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Last Minute Gift Pillows: Relaxing Neck Pillow

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These little bowtie-shaped neck pillows are nice for propping up your noggin when you watch TV in bed or supporting your neck while sleeping. They're easy to create despite the complex-looking shape. A thoughtful gift that takes only about 30 minutes to make.

I've made countless neck pillows as gifts, and use one myself every night. If you like warm and cozy, use flannel. If you're like me and like a cool, crisp pillow, stick with a quality 100% cotton fashion fabric.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • ½ yard of 45" wide fashion weight cotton fabric or cotton flannel. I made one from Aqua Garden Trellis/Flights of Fancy collection, a Paula Prass design from Michael Miller, and one from Duck Egg Acanthus/Belle collection, an Amy Butler design from Rowan.
  • 2 feet of 7/8" satin or grosgrain ribbon per pillow.
  • Bag of Poly-fil to stuff pillow
  • All-purpose thread
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Straight pins

    Getting Started

    1. It's best of you pre-shrink your fabric before cutting.
    2. Download and print four copies of the neck pillow pattern. Cut out and tape together the four shapes to make one bowtie-shaped pattern piece.
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    3. Using your assembled pattern, cut three pieces. I fold my fabric into thirds so I can cut all three pieces at once.
    4. You'll see an * on either end of your pattern piece. Once you have your 3 pieces cut, and while they are all still pinned together, cut the tiniest little V-shaped clip, about 1/8" in depth and width. This marks the spot where you stop stitching and attach the center of your ribbon handles. While you can use a marking pencil, I found this V-clip easier to spot while sewing.
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    At Your Sewing Machine

      1. 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 3/8” seam allowance, stitch from the precise center point of the V on one side to precisely that point on the opposite side. One side remains open. Because of the narrow seam allowance and the curves, sew slowly to assure your stitching line is smooth and accurate.  
        NOTE: This pillow is essentially a chubby triangle, which is helpful to keep in mind as you are assembling – remember you need three sides to create the correct dimension.
      2. Loop your ribbon to form a handle and pin on center of each V-clip with the loop facing inside.
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      3. Stitch your second seam from V-clip to opposite V-clip to include half of the ribbon as shown below. Backstitch over the ribbon to give it strength.
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      4. Pin your remaining open seam as shown:
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      5. Stitch from one V-clip to about the center of the pillow (again, as you sew over the ribbon be sure to backstitch for strength). Leave open a 4" gap in the seam. This is where you will stuff your pillow with Polyfil. Then, finish stitching to the opposite V-clip. Be sure to backstitch (back-tack) at both sides of the opening to keep the seam from coming open during the turning and stuffing process.
      6. Turn your pillow right side out, and stuff the shape until pleasingly plump but not so rock hard that it's uncomfortable.
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      7. Tuck in the seam allowance at the opening and slip stitch closed.

      When finished, a comfortably stuffed pillow looks about like this:

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        Aqua Garden Trellis/Flights of Fancy fabric courtesy Michael Miller Fabrics.

        Other machines suitable for this project include the Bernina aurora 450 and the Pfaff expression 2.0.



        Comments (89)

        JessicaSews said:
        JessicaSews's picture
        Hi There! I was just visiting the QuiltBug site when I saw this link... love the pillow pattern!
        Bette said:
        Bette's picture
        Liz, Thank you for answering my question about the pattern. I did what you said and it worked. (Of course)! This is my first time printing off one of your patterns and, I'm sure, it won't be the last!
        Thanks again!
        Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
        Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
        @ Bette - Click on the link that says "Download" -- it's the first word in step 2. The will download and the pattern for you as a pdf file. The pillow will finish at about 16" in length.
        Bette said:
        Bette's picture
        I do not see the pattern for the pillow in the directions. You say to print four copies and tape them together, so I know it can't be #2 under getting started-that looks too small. What are the dimentions for the finished pillow?
        Ray said:
        Ray's picture
        This pillow looks tricky due to the ends,but it was not.I made one and it was very simple and comfortable.Now I am making some for my family for Christmas(a request from my mom) Thank you so much for the tut and pattern!
        alicia.thommas said:
        Hi Gina B. Four pillows! That's great. Sorry you're struggling with that 3-way connection point. I'm not sure what's going wrong. The tiny V-clip is intended to mark precisely where that joint is. I found I had more trouble being precise with a marking pen, but maybe it would work better for you. Use a fine point fabric pen if you want to try it.

        Also, be sure you are backstitching to keep the seam from unraveling. The only other suggestion I have is: don't overstuff the pillow to the point where there is a lot of pressure on the seams. Too much fiberfill makes the pillow hard and can be uncomfortable on the neck. Look at the last picture above and you'll see the pillow is plump but the fabric is not stretching the seam open either.
        Gina_B said:
        Gina_B's picture
        Thank you so much for the pattern! I've made 4 of them now. smilies/smiley.gif I can't seem to get the ribbons/seams right and always end up going back over the 3-way connection by hand. Any tips? Even if it looks like I didn't sew too far, by the time the stuffing is in, the stitches have pulled apart right in the center. Now I just hit them by hand before I begin stuffing so I don't have to wing it later smilies/wink.gif
        Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
        Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
        @ Jo W -- We have re-tested the .pdf download on this article and everything is working fine on our end. You could: make sure you have the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader (it's free) and make sure there aren't any settings within your browser preventing downloads from our site.

        Here's the link to the Adobe site to check for Acrobat:
        Rob Stowe - Prince of Practical said:
        Rob Stowe - Prince of Practical's picture
        I purchase bags of Jasmine Rice from my local asian market. It comes in 25# bags that are made of a heavy woven plastic material. I made several of the Bowtie Neck Pillows and ran the plastic bags bags through my paper shredder for the Filling of the Pillows. I followed the template for the pillow, made a bladder out of Batiste (window sheer material) that I purchased from the local thrift store for $.97, and added an invisible 12-14" zipper to the pillow. Now, the shell of the pillow is washable AND the bladder can be "dunked" in a diluted cleaning solution and left to air-dry. Re-purposing the plastic bags and it makes for a VERY comfortable Pillow!
        Carina said:
        Carina's picture
        Thanks for this tutorial! It was so clear and the pictures really helped. Just made one to bring with me on the plane to Key West and for lounging on the beach! Its so comfortable and took only about 1/2 hour!
        alicia.thommas said:
        I have not tried filling with rice. Rice is heavy and this is not a little pillow. It seems like it could be weighty. Buckwheat hulls are lighter; again -- I have not tried it. Has anyone??? I would suggest a décor weight fabric if you do try it. The issue is washing the pillow. There are solutions, I'm sure. I'd have to try it out unless someone has already done that.
        DebB said:
        DebB's picture
        Along with the rice, I was wondering about filling one of these nice pillows with buckwheat hulls. Would you recommend making an inner liner to make sure the hulls stay put?
        alicia.thommas said:
        Hi Nelloyello11, Folding your fabric and using just half the pattern should work fine. I would do as you plan -- cut 3 times rather than try to cut through six layers at once. I've made a lot of these pillows and the precision of cutting all 3 pieces flat at the same time makes alignment surer and overall a bit easier to sew. That said... if you cut with care, it should no problem. I've made these with different fabric and they are really fun!!
        Nelloyello11 said:
        Nelloyello11's picture
        I've decided to make a couple of these, and for one, I picked out three coordinating fabrics, instead of going with just one. Is there any reason that I couldn't use only 2 of the pattern templates and just cut on the fold three times? Or do you think it would work better to lay my three fabrics on top of each other and cut all three together? Thanks!
        Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
        Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
        A single bag should be fine... but be warned, you might want to get the BIG bag - these pillows are addicting. You'll be making them for all our friends and family.smilies/grin.gif
        TGND said:
        TGND's picture
        This is lovely! I sit in bed and read late into the night and my soft squishy pillows just dont cut it for that. I'll have to make one of these soon! How much fiber fill does it take though? Will a single bag of the stuff from walmart be enough?
        craftyval said:
        craftyval's picture
        I just got a sewing machine last week after not having sewn since my 8th grade homemaking class (MANY years ago). I was browsing around on sewing websites and found this pattern. I actually made this pillow yesterday and it is adorable. LOVE the website -- it is so informative and love the step by step instructions. THANKS!!! P.S. the fabric I used was fleece with dog faces -- since the pillow looks like a bone so it was perfect!
        kathyknits said:
        kathyknits's picture
        has anyone tried filling these with rice? I'm just thinking the shape would be lovely filled with heated up rice....mmmm...
        Renae said:
        Renae's picture
        smilies/smiley.gifThank you SO much for sharing this pattern!! I am making them for Christmas gifts, I have 8 made and 8 more to go!! The pattern and instructions are perfect, the pillow is easy to make with GREAT results!! I am making them from different sports fabrics...I love them and I'm sure they will be greatly appreciated by my family!! Again, thank you so much!! Renae'
        Suezie said:
        Suezie's picture
        I have been sewing like crazy making hand made gifts (hubby just got made redundant last week, sooooo glad I was already on the ball!) and I find gifts for the gals in the family pretty easy - it's the guys that are hard! This looks perfect for the handful of guys in our family - most have reached that 'napping' stage LOL! Plus it looks real easy too. Am lovin the comments from everyone re: bad necks. I suffered a fall 4 years ago so maybe I'll make myself one too while I'm at it. Wish me luck! Big THANKS for sharing this by the way. Blessings
        Oshra said:
        Oshra's picture
        OMG you don't know how happy you made me with this post! I bought a pillow exactly like this more than 15 years ago and it still serves me well but I've never seen one on sale ever since and I've often worried what will be when it finally falls apart. I can't live without it! Its a MUST for reading in bed. Now my worries are over! THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!!!
        alicia.thommas said:
        Mrs B, these pillows are very comfortable for people who are ill. They cradle the head and let the neck relax. Since everyone at the Lodge wants them, aren't you glad they are so easy and quick to make smilies/smiley.gif Best wishes to your sister!
        Mrs B said:
        Mrs B's picture
        I made one of these for my Sister who is going through cancer treatments. Now everyone at the Lodge want them.
        alicia.thommas said:
        What I great idea -- why didn't I think of that! I've made these with ties sewn from the same fabric as the body of the pillow rather than a ribbon. I'd cut the strip about 2.5" wide, use a ¼" seam and turn. That will give you a nice 1" tie. I'd also avoid the heavier weight outdoor fabric so the pillow has a nice cush to it. smilies/smiley.gif
        McLloydie said:
        McLloydie's picture
        I'm excited about this project!

        I'd like to make one for outdoor use (quality time in the hammock). I thought I might find a Sunbrella fabric to use. Do you have any suggestions for the ribbons? I'm concerned the grosgrain might not be so durable for outdoor use?
        BeckyC said:
        BeckyC's picture
        I made 2 of these last night and I am a novice sewer. The pattern and instructions are so clear and helpful, thanks again! Ooh yeah awesome pillow btw way comfy smilies/smiley.gif
        alicia.thommas said:
        Hi Patricia Ann,
        I'm so glad your neck pillow was a Father's Day success!! It's always nice to get your Christmas orders in early smilies/smiley.gif Thanks for letting me know. -- Best, Alicia
        Patricia Ann said:
        Patricia Ann's picture
        Hi Alicia,
        Thanks for answering my questions about size and stuffing. I used Fairfield Supreme Fiberfill and it turned out light and fluffy. It was a big hit on Father's Day. In fact, I got several orders for Christmas presents!!!
        alicia.thommas said:
        Hi Joanhardee! I'm glad you asked for help. Let me see if I can be clearer without drawing on a napkin. I suspect you are missing the first step where you sew two pieces together along ONE side from V-clip to V-clip. It may be confusing because there is no photo of that step. That seam must be sewn BEFORE you insert the ribbon loop, which is the state you are in the photo with Step 2. What is on the bottom in Step 2 is the first two pieces sewn together. In the middle is the ribbon loop and on the top is the 3rd piece of fabric. Once you have done that, it will look like the photo in Step 3. I changed the wording of step 4 just a tad to be clearer there, but I don't think that's were you had trouble. Be sure to let me know if that didn't answer your question. I'll happily try again.smilies/smiley.gif said:'s picture
        This is my second attempt at making this pillow. The part that confuses me is when I put the loops on the v notches and lay them to the inside am I supposed to sew another seam over the first one before I pin the third piece? I get to step three, and when I look at the diagram it looks like there are 3 pieces already being connected.
        Please help, what am I doing wrong?

        Thank you,
        Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
        Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
        Hi Karlene, you do need to print the pattern at full size do not "scale it" or "shrink to page". Print it four times, cut out all four pieces, butt them together (don't overlap them) and tape to form your final "bone" shape. As shown in the picture above, two will be right side up and two will be upside down. Have fun smilies/cheesy.gif
        Karlene said:
        Karlene's picture
        Hi there Patricia

        Thanks you for the stunning neck pillow pattern , just want to check , when I open the pdf , the size of the pattern opens up on 66% size , must I leave it on that size , as I am not sure if it needs to be at 100% , a bit of a blonde , I am a sewing nut , but no good on PC;s & IT things ... Cant wait to make a few for us , as we both a bad necks.

        Cant wait to get started with my pillows , been looking all day for a fab pattern , thanks a stack , love it
        alicia.thommas said:
        Hi Patricia Ann. That measurement is exactly 8-3/4" so your printer is accurate. I use Fairfield Poly-fil® for these pillows. Any of their polyester fiberfills work fine and their Bamboo Fiber is another soft silky option. The key is don't overstuff it and make it too hard. I personally like Fairfield's Soft Touch® Pol-fil Supreme Fiberfill that is very silky and is perfect for this kind of small pillow.

        These neck pillows are very easy to make and people really like them. I'm sure your dad will love his. Great gift!
        Patricia Ann said:
        Patricia Ann's picture
        After deciding to make this as a Father's Day gift, I made one yesterday for myself as a test. It turned out so cute and the idea for using the V cut for attaching the ribbon was easier than I thought it would be. I have two questions.

        What is the length of the long straight line on one of the pattern pieces? I'm not sure my printer did it right - mine measured 8 3/4 inches.

        You said you have made a lot of these, what brand and type of fiberfill do you find works the best.

        Thanks for your website. I look forward to your emails everyday.
        Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
        Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
        Hi Shirley .... I'm so glad you made one for your mom. They were originally designed for a very special mom. Keep up the good work! smilies/wink.gif
        aiteruyu said:
        aiteruyu's picture
        Thanks for this! I made a neck pillow for my mom and She loves it! She uses it when she is lying down watching TV and said it's very comfy! smilies/grin.gif