You Can Make It: The Burlap Pillow

I’ve shared my mild obsession before with decorative pillows here and here.

Why do I love them so? Pillows are a great way to refresh your rooms. They are also really easy to make. And they’re inexpensive.

Wait a minute…did I just admit to you that I am lazy AND cheap? Yikes!

Back to the pillow. My most recent creation was made using things I already had on hand. Total cost: $0. Gotta love that.

Here is what you’ll need:

  • 1/4 to 1/2 yard of fabric of your choice, depending on how big you want your pillow to be
  • fabric paint, tape and stencil (optional)
  • scissors
  • matching thread
  • sewing machine or needle
  • polyfil, available for $3 at Walmart or a pillow insert


Step 1 – Decide how big you want your pillow. If you are using a pillow insert, measure and cut your fabric at least a half inch wider on all sides for the seam allowance. Pillow inserts typically come in 14″, 16″ or 18″ square as well as other sizes and shapes.

Since I didn’t have an extra insert, I cut out two 15″ squares. If you aren’t going to paint a design on your pillow, skip to step 3.

Step 2 – Paint a design (optional)

I wanted to make a pillow that looked like it was made from an old grainsack, so I chose burlap and a damask patterned wall stencil I had leftover from when I stenciled an entire wall – floor to ceiling. (Just thinking back at all that work makes me cringe, however, I loved the result).

Tape your stencil in place where you want it. I centered mine. With a steady hand, fill in your design with fabric paint. The stencil I chose had two parts, so I had to wait until the paint on the first part was completely dry and then repeat the process with the second step.

Read the instructions on the fabric paint. Mine said to let it dry for four hours.

Note:  the fabric paint I used dried a little too crunchy for my tastes. When I do this again, I will use a black fabric marker instead. Ahh, trial and error, folks.

Edited to add: If you want a softer texture on your stenciled pillow, Tulip brand also makes a fabric paint appropriately called, “Soft”. I used that in a later project and liked the texture and the look much, much better.

After you’ve painted and let it dry, it should look like this:

Step 3 – Place fabric together with the right sides facing each other.

Step 4 – Sew the two pieces together on all three sides and about half way through the fourth side (leaving room to add the stuffing or your insert).

Note:  you’ll want to be sure that the opening is at the bottom of your pillow so take a look at it first before you start stitching.

Make sure to backstitch the first few stitches at the start and at the end so it’s nice and sturdy.

You do not need a sewing machine for this part, but it will take you a bit longer if you are sewing by hand. Never fear. I hand sewed many a pillow before I bought my machine and they still hold up well – even with two kids and a husband.

Step 5 – Trim 

This next part is completely optional, but I do it anyway because I think it makes the seams lay better on the finished product.

Trim away the excess fabric on all sides.

Then snip the corners, taking care not to cut your stitches.

Note to self: I could use a manicure.

Step 6 – Turn inside out

After you’ve cut away all the excess fabric, turn the pillow inside out. You can use a pencil or the wooden tool that came in your stuffing bag to make sure you push out the corners.

It should look something like this:

Step 7 – Stuff away

Pull out a small handful of stuffing from your bag. Pull it apart a little bit to stretch it. Then begin to stuff your pillow, starting in one corner. Continue to stuff until it’s as full as you want.

I like this stuff (get it…”stuff”) because it is easy to use, available at my local Walmart and it’s only about $3 a bag.

Step 8 – Sew the opening closed

Using a blanket stitch, sew up the hole with your needle and thread. Be sure that your knot goes on the inside of the pillow as it makes it look more finished. Speaking from experience. Ahem.

Step 7 – Once you are done, step back and admire your work. Cuddle up with your new creation and enjoy the satisfaction of making something with your own hands.

I linked this up to Frugal Friday at The Shabby Nest.

Published in: on January 6, 2011 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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