Cute toss pillows in interesting shapes are a great way to interject a bit of playful zest into children’s décor (although, we will allow you to make this for grown-up types as well). Our ukulele pillow tutorial certainly qualifies as an interesting shape, and we include a free downloadable pattern for it.
Can’t you just imagine playing a few bars of Tip Toe Through The Tulips on this cute ukulele? For me, with my marginal musical skills, a soundless ukulele is the best all-around choice!
Select fabrics for the front and back that are smallish in size but have an interesting and somewhat repetitive motif. We originally selected two designs from the Cotton + Steel Poolside collection. We loved how the wave pattern on the front was reminiscent of sound waves as well as of the ocean waves of Hawaii.
The instrument’s accent elements are done as appliqués, and our detailed pattern templates make it easy to get everything in the perfect position. Follow our summarized steps or review our full How to Appliqué Like a Pro tutorial prior to starting if you are brand new.
Buttons add dimensional interest as both the upper “tuning pegs” as well as along the bottom bridge. In both cases, you want very small buttons in order for them to best fit in the spaces.
The “strings” of the ukulele are created with a dense machine stitch in a heavy thread. We used a triple stitch and show you how to knot at the beginning and end for a super clean finish.
At 20” long x 8” wide (at its widest point), the finished ukulele is also the perfect size and shape to bonk unsuspecting siblings over the head. Not that we would ever encourage bonking (or would we?).
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Open Toe Satin Stitch foot or similar clear-view foot for appliqué
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: Yardage shown allows extra for fussy cutting.
- ⅓ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton for the ukulele’s front body; we originally used Waves in Pink from the Poolside collection by Cotton + Steel
- ⅓ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton for the ukulele’s front body; we originally used Architectural Blocks in Pink from the Poolside collection by Cotton + Steel
- Scrap or ⅛ yard of 44″+ wide solid fabric for the ukulele’s neck section; we used a scrap of brown faux suede
- ⅔ yard of 20”+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Shape Flex
- ONE apx. 9″ x 11″ sheet of wool felt for the sound hole and bridge appliqués; we used dark brown
- One medium bag of high quality, polyester fiber fill
- Scrap or ⅛ yard of 20”+ wide fusible transfer web; we used Pellon Wonder Under
- Four small two-hole flat buttons for the “tuning pegs”; we used ⅜” light tan buttons
- Four small pearl-style shank buttons for the “bridge pegs”; we used ¼” gold buttons
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- Matching all purpose thread for all the appliqué sections; we used dark brown
- Heavy thread for the strings; we used Coats Heavy thread in natural
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Small, sharp scissors for the appliqué process
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- Download and print the FOUR Ukulele Pattern Sheets which have been bundled into ONE PDF file to make the download easier. Print TWO copies of the file; one will be used full size, the second will be for template positioning and to cut the interfacing.
IMPORTANT: Each pattern sheet is ONE 8½” x 11″ page. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide line on each page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
- Cut out all the pieces of both sets along the solid line
- Following the arrows on the patterns, butt the two pieces together and tape in place. Do NOT overlap. You now have two complete ukulele patterns, plus the template patterns.
- Trim one ukulele pattern along the dotted seam allowance line.
- Press all your fabric flat.
- Following manufacturer’s directions, adhere the fusible web to the felt. Place the sound hole template and the bridge template on the fusible web. Pin in place and cut out each appliqué.
- Repeat to add fusible web to the neck section fabric, and cut out the neck section.
- Fold back the top and bottom raw edges of the neck section ½” and press well to create a top and bottom finished edge. This piece is overlaid onto the main front ukulele panel.
- Place the two main fabrics right sides together. If you’re using a directional motif as we did, pay extra attention that everything is running in the correct direction and is straight both top to bottom and side to side.
- Place the completed ukulele pattern over the layered fabric and pin in place all around. Cut out the front and back ukulele panels.
- Fold the lightweight fusible web in half wrong sides together. Find the trimmed ukulele pattern. Place it on the fusible web and carefully trace around the entire shape.
- Trim through both layers around the entire shape. Be careful and precise with your trimming; you’ll use this edge later as a stitching guide.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Center an interfacing panel on the wrong side of the front panel. There should be ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing all around. Following manufacturer’s instructions fuse in place.
- Repeat to fuse the realigning interfacing panel to the wrong side of the back panel.
Place and appliqué all the front panel elements
- Carefully cut out the sound hole and the bridge from the full ukulele pattern.
- Place the main front panel right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the cut-out panel over the fabric and lightly pin in place.
- Place the appliqués into position on the front fabric panel (fusible web side down) using the pattern template as your guide. Remove the paper pattern and, following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the appliqués in place.
- Cut away the center neck section and overlay the neck panel into position. Because you folded back the top and bottom edges ½”, the overlay should be a perfect fit to the neck section of the main panel. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Tape the paper pattern for the upper tuning pegs section of the neck into position on the right side of the main front panel. Poke holes through the paper to mark the position of the four upper buttons.
- Tape the cut out bridge paper pattern over the appliqué bridge.
- Use a long, see-through ruler to draw in guide lines for the strings from the bridge pattern…
- … to the upper neck pattern.
- Make sure your lines are straight and true. And remember, any time you are working on the right side of your fabric, make sure your marking tool is one that will easily wipe away or will vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
- Thread the machine with thread to best match the neck section fabric in the top and bottom. Edgestitch within the neck section along the top and bottom folded edges.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the appliqué felt in the top and bobbin.
- Re-set for your favorite appliqué stitch.
- Appliqué the bridge in place
- The swing of the needle should stay mostly within the felt with just a bit of the right swing biting into the main fabric.
- Repeat to appliqué the sound hole in place.
NOTE: If you are brand new to appliqué, take a look at our full step-by-step tutorial prior to starting this project.
Stitching the strings
- Re-set the machine for a dense stitch. We used the Triple Stitch on our Janome machine.
- Re-thread the machine with a heavy thread in a contrasting color. We used Coats Heavy thread in natural.
- Following along the previously drawn guide lines, stitch each of the four strings.
- For the cleanest look at either end, leave your thread tails long and do not lock your stitch or back stitch at the beginning or the end. Instead, thread the tails through to the back and hand knot to secure.
Layering front to back
- Your front panel is now done. Press it lightly and find the back panel.
- Place the two panels right sides together. The raw edges should be flush all around. Pin together.
- Re-thread the machine is necessary with thread to best match the main fabric panels in the top and bobbin.
- Re-set the stitch length for a shortened stitch.
NOTE: A short stitch length is better when sewing around curves and points.
- Rather than using a specific seam allowance, stitch around the perimeter using the edge of the interfacing as your guide.
- Why? Because when you are stitching a more complex shape like this ukulele, simply following the raw edge of the fabric can lead to a less-than satisfying result as your original cuts might might be right on. Because you traced and carefully cut out the interfacing along the seam line, that edge is a much more precise line to follow.
- As you go around, stop as necessary, with your needle in the down position, to slightly re-adjust the position of the foot to give you the best angle to continue following the edge of the interfacing.
- Stitch all the way around the perimeter, leaving an approximate 3” opening along one side of the neck section for turning and stuffing.
- Once done, if as you check your seam line, you see that you’ve wavered away the edge – no worries.
- Re-place the fabric under the needle and re-stitch that “bad” section. It’s most important that you end up following along that interfacing as close as possible.
- Clip all the curves.
- Then carefully trim and clip all the upper points and corners.
- Turn the ukulele right side out through the opening in the neck. Press it nice and flat, pressing in the raw edges along the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
Stuffing and buttons to finish
- The pillow should be stuffed so it is pleasingly plump. Make sure the neck is well-stuffed; you don’t want it to be flimsy. 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 curves of the body and the points of the top and working toward the center. A chopstick or similar long, blunt tool is helpful to push the filler into all the nooks and crannies.
NOTE: For more helpful filling tips, take a look at our full pillow stuffing tutorial.
- Hand sew one small button to each string start point within the bridge appliqué. Pull each button nice and tight; you don’t want the buttons to dangle.
- Hand sew one small flat button to each string end point to create the top “tuning pegs.” These buttons should also be nice and tight and the stitches should all be going the same direction. All ours are stitched in places with the holes positioned vertically.
- Still using your hand sewing needle and thread, but re-threading with thread to best match the main fabric if necessary, slip stitch the pillow opening closed. Keep your stitches small and tight so the fiberfill won’t poke out.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever