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Starfish Pillow

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Real starfish belong in tide pools. Our starfish pillow belongs on your sofa! This quick and easy project is the perfect way to add a splash of nautical fun to freshen-up your décor for Summer and beyond. There are dozens of great fabric collections out there with delightful seaside themes. We selected a print from Michael Miller's Sea Buddies collection in a coral-times-two design: a beautiful coral motif in a rich coral color.

A single pillow in an interesting shape (and a striking color) is the perfect focal point to energize an otherwise standard pile of pillows. 

Are you going to want to rest your head on the twenty-six buttons featured here? Probably not, but that's not this pillow's job. It's sole responsibility is to look cute and clever.

For a great finish, pay attention to your curves. We show you a few favorite tips below and link to our tutorial on keeping your curves clean. 

The key to a professional finish on any shaped pillow is the stuffing. You may assume your can just punch in fluffy filler like you're stuffing the Thanksgiving turkey. But for a super smooth result, go with high quality polyester filler and insert with care. Check out our suggestions below as well as our link to even more stuffing details. 

Worried about hand sewing all those buttons. Check out our tutorials on regular button sewing as well as our Speedy Button Technique. Or, bust out your machine's button sewing presser foot.

This is a decorator pillow rather than a stuffed toy. The sewn-on buttons are an embellishment and not appropriate for small children.

Our pillow finishes at approximately 18½" in diameter.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • 1 yard of 44"+ wide cotton fabric; we used Sea Coral in Coral from the Sea Buddies collection by Michael Miller Fabrics
  • Scrap or ⅝ yard 20"+ wide low loft batting
  • TWENTY-SIX decorative buttons in three sizes: ONE at 1", TEN at ¾", FIFTEEN at ½" – for the best look, we recommend two-hole buttons in a similar natural color and style to the faux shell buttons used on our sample
  • ONE small bag of premium polyester fiberfill; we used Fairfiled's Poly-Fil® Premium filler in a 12 oz bag
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Pressing cloth to protect buttons from the heat of the iron
  • Scissors 
  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Tape measure
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle

Getting Started

  1. Download and print out ONE copy of each of the FIVE Starfish Pattern pieces, which have been bundled into one PDF file to make the download easier.
  2. IMPORTANT: Each pattern sheet 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 rule on the Starfish Arm 1page so you can confirm your printer is set to the proper scale.
  3. Cut out each pattern piece along the solid line. Butt together the five pieces (do not overlap) following the assembly diagram shown on each page. Tape together to create the full starfish pattern. 
  4. Place the batting flat on your work surface.
  5. Fold the fabric in half wrong sides together. 
  6. Place the folded fabric on top of the batting. If fussy cutting, make sure you position the pattern appropriately to center a motif. 
    NOTE: If you want a very specific fussy cut, it would be better to cut each starfish piece individually rather than layering. That way you can adjust the pattern to best capture your motifs for both the front and the back.
  7. Pin the assembled pattern in place. 
  8. Cut out the pattern through all three layers (two layers of fabric, one layer of batting). 
  9. With the pattern still pinned in place, mark the placement for all the buttons by placing a pin at the center point of each button marking on the pattern. When all the buttons are marked, carefully remove the outer pins holding the layers together. 
  10. Working along one arm at a time, gently pull back the paper pattern to reveal each pin point and place a mark on the fabric. 
    NOTE: We used a regular pencil, but you could of course use a fabric pen or pencil. The marks will be covered up by the buttons. 

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. When all the button positions are marked, separate the layers of fabric and batting. Set aside the un-marked fabric layer; it will become the pillow back. 
  2. Re-layer the marked fabric layer and the batting. Pin the layers together.
  3. Machine baste the layers together, staying within the ½" seam allowance. 
  4. Stitch each button in place through both the fabric and batting layers, following the diagram on the pattern. 
  5. The largest button goes in the exact center. Two medium buttons radiate out from the center along each arm. Finally, three small buttons complete the line down each arm. 
  6. Place the pillow back right sides together with the pillow front, sandwiching the buttons between the layers. Pin together all around, leaving a 4" - 6" opening between two of the arms. 
  7. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around the entire perimeter of the pillow. Shorten your stitch length and go slowly around the all the curves. Remember to lock your seam at either side of the 4" x- 6" opening. 
  8. Clip all the curves, both the outer curves at the tips of the arms...
  9. ... as well as all the inner curves. 
  10. This starfish shape really requires great curves, so don't be afraid to clip, clip, clip – just be careful to not snip into your seam. We clipped all around and then trimmed back the batting very close to the seam to further reduce bulk. 

    For more information on achieving a smooth result, see our tutorial on Sewing Successful Curves
  11. Press open the seam allowance all around.
  12. Turn right side out through the opening in the seam. Using a long, blunt-end tool, such as a knitting needle or chopstick, gently round out the all the curves. Press flat. Use a pressing cloth to protect the buttons from the heat of the iron.
  13. Stuff the pillow with polyester fiberfill. The pillow should be stuffed so it's pleasingly plump but do not over-stuff as it will distort the shape. Take a handful of loose fiberfill and fluff the fibers with your fingers to remove any clumps. To do this, gently separate the fibers as if teasing hair. Insert these small handfuls of fiberfill, starting with the outer curves of the arms and working toward the the opening. We have a tutorial that covers more pillow stuffing tips and techniques
  14. Fold in the raw edges at the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Pin closed. 
  15. Using your hand sewing needle and thread, hand stitch the pillow opening closed. Keep your stitches small so the fiberfill won't poke out.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas 
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild


Comments (10)

Tina W C said:
Tina W C's picture

I plan to make these out of fleece to match the mermaid tail blankets for my granddaughters. Can't wait to see how they turn out!!

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

@Tina - Ohhhh - a cuddly starfish; that sounds fun! We'd love to see a picture of the sets when you get them done. Please share a picture if you're on Facebook (Sew4Home) or Instagram (sew4home_diy)

Audrey C. Vaughan said:
Audrey C. Vaughan's picture

Please help! I cannot "download and print out ONE copy of each of the FIVE Starfish Pattern pieces, which have been bundled into one PDF file to make the download easier."

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

@Audrey - we have doubled checked the link and it is working correctly on our end. It should open up the PDF file in a new window. Make sure your browser settings allow this to happen. There are a lot of variables in browser and computer types, internet connection, etc - so it's hard to troubleshoot long distance. When you click once on the link, it should immediately open the file in the new window. You do need the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader (which is free) -- the same program used to open any PDF.

Rhonda said:
Rhonda 's picture

I was lucky enough to find time this weekend to whip up two of this fabulous pillows to give away as a cute gift for a baby shower....sew easy to make, I just left the buttons out (choking hazard for the little one) and the baby's 2yr old sister dragged these around everywhere....

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

@ Rhonda - that's marvelous - I bet they were so cute. So glad you loved our pattern!

Suey said:
Suey's picture

This pillow is so cute and makes this central-Californian joyfully think of the seaside! Thanks for the pattern and great tutorial and pics!

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

@Suey - Thanks! He is a pretty cute little fella. 

Sally M. said:
Sally M.'s picture

Very nice pillow for decorating with an ocean, or even a lake, motif.  Do you have a pattern for a basic fish pillow?  I think that would look good with the starfish pillow.  What sort of fabric design would you use for the fish?  

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

@ Sally  Thanks! We don't have a fish pattern at this time, but that would be cute. The number of fabric options out there is huge. A water motif would be fun.