Introduction: How to Make a Nursing Pillow (boppy)

My sister-in-law just had her first baby, so I decided to make a nursing pillow for her. I bought a beginner sewing machine recently and I've used it to make a number of neat projects like this.

For this project you will need the following:

  • Approximately 1-2 yards of cheap pillow fabric (muslin, cotton, anything)
  • Approximately 1-2 yards of outer cover fabric (I used lycra for a nice, stretchy covering)
  • Sewing machine or needle and thread to sew by hand
  • Stuffing (I used 2 kg)
  • Zipper (at least 20 inches or 50 cm) or velcro

Regarding the sewing machine, I highly recommend it. I used to sew big projects like this by hand, which was quite exhausting. I got this beginner sewing machine that made these projects so much easier and more enjoyable. Plus it's got free shipping anywhere in the world, so that sealed the deal!

Step 1: Cut Out Your Pillow Fabric

For this you can use any cheap fabric; it's just going to hold the stuffing and keep the shape. To make the pattern I taped 4 pieces of computer paper together and drew out the approximate shape of half of the pillow.

The exact shape and dimensions aren't critical, just go for an approximate shape like in the picture. I know some people print off patterns but I wasn't that precise. If you'd like a good pattern, I found one here. But you can just get an idea of the shape and draw it out for yourself.

I made my pattern about 20 inches (50 cm) high and about 14 inches (35 cm) wide. For reference, the tiles in the picture are 12 inches (30 cm). Remember to make your pillow pattern a little fatter then you want the pillow as the dimensions will shrink when you fill it with stuffing.

Once you have your template made, fold your pillow fabric in half and lay the template on top with the "middle" of the template lined up with the folded edge. (The "middle" being the edge of the template, and actually the middle of the whole pillow.) Then, simply cut out your shape. When you unfold the piece you just cut you should have a "U" shaped piece of fabric. Do this twice to get a front and back of your pillow.

Step 2: Sew Your Pillow Fabric Together

Now place your two pieces of pillow fabric together, one on top of the other. If your fabric has some printing on it, you'll want the nice sides (right sides) facing each other so it looks backwards. Pin along the edges and sew a seam all the way around, leaving just a small section open enough to shove handfuls of stuffing in.

Step 3: Stuff Your Pillow

Now turn your empty pillow inside out (which is actually right side out) so that your sewn seam is on the inside. Next, use the opening you left in your pillow to shove in handfuls of stuffing. You'll want to make sure the stuffing is really packed in there nice and firm. If it's soft, the pillow will compress down and not do its job, so really keep shoving in more and more to get a firm pillow.

When it's full enough, you'll need to sew the opening you left in the end closed. It will be difficult to get that full pillow on your sewing machine, so I recommend finishing that opening by hand with a needle and thread.

Step 4: Cut Our Your Cover Fabric

Now it's time to cut out the fabric that we will use to make the cover. This is the nicer fabric that people will see, and that can be removed to wash off spills and stains. I used lycra spandex fabric to give it a nice, stretchy feel and smooth texture.

Use the same pattern from earlier. Fold your fabric and align the "middle" of the pattern with the fold. Then cut out your half "U" and unfold it to reveal the full "U". Lastly, cut out a second identical piece.

Step 5: Sew Together Your Cover Fabric

Just like you sewed your pillow fabric, sew your cover fabric together in the same way with the right side inside (mine is the same on both sides so it didn't matter for me). The only difference is that you'll leave a larger opening to accommodate your zipper. I measured the length of my zipper (about 50 cm) and added just a bit, leaving an opening on the outside edge of the pillow of that length.

If I made this pillow again, I might put the zipper on the inside edge. It worked alright on the outside, but as that was the widest part of the inner pillow, it made it a bit tight to squeeze the pillow in.

Step 6: Sew in the Zipper

Now comes the tricky part, at least for me. This was my first project that included sewing a zipper, but it actually went surprisingly well. Like my dad always said, "You've got to have the right tools to get the job done."

I started by turning the pillow cover right-side-out and pinning the zipper into the flap with the edge of the pillow cover folded over (to hide the rough cut edge). Then I swapped on my zipper foot that came on my beginner sewing machine.

Next I started on one side of the zipper, back at the beginning, and laid down a stitch as close to the zipper teeth as I could. The zipper foot helped keep me from riding up onto the teeth and worked quite nicely. The ends of the zipper were the trickiest part and I actually went back and touched them up by hand with a needle and thread.

If you don't want to mess with a zipper, you could sew on pieces of velcro instead.

Step 7: Squeeze Your Pillow Into Your Cover

This step was actually harder than I thought it would be. Theoretically you just have to jam your pillow into the cover and zip it up, but because the pillow is stuffed so firmly and the zipper prevents the cover from stretching, it was more like squeezing a fat guy's legs into a small pair of pants without a stretchy waistband.

With some squishing and squeezing in the right places, I finally got the pillow in.

To solve this issue, in the future I might use either a longer zipper, place the zipper on the inside edge of the curve, or use velcro instead of a zipper.

Step 8: Enjoy Your New Nursing (boppy) Pillow!

And that's it! Enjoy your new pillow! You can remove the cover to wash it or just use in the inner pillow by itself. Do you have a suggestion or improvement? Tell me about it in the comments below. I'm new at sewing so I'd love to hear your own thoughts!