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On the Go Reading Pillow Pattern & Tutorial

Create a fun handmade gift for a little one with this FREE On the Go Reading Pillow Pattern! This is the ORIGINAL reading pillow pattern. 

Reading Pillow Tutorial

Why I Designed the Reading Pillow Pattern

A few years ago, I decided to revamp some pillows I made for my nephews a few Christmases ago.  I did them quickly (like in an hour) and always thought that I could have done a better job.

Regardless my sister says that her boys took them to bed every night and kept all kinds of treasures in the pocket.   I gifted the pillows with a flashlight because there is something charming about a little kid staying up late to read at night.

Today I’m excited to share with you the improved finished project. These reading pillows feature one large pocket on the front to hold books or other treasures and a small handle on top to make it easy to carry around.

Sewing Pattern for an "On the Go Reading Pillow" a cute pocket pillow for kids

How to Get a Printable Pattern

If you prefer, you can now purchase a PRINTABLE PDF Copy of this pattern. The purchased pattern includes instructions to create both the small and large reading pillow, along with applique patterns of the ENTIRE alphabet so you can spell whatever you’d like on the front of your pillow.

You can also buy a printed pattern that will be mailed to you.

NOTE: These pillows feature piping, if you’re not comfortable sewing piping, just leave it off. The pattern works great either way.


This pattern is designed to work with fat quarters! If you want to make it from yardage you can. If you do that you may want to use this tutorial to add a zipper to the back of the pillow, instead of the closure that I created.

  • 3 Fat Quarters (the measurements leave little to no waste of these fat quarters, so if you are nervous about your cutting abilities buy 4 so you have an extra just in case).
  • 2 yards 1″ wide ribbon
  • Fusible Fleece
  • 1 package piping
  • Letters- I cut mine out of fuzzy fusible vinyl with my Silhouette machine. You can also use a Cricut machine. if you don’t have one, don’t worry you could also appliqué the letters on or buy iron-on letters at the craft store.
  • 18″ pillow form

Video Instructions

Reading Pillow Cutting Instructions

  1. Cut one Fat Quarter to 18″x 18″ for the pillow front, then cut the leftover fabric from this piece to 2 1/2″ x 18″ for pillow back
  2. Cut one Fat Quarter (the navy blue dot for the pocket) into 2 pieces each 18″ x 11″
  3. Cut another Fat Quarter for the back into 2 pieces each 18″ x 9″
Reading Pillow tutorial

Sewing Instructions

STEP 1: Create the Pocket

Attach fusible fleece to the back of the Pillow Front piece (18×18) and the pocket front piece (11×18).

If desired, Iron “READ” onto the front pocket piece.

Using a piping foot attach 1 piece of piping to the top of the pillow.  The raw edge of the piping will match up with the raw edge of the pocket piece. (Piping instructions can be found here)

Place pocket lining piece (your 2nd 11×18 piece) right sides together with your pocket front piece.  Stitch along the top seam, along the same stitching line you just used to attach your piping.  This will ensure that your piping looks good on the outside of your pillow.

Turn pillow pocket piece right side out and press.

STEP 2: Attaching the Pocket

Pin Pocket Piece to Pillow Front piece. Baste pocket to pillow front. Set aside.

STEP 3: Create the Pillow Back

Place about 12″ of ribbon in the center of one of your pillow back pieces along the 18″ edge.  Stitch in place.  Take your scrap piece from your pillow front and sew it to this same edge of the pillow back piece.  (as shown in the photo above) Turn under edge 1/4″ and hem.

Take your 2nd 9″x18″ pillow back piece and turn under the seam 1/4″ and sew in place. Sew another piece of ribbon to the center of this piece.

STEP 4: Piping & Ribbon

Attach a piece of ribbon about 10″ long to your pillow front at the top.  Each end should be 3″ in from the side of the pillow.

STEP 5: Assembly

Using your piping foot attach piping to the edge of the pillow front.  The raw edge of the piping is flush with the raw edge of the pillow front.

Pin the 2 pillow back pieces to the pillow front piece. The ribbons should be matching in the center and the piece with the extra piece sewn onto it should be on top (the photo is wrong, learned that one the hard way *wink*).

Using your piping foot sew pillow front to the pillow back along the same stitching line you used to attach your piping.

Clip corners, turn right side out and you’re done!

2013-11-11 14.21.31

If you like this project, you may also like sewing projects in my book. Click here for more information

Construction Notes

In the years since I first wrote this tutorial, I’ve made DOZENS of reading pillows. I’ve learned a few things along the way. Here are some of my recommendations.

  1. If you are making this project from fabric yardage instead of Fat Quarters you can cut your pillow back pieces to 10″ x 18″. You can then eliminate the “strip” in the center of the back of the pillow. The strip was added because Fat Quarters do not yield enough fabric for two pieces each 10″ x 18″.
  2. I recommend adding a Zippered Back to this pillow since it is designed to be given to a child and will most likely need to be washed repeatedly. I have free instructions to add a zip back to a pillow on the blog.
  3. Make sure that you backstich when you sew over the seam where the pillow pocket attaches to the pillow front. This is a high tension point and a bit of extra stitching will help the pillow stay in place for years to come!
  4. There are so many cute book themed fabrics on the market right now. You could easily gift this pockeet pillow made with fabric that matches the book you give as well!
21 Handmade Gift Ideas for Teens from Project Teen

More fun Sewing Projects:

Waterproof Patchwork Picnic Blanket

Free Road Trip Pillowcase Pattern

Sunnies, Sunglasses Case Pattern

Sewing Pattern for an "On the Go Reading Pillow" a cute pocket pillow for kids

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  1. This is adorable! I love it and am very tempted to make one for myself! And the idea of gifting with a flashlight is so cute! My year 4 teacher told us that everyone in her classes loved reading so much they all had torches so they could read past their bed time – I thought it was the cutest thing! Hope you have a great day!

      1. Melissa,I am new to the DIY world, and just found the tutorial for your reading pillow-I love it!!!2 questions: 1. How long does it take to make it?And2. What is a fat quarter?

        1. This is a pretty quick sew. A fat quarter is a quarter of a yard of fabric cut lenghwise instead of cross wise, so it’s “fat”… If you can’t find that at your local store, then buy 1/2 yard of fabric.

  2. Thank-you for sharing your tutorial I saw it posted on craft gossip now I shall look around and join your site.Thanks

  3. Great pillow! As a school librarian I can’t think of a better gift idea to go with a good book, I like the flashlight idea too.

  4. Oh, this is a great pillow! I love to give books to the littles in my life and a pillow to go with them will be wonderful! Thanks so much for the tutorial!
    I found your blog through ‘the long thread’ blog.

  5. “How I became The Stinky”
    I completely love this, and have a couple of kids who would appreciate a reading pillow. Thanks for posting!

  6. Our elementary school has “Reading Under The Stars” each year where parents and students go in the evening dressed in their PJ’s and all gather in the grounds and read books. The PTA serves hot chocolate and popcorn to go along with the reading. This is just perfect for this event.

  7. I made four of these for my nieces and nephews as Christmas presents. Thank you so much for sharing the great tutorial and helping me get a few more Christmas gifts completed!

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    1. I love your pillow! I’m so glad you liked the tutorial. We were in Holland last year, it was a wonderful trip I can’t wait to go back again.
      tot ziens!


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  11. This is sooo cute and my youngest is a book fiend! I just learned how to sew- I’ve only made a bag, a skirt that’s a just a big bottomless bag and an eye pillow. I wonder if I can pull this off? Either way, thanks for the idea- I’m pinning it for when I get courageous enough to try it!! 🙂

  12. Do you happen to have pictures of the back of the pillow? I’m a little confused as to how the back is constructed with the ribbon and two pieces. Thanks!

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  14. Hello, I’m also a bit confused about the back and about the strip of fabric underneath the ribbon. Where does that end up? I have the fabric and cushions ready but i just cant get my head around that bit.

    1. The fabric strip covers the back of the pillow. When you tie the ribbons to close the pillow there is still a gap and you can see the pillow form. This strip allows you to get a clean look on the back of the pillow. I’ll upload a photo of the back today.

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  23. I had to comment not only because the pillow is adorable, but the second I saw ‘The Stinky’ I recognized that book from my childhood! I now feel the need to go find The Stinky Cheese Man and read it again for memory’s sake!

  24. Thank you for a wonderful idea! I have a question about the ribbon. In e supply list it stats 2 yards. I think I must be missing something because I inky see where we need one 10″ piece and two 12″ pieces. I am attempting to make 9 of these before Christmas…. Thanks again for all of your continual inspiration!

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  27. What a fabulous idea! My daughter will just LOVE this 🙂 I might customize the front with her name instead of the word ‘read’, but we’ll see.

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  34. And the beat goes on. Here it is over a year after what I see is the last comment. I love the idea of this pillow and I hope to make it soon. Thank you so much for your tutorial

  35. This is just adorable – thank you for sharing. Just one question, when you mention ‘Attach fusible fleece to the back of the Pillow Front piece (18×18) and the pocket front piece (11×18)’ do you mean line the fabric with this?
    Thank you,

  36. Just questioning the cutting–so, even though I’ll be purchasing a 18″ pillow form, I am not adding seam allowances when I cut it out. What seam allowance are you using with this pillow – the normal 5/8″? Or are you using 1/4″ seam allowance? Thanks!

    1. To make pillows “puffy” you always cut them the same size as the form. Then with seam allowances it makes the pillow cover just small enough that it fits the form and is not too lose. The seam allowance is determined by the piping. You sew it on, directions are in the pattern.

  37. Sewing newbie here and found this in my search for beginner projects that might still make nice gifts. I’m going to make these for my nieces and nephews! I apologize if I’m missing this in the page, but does it matter what sewing needle I use? Also for the piping, am I correct that the when the raw edge is flush with the edge of the pillow piece, that means the piping part is on the inside (shouldn’t it be on the outside?). Thank you!

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