In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon tells us, “of making many books there is no end”. This is certainly true of our life in the twenty-first century. The market is flooded every day with new books on every possible subject. And advancements in technology now allow us to carry whole libraries of books and magazines around with us on objects that fit into the palms of our hands. Instead of a bookshelf, we now only need a resting place for our e-reader, Ipad, or phone. There are various items on the market that are designed to hold your “book” (in the format of your choice), allowing hands-free reading –especially handy if you are reading a recipe or other how-to manual. One of the simplest is a pillow design which only requires two trapezoidal-shaped pieces of fabric (cut from old clothes), a scrap of ribbon, and some Styrofoam packing peanuts.
To make a pattern for this pillow, I folded a twelve-inch-square piece of paper in half down its center and placed it on my work surface with the folded edge on the left side and the shorter ends at the top and bottom. Measuring five inches from the fold along the bottom edge, I made a mark on the paper. Going back to the fold, I measured eleven inches and made a mark on the fold at that point. I only wanted the paper to be eleven inches long, so I cut off the excess paper beyond this mark. Starting on the fold and measuring out along my new top edge, I measured four inches and made another mark. Using a ruler, I made a slanting line on the paper that connected the mark on the top edge to the mark on the bottom edge. Cutting through the top and bottom sections of the paper, I cut along this line. With the paper opened up, it formed a trapezoid shape with an eight-inch edge on one side, a width of eleven inches from top to bottom, and a ten-inch edge opposite the eight inch one. (The shorter end is the top of the pattern and the longer one, the bottom.) Using this pattern, I cut two pieces of fabric from old clothing for each pillow that I wanted to make.
After zigzagging the raw edges of my fabric to prevent them from fraying, I was ready to begin sewing. Putting right sides together and matching the short and long sides, I laid the fabric on my work surface. Taking my scrap of ribbon (large enough to loop over my finger with some overlap to fit into the seam), I folded it in half and placed it fold-side-in between the two layers of fabric with the ends of the ribbon in one of the corners of the shorter top end. I sewed the two pieces of fabric together along the slanting side seam which had the ribbon pinned into the corner, being sure to catch the ends of the ribbon in the seam.
The finally shape of this pillow when it is in use makes it look like the pillow is “smiling”, so there is a version of this on the market that adds eyes to complete the “face”. This is only decorative, but is a fun touch if you are making the pillow as a gift for a child, so I have included this step in my instructions. (For a more professional look, skip to the next step.) The eyes are fairly easy to add. I simply cut two small egg-shaped ovals from white felt and sewed them down on either side of the center line formed by the seam. In the photo of this, the ribbon is pinned out of the way and the two ovals are sewn down small-side-up and slanted slightly toward the center line. The pupils are formed by sewing buttons onto the lower portion of the ovals.
With the eyes in place, I folded the to pieces back together with the right sides to the inside. Then I sewed the longer bottom seam, turned the corner onto the unfinished side and sewed a third of the way up. Cutting the threads and leaving the center third of the side open, I stitched the upper third of the side, turned the corner, and stitched the top edge together. Except for the opening left in one side for turning and stuffing, all of the edges were now stitched together. Now I needed to form boxed corners in the two bottom corners. To do this, I pulled the front and back fabric open apart and matched the side seam and the bottom seam up. I came in about an inch and stitched a seam perpendicular to my previous seams. This formed a triangle of fabric that I cut off. (See photo for details). I did this to both bottom corners, then turned the pillow right-side-out.
With the seams in place, I stuffed the pillow with packing peanuts. I got it as full as I could, then pinned the opening closed and began breaking the peanuts apart with my fingers through the fabric. This way the static and all the little messy pieces stay in the pillow. As the peanuts are broken down, they take up less space, so I added more and broke those down until the pillow was full without being tight. Then I used a sewing needle and thread and hand-stitched the opening closed.
The finished pillow now had to be formed into shape. (This is easier to understand by looking at the pillows with eyes, so I have used those in my demonstration photo.) Holding the corner ribbon up, I took the boxed corner on the same side as the ribbon and pushed it into the body of the pillow until it formed a “smile” and the pillow was lying on the opposite side seam. On the pillows with eyes, this forms a pointed head with a strand of hair on top and a smile at the bottom.
As the photos demonstrate, the finished pillow can be used to hold an e-reader or a traditional book (if it is not too large). But I have found that it is also good for holding photos or other framed works, and provides a safe recharging bay for cell phones and MP3 players. And unlike other designs, this one is lightweight, mold-able and easily packed for travel.
I began this article with a partial quote of Solomon from Ecclesiastes 12:12. It seems only fitting to conclude an article on books and reading to allow the wisest of the ancient kings to complete his admonition. “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:12 & 13