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. F.D. says

    The pillows look great. My grandmother was a seamstress for her career, yet somehow that didn’t get passed down to my mom and I. In high school sewing class I couldn’t even thread the machine.

    And yes, as soon as Mitchell nodded right along approving hair rings I knew he had no idea what Gloria had said and was going to freak out. Loved the end too when Cam went back to the forgotten plot line of photographing Lily as famous singers.

  2. Samantha says

    This is so funny you published this link today. I had to go back in your previous posts to see who “sue ” was. We have a Sue too, we call her “Natasha” and her twin sister “Natalia”–because two pillows need two names and she is a sexy little napkin pillow. She actually is the inspiration for our whole house–actually our one bedroom apartment… aka our tin can. I found her at World market and fell in love with her silver blues and glorious corals.

  3. Leah says

    They look great! And trust me, even sewing three straight lines was a HUGE challenge for me when I started sewing!

    Just a little tip on the pillows: Instead of sewing them completely shut, If you sew it on all four sides with the machine, you can leave a slit in the back to take the pillow in and out for washing without having to rip seams. Think like the back of a pillow sham. It will require a few more seams to “hem” the edges of the slit, but all in all, it is very convenient to be able to quickly take the covers off when needed!

    Great job, once again!

  4. Alicia says

    I did the same thing with napkins a few weeks ago! I looked for months for pillows that were cheap and had the moroccan look. They are so expensive! I was walking through Target, and a Dwell studio tablecloth and napkin set was calling my name! My husband thought I was nuts and I was like, “If Katie Bower can make pillows out of a place mat, I can make pillows out of this!” They turned out perfect and yours did too!!

  5. Rachel says

    Your pillows look great!!! I too have a love/hate relationship with my sewing machine but I do find it gets better (easier) each time. You may already know this (or not need to know since you are so good at sewing by hand) but I love the envelope pillow (a.k.a. pillow sham) No sewing by hand required and no ripping out stitching for changing out pillow inserts. Hope this is helpful!!

  6. Barb says

    Nice job…see, you can SEW!!! I like Sue in any form she is in…but the pillows look great.

    Happy SUE PILLOWS!


  7. says

    The pillows look great! I haven’t tried to make a pillow from napkins but I might have to give it a whirl.

    I haven’t watched last weeks episode of Modern Family yet. It’s killing me! My hubby and I watch together and he’s been out of town so it’s sitting on the DVR taunting me!

  8. Mary says

    This gives me hope because I am deathly afraid of my sewing machine, but I have quite literally a stock pile of fabric and patterns that I want to try. Last night’s episode was a re-run, but it was probably one of the best… the one where the kids walk in on Phil and Claire doing it. “I’m 80 percent sure you’re hitting on me” I die laughing. Cougartown afterwards is worth a watch too if you don’t already watch it. What is Bethanny ever after?

    • says

      Oh yes- love Cougartown too! Bethenny Ever After is on Bravo and it’s amazing. It’s about Bethenny Frankel from NY Housewives who is now married with a baby who was born right around the time that Clara was (I think five days earlier). She just cracks me up. So brash but hilarious.


  9. says

    haha love that Bethenny Frankel is your imaginary BFF. Not to sound uber stalkerish, but I’m pretty sure that between you and Katie Bower I have two imaginary BFFs haha. Okay you just can’t say that without sounding crazy… Love the napkin pillow and how you went from not being able to work a sewing machine to making two awesome pillows and that great banner for Clara’s birthday. You rock!

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