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Whimsy: Neckroll Pillow with Ric Rac

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This comfy neckroll is the first of a trio of wonderful Whimsy projects. Joanna Figueroa's Whimsy collection, for Moda Fabrics, debuted in February of this year, so we've been admiring it now for several months. We fell in love with its soft, warm colors and the nostalgic prints, florals and stripes. I even love the names of the colors: buttercup, beach, chocolate and grass are just a few that make me want to lie on my back and look for the bunnies and dragons in the fluffy spring clouds. Joanna's simple line drawings of vintage wagons, milk jugs and chickens are perfect throw-backs to the old Dick and Jane early-reader books. 'See Liz sew. Sew, Liz, Sew!' Our roly-poly neckroll pillow features the Whimsy Wavy Ric Rac design. Neckrolls are great for youself and make a much-loved gift for anyone on your list who's had a hard day and needs a little nap.

Take a look at all the great designs and color ways within the Whimsy collection.

Our Sew4Home regular fans, will recognize some similar construction techniques for this pillow from in our recent Black and White Pillow Pile: Double Flange Bolster.

A BIG thanks to our friends at Fat Quarter Shop for providing us with all the Whimsy collection fabrics for our tutorial series. They have a wonderful selection in stock of all the designs. And they are johnny-on-the-spot with all their orders and delivery. Thanks, FQS!

The pillow finishes at approximately 18" x 6" in diameter.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • 5/8 yard fabric: we used Joanna Figueroa's Whimsy in Multi Ric Rac Stitching from Moda Fabrics
  • 1¼ yard jumbo ric rac: we used bright red
  • All purpose thread
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins
  • Tape measure
  • Hand sewing needle
  • One medium bag of polyester fiber fill

Getting Started

When working with fabric that has direction, it's very important to watch how you cut the fabric. If this is your first time working with directional fabric, see our tutorial, Checklist: Before You Cut Your Fabric

  1. Cut two 8” x 8” squares from the fabric for the ends (Joanna Figueroa’s Whimsy in our sample) .
  2. Cut one 19” x 19½” piece from the fabric for the pillow body (also Joanna Figueroa’s Whimsy in our sample) .
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    NOTE: We used the same fabric for the main pillow body and the ends, simply changing the direction of the ric rac to add variety. You could vary the project by choosing two coordinating fabrics for your neckroll.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Creating the end 'caps'

  1. Fold and press one 8" x 8" square in half and then in half again, creating intersecting crease marks.
  2. Lay the folded, pressed 4" square on your work surface so the center point is in the lower left corner of the square.
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  3. Place a see-through ruler or tape measure at the exact center of this lower left corner and swing the ruler/tape from the top to the bottom of the square, like a pendulum, measuring and marking a dot at the 3¾" point in three to four spots. You are creating a semi-circle.
  4. Draw an arc to connect the marks. If you own a large compass, you could also use it to create your 3¾" arc.
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  5. Cut on the line to create a 7½" circle.
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    NOTE: The crease lines will be important in the construction process later; DO NOT repress each circle after cutting.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 for the other 8" square.
  7. Using a long straight stitch, sew ½" around the raw edge of one of the circles. Do not back tack at the beginning or end of your seam. This stitch is for gathering.
  8. Pull the bobbin thread to gather. Remember those creases you made when the circle was a square? Now, is the time to use these to help you even out the gathers in each quadrant. If this is your first time gathering, see our tutorial, Gathering & Ruffles Made Easy.
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  9. Repeat to create gathers on the other circle piece.

Attaching ric rac and making the body 'tube'

  1. Pin the ric rac to each 19½" side of the pillow body, ½" from the raw edge, on the right side of the fabric.
    NOTE: You should be able to easily tell which sides the ric rac is sewn to by the direction of the print. Also, remember that you want a good portion of the ric rac to stick out from the seam on either end, so consider this when you position it in case your ric ric is smaller than ours.
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  2. Using a zigzag stitch, baste the jumbo ric rac in place.
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  3. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew the 19" x 19½" piece, with its nicely basted ric rac, into a tube. You should pin and stitch along the side without the ric rac - the 19" side. Be sure to start and stop (and back tack) in the middle of the seam to leave a 6"- 8" opening for turning right side out and stuffing.
  4. In order to create creases that will line up with the creases on each end cap circle, you need to press the tube carefully. First, press the seam open. Then, gently pull the tube with the seam to the right, so you can press a fold directly opposite the seam. Now, gently pull the tube in the opposite direction, matching up the seam and the first crease, and press two additional creases at each side. The seam line and the three creases will match with the quadrant folds on the gathered circles.
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  5. Place one gathered end cap circle inside the pressed tube, matching the seam line with one of the crease lines on the gathered circle. Pin in place. Now, match up and pin the remaining crease lines with each other.
    NOTE: If you plan to have the ends match (as in the direction of the pattern), think about that now. Ours are perpendicular to one another so not as much of a brain teaser.
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  6. Adjust gathers as needed within each quadrant. Pin around entire circle.
    NOTE: Be sure that you are pinning your circle and tube so the gathered circle will be on the bottom. It's much easier to sew a gathered piece when it's against the feed dogs of your sewing machine.
  7. You are now going to stitch 'in the round'! This is similar to how set-in sleeves are done.
  8. Place the pinned neckroll end piece so the raw edge is flipped up a little under the sewing machine foot. This will make it easier to sew around the circle.
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  9. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew around the circle end.
  10. Repeat for the other end, but before you sew, check to be sure the pattern on the circles is being sewn in the same direction as the previously sewn end.
  11. Turn the neck roll right side out through the opening.
  12. Stuff firmly with polyester fiber fill or the filler of your choice.
  13. Thread a hand sewing needle with matching thread, and hand sew the opening closed.

Hints and Tips

If you're new to sewing, you might also want to check out these helpful articles:

Pressing & Ironing: How-To

Hand Sewing: Thread the Needle and Tie the Knot

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Jodi Kelly

Other machines suitable for this project include the Baby Lock Grace and the Bernina bernette 46.



Comments (11)

Susan T said:
Susan T's picture

I tried to make this but had an epic fail. When I sewed up the non trimmed side with the 1/2'' seam allowance to make the tube - it sewed the ric-rac on each end down so that when you turned it inside out, the ric rac closest to the seam was sewed down and didn't flip out. When I sewed the tube, should I have stopped before I got to the ends with the ric rac??

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

@Susan T - Oh my goodness, this tutorial goes back a ways! The sample itself was returned to the sponsor long ago, so we can't even offer to send a photo of the back seam. In general, yes, you do stitch end to end, which does mean the very, vey ends of the rick rack will kind of disappear into the back seam. This would be the case for any kind of trim added first to the panel. If you don't like that look, you could instead make the tube, then baste the rick rack into place around the opening - note that this would mean the rick rack's ends would be overlapped at the back seam, so you might want to finish them with an overcast stitch or similar prior to basting in place. We often add trim to the circular end cap rather than the panel, but since these end caps are gathered in order to "poof" out a bit, that isn't the best choice since ripply rick rack isn't a great look. Hope that helps a bit. 

Rosetta from KY said:
Rosetta from KY's picture
This will be my first experience in trying to make a neck roll pillow. I will have to read the instructions again to, hopefully, sew it rightsmilies/smiley.gifsmilies/smiley.gifsmilies/smiley.gifI will let you know how it turns out !!! Thanks for having this info available..
Julie A. said:
Julie A.'s picture

Thank you for this pattern!  Just one question: What are the dimensions of the finished pillow?

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

@ Julie A - approximately 18" long x 6" in diameter.

Cathy Williams said:
Cathy Williams's picture
I actually like this one better. Seems all teen like.. Any more cool teen room ideas??
Cathy Williams said:
Cathy Williams's picture
I Think I may try this without the ric rac. I have been looking for a bolester type pillow.. and here it issmilies/cheesy.gif