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. Jason says

    Yea boo on a rerun and I fell asleep last week and missed half of it…so annoying. Of course I was wide awake for the re-run. IT SENDED…IT SENDED…PLEASE COME BACK…

  2. jess says

    Bethenny is my TV BFF too. My boyfriend and I enjoy watching her antics and crazy funny relationships with everyone. I get no laundry folded or dusting done when I’m staring deep into Bravo’s amazing TV programming, lol.

  3. Teresa says

    I believe that you guys are starting a color revolution! I work in a hospital so I see LOTS of people all day long and I swear I have seen numerous blouses with sue the napkin and can I just sue the napkin…hate sue the shirt!

  4. says

    Love the Sue pillows! Also, the blue pillow looks amazing, Sue really makes it pop (or it makes Sue pop? either way!). I’m sad but glad to hear that last night was a rerun – I totally went to read in bed before Modern Family came on so missed it either way. Last week’s episode was pretty spectacular :) Love that show!

  5. Heather says

    I do something similar with dog beds…we use sheets to make new covers so we can change the look (for the season sometimes) and so we can wash the covers constantly and not have to leave the dogs without beds. We have a stash of covers that we grab from. The only difference is when you hand sewed the last part, we don’t sew it. We use strips of velcro or a zipper (done both) that you just sew on.

  6. Candice says

    I still haven’t stopped laughing over your sewing machine issues. Your pillows look great and so does the birthday banner. I haven’t sewed in awhile but still have my grandmother’s old 50’s Singer featherweight. My mother taught her three daughters to sew and then we started helping sew our own clothes. Some things just take longer to pick up! You are doing great, Sherry.

  7. Stephanie says

    Good stuff. I never thought of using napkins for pillow cases before! Now that I think of it, my favorite napkins just might pull my living room colors together…too bad the napkins are used heavily for their original purpose. I will keep my eye out. Sometimes Anthropologie has their often cute napkins on sale.

    What size pillow did you use? Or what size were your napkins to start with?

    • says

      The napkins were 21 x 21″ and the pillows were around 20″ square. I just laid the covers over the pillow to “eye” if they would fit and then I sewed them and they did. Whew.


  8. Kate V. says

    Just got some spring kitchen towels from Target to make into pillows! I also like to make cases for our bed pillows and I made a duvet cover for my daughter’s bed because I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. A flat sheet works great for the bottom and then I bought nice fabric for the top. Great job with Sue!

  9. Katie says

    When I re-purpose pillows with new fabric, I usually make a pillow “slipcover”. That way I can take the cover off and wash it without ripping seams and I don’t have to sew anything by hand. I find the slipcover method a lot easier.

    Here’s a good link to how do it:

    PS I only tackle projects that can sewn in a straight line. I’m so bad at sewing that I used to have to get my brother to set up the sewing machine for me. Now that I’m an adult and don’t live with my brother, I have to call him everytime I want to sew something! It’s good to have a professional upholsterer in the family!

  10. says

    I know you’re a little wary about “Oh Brother” right now, but you might want to consider a zipper or button closure in the future so you can remove them to wash, swap out, & swap back in instead of stitch ripping it off when you’re tired of it!

    • says

      Zip is super duper easy! I just tackled the ever looming zipper thing this winter, which I should have years ago and I was surprised at how easy it was.

      This video is pretty good at explaining it. However, his technique would require hand-sewing. The easier way is to fully sew up both sides of the zipper and then open it part way. Then sew your edges in full, just like anything else and then just flip it right side out through the zipper itself!

      Enough with the sewing comments. I get a little nerdy about it. I need to go get some other crafts done. Today? Landscaping and attempting a solar mason jar lantern, haha *snort* I’m so excited.

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