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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 (73)

dianthony1 said:
dianthony1's picture

Hi Liz,

I was so happy to find this pattern and can’t wait to make it.  I would like to make it out of muslin and make a removeable cover for it that I can wash.  Have you ever made this with a zipper?  Where would the zipper be inserted?  Along the side or the end?

Thank you,

Diane Anthony

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

Hello Diane - Glad to hear you are loving this pattern - it is one of our most popular. We have not made it with a zipper - because the pillows themselves are easy to launder. If you want to add a zipper, it would be best to try to insert an invisible zipper within one of the side seams.

dianthony1 said:
dianthony1's picture

Hi Liz,

Thanks for your reponse.  When you launder the pillows, does the filling stay smooth?  I was afraid it would get clumpy or bunch up.  I have had this happen to bed pillows when I laundered them.

If I DO decide to use an invisible zipper, can I place it along the curved section of the side seam?

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

It's all about using a quality filler when it comes to laundering pillows. Wash on a gentle cycle and airfluff, allowing it to air dry to finish. Cheap fillers will certainly clump. You also need to fluff the filler prior to inserting. Below is our tutorial on stuffing pillows. Regarding the zipper, they can be inserted into a curve, you need to clip the zipper tape similarly to how you'd clip any curve. We haven't actually tested a zipper insertion in this design, so I can't give you definitive steps, but there isn't a strict reason why you couldn't try it. 


vasewist said:
vasewist's picture

Thank you so much for this pattern. I have used this pillow every night since I first made one. I love it. It travels with me everywhere. 

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

@vasewist - Thanks so much for letting us know. We glad to hear you are sleeping soundly!

Vasanthi said:
Vasanthi's picture

Thank you so much for the great pattern and wonderful tutorial. I enjoyed following the very clear instructions and made one for me. Now making a couple of them for gifting.

Can you please let me know whether the pillows made using this pattern (not the pattern) can be Sold? TIA!

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

@Vasanthi - Glad you like the pattern. And thanks for reaching out for approval. Here is our policy: 

All Sew4Home patterns and instructions are copyrighted and are for personal use. Manufacturing of products made from our original designs for mass production or commercial use is strictly prohibited. They cannot be manufactured by others or sold through a third party. You can make small quantities for sale if you make the items yourself. We simply ask that on the tag and/ or somewhere within the display or packaging and/or within the sales description online, credit is given for the item being created from a copyrighted design/pattern/tutorial from Sew4Home.com.

klking said:
klking's picture

Thanks so much for this pattern.  I had purchased one like this many, many years ago and have used it to travel with via car/plane for many years.  It had seen better times and I was so happy to make myself 2 new ones.  Right now I'm in the process of making a few more for family and friends.  Thanks again !!!

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

@klking - Thank you so much for letting us know about your success! This is such a popular little pillow!

Roberta said:
Roberta 's picture

this is a hugh rip-off.  I live on a fixed income and the entire print used ALL my colored ink. Thent the instruction to print only the pattern are somewhat hidden.  And NO the pattern did not print to the correct size.  I'm not dumb - you made this sewing experience a nightmare for me.  I can't use any of this mess.

Pat K. said:
Pat K.'s picture

I'm curious how this is a rip-off when it's FREE.  This has more to do with your not understanding how to work your computer/printer.  Please don't take your frustration out on her.  Be grateful that Liz is generous enough to offer her patterns AND directions for FREE.  Thanks Liz for sharing.  

Dame said:
Dame's picture

So ungrateful. It's free and I've printed this pattern without any problems. Your problem is with your computer.

Isabella said:
Isabella's picture

Rip off? It is free! If you have a local library, you may be able to print a few pages for free and they may have someone that can help you figure out how to print it correctly. It's very kind of anyone to offer free patterns, etc. 

moooommmmy said:
moooommmmy's picture

to save on ink I printed out just one pc then cut it out and used it to mae a pattern to cut out the other three.

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

@Roberta - This pillow is one of our most popular free patterns with thousands of downloads; we're so sorry to hear it led to frustration for you. We always place any pattern links at the very beginning of the Getting Started section with the note about confirming your printer is set to actual size. In terms of being a rip-off, there is no charge to use Sew4Home or to download the vast majority of our projects and patterns. Our visitors get to choose how they print and/or save the information. 

Diane P. said:
Diane P.'s picture

I can download the directions but can not find the pattern for the pillow.

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

Diane - The link for the pattern is the first step in the Getting Started section. Click this link from either the website page or from the PDF download to open. As mentioned, you need to print four copies.

Tonja Mettlen said:
Tonja Mettlen's picture

I am new to PDF patterns.  I printed the pattern both portrait and landscape and neither one will produce an 8 inch line. Any help you can offer?

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

@Tonja - The pattern is downloading without a problem at the correct size. It should definitely print landscape, and make sure you are printing at "actual size" or "100%" - often, printers will default to a "shrink to fit" or "fit page" type of setting. Make sure that box is not checked. 

Coolsammy said:
Coolsammy's picture


I want to recreate the store bought bone neck pillow I have ( my favorite).

I am glad to find this pattern since I am unable to find the same bone shape neck pillow in the size I like.

The store bought one is bigger than your pattern.

What tool can I use to adjust the pattern?

 I wanted the finish pillow to be 19.5" long x 10" w x 7" w ( neck area).

This will be my first project since I really need to replace the one I have.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Judy P said:
Judy P's picture

If you print the pattern in landscape mode instead of portrait mode, you will get a larger pattern.

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

@Coolsammy - This a stand-alone pattern so it is the only size we have. There really isn't one formula or tool that allows a perfect enlargement. So sorry. It is one of our most popular patterns that has been made hundreds of times -- you might give it a try, and see if you like the size. Other than that, you coul try to carefully take apart your existing pillow and try to make a pattern from it.

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

@MaDonna Barker - All material (projects, artwork, text, patterns, photos, etc.) on Sew4Home is protected under the copyright laws and are for personal use only. The instructions themselves and any associated patterns or pictures can not be reproduced or reprinted in any way. This also means our tutorials cannot be re-printed as a handout for use within a class, as that would be similar to copying pages out of a book to share with an entire group. Thank you for reaching out - and for your understanding! We hope you'll consider directing your students to the site for project ideas.

Loumate74 said:
Loumate74's picture

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I've just made my first one and I love it! I've recently been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis and I can't rest my head back in a chair so have been looking for an appropriate cushion. This is perfect and I'm now off to make one for my car. Thank you so much for sharing.

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

@ Loumate74 - We are SO happy to hear that our pillow pattern is able to help with your condition. 

Shea said:
Shea's picture

I have ended up with pinched nerves from sleeping on my side. I have an expensive chiropractic pillow, but it makes my neck hurt and doesn't keep my head from turning to the side. I whipped up one of these one evening, so easy. I made the sloppiest, fastest job ever and still came out great. I did not do the pull ribbons because I put it in a pillow case. I did not sew up the opening right away, I used three tiny safety pins, that way I could try it a few nights and adjust the stuffing as needed. Good thing too, I ended up taking out a couple handfuls. It supports my head perfectly, and the ends of the "bone" cradle my head and keep my head from turning. My neck feels better, my hands aren't asleep when I wake up, and my chest feels better. Although sleeping on my back makes me snore! Haha, I'll have to get a chin strap now. So attractive.  Thank you so much for the pattern, way better than a store bought pillow!

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

@Shea - thanks for sharing your story. We are so happy to hear that our pillow pattern could be helpful for you. And, thanks for your tip about not closing up the seam right away, but trying it first for a few nights with the opening safety-pinned closed. What a clever idea. 

sagecloud said:
sagecloud's picture

you could put a small zipper in it also and then it could be washable.

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

@sagecloud - you can certainly put a zipper in, but this particular pillow design is meant to have a very tight wrap, which can be hard to achieve with a zipper. We've had no problem laundering the entire pillow, washing it on delicate and tumbling dry on a cool setting.

Jamiehands said:
Jamiehands's picture

By any chance have you ever filled these with buckwheat hulls and lavender?  Do you know how many cups it takes to fill one?

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

@Jamiehands - so sorry, but we have not used buckwheat hulls with lavender and so don't have a quantity recommendation for you. 

Kathy, in WA state said:
Kathy, in WA state's picture

Thanks for sharing your pattern! I made one for my daughter last September for her to use as she recovered from knee surgery and it really helped. I have painful neck problems, so I decided to make one for sleeping. My doctor had advised me to use a flat pillow; one that can support my neck, but leave my head so it is next to the bed. A modification of your pillow has worked perfectly! It is nearly 24-inches long, narrow in the middle, and with just the right amount of filling. I used a new filling: Perfect Loft by Pellon. It's 100% Polyester Cluster Fiber Fill. It's great and quite soft. After spending a lot of $ on special pillows, I now have one that is perfect for me. And I made it! Thank you!

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

@Kathy - Thank you for letting us know about your success. It's always interesting to hear how folks have adapted our pattern to best fit their needs. We have used the Perfect Loft from Pellon in a couple of projects - it is a good alternative! Thanks again, and happy relaxation. 

SueJP said:
SueJP's picture

Thank you so much. I have just finished one and have cut out a second one. This is so easy and the tutorial is fantastic. Just what we need for an 8 hour train trip home for Christmas.  

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

@SueJP - Thank you ! That's so great to hear - they can be an addicting project  Have a safe trip home for the holidays!

Caitlin said:
Caitlin 's picture

I'm wondering how to get my ends to look more like the example? I keep getting a weird end I'm not sure how to explain it or how to not mak it happen I have made two and this has happened both times any suggestions? Thank you! 

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

@Caitlin - our commenting forms do not accept photos - so it's hard to tell what might be happening. The only general suggestion I have is to make triple sure you are marking the ends correctly (the asterisk as mentioned in the steps) and then that those marks are perfectly aligned when pinning, and finally, that you are starting and stopping your seams right on the marks. 

sarahbest said:
sarahbest's picture

May I suggest making one without the handle/ribbons, and see if that comes out OK?

Piz16zolo said:
Piz16zolo's picture

Hi Liz, I am almost finished with my 7th and 8th neck pillows. I just wanted to say that the photos in this tutorial are much clearer (to me) that the originals when the pillow was made in minky. I just couldn't figure it out with the 3rd seam and the ribbon placement; my husband had to help me figure it out. I am spatially challenged! However, I did great with this tute. I'm making a new one for my doctor (gave one to her a while back) and her husband, as she was looking for hers to put her foot on the other week and he had it under his neck. "I like this," he said, "it's really comfortable." So, to avoid a marital spat, I decided to make them each a new one in a slightly heavier cotton. She is a great and caring doctor who runs a walk-in medical center in our city.

Thanks for these great projects. I admire anyone who can design these and figure this stuff out!

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

@Piz16zolo - Thank you so much for dropping us a note - what a funny story about your doctor and her husband... but, we have heard similar stories  -- that's why we always say to make more than one  We're glad to here that the photos wil this version were easier for you to follow.  Have fun!

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.