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Real starfish belong in tide pools. Our starfish pillow belongs on your sofa (or your bed or chair or bench or…). 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. Each season brings dozens of great quilting cotton collections with seaside themes.

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. Its sole responsibility is to look cute and clever. Sometimes pillows just want to have fun!

Our original coral fabric is from our S4H stash, an older Michael Miller fabric from their Sea Buddies collection. Seashore themed prints are always popular, but you could substitute any colorful collection.

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
  • 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 and Pattern Download

  1. DOWNLOAD PATTERN: 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.
    IMPORTANT: Each page in the PDF 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 1 page so you can confirm your printer is set to the proper scale. Print horizontally (landscape).
  2. 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.
  3. Place the batting flat on your work surface.
  4. Fold the entire fabric panel  in half wrong sides together.
  5. 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.
  6. Pin the assembled pattern in place through all three layers(two layers of fabric, one layer of batting).
  7. Cut out the pattern through all three layers.
  8. 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.
  9. 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. Using your favorite method, 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″ – 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.

    NOTE: 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, chopstick or point turner, gently round out 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 close, using a tight ladder stitch. Keep your stitches tiny so the fiberfill won’t poke out.


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

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1 month ago

I have the starfish cut out and ready to sew up, but I am having a hard time finding buttons that match in those sizes. I either find a few here or a whole lot there all of one size. Where did you get your buttons?

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
1 month ago
Reply to  Tricia

Hi Tricia – this is such a popular little pillow; I’m sure you’re going to love it. The button sizes listed above are our suggestion for the best fit along the Starfish’s arms and are what we used, but you could certainly go up or down in size a bit. We originally got our buttons at a local fabric retailer, which is no longer in business. They are meant to be very simple buttons, like you would use for a shirt. A larger big box retailer, like a Joanns should have a good selection or you could try an online… Read more »

2 years ago

I was so happy to find someone so generous to share a starfish pattern. My granddaughter wanted a ocean theme bedroom and I made her a starfish pillow from this free pattern. I used the minky navy fabric which I found on the clearance rack at Joanne’s for 1.80!!! The fabric was not the easiest to sew on but it was done from start to finish in an hour. The pattern made it go so fast. Thanks

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Bunnie

Hi Bunnie – We are so happy to hear you found us – and your perfect pattern. What a lovely gift for your granddaughter. We hope you’ll come back often… and bring all your friends 🙂

4 years ago

I made these for a good

I made these for a good friend. It was a quick and easy (after I started sewing the buttons by machine). Not much effort for a lot of bang!

4 years ago

Yes.  Just ONE more pillow

Yes.  Just ONE more pillow for my beach-y decor.  A perfect accompaniment for my turquoise Adirondack chairs, I do believe.  Well, maybe a pair…..

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