DIY: Napkins into Pillow Covers

Yesterday, I mentioned my habit of looking in odd places for new fabric resources.

Today, I’m sharing one of my most successful fabric acquisitions that helped me to transform my apartment for 7.99!

Last year as Christmas and New Year’s were coming to a close, that dreaded time of year where you have to put away all the holiday merriment and go back to “normal” life (but with freezing temperatures and endless snow) was really getting me down.

I worked so hard to make our home cozy for our first Christmas in the new apartment, the last thing I wanted to do was figure out where to store it all! If I had my way, we wouldn’t put the last of it away until the snow was gone for good. (Good thing I didn’t have my way, because it was a long winter).

As the red and green started slowly disappearing, I realized that I wanted all the red to go. I thought our home would be more cohesive and easy on the eyes if the only pops of color were classy blues and greens.

But, where was I going to find new pillow covers?! Christmas just passed (which meant I couldn’t put them on my list) and my Etsy/Pottery Barn research only turned up covers that seemed way too expensive. For some reason, it never occurred to me that I could use my new sewing machine until later.

I was wandering through TJ Maxx on a frigid day (to cheer myself up of course) and I found the cutest navy blue and baby blue ikat napkins. I was in the market for napkins after my husband made a New Year’s Resolution to have more people over for dinner. So, I held them in my hand until I found something better.

It must have hit me as I walked down the pillow aisle. These napkins were absolutely perfect for our new pillow covers! I took them out of the package to see if they were actually square (it’s TJ Maxx after all), checked that they were soft enough for my husband’s taste, and made sure they were high enough quality to survive on our couch. There wasn’t a thing wrong with them! In fact, they were 20 inch squares! The EXACT size pillow cover I had been searching for!

It was meant to be.

So how did I turn 4 napkins into 2 pillows? Easy.

I used the only sewing technique I know: Sewing in Straight Lines.

First, I ironed my napkins. No use, in turning something ordinary into something lovely if it is going to have wrinkles that detract from your work.

Next, I laid my napkins on top of each other with the patterned sides facing each other (making sure they were turned the same direction) and pinned along the edges, leaving enough room to sew next to the seam.

napkin pillow 1

After everything was lined up and secured, I was ready to start sewing.

My napkins had a nice finished edge that I used as a guideline to sew along.

I needed to sew the full length on 3 sides and just the corners of the 4th side. That way I could squeeze in my pillow insert.

napkin pillow 2

Now it’s time to turn the napkins right-side out and fill my pillow. I used the pillow forms for the pillow I was replacing.

This next part is the trickiest. This was where I FaceTimed in Mom to make sure I was doing everything right.

I needed to swap the regular sewing foot for the zipper foot, which would allow me to sew closer to the edge of the pillow.

Sidenote: I probably could have sewn in a zipper at this point, but I was having no regrets and was perfectly happy to sew them up tight for now. I might add a zipper in January if I rip out the seams to cover them for Christmas this year.

In case you have no idea (I didn’t!) this is what a regular foot (left) and zipper foot (right) look like:


Some of you might find it silly for me to be explaining these steps. You need to know that I never learned to sew from my Mom when she offered her help the first 5 times. That means that now (age 29) I need my hand held through the most basic of steps and explanations. I’m hoping to break things down well enough help others with similar sewing backgrounds.

When attaching the zipper foot I needed to make sure the thread was running through the notch on the left side. This will be the side closest to the pillow.


Then I needed to prepare my pillow by finger pressing the fabric. Finger pressing is basically folding fabric (and creasing it temporarily). I didn’t want a raw fabric edge on the pillow, so folding the fabric underneath itself on both sides and pressing each side (once straight and even) with my fingers, gives it the look of a seam.


This picture might help you visualize finger pressing a little better.

Next I squeezed my pillow next to the machine and began to sew up the final side.

I was having trouble keeping the filling away from the needle, so my Mom (via FaceTime) suggested pushing the stuffing towards the opposite end of the pillow and using a row of pins to hold it back while I worked. (This may have been the most frustrating part of the project – but I was SO close!)

napkin pillow 23

Mom said I wanted to sew as close to the edge as possible, but MAKING SURE to catch both sides of the fabric. I got too close to the edge at one point and slipped off the fabric. I would have had a hole in my pillow, so I needed to rip the last section of stitches out and to start again.

When I’d finally done it right, my pillow edges looked like this:




It’s not a zipper, but you can’t even tell when you are cuddling with them, so I’m not bothered one bit.

I think they are just what the apartment needed, and for 7.99 my husband certainly won’t argue about that!





It turns out standard napkins are 20 inch squares, so there’s no limit to the inexpensive pillow covers I can whip up! I’ve got my eye on some Pottery Barn Christmas napkins…but it’s only November 13th – this is so hard!

One thought on “DIY: Napkins into Pillow Covers

  1. Pingback: Neutralize It | Tickled in NYC

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