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Is there an avid environmentalist on your gift list? Or, do you just want to celebrate Earth Day as every day? Then this Tree Hugger pillow is a must have. It’s ever so much better than hugging an actual tree, which tends to be not only scratchy, but annoying to the woodland creatures living in the branches. Read on for the easy, breezy instructions. 

Body pillow inserts are easy to find and quite inexpensive. We got ours at a local variety store for under $20. If your environmentalist comes indoors now and then, it also makes a great crash pillow for a TV room or dorm room.

The construction is similar to a standard pillow case – just a lot bigger. We show you the easy way to use a tuck to create the look of a flap between the top and bottom sections. And, there’s even a hemming alternative below in case you prefer folding flat rather than in a circle.

The exact bark and leaves fabrics we originally used for our sample is no longer readily available, but below are some new combinations we round at Fabric.com that have a similar forest feel. Click on a swatch for more detail.



Of course you could use any kind of fabric you’d like to create this cool pillow cover. You’d just have to come up with a new name for it, maybe one with hearts all over it: Main Squeeze or one out of faux fur: Bear Hug. Ha! I got a million of ’em.

Our Tree Hugger Body pillow finishes at the size of the insert, approximately 20″ x 54″, excluding the “roots” dangling below.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • 1½ yards of 44″+ wide fabric for the upper half of the pillow – the “leaves”
  • 1 yard of 44″+ wide fabric for the lower half of the pillow – the “trunk”
    NOTE: Both the upper and lower fabrics should be the same weight, in other words, both quilting weight, both décor weight, both sateen weight, etc.
  • 20″ x 54″ body pillow insert
    NOTE: All the body pillow inserts we found were this same 20″ x 54″ range
  • 5½ yards of 1″ wide satin or grosgrain ribbon: we used a satin in chocolate brown
  • Fray Check or similar seam sealant
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for the tree trunk, cut TWO rectangles 21″ wide x 35½” long.
    NOTE: Yes … this cut is nearly the full yard length (36″) recommended. If you are worried about your cutting precision, get an additional ⅛ yard. 
  2. From the fabric for tree leaves, cut ONE rectangle 21″ wide x 47″ long.
    NOTE: If your fabric is wider, perhaps a 54″ home décor width, you could cut horizontally and would then need only ⅔ yard.
  3. Cut the ribbon into sixteen 12″ lengths.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Lay the leaf panel flat on your work surface.
  2. Find one 21″ x 35½” tree trunk panel. Pin it, right sides together, to the leaf panel along one 21″ side.
  3. Sew together, using a ½” seam. Press the seam allowance open and flat.
  4. Repeat with the second 21″ x 35½” tree trunk panel, pinning it, right sides together, to the opposite 21″ side of the leaf panel..
  5. Flip over this new, very long panel so the right side is facing up .
  6. To create the look of the ‘flap’ between the leaves and trunk, make a Z-fold – a little tuck. Starting on one side, pinch the fabric at the seam to make a 1½” upright fold, then fold that fold down. That’s right .. “fold that fold down.” This sounds like a hip hop move, but it is exactly what you do.
  7. If you look at it from the side, this tuck forms a ‘Z’ shape.
  8. Topstitch approximately 1″ in from the bottom fold, making sure you catch the top of the inside fold.
  9. Repeat on the opposite side.
  10. Fold the entire piece in half, right sides together, matching up the raw edges. Pin along both long edges.
  11. Sew both long sides together, using a ½” seam. Press the seam allowance open and flat. The bottom of the pillow case should remain un-sewn.
    NOTE: Be careful to make sure your topstitching seams match up. This will make a nice continuous seam line when you turn the pillow case right side out.

Hem and ribbon roots

  1. Working with the pillow case wrong side out, fold back the raw edge all around the bottom ½” and press. Fold back an additional ½” to encase the raw edge into a simple double-turn hem. Press. If you’re new to hemming, read our tutorial: How to Make a Simple Hem.
  2. Find your 16 ribbon strips. Insert one end of each ribbon strip into your hem’s fold, spacing eight of them evenly along one side. Pin in place.
    NOTE: If you are using a satin ribbon or another type of ribbon that has a definite right side and wrong side, you want the right side of the ribbons facing against the wrong side of the pillowcase.
  3. Flip the pillowcase over, and pin the remaining eight ribbon strips along the hem on this opposite side. Make sure the eight ribbons on one side line up perfectly with the eight ribbons on the other side. Pin in place.
  4. Working one ribbon at a time, carefully remove its pin and fold the ribbon down across the hem so the ribbon hangs down into its finished position. Replace the pin, making sure the ribbon is straight and even as it folds over the hem.
  5. Repeat until all 16 ribbons are pinned in place. Check once more that your eight pairs of ribbons line up so you can tie them together neatly when you’re done.
  6. Stitch all around the bottom edge approximately ¼” from the bottom folded edge. This secures both your hem and all the ribbons in place.
    Note: You are stitching from the back, which means your bobbin thread is what will show from the front. So, make sure you have threaded your machine with the same color thread in both the top and the bobbin.
  7. Clip the top corners of the pillowcase and turn right side out.
  8. Apply a thin line of seam sealant along the bottom edge of each ribbon.
  9. Tie ribbons together. The knots will disappear under the hem, but we found that a simple square knot allows the roots to hang nicely and is easy to untie when you need to launder the cover.

Hints and Tips

Hemming option if you don’t like working in a circle

Hemming the bottom of the pillow means you have to work in a circle. If this makes you dizzy, you can pre-press your hem prior to sewing up the side seams.

Before you sew up your side seams (before step #11 above), press your ½” double fold hem. Don’t sew it, just press the folds in place so they are nice and sharp. Unfold the pressed hem and sew up the side seams. Then, fold the hem back up and pin in place. The fabric will ‘remember’ its pre-pressed folds and it will be easier to make a nice, even hem all around the opening.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Aimee McGaffey

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