapeutic Neck Pillows
These little bow-tie shaped neck pillows are super for proppin’ up your noggin as you watch TV or read in bed or do a little browsing on your favorite device. They’re also great for supporting your neck while sleeping. This is one of our original designs, and it 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.
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 optional loop handles at either end are the perfect length to grasp and adjust the pillow into your perfect position.
These pillows are surprisingly easy to launder. Pre-wash the fabric you are choosing to use, then when finished, they can be popped in the washer on cool/gentle and tumble-dried, also on cool, plus throwing in a bath towel helps. We’ve tested this on several of our own pillows – even a couple that had gotten quite dirty – with excellent results.
Each pillow finishes at approximately 16″ with a 14″ circumference at the center and a 22″ circumference at the ends.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ½ yard* of 44″+ 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 cotton sateen and plush fleece.
NOTE: * While ½ yard is sufficient for one pillow, if you select 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 grosgrain 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 and Pattern Download
- 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.
- Cut out the pattern pieces along the solid lines.
- Butt the four pattern pieces together, flipping over two of the four pieces, to make one bow-tie shaped pattern piece. Do NOT overlap. Tape in place.
- 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 suede) or any directional print to insure everything is oriented correctly.
- You’ll see a red ✱ 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.
- Cut the ribbon/tape in half into two 12″ lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- 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.
- Pin two of your three pieces of cut fabric right sides together along one side, from one V-clip to the opposite V-clip.
- 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.
- 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.
- Place your third fabric piece into position against one of the remaining raw edges of the original two pieces, matching all the curves and sandwiching the loops between the layers.
- Stitch a second seam, again from V-clip to opposite V-clip.
- 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.
- Pin the two remaining raw edges together in the same manner but leave a 3″ – 4″ opening along the inner curve, as shown in the photo below, for turning right side out and inserting the filler.
- Stitch this 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.
- Turn the cover right side out. Use a long, blunt-end tool, such as a chopstick, knitting needle or point turner, to gently round out all the curves. Pull the loops out into position at either end.
- Press in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Stuff with filler until pleasingly plump but not so rock hard it’s uncomfortable.
- Pin the seam allowance at the opening …
- … and hand stitch closed, using tiny stitches so the filler doesn’t poke out. We suggest a slip or ladder stitch.
- When finished, a comfortably stuffed pillow looks about like this:
Project Design and Instructional Outline: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild
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Has anyone used this on an airplane instead of the traditional neck pillow?
Hi Ida Mae – Other folks might weight in as well — this has always been SUCH a popular project – but, YES! we’ve heard from a number of people who’ve used this for travel.
Do you have a pdf of the instructions for the Relaxing Neck Pillow?
Look along the left edge of any article page for our SHARE bar — it’s a vertical bar that scrolls as you scroll. On some smaller devices it may appear horizontally across the very top of the article. The first item on the bar is a bold, red PDF icon. Click this icon to generate a printable PDF. This is a special application we provide free of charge, which allows you adjust both the size of the photos and the copy to best fit your needs. Click to read more about how to use our PDF articles + patterns.
Thank you very much. The Translate ( green box) covered the PDF on my mobile phone. It was my mistake scanning for information. I have printed the PDF and excited to make three for my granddaughters.
Good news! The translate button is designed to stick right below the Share Bar — but there are a LOT of phone formats 🙂 sometimes you just never know exactly how something will show up!!
I can’t wait to make one for each of my gc
And I’d like to thank you sew much for your patterns and tutorials for sure but mostly for your tips on better sewing ie smaller stitches for around curves. As a beginner quilter I’m most anxious to learn tips/tricks and proper ways of doing things before developing to many bad habits, lol. So thank you very much.
Happy New Year, Linda – thank you for taking the time to send such a sweet message. We’re happy to hear you’re finding so much to love!
Can this be used on front of neck instead? i want to use it when i’m using computer.
i doubt it is short for front.
No – it really wouldn’t work well in that position.
Hi, I have made several of these cute pillows. I would love to make washable pillowcases for them, but can’t figure out how to make them snug, yet able to pull off and on. Any ideas?
Hi Jeannie – I don’t know if you’ve tried it with any of the pillows you’ve made so far, but they are washable. As we mention above: “These pillows are surprisingly easy to launder. Pre-wash the fabric you are choosing to use, then when finished, they can be popped in the washer on cool/gentle and tumble-dried, also on cool, plus throwing in a bath towel helps. We’ve tested this on several of our own pillows – even a couple that had gotten quite dirty – with excellent results.” A cover will never be quite as snug as the actual stuffed… Read more »
What “instrument” do you find helpful for stuffing the filler inside the pillow? I love this pillow!
Hi Juliann – thanks for the love – this little pillow project is SO popular. We like a chopstick although just about anything works well. We have a tutorial you can review with all our stuffing tips and tricks:
Is there a cricket pattern for eady cutting of the fabric?
No – it’s just a standard pattern, but a very simply shape so easy to cut.
Where exactly is the pattern to download this beautiful pillow
Hi! If you scroll to the section titled Getting Started and Pattern Download,” you’ll see the download link in the first step there.
I have made numerous pillows with my own pattern that I lost during my last move. Finding this tutorial when I was looking for a quick pattern was a real treasure. Exactly as I had done it. It always turns out great and people LOVE the gift. My husband and I are using our own favorites every day. I can’t count how often I have thrown them into the washer – Thank you!
Hi Birgitta – We’re so glad you found our pattern. It is TRULY one of the most popular. Have fun 🙂
I’m stuck on step 5. I had to restart with scrap fabric so I didn’t ruin the final fabric choice.
Do I lay the fabric right side down, or wrong side down on top of the two-piece sandwich I just made?
For step 6, “stitch a second seam” — on top of which seam? The first one (from step 3) or the one made in step 4?
Hi Deb – Sorry you’re having a bit of trouble. The key to keep in mind is that you have three seams. As it says at the beginning, you’re making a “chubby triangle.” Your pieces are always sewn right sides together. Take a look at the early steps again, you are only pinning and then stitching from v-clip to v-clip for the first seam. Then, if you want loops, you place them. Then add the THIRD panel, aligning it right sides together with one side of the two pieces you just sewed. Stitch v-clip to v-clip again to create the… Read more »
Thanks for replying so quickly. Yes, the 3D is messing w/ my head. With my test fabric, I had sewn the wrong edges together and it was flat so I knew it was wrong. I ended up making a paper mock-up and stapled the sides as if they were stitches. I used 3 different colored papers, and wrote R(right) and W(wrong) on each side to know which side to put down, and which sides to sew together. I then followed the steps and sewed (stapled) per the instructions. I then wrote the step # on the paper. Now I have… Read more »
Yay – it sounds like you have a solution. Truth be told, what you’re describing is not too far off from what we do here when putting together our prototypes :-).
Thank you so much for the tutorial of this pillow.
My neck was hurting so much. I made the pillow and used it watching tv and for sleeping. My neck feels so much better.
Hi Niekol – That is GREAT news — these little pillows are loved by so many folks!
I made this with a zipper in one side for a travel pillow. Instead of filler, it is empty. Then I can fold up a sweater, sweatshirt, something I would like to travel with if I need to change while travelling.Or works to put extra underwear, pajamas, etc, so if your luggage is lost, that night you are still “covered”. Just use soft things in it like knits, etc. I love it!
Hi Dawn – what an interesting and clever idea! Thank you so much for sharing.
This may be a lame question…how do you wash them?? I am looking forward to making these. I hope to hear from you in my email pls. Ty soooooo much for sharing !!
Hi Catherine – No lame questions! We’ve made many of these and laundered them in a standard washer and dryer…. much like you might a little stuffed animal. They key is to make sure your filler is polyester and your fabrics are washable (not sure if anyone is making these out of silk, but you never know – lol). If so, pop the pillow into the washer on a gentle cycle and tumble dry on warm (not hot). You can also simply spot clean.
Could you let me know where I can find the fabric that you have used to make this pillow? -Sue
Hi Sue — this is a 2019 post for which we originally pulled fabric from our S4H Stash. It’s an older Kokka Fabrics (from Japan) print. I’m afraid we no longer have any details other than that. Kokka changes out their fabric lines pretty regularly so it is unlikely to still be readily available.
Thank you for your quick response, Liz. I have used this pattern and made a pillow for my friend for her birthday gift. She was very happy with it and told me she can finally sleep through the nights. Thank you thank you.-Sue
You’re so welcome. Great to hear about your friend’s relaxation!!
This pattern is absolutely brilliant and you really can stitch up a pillow in about 30 minutes. I made one using a scrap of luxe fleece and I love it! The fabric is super soft so it’s perfect to use for a neck pillow and I know that there will be many places I can use it. These pillows will make outstanding gifts and I already have a second one in progress. Many thanks for a terrific project!
Hello Teri – Wonderful news! We’ve made them in fleece and minky before and they are, indeed, SO soft and comfortable. We’re happy to know you are making more to share.
What a wonderful project…made one for myself and my husband tried it and asked me to make him one (a first!). The pattern/instructions are clear and the result is cute, useful and comfortable, Thanks so much for sharing,
Hi Marianne – Thank you so much. These little guys are so all-around popular! I love stories like yours!
Thank you so much. I love this design. I have chronic neck problems and use neck pillows EVERYWHERE.
Hi Charlee – Thank you so much! We’re glad to know you’ve had such great success with our pillow!
Thank you-Love this pattern!Made one yesterday for my husband out of his old BDU pants – to go with the BDU quilt I made him for our anniversary.
I will definitely be making a lot more of these!
Hi Stephanie – what a perfect pair!! He’s going to love it.
Love this pattern! Made this pillow for a friend and now my husband wants one. I also made one for my Auntie who lives about 40 miles away. What is the best way to send this to her, please? Is there a particular USPS pkg prepaid supply available for this type and size?
Hi M S — so sorry, but we’ve not shipped these anywhere, so I don’t have a specific recommendation for you. I’d measure your finished pillow and see if you can see any box sizes on the USPS website that could work for you. The good news is that it should be quite lightweight – either using your own box or one of theirs :-).
M S, I imagine you’ve solved this issue by now, but for others with the same question: Is the recipient able to do the final steps themself – stuff the pillow and stitch the hole closed? Shipping would be a lot cheaper if you only had to send the sewn pillow casing. Then you could order the filling for direct delivery to the recipient’s home or for in-store pickup. Another option to reduce shipping cost would be to put the pillow in a vacuum sealed bag or, put it in a ziplock freezer bag and roll it up as tight… Read more »
Fantastic! Thank you!
.Thank you SOOO much for this pattern! I have been looking, literally, for years for this pattern.
Ahhhh, Thanks Diane! This is one of our most popular projects by far. Enjoy!
Thank you for this pattern. I made one for my stepdaughter (in Portland, by the way) who is undergoing chemo. She really appreciates it and reports that she is now able to nap on the couch without getting a crick in her neck. I stuffed it with shredded memory foam; because the memory foam isn’t really washable I made a pillowcase for it, with an opening at the bottom for the loop and snaps to close up the top and still allow the loop out.
Hi Claudia – What a perfect gift for your stepdaughter! Thanks for letting us know – and for sharing your memory-form-in-a-pillowcase option.
Thank you for sharing this pattern. Its been an absolute hit with my family and friends.
Hi Julie – thanks for letting us know. These little pillows are definitely in out Top 10 most popular projects ever 🙂
I made one to try and it is a success in our home! My kids are requesting one, I was thinking to print the patter to 85%, but wanted to ask if someone has made it. Both my kids are under 8 yo. Thank you!
Hi Zumla — So glad the pillow is a hit. It is a super popular pattern. We haven’t tested it at the smaller size, but it should work for you. Let us know.
I accidentally printed one at 85% and sewed it anyway. It works perfectly as well.
How kind of you to create and share this wonderful pattern and tutorial! Thank you so very much. 🙂
Hi Dori – This is indeed one of our most popular patters ever 🙂 – Let us know how yours turns out.