Sew Simple: How To Make A Pillow From Two Cloth Napkins

Duuuuude. I got back on the proverbial sewing machine horse. What? You haven’t heard that expression. Whatever. The point is: Sue the Napkin is now Sue the Pillow! Or more accurately Sue The Pillows (yup, I made two of them).

Here are my materials:

  • Four Sue The Napkins (I originally got ten when we found them on clearance at Crate & Barrel, but I picked up four more so I could make two pillows using four of them and still have ten leftover to use as dinner napkins).
  • Oh Brother (my trusty sewing machine, more on him here)
  • Two old pillows to use as the “inside” of my new Sue pillow covers
  • A needle and some brown thread to sew one edge of the pillow shut by hand (that way I can easily seam rip that last portion to free the pillow inside and make a different cover down the line if I’d like).

I’ll spare you every detail, but I basically just stacked two napkins on top of each other with the good printed side touching (and the back of the fabric showing on the top and the bottom of the stack) and used my sewing machine to sew three of the four sides completely shut while it was all inside out like that. I even turned the corner and did about an inch or two on each end of the remaining fourth side while they were still inside out on the machine. Then I removed the napkins and turned them right side in, stuffed a pillow inside my little napkin envelope (which now had the printed side facing out), and stitched the remaining expanse of about 10″ closed by hand with my brown thread (which blends in surprisingly well).

As I’ve mentioned complained about before, I’ve ironically never had an issue with sewing by hand (it’s like painting by hand or demo-ing by hand, both of which I can do – I only have issues when I rely on a maniacal robot sewing machine). But as much as I whine about the ol’ new sewing machine, it did me right for my little pillow party. Am I a professional seamstress? No. Can I sew three straight lines without ending up with a birdsnest-looking-pile-o’-thread? I did this time. Strike up the band! Cue the fireworks!

And on the surprisingly-not-as-annoying-as-I-thought-it-would-be side of things, it only took me about four commercial breaks during Modern Family to whip up both pillows (so maybe about 12 minutes total? I was watching last week’s episode by the way, so don’t ruin this week’s for me).

Then I just stitched them closed during Bethenny Ever After (this took me much longer than it should have because I kept stopping to stare at the screen and guffaw at my imaginary BFF). But all in all, they look a lot less demented much better than I expected. Actually – dare I say it? – like real pillows.

Oh and as pretty as the pillows look when they’re all fluffed and photographed for the blog, more often than not they really look like this. Because Burger makes it a personal goal of his to squish every pillow in the house into an ugly little blob. But he’s cute so we deal with it.

Sometimes he even stops to nuzzle Sue, as if to say “you’re my favorite napkin-turned-pillow too.” It’s always nice to get pillow validation from an eight pound chihuahua.

So that’s the tale of Sue The Pillow(s). Have you guys sewn any napkin pillows lately? Did you die over the whole Gloria hair-rings/earrings thing on Modern Family last week? Me too. Can’t wait to watch this week’s episode tonight.


  1. Rachel K. says

    Love them, they are fabulous! When did you get the blue pillows? I remeber from the previous pillow post that you had yeallowish ones. Love the blue with the Sue pillow!

  2. Holly H says

    Our dog does the same thing… no pillow or cushion is safe around here. But seriously the pillows look stunning – i’m kinda in the same boat as you in regards to the whole not getting on so well with sewing machines. Lately i’ve been tempted to get myself one, but i’m pretty nervous that the experience will go horribly wrong and i’ll end up with a machine that collects dust. But your experience is starting to encourage me… so thanks!

  3. says

    Love, love, love the pillows! And love the blog. Have to admit, I’m also jealous because your blog is sooo wonderful and Sherry, you look like a better version of Natalie Portman.

    My sister told me about your blog and I’ve been lurking for awhile. Finally decided to comment. BTW, I just read your post about little bean’s birth. I had a C-Section with my first and my next little guy came 4 1/2 years later. I could not have asked for better spacing. Both are boys, now aged 17 and 21. (Yes, I’m a lot older than you.) No sibling rivalry, they are the closest of friends. I credit that to the years between their births and the fact that our family is crammed into a small house. So the boys had to share a room and learn to get along.



  4. says

    modern familiy was pre-empted last night by 4 solid hours of the abc weather team. i was glad for the weather updates but needed some dunphy-isms!

  5. says

    love love love! my oh-Brother is also a major source of frustration. I made gorgeous and intricate pillows by hand since I was a (craft-obesessed, slightly dorky) kid. Trying to make ANYTHING on the sewing machine and it’s all on a diagonal.

    my cousin made gorgeous pillows for her sofa from C & B platemats, which had an identical print to some super-expensive C & B pillows, but were far less expensive. I am a sucker and just buy throw pillows on sale at Anthropologie, C & B, or Home Goods. Remember the gorgeous silk pillow I posted on YHL facebook page? $19 at Anthropologie!

    You HAVE inspired me to make a cover for a Home Goods pillow that is not really doing it for me these days. I had thought about donating it, not covering. Brilliant! Thanks, Sherry!

  6. Rosie says

    I’ve never understood why people are willing to pay so much for pillows – I think $40 for one is a rip-off, and that seems to be on the low end for them now. Seriously, the easiest thing to sew, and if you make them yourself you can choose your own fabric. Your sewing looks great – go Sherry!
    P.S. – little pillow making tip – when you turn them right side out, take your closed sewing scisors (or a pen with the cap on, erassor end of a pencil – anything pointy), and poke each of the corners out from the inside – that will give you nice crisp pointy corners. You might have done that though, since yours look fine!

  7. Elizabeth says

    ok you are a girl after my own heart. im OBSESSED with bethanny every after. modern family is also at the top of my list. the hair rings/earrings was awesome. “its not hair rings its hair rings (=earrings)” i also loved last week when phil said “where did all the people go…oh wait i just blinked” when they were arguing over luke. best. show. ever. lets just say i get all your references. and burger…well i cant even start there. so freaking cute. i love the bed videos. i have a little maltipoo myself. those guys are just the best!

  8. Lauren B says

    Was in crate and barrel outlet by my house and saw these napkins for 1.50 each – immediately thought of you guys! Pillows look great and napkins are such a super cheap easy way to bring in color!

  9. says

    Do you guys plan to “drill holes” in Clara’s ears for some Hair-rings? I was rolling with laughter at that part also!

    Congrats on the pillows, tension settings can be a B***H, but once you get it set you should be good to go, oh yeah and of course buy the correct bobbins…live and learn right!

  10. Christie says

    Love the whole napkins as pillow covers idea. I followed Kate’s no sew instructions from Centsational Girl to make some removable pillow covers and I love them! Great job making Sue a legit pillow!

    Hmmmm… that I have typed the word legit, I have MC Hammer’s 2 Legit 2 Quit stuck in my head. :-/

  11. Charles says

    I was curious if you chose to close up the seam on the bottom as opposed to making the pillow close in the back more like a pillow sham for any particular reason?

    A sham style seems easier, well for me, no sewing experience at all. But it will leave a visible seam causing the pillows to be somewhat “one-sided” when placed on the couch.

    Side note: A friend turned my on to your site and I’m totally addicted. In the last month we’ve painted our bedroom, refinished the front door and kick plate, turned antique bronze door knobs into oil-rubbed bronze….etc. It’s been DIY non-stop at my house. Thank you so much for the inspiration and the addiction! lol.

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