MillWorks: Japanese Buckwheat Pillow Cover/Fancy Bolster Cover

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Japanese Pillow Cover/Fancy Bolster Cover

This project's instructions will depend on the dimensions of the pillow you're covering. But these instructions include math so that you can create this look for any cylindrical pillow! I have no connection to the company, but used a Sachi Organics Buckwheat Neck Pillow. This pillow measures 6" x 14", so these patterns are for that size. That being said, it shouldn't be hard to change the instructions to fit your needs--I'll let you know how to!


You will need a solid-colored fabric (100% cotton weave is great!), matching cotton thread, and a drawstring material of your choice. For the drawstrings, you can use something such as braided yarn, ribbon, cording, etc. I used 3/8" trim (a sort of webbing or tape) for the red pillowcase, and 1/2" trim (the largest width it's possible to use) for the tan pillowcase. For comfort and breathability, you may wish to stick with natural fibers (like cotton). (I had to cheat on the red drawstring.) While my ties matched the solid fabrics' colors as much as possible, you can use something that's more decorative, if you prefer.

Preshrink the fabrics and drawstrings. The covers are a tight fit, so you don't want the surprise of them shrinking in the wash!

Now for some math!

Let's first figure out how large the fabric needs to be to go around the pillow (the depth). Take the diameter, and multiply it by 3.14159. To this number, add 1/2" for seam allowance. For the example pillow, that's a total of 19.35". For ease of math and a little give, I'll bump that up to 19 3/8".

The width is a bit trickier, because you need to add the drawstring channel. First, take the width of the pillow. For the sample pillow, that's 14". To that, add 1 3/4". This extra allows for 1/4" and 1/2" fold on either side, plus an extra 1/4" for "give." Next, add the pillow diameter one time. For the sample pillow, that's 6". The total for the sample pillow is 21.75".

We're left with making a rectangle measuring 19 3/8" x 21.75". Cut one from your solid fabric.

Draw 1/4" seam allowance on the two long edges. Zig-zag stitch along each of the two long edges to help keep them from fraying.

Iron each of the other two edges down 1/4", and then another 1/2". It helps to draw guide lines on. Draw one 1/2" away from the fabric edge. Then draw another one that's 1" from that line. Then fold each fold so the fabric edges meet these lines. Iron each fold (there will be four) well to create visible creases. Open the fabric flat.

Sew along the long, zig-zagged edges with 1/4" seam allowance, connecting these edges together and creating a tube, but skip the largest fold area markings (the 1" area that's the largest marked).

Refold ironed folds down on each edge.

Iron the 1/4" seam allowance open.

Slowly sew as close to the bottom (not outer) fold as possible on each end, creating channels for the drawstrings.

Turn right-side out.

Using a safety pin, thread the drawstring through the channel. Keep loose and do not tighten.

Tie a knot on each end of the drawstring, cutting the drawstring so it is as short as possible.

Repeat with the other side.

Put the pillowcase on the pillow, draw up the drawstrings, and tie.

All done! But it looks pretty plain, doesn't it? Time for the . . .

Pillow Slip

You will need a natural, woven, patterned fabric (I used genuine Japanese fabrics for all of the pillow slips shown here), and matching cotton thread.

We already have the measurement for going around the pillow, which is 19 3/8" for the sample pillow. If you are covering a different pillow, follow the instructions for this dimension for the pillowcase, above. Because this will be two pieces and going over another layer, cut the measurement going this way a bit generously, more like 19 3/8"+.

For the other measurement, the width is going to be much shorter than it was with the pillowcase, in order to show the solid color pillowcase beneath.

Take the width of the pillow, and subtract 2". For the example pillow, that will be 12", for a final measurement of: 12" x 19 3/8"+. As this is a patterned pillow slip, pay special attention to which measurement is which, and make sure you have the fabric going the way you want it to.

Cut two rectangles with these measurements. (The pillow slip will be double sided, with no right or wrong side.)

For now, treat each piece separately.

Iron 1/4" down along the longest edges (the 19 3/8" edges--there are two on each piece of fabric). Open.

Sew the 12" short edges together with a 1/4" seam allowance, creating a tube. Iron this seam allowance open. Refold down the pre-folded 1/4" on the two ends.

Now, put the fabrics together, wrong sides facing, right sides out, and seams matched up. Sew close to the edge (about 1/8" in) on each side, sewing both of the pieces together.

Put the pillow slip on the pillow, over the pillowcase.

All done!

If you want to, you can tuck the drawstring bows inside the solid-color pillowcase, as seen in this photo with lucky cats:

By changing the pillowcase and/or pillow slip, you can create all sorts of cute, coordinated looks!


This pillow cover set was inspired by Japanese pillows, including the ones used by Satsuki, Mei, and their father in the movie My Neighbor Totoro.

Though this was created for a buckwheat pillow, it can work just the same for any cylindrical pillow, such as a bolster or neck roll pillow, that you want to cover.

Have fun!

Providing crafts since October 2011. This project was created in May, 2016. Copyright 2011- and all contents by Melissa J. Taylor. Resulting products can only be kept or given away as gifts. Always keep safety in mind.