Gift Giving: A Reading Pillow Tutorial

My (almost 11 year old) niece Kalli is a reader. She’s not a reader like I am, where she’ll read a new book every month or so… I mean, a READER. She’ll read, like, 3 books in a week. She’s a beast.

Eating is for the weak non-readers of the world…

Well, this year for Christmas I wanted to make her something “book-y” so I decided to make her a reading pillow. I wanted it to be small and with a handle so she could carry it around to sleepovers or just in the car. I wanted it to have a pocket so she could actually store the book safely when she’s not reading it, which isn’t very often πŸ™‚

I can make a pillow with my eyes closed… It’s, like, the one thing I can actually make well. So, I made her this pillow without any kind of pattern and took pictures each step of the way to give you all a true tutorial.


You’ll need a pillow form, material, and some webbing for the handle.

My pillow is going to have applique because I’m obsessed with applique. You’ll need some contrasting fabric and stabilizer if you decide to use applique as well.

Step 1: Cut panel for front of pillow and 2 pieces for the back of pillow.


I cut the front panel 14.5 by 14.5 because the pillow form I bought was 14 x 14. I cut the extra half inch on each side to allow for 1/4″ seam allowances.

For the 2 back pieces, I did the same thing with the length of the pillow (14.5). I cut the width of the 2 pieces at 8.5 because 8.5 plus 8.5 is 16 (after seam allowances are factored it…) and that’s wider than the 14 inches of the final pillow, so that will be plenty of room to encase the pillow form. This is the “Envelope” method. I don’t do zippers or hand sew… so this is always how I make pillows.

Set the 3 panels aside.

Step 2:Β The Pocket


I eyeballed this step because that’s what I do… If you’re a more concrete sewist, you want to cut 1 piece of fabric 14.5″ WIDE by 23″ long.

With the WRONG sides together, fold the fabric in half so the measurement is 14.5″ by 11.5″. Iron.

See the folded edge that’s nearly 3-ish inches from the top of the front panel piece we cut earlier? This is about 11.5″ from the top. 11.5″ plus 11.5″ is 23″. Get it? πŸ™‚


This step is optional. I basted every edge of the POCKET piece as close to the edge as I could get, except the top folded edge. I figured it would be easier in the final construction of the pillow to do this instead of constantly fighting layers and pins… Also, since I’m going to applique this pocket piece with Kalli’s name, basting just made everything more manageable. If you don’t plan to applique, you can skip this step.

Sidenote: A basting stitch is just a straight stitch set to the longest length. On the machine I used that was 5mm.

Step 3: Applique (Optional)

With the contrasting fabric I had, I free hand cut out the letters of Kalli’s name. The “K” was a template πŸ™‚ I ironed the fabric onto some fusible medium weight stabilizer and then cut out the letters. I positioned them on the POCKET piece only and pinned them where I wanted them.


I simply sewed them to the pocket piece with an applique stitch. You can use a straight stitch or a zig zig if your machine doesn’t have applique stitches.


Step 4: The Handle

I cut a 7″ piece of black webbing that I had on-hand from other sewing classes/projects. If you don’t have any you could just buy some from a craft store. Or, you could use some scrap fabric and make your own… Or, you could omit it altogether…


Pin it to the middle of the front pillow piece and avoid the pocket piece entirely. Sew the straps down to secure them. Make sure the “loop”of the strap is down as shown in the picture.

Step 5: Finish back 2 pillow pieces

Remember the two 14.5″ X 8.5″ pieces we cut for the back of the pillow? Yeah, now we need to finish them. This is super easy and you can even do it in Step 1 right after you cut them out.


On ONE of the longer edges (14.5″ edge) just fold raw edge over twice and iron. Easy peasy. You can use a seam gauge if you’re anal but I don’t. Pin it to hold it in place.


Sew it with a simple straight stitch.

Do this for both pieces. Set aside.


Step 6: Assemble the Pillow!

Now that all our pieces are prepped and/or finished we can sew this beast up!

With the RIGHT sides together, layer the Front (applique and pocket piece) panel and two back pieces on top of each other.


You’ll notice some writing on one of the back pieces. I always like to inscribe my name whenever I made a gift for someone. This is completely optional, of course.

Close up of my “signature”

This is what it will look like when all three layers are on top of each other:


Then, you guessed it, you sew a straight stitch around all four sides.

You turn all the fabric right side out and put the pillow form through the opening in the back.

Step 7: Give it to your Book Obsessed Cutie pie πŸ™‚


I love this girl so much. I don’t think I could love her more if she were my own. She absolutely loved the pillow. To really make it special, speaking it terms of presentation, I put a Books-a-million gift card in the book pocket. Of course I wrapped it since it was a Christmas gift.

I hope this tutorial was helpful.

I make pillows all the time and I’ve not been the greatest at explaining the “tutorial” aspect of it. If you have any questions let me know. Happy Gift Giving!

3 thoughts on “Gift Giving: A Reading Pillow Tutorial

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