DIY Tutorial – Buckwheat Travel Pillow

I’ve never been one of those walking through the airport with a pillow around my neck kind of people but during my last big trip, I saw this pillow at Muji and decided that I needed one. And, of course, I had to sew it myself with one big change. Instead of the plastic microbeads that are used in the Muji pillow, I filled my pillow with buckwheat hulls. Buckwheat hulls are the outer shell of the buckwheat seed. They are very lightweight and, of course, more eco-friendly than plastic beads.

This little tube of a pillow can be used to cushion your neck and head or as a lumbar pillow to give a little relief to your back. There are two parts to this pillow: an exterior cover with a strap that can be slung over your shoulder roller bag and an interior pillow to hold the buckwheat. You can easily remove the hulls via an invisible zipper and wash the exterior cover. I always feel my dirtiest after traveling so I’ll definitely be washing the cover between trips. As you can see in the photo above, there are little triangle wings on the short ends of the pillow that the strap is attached to. Good news for you, I've made a free pdf pattern for the triangle sections that you can download in the supplies section below.

I've done just a little testing at home and the pillow does work for supporting the head while in an upright position. will definitely report back after I use it on the road. I bought two pounds of buckwheat hulls and probably used less than 1/4 pound in this little pillow. I’m actually considering making a bigger pillow for everyday use.

How to Sew a Buckwheat Travel Pillow

Free pattern for side flaps
Fabric (2 pieces 17 x 5.5 inches)
Lining Fabric (2 pieces 17 x 5.5 inches)
(1) Invisible Zipper (10 to 14 inches long)
5/8” Twill Tape or Webbing (about 2/3 yard)
(1) 5/8” Release Buckle Closure
Buckwheat Pillow Filler


NOTES: Seam allowance is 1/2 inch unless otherwise noted.

STEP 1: Download and print the template. Cut 2 from main fabric and 2 from lining fabric, 17 x 5.5 inches (4 pieces total). Cut 4 end triangles from main fabric. Cut one piece twill tape about 3” and one piece about 21”.

STEP 2: Loop the short twill tape through the non-prong end of the release buckle and baste to the right side of the short end of one triangle, using a 3/8 inch seam allowance. Baste the long piece of twill tape to the right side of the short end of another triangle.

STEP 3: Place the triangles right sides together and stitch around angled and short end. Trim corners, turn right side out and press. Topstitch if desired. Fold the raw edge of the long piece of twill tape two times and topstitch.

STEP 4: If desired, finish raw edges of main fabric. Attach the invisible zipper to center of main fabric pieces. If you haven't sewn an invisible zipper before, check out this tutorial. (Just in case you're wondering, when I cut this fabric I left the selvage on because it's pretty and it saved a teeny, tiny bit of fabric.)

STEP 5: With right sides together, center triangles on short end of main fabric and baste in place using a 3/8 inch seam allowance.

Open zipper and place main fabric right sides together matching raw edges. Stitch remaining three sides using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Trim corners and turn right side out through zipper.

STEP 6: Now let’s make the pillow part. Place lining right sides together and stitch using a slightly larger than 1/2 inch seam allowance, leaving an opening on one side. In retrospect, I should have left the opening on one of the short ends and it would have been easier to fill with buckwheat. Also, the slightly larger than 1/2 inch seam allowance will make the pillow easier to insert in the casing.

Tip: I like to put two pins as a visual cue for where I want to start and stop stitching. This is especially helpful when sewing a very large piece.

STEP 7: Trim the corners and turn lining right side out. Use a funnel to help you fill the pillow with buckwheat hulls. How much you fill it is a personal choice but you’ll want to leave it a bit empty so that the pillow will be flexible enough to bend and conform to your body. I ended up taking out filling a couple of times. However, if you want a firmer lumbar pillow you might want it a little more full.

STEP 8: Pin the opening closed and stitch close to the folded edge. Put the pillow inside the casing, zip it up and you’re ready to go.

And that's it. You're all done! I'm really picky about what I bring with me when I travel so I'm excited to give this pillow a good road test soon. I'll make sure to update this post with how it goes. :) I love that this pillow is a little bit firm and very lightweight so I have high hopes that it will become a staple for my packing list.