Quillow Tutorial

by Nova on May 26, 2011

Quillow |kwi – lo|


1: a quilt that folds into a pillow

2: a pillow that unfolds into a quilt.

So, it seems quite a few of you were keen to get the ‘how to’ on the Quillow I made recently :)

This is the first quillow that I have made and I took process shots along the way  so I could share the ‘how to’ of making a quillow if it worked out when I’d finished, which it did! Hurrah! I am certain there are other, better ways, but I’m happy to share how I made mine & would love to hear if you have an alternative way as I am sure I will make another.

After I had made it I had a thought that I guess it makes more sense to have the hidden pocket part (the part the quillow folds into) on the back of the quilt but I chose to have the pocket for the pillow on the front side as I was backing with chenille and was worried it might have been a bit bulky with an extra layer of chenille to fold in. As it turned out it was a perfect fit when I folded it up, so I think I made the right choice. It means the ‘foot cosy’ part ( when it’s all opened out) is on the front but who’s to say it can’t be turned over should the need for warming toes arise ;) If you decide to make yours with the pocket to the back it should be simple enough to piece it in in the same way as  described in the tutorial below. I guess there would be other ways around the bulk issue too, eg not using a layer of batting on the pillow front but I wanted a quilted pillow panel for this particular project. Anyhoo, it can certainly be played around with & adjusted  now we have the basics :)

Please note that the following instructions are written as a ‘base’ for you to make your quillow as you please, I haven’t written it as a step by step to ‘make one just like mine’- (but please feel free to do that if you wish ;)) with fabric quantities etc. I am also assuming you have a basic knowledge of piecing and quilting.  The beauty of it is that once you’ve figured out the construction (which is easy peasy I promise) then you can change it up to make whatever style or size you like! Yay!

I hope I explain the process I used ok, be warned I ramble in parts, so please bear with me ;) If you have any questions or suggestions please don’t hesitate to contact me  :)

Quillow Tutorial

So first, here’s the basics…

All seams ¼” unless otherwise stated.

I worked this quillow out with the formula of the quilt part being 3 square blocks wide by 4 square blocks long & if you stick to that too, it should work for any size block. The block size you decide on determines the size of the pillow part when your quillow is all folded up. Make all blocks the same size including the blocks for the pillow part. I chose to make my blocks 16” square (finished).  ( eta:: i’ve been asked a couple of times the size of rectangles I cut to make this 16″ block, so in case you are wondering too,here you go – each rectangle was 8 1/2″ x 3 1/8″ & you need 12 per block… so for this quillow  you would need to cut 144 rectangles)

You get to choose whatever block style you want to make too – anything you like from traditional to modern, improv or wonky, solid patches… whatever takes your fancy so long as it is a square block. I went with a traditional fence rail block.

Though that’s not to say you need to construct it as blocks, it would work just as well I am sure as a whole cloth ( or almost whole, you’d need to build the pocket in still on one side)

Step 1. Prepare 12 blocks for the quilt part of the quillow. Join 9 of these blocks together into a 3 by 3 design.

Step 2. Make a block for the front of your pillow and a block for the back of your pillow. These will be on show when it’s all neatly folded up so you might want to do somethign a little fancy, or personalize it or make a block the same as the blocks in the quilt part. SO many decisions!

Cut a square of cotton batting to the same size as your block and place on the wrong side of your ‘pillow front’ block. Baste and quilt as desired by hand or machine (no need to back the block at this point)

Here’s the block I made for the front of the  pillow part … a fussy cut,  improv pieced strip with random loopy hand quilting design.


Prepare a block for the back of the pillow; I used a plain solid for this with no piecing or embellishment. ( I din’t take an individual  picture of this  sorry but it’s just a square of solid fabric ;) You can see it in the next pic )

Now you have all your blocks prepared here is what your quillow  should look like at this stage.

Step 3. Set the 9 blocks that you have pieced together to one side.

To construct the pocket part of your quillow you will need the 5 remaining blocks.

Place the pillow front and the centre block together, right sides facing.

Sew along the bottom edge. I would recommend using your walking foot for this part as you are sewing through batting & 2 layers of fabric.

Open out and fold the blocks back on themselves so that the right side of each block is showing. Press the seam and top stitch along the sewn edge.

Step 4. Take the pillow back block, the right hand block and the pillow front block.

The image above  is just to show you which blocks to grab for this step, remember the pillow front is already joined to the centre block ;)

Layer the three parts as follows:

Pillow back, right side up.

Pillow front with the ‘front’ panel facing down & block part facing up.

Right hand block with right side down.

Align the blocks by the top edges, not the bottom edges. The bottom edge of the quillow front will sit a ¼” up from the bottom edges of the other 2 blocks. You can see this placement  in the image below if you look to the bottom left of the image.

Pin along the right edge and sew. Again, I recommend using your walking foot in this step as you are sewing through a few layers including batting.

Back stitch as you sew over the seam where the pocket opening is for extra strength.  You will need to feel where this is as it’s in the middle of your fabric sandwich at this point, mark the seam with a pin to make it easier to remember, but basically it’s really close to the bottom edge so you shouldn’t miss it. This area will get a lot of wear and tear as your quillow is folded up and unfolded so it’s a good idea to strengthen the seam at that point.

Open out  the top block  to the right hand side and press seams.

Place the left had block right side down on top the centre block, aligning the top edge as before. Pin and sew in the same way as before but this time  along the left hand edge.

Open out the top block to the left hand side and press seams. You now have a strip of 3 blocks with a ‘hidden’ pocket area – you will be able to pass your hand right through the pocket bit should the fancy take you!

Step 5. Pin back the pocket opening. This is to ensure it stays out of the way when you join the 2 parts of the quillow front.

To make sure you are pinning the correct part, take note that it is the opening where you can see the seam that you top stitched in step 3, the pocket seam should be sitting ¼” back from the edge.

With right sides facing, join this edge to the top edge of the 9 blocks you joined together in step 1.  Be aware as you sew past the pocket area that you are not sewing over the pocket seams.  Back stitch at the seams where the pocket is.

Open out, remove pins from the pocket and press seams.

You now have a quilt top that to all extents and purposes looks like a regular quilt top but has a hidden pocket ready to be folded into a pillow at a moments notice :)

Step 6 – Make and add the handle.  This step is entirely optional but a cute touch and it makes the quillow easy to carry for picnics, sleepovers, road trips etc etc. Adjust handle width, length to suit. I’ll give you measurements I used as a guide.

Cut a piece of coordinating fabric 10″ x 4 3/4″. Cut a piece of batting 10″ x 2 1/4″.

Fold the piece of fabric in half lengthways, press, then open out.  Fold both long edges in to meet the centre, press then unfold.  Place the piece of batting along the centre of the fabric

Fold the edges back in and then fold in half lengthways. Press & pin.

Sew along both long edges, once close to the edge and again approx 1/4″ in.  It’s a good idea to use your walking foot. I didn’t, hence the wonky stretched looked ;)

Position & pin the handle on the inside of the pocket tube on the top edge of the quilt, you will sewing it to the right side of the pocket front.  I marked the centre of the pocket front and pinned each end of the handle approx 1 1/2″ out from the centre mark.

Baste in position.  Pin the handle down to keep it out of the way for the next step.

Step 7 – Measure your quilt top & cut a piece of batting just slightly larger. Baste the quilt top and the batting together ( not the backing at this stage). So I didn’t have pins getting in the way I used spray baste.  When the batting is stuck down, trim back so the edges line up with the quilt top.

Select your backing and trim to the same size as your basted top.  I used a chenille for the snuggle factor but I’m pretty sure any  any backing would work just as well for example  flannel  or fleece would be soft & cuddly too.

Layer your basted top and back with right sides together. Pin around edges.

I used a 1/2″ seam allowance ( which I hadn’t allow for when making the blocks so if it might bother you, you will need to  adjust your block size accordingly to allow for this on the edge blocks) to sew all the way around the quilt, leaving a gap of approx 12″ on the bottom edge (not the edge where the pillow pocket is).  Back stitch at start and finish and also as you go over the pocket edges and the handles for added strength.

Clip the corners & turn right side out through the gap. Carefully push the corners out. Press the seam.  Pin the turning gap closed.

Starting at one side on the pillow pocket, top stitch around the edge  until you come to the other side of the pillow pocket. Do not sew across the pillow block so that you retain as much room in the pillow pocket section as poss for folding your quillow into later.  You will sew the turning gap closed as you top stitch, remove the pins as you go. Back stitch at the beginning and end.

After I took the picture above, I sewed around again closer to the edge so the final quillow has a double row of top stitching to help hold up against wear & tear on the edges. The above picture also shows how I only sewed up to but not across the pillow pocket section.

Almost there!

To keep the softness of the quillow I chose to quilt it by tying. There are lots of videos & tutorials on how to tie a quilt so I won’t go into that here.  I used Perle cotton, number 5 (I think), & tied the quilt at each corner of the fence rail so I ended up with a ties approx 8″ apart. Do not tie or quilt in the pillow pocket block.

There is definitely room to experiment with the quilting part too & I am sure you could machine or hand quilt it more intensely if you prefer.

& that my friends, is how I made a quillow :)



How to fold a quillow!

1. lay your quillow on a large flat surface. I find the floor is perfect for this ;)

2. Turn the quilt over, so the pocket is on the underneath side and at the top.

3.Fold one third over to the centre.

4. Fold the other third over to the centre.

5. Begin folding up towards the top, one ‘block’ or a ‘quarter’ at a time

6. Turn over so the pocket opening is on the top.

7. Slide your hands in to the pocket, grab the 2 top corners from the inside and kind of ‘flip it inside out’, a bit like when you put the cover on a duvet/ doona. You’ll probably need to wriggle it a tad  & you might huff and puff  a little bit too but it does get easier with each  flip ;)

8. Ta da! The quilt has transformed into a pillow :)

& here’s the back ( which I kept plain but you could go crazy if you like and embellish or piece or whatever)

Unfolding is of course much easier, just stick your hand into the pillow opening, grab a handful of quilt and start pulling!

I hope you make a quillow!  Little people ( and big people too ;) ) love them! I’d like to make  a larger version to use as a picnic blanket :) Though it looks like quite a few steps in the instructions it really does come together very quickly.

As I mentioned before if you have any questions or I missed a step or you have any tips or suggestions I’d love to hear. I hope you experiment with the basic process I’ve detailed here and come up with some great versions of your own :) I’d love to see!

notes ::  Finished size of the quillow quilt I made  is approx 48″ x 64″ & the  pillow folds up to approx 16″. I used a fat quarter pack of Pooches & Pickups by Laurie Wisbrun and mixed in some solids, checks, dots & stripes from the stash. Check out the sidebar on Laurie’s Blog for stockists of Pooches & Pickups and her other fun lines :)

 I’d love to see if you make something with one of my tutorials, please add a pic of your project  to the ‘a cuppa and a catch up’ flickr group if you like :) thanks so much!  x

{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate May 26, 2011 at 7:19 am

Such a fantastic gift! Great tutorial Nova, thank you x


Julie May 26, 2011 at 7:30 am

This is amazing and so generous of you to post this tute. This quillow would make my kids over the moon with happiness. Thanks!


Benta May 26, 2011 at 7:55 am

I love this, just ascroon as I can clear some UFOs, I can make one


Benta May 26, 2011 at 7:56 am

That was meant to read “as soon” LOL


Ange Moore May 26, 2011 at 8:02 am

What a fabulous idea! I love it – perfect for the travelling couch potato.


Reene May 26, 2011 at 8:22 am

Amazing! Thanks for sharing this with us! So clever. I’ll definitely be making one :)


Vicky May 26, 2011 at 8:27 am

Thanks Nova for sharing, I gotta make one each for my kids, love it.


Leonie May 26, 2011 at 9:07 am

That looks fabulous, thanks for sharing the how to Nova.


venus May 26, 2011 at 9:12 am

A QUILLOW… great name! This is really cool, I have to make one… okay maybe two. One for ME and one for the baby.

Thanks for the tutorial, Nova!


Jennifer May 26, 2011 at 9:40 am

This is so clever — and thank you for sharing this tutorial!


Linda May 26, 2011 at 9:43 am

Great tutorial! Thanks! Can’t wait to make one :)


giddy99 May 26, 2011 at 12:11 pm



anna May 26, 2011 at 1:29 pm

thanks for sharing this, man you are good! :)


Krista - Poppyprint May 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm

This is so great, Nova! I love the cover of your pillow. This is a very clever way to piece the pillow pocket right into the quilt. I once took a quillow class and we actually made a whole cloth quilt with poly batting, tied it, then appliqued a quilted log cabin block right onto the same spot you showed in your tute….so it functions the same, but is not pieced in. The instructor had us use clear polyester thread to applique the pocket on, saying that it would stretch a bit if the quillow user was planning on cramming their cold feet into the pocket! I think your method is much neater and will wear better in the long run, though. Thanks so much!


zeti May 26, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Nova, thanks a million for the tutorial. My girls can’t wait to choose the fabrics :)
Take care


Emily May 27, 2011 at 1:06 am

THANK YOU so very much for sharing this tutorial! I have seriously been checking your blog daily for this tutorial as I know a little girl who would go crazy for one of these. Thanks again!


Jo @ a life in lists May 27, 2011 at 2:48 am

Yay for the quillow! Thanks for doing this tutorial. I think I’m going to have a bit f a stashbust (am on a little fabrc diet) to make one.


Susanne May 28, 2011 at 11:04 am

What a great tutorial- so detailed and clear. It reminds me of the “sit-upon” we made in girl scouts but with a super secret bonus! Yet another summer project.


Alexandra Dias May 29, 2011 at 8:07 am

Love this it!


katie May 29, 2011 at 11:11 am

Fab. I’d like a sleeping bag quilt like this too.


elaine June 2, 2011 at 12:03 am

wow how fantastic and such funky fabrics – great tutorial! Fabulous website – love it!!!!


Amanda June 3, 2011 at 10:37 am

You are the fairy godhmother of quilting and tutorials. I have just starting out quilting and i am so addicted to it let alone the fabrics, i am like a kid in a candy store. Just a couple of questions, they may seem simple silly ones to you. What do you mean by basteing the quilt top and the batting together? What is spray baste? (I Live in Australia) how thick was your batting / what type was used? Last one What size did you cut the rectangles to? I always stuff this one up working out seam allowances. Thanks heaps and i can not wait to start making them. They will be on the list for Christmas presents.
Amanda :-)


steph June 3, 2011 at 5:24 pm

This tutorial is awesome! Thanks so much for sharing! I’m wondering how to alter the pattern to make a large picnic size quillow? Do you think you’d need to make the pocket bigger by alot so that it would fit in, or would you alter the pocket part with some pleats to allow for more stuffing room? I would hate for it to become too large while at the pillow form to pack around, but I would definitely love to have an awesome quillow for at the park!
Thanks again!


Eva Mari Kirkvaag Bjørgum June 3, 2011 at 10:59 pm

What an excellent tutorial! Loved it!
As soon as other jobs are done I’ll attempt this for sure!

Best regards from Eva Mari in Norway :)

PS: I linked to this tut in my blog. :D


Urszula June 13, 2011 at 5:44 am

Great job! Tkanh you! I was thinking about this idea- quilt that folds into a pillow but I didn’t know how to do it! Now I will do :)


jo June 13, 2011 at 10:14 am

Thanks so much for the tute. I’m definately going to give this a go!


Sara June 13, 2011 at 11:41 am

Ack, sorry, I think I got the wrong link from CraftGossip! I see your tutorial now, lol! Thanks, can’t wait to try it!


Angie June 29, 2011 at 11:59 pm

THANK YOU!!! A friend of mine asked me to make one of these about a year ago. Apparently she had one as a kid. I hadn’t hear of them so I started looking around for a pattern and couldn’t find anything (well nothting that was written in a way one could understand)…this is going on my ‘to make next’ list!


Anne August 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Love your tutorial.
Would love to know the size of the rectangular strips you used


Arky-Helen August 19, 2011 at 7:30 am

Thanks so much for posting this tutorial – I’m a beginner sewer and quilter and managed to follow it without any trouble at all. I have literally just finished a pirate quillow for my son, and now want to make one for me!


Marta August 27, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Wonderful idea…and great name….I’ve saved this address for a later date when I have some time to do…thank you for sharing your work with us!


Donna Baker September 10, 2011 at 4:02 am

I just have to make one of these! going to PIN it now, I am following you there. You have an awesome blog (came over from Chasing Cottons, I participated in Becca’s Quilt Class & made my first quilt a few months ago – would love to hear what you think of it) http://www.serenityinstamping.com/2011/07/fnsi-results-1st-quilt-complete.html


Aurea F Cordero September 23, 2011 at 2:55 am

Gracias por compartir este tutorial, desde hace tiempo queria hacer uno, y ahora que mi hijo se casa estaba buscando ideas para los regalos del Te de despedida de solteros y esto esta genial, gracias
Desde San Jose, Costa Rica


poppyinpink October 19, 2011 at 3:42 am

Thanks for making this beautiful and perfect quillow pattern available, it is exactly what I have been wanting to make for a nephew and will probably make for more than just one. Much more versatile than just a quilt. A million times thank-you and God bless you from the top of your head to your cotton socks.


Sewing Tutorials Library November 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm

My MIL made these for my kids and they LOVE them! Thanks for the great tutorial.. I’m sharing on Sewing Tutorials Library tonight. :)


puja Alve November 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm

thanks , it was great tutorial! i will make it for sure! thanks.


Nahuatl Vargas November 22, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Love it, thank you for sharing


Elnora December 13, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Geez, to say this is brilliant is sooooo inadequate! I absolutely stumbled on it when searching Google for “improv piecing” and am very glad I did. Incredible work! I have it book marked for the day when I finally get some grand-nieces and grand-nephews. Thanks for sharing the wonderful tute!


Judi January 21, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Thanks for the tut – neat idea, and it turned out great! AND, I have never met anyone other than my grandma named Nova! Neat!


Sandy January 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Great directions & pictures. I made one for my niece in a weekend. You are the best. Thanks


Karen February 27, 2012 at 10:47 pm

I have just finished my Sherbet Pips quillow this weekend as per your fabuous tutorial, thank you for the instructions. I’ll definately be making another one just for me! I have posted pics in your flikr group. :o) xx


Susie March 12, 2012 at 10:50 am

I really love this. Thanks for sharing. I gave you a pin on Pinterest. I’m following you, too! http://pinterest.com/susieqtpies/


Cindy March 25, 2012 at 8:48 pm

hi there, i have just found this tutorial via pinterest. This is awesome and exactly what i need for a car blanket for my boys. Thanks heaps i am going to make one of these very soon !! Will definatley be returning to your page again soon.


Cindy Tait April 5, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Hi there, as requested i have put my first ever photos on flicker. My first attempt at your quillow. It is a lot smaller that i quilt, just a small blanket for my son to use in the car. But i am pretty happy with it.
My flicker name is Jazzypaddington. I hope i have done your pattern justice.
thanks again for sharing.


chris October 8, 2012 at 9:05 pm

I love quillows and this one is just adorable!


Charo October 12, 2012 at 7:52 am

Thanks so much for this great tutorial, I have always wanted to make a quillow and never knew how to do it. Your esplanation is so crear…!


Gemini Jen NZ November 10, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Thanks tonnes for the tutorial! I have just had a go at my first quillow by following your instructions http://jenscraftwork.blogspot.co.nz/2012/11/daisies-quillow.html
– I look forward to doing another one soon, cheers, Jenny


Cris January 8, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Thanks for the great pattern, I’ve been wanting to make one for years but didn’t realize how easy they were!
I have a question about the pillow part. I’m not using batting, I’m using an old and much love comforter. Is it necessary to pad the pillow part, and if so what could I substitute for the batting.
Thanks so much, they’ll make nice donations. Cris


chris January 30, 2013 at 8:17 am

This is just the cutest quillo I have ever seen!!


Fay Rhodes February 4, 2013 at 6:03 am

I love this pattern I had always wanted to make one for my children and now they are having their children – I just found your pattern and it looks so easy so am poised to make – Thanks Fay


Garigo February 4, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Merci pour ce tuto! je le mets en lien sur mon blog ;o)


Sieta Riemersma February 24, 2013 at 8:40 am

Very nice quillow! Thanks for the clear instructions!


Green August 17, 2013 at 2:29 am

Thank you for this excellent tutorial. I will be making some of these as they seem like perfect baby shower gifts. Thank you, again.


Michele T August 17, 2013 at 10:40 pm

This is a top-notch tutorial!! Wow! Thanks so much!!! I am going to save this one to my Quilt & Sew board!


Lara August 23, 2013 at 12:25 am

I love this, this would be perfect for the car, we frequently take long car rides (7-1/2 hrs) to get to my in-laws and the blankets end up all over. These would be much better and neater to store. Thank you.


Lara January 31, 2014 at 7:31 am

So using your tutorial, I finally finished my quillow (I had to put it away for about 2 months), I love it, it’s so warm and cozy. Thank you.


Eileen September 18, 2013 at 10:14 pm

I love it that you have a ‘print’ button, it makes it so easy to save this. I made one years ago, and it would make such a good gift for the grandkids. Thank you!!


Mary McIntyre September 19, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Sincerely, thank you for this tutorial. My son is going on his Boy Scout camp out and I wanted to make something special he can have for this and future trips. I even ordered “camp out” fabric. I just didn’t have a plan if action. This is perfect! I see many qillows in my future. I have 5 kids and 3 bonus ones.


Irene October 23, 2013 at 2:55 am

Love how tidy your design is. I’ve seen others that don’t even come close! I’ve a cross stitch piece to work into the front ‘bag’ portion. Thanks for a neat tutorial.


Peggy January 14, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Thanks for the great tutorial. I have a new granddaughter and want to make one of these for her. I really appreciate you sharing. I’m new to quilting, but I think I can do this.


Heulwen March 1, 2014 at 2:20 am

Thanks for this tut, I think it’ll be the perfect thing to make for my best friend’s three kids! :)


Anne July 28, 2014 at 6:51 am

Thanks so much for these clear and straightforward instructions. Can’t wait to have the time to make one – already planning which fabrics I’ll use from my stash! Thanks again.


Betty Eisenlohr September 23, 2014 at 1:47 am

Great job of telling and showing us how to make it. You did great- even an old woman like me can follow it without questions! WONDERFUL!


Wendy September 24, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Thanks for the quillow tutorial which I am just about to use. Just reading through and wondered if using fleece on its own would be enough padding rather than using wadding and a backing?


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