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Guest Tutorial: Reading/Knitting Pillow from my BFF Bonnie!!

Hello! Happy Tuesday! Did you want to leave a link on Manic Monday Linky Party? You still can! And would you like to enter our fabulous Fat Quarter Bundle giveaway sponsored by JAQS Fabrics? There’s 12 FQs to win! Then get on over to the SewHappyGeek Facebook page! 1 Like=1 chance. We’ll draw when we get to 250, so spread the word.

Without further ado, please let me introduce my awesome friend Bonnie of Wonderfully Awkward. She has been SO good to me – she’s made me 2 videos to help me with my knitting, and in the first, she went back and forth between English and Continental styles so smoothly that it inspired me to learn Continental myself, which is much better on my sore elbow. She is a very supportive Twitter friend and I’m so lucky to get to chat with her and our friend Shanna every day.

Here she is:

My dear friend Jenna has recently learned to knit, and is totally on fire and kicking ass already! This tutorial is in honor of her achievement (you rock, Jenna!) and will hopefully help knitters/crocheters/embroiderers everywhere to maintain better posture for many hours of productive crafting.

Admit it. You had one of those hideous back/armchair pillows when you were a kid or a teen, right? Maybe out of corduroy, or some other bland fabric. Yes, they were comfortable (for the most part), but as we grew up and cared more about “decor”, they got sold, given away, and never replaced.

If I’m at home, I practically live in my bed. Okay, I really DO live in my bed. When you have a room instead of a house, them’s the breaks. Watching tv, knitting, embroidering, web surfing, all in bed. I’m tired of fighting with pillows! Trying to find the right combination in the right conformation is a pain in the ass. Nevermind getting up and the pillows tumble out of formation and having to do the whole thing all over again. Argh! I wrangled with my style conscience and decided maybe one of those armchair pillows wouldn’t be a bad idea after all. Especially since it would support my arms for a more ergonomically correct posture when typing, knitting, embroidering, whatever.

Saturday, I was too lazy to leave the house and go buy one (plus, store bought? Ugly….), so I tinkered around with some measurements and came up with a cute, comfy, cushy design (alliterations are FUN!) that I’m completely in love with.

TA DA!!!

My sister (also a knitter and crochet-er) immediately said “I WANT ONE!!!” so I whipped another one up just for her, and took pictures along the way to make up a tutorial for you good folks. It takes about two hours max, and is very easy. I promise. Here we go!!

Here’s what you’ll need

For a non-directional print fabric (doesn’t matter which way you flip the fabric) – 1 yard

For a horizontal directional print – 1.5 yards

For the arms – about 3/4 yd or piece-together fat quarters

Enough fabric to make a 6″x104″ strip

5 lbs of stuffing

5 lbs of stuffings?! Yes. That’s what it takes. The good news is that your local fabric/craft chain store probably carries a 5 lb box like this: (Use that 50% off coupon they ALWAYS have, and it’s $10!)

Let’s get started. (1/2″ Seam Allowance or 1cm works fine too!)

Here’s the measurements of the pieces you’ll need.

For the strip that adds depth to the pillow, you’ll probably need to sew pieces together to get 104″. Just make sure you allow for seams so you don’t wind up short after sewing your strips together!

This next illustration might make you more confused or clarify. It depends on if you have a brain as squirrely as mine. It shows how you’ll need either a yard or a yard and a half depending on which direction the print goes, or if it’s even a directional print at all. Make sense?

Now that you’ve got all your pieces cut out, you’re going to do just a wee bit more cutting. Take one of your front/back pieces (whichever you want to use for the front) and cut 6″x6″ squares out of each bottom corner like this:

These 6″ squares are going to be the front of the arms. Nifty, eh? I’m all about using every part of the buffalo, so to speak.

Next you’re going to sew the arms into tubes. For my sister’s, I wanted to use a few fat quarters, so the seams you see are just me piecing them together to get the right size.

The correct fabric size – open


You should have two tubes that are 12″x12″ when laid flat. Minus seam allowance.

Take the 6″ squares you cut out of the front and sew them to one open end of each arm.

I used pins just to keep everything neat.




Woo! We have arms!

Next we’ll attach the arms to the front.




Take your 104″ strip and attach to the front and back. You’ll probably have extra fabric in your strip, but it’s easily tucked in during the closing-up part. Better than coming up short!


When you get to the arms, attach the strip along the open edges of the arms


Like this 
Ta da!! The front is finished!

Now for the back


Turn the whole thing inside out, and YAY!! We’re almost done!


Now for the stuffing.

I love the invisible stitch!


You can be finished if you like, but I wanted to add a touch to make it look a little bit more fancy-schmancy.

I used medium size covered buttons, and some buttons for the back

That GIGANTIC needle is a doll making needle, I think. Or maybe it’s an upholstery needle. I have no idea, it came from a garage sale. But boy, it’s definitely what you need for this project!


The reason I’m using the white buttons on the back is to prevent the thread from damaging the fabric too much since the tufting will pull. Another side tip: I discovered through MUCH trial and error that the covered buttons I used will pop apart, so I took some flat-nosed pliars and folded the back edge down more. Problem solved.

Another problem: the button attacher came off, so I took needle-nosed pliars and wedged the loop open a bit more so it wouldn’t come out. Like so:


Use some good strong button thread – I doubled mine up for safety.





Julia loves it!

Another lesson learned: I knew Julia was….er…hard-wearing on things (DESTRUCTOR!!) but I didn’t think she’d mess it up so soon. The places where the buttons are attached are already ripped. So I’m going to try and repair it, and then fuse some fleece to it to make it much stronger. I think all of my future knitting pillows are going to be reinforced with fusible fleece from now on. I also think it would give it a much better overall shape. What do you think?

Sweet! Thank you so much Bonnie! I’m so going to make one in my Prince Charming fabric that I’ve been hoarding! 🙂

See you guys tomorrow!

© J C Excell, 2011

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16 thoughts on “Guest Tutorial: Reading/Knitting Pillow from my BFF Bonnie!!

  1. Ooh, fab idea. I have a whole bale of stuffing I’m slowly working through (mainly for the bears lol) so should be able to knock one of these up quite easily…

  2. Oh my goodness, I NEED one! Knitting in bed while listening to an audiobook is quite possibly my favorite thing to do, but I always end up awkwardly stuffing a pillow or something under my elbows to make it more comfy, but this would totally solve my problem! (And you’re right, I totally had one of these as a kid, and yes, it was a faded blue corduroy!)

  3. Robin on September16, 2011

    Believe it or noit my husband and I have ONE!!! I have threatened to buy a matching set and get ride of the sole pillow. Now I have a Project !!!! The couple of bed pillows are now top on my list for a lovely addition to tour coordinated bedroom.
    Thanks so much for this tutorial.
    What is fusible fleece?

  4. Definitely making me one of these (when I get almost caught up on other projects.):) Yep, I had two of them, not as a kid though, as a young mom. Today’s mom’s use those boppy pillows, however, I used one of these when nursing my babies in bed. The last one is long since gone. Thought of buying a new one, but like you said, ugly, and expensive. I’m guessing stuffing it probably takes as much time as actually sewing it. Thanks for sharing. 🙂 ~Nita

  5. This was just great. I’ve been meaning to purchase one of these for years but now I think I’ll try making one. Thank you !! Please put me on your mailing list. 😀

  6. Hi,
    I saw this tutorial over on pinterest and couldn’t help popping over. This is AMAZING! I need to make one of these ASAP so I can read in bed. Too bad stuffing is so expensive here, maybe I’ll gut some old pillows for it!

    Thanks for the wonderful tutorial and inspiration,

  7. You are SO smart, girlie! I admire the way you just jumped in and did it! This just jumped to the top of my list because I sit in my bed every night before bed and play Words With Friends with my own sister who lives across town, then I read my book. I have always wanted one of these pillows, but never bought one. I can’t believe it takes so little fabric! I’m officially your new fan. Thanks!

  8. I came here incidentally when looking for information about stomach pillows and WOW!! I found this tutorial and it is so interesting. I must leave the comment to say thank you. I will try this for my husband and one for my soon. Thank you so much. You are a talent

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