pillow covers of various sizes decorate a bed

How To Free-Up Storage Space By Making Throw Pillows

This time of year always sends me into a mode of cleaning and organizing which I like to think is a vestige of a past life as a bear, but which is most likely a memory of fall cleaning with my grandmother as a kid. Back then every cupboard, closet, and drawer was emptied, cleaned, and the contents aired and replaced, which is great, if you have the time, but without days on end (or lots of relatives) to complete the task, a quick glance into the closets followed by a superficial sort isn’t too bad, by modern standards.

What I found upon glancing into the closets:

Ok, I found a lot of things, but referring back to the ‘superficial sort’ comment, we’re going to talk about the guest pillows. I found a lot of them. Five, actually. They were big, bulky, and taking up precious storage space. Now maybe you are more diligent about limiting your pillow collection, or don’t live with someone who feels the need to try out every new pillow that hits the market, but if you do have any extra pillows sitting around, keep reading for an easy and decorative storage solution.

The Solution?

Decorative pillow covers. I don’t mean something from the pillow scene in Along Came Polly because those pillows did not house guest pillows and were only decorative and space-consuming. What I’m talking about is dual-purpose throw pillows that will free-up space in your closet and make your bed and/or couch look great!

First: sort your pillows according to the type of filling. Pillows that are filled with feathers or that are somewhat squishy will fit really well into 20″ x 20″ square pillow covers, which is a standard size available at many stores. For firm pillows or pillows stuffed with things like Memory Foam that want to maintain a rectangular shape, you will need to measure in order to find the right cover, or use ‘pillow shams’, which are also readily available in stores.

If you’re pressed for time, have more pillows than you have the energy to cover, or don’t have a stash of fabric that needs using, buying some (or all) pillow covers from a store might make the most sense. Give yourself points for clearing out the closet and use your creative energy to have fun picking out pillow covers to spruce-up your room!

If you do have some time, though, you can easily make your own throw pillow covers:

The envelope style pillow cover is by far the easiest and quickest because it doesn’t have any zippers or buttons. At the back of the pillow cover the fabric is overlapped to create an access to insert the pillow: closure at the back of an envelope pillow cover with pillow inside…and don’t worry if you think you can’t sew or don’t own a machine because this project is still manageable. Yes, it is much faster with a machine than by hand, but no one sees the stitching for an envelope pillow cover so you can go really fast and if the stitches aren’t perfectly neat, well, that’s ok, just do the best you can.uncut fabric, scissors, and tape measure

  • Measure the pillow you want to cover and the fabric you want to use, allowing for 1/4-1/2 inch seam allowance and about 6-8 inches of overlap at the back, depending on the size of the pillow.

Tip: double (or triple) check your measurements since you can only cut the fabric once.

  • Cut the fabric to the right size, then pin and seam both of the short ends (the ends that will be at the envelope opening):the sides that will form the envelope opening of the pillow cover pinned for seaming
  • Next, turn the fabric inside-out and adjust the position of the overlap so it’s about 1/2-1/3 from the top of the pillow:pinning the overlap for the envelope openingclose-up of the overlap of the envelope closure during pinning
  • Pin both sides and sew them together. If you have stripes or another geometric pattern then you might need to change your seam allowance to maintain symmetry. For these pillows I ended up with over an inch of seam allowance on the side in the photo above, but only 1/2 inch on the other side, because the white selvedge band used to test the ink colors was only on one side and the stripes would have been uneven if I had run the seam right along the edge of it.
  • When your side seams are done, just turn the pillow cover right side out:finished pillow cover being turned right-side-infinished pillow cover nearly right-side-incompleted pillow cover laying flat to show the envelope seam
  • Insert the pillow and put it on the bed with all the other guest pillows now usefully working as decorations. Of course the trick is to remember that the beautiful pillows now decorating your bed (or sofa) actually house guest pillows before you tear the house apart looking for them the next time you have visitors. (I foresee this happening to me at least once before I catch on).

decorative pillow covers of various sizes on a bed

What you will need:

  • Pillows
  • Enough fabric to wrap around/cover both sides of the pillow + 8-10 inches (6-8 inches overlap + seam allowance of about 2 inches).
  • Straight pins
  • Needle and thread
  • Scissors
  • Tape measure

Tips and tricks:

  • Don’t worry about an exact measurement if either the fabric or your pillow is uncooperative. If the decorative pillow cover is a little bigger or smaller than your pillow it will just change the firmness. For example, if you have only one yard of fabric (36″), you can still make two pillow covers for soft/squishy pillows, they’ll just be a bit smaller and firmer than the 20 inch square size recommended here.
  • As always, measure twice and cut once.
  • Launder your fabric as you plan to later before you measure, cut, and sew. This will allow the fabric to pre-shrink and prevent the seams from puckering when you wash it in the future. The striped fabric I used said ‘dry clean only’ but I threw it in the washer and dryer anyway and it was fine. It would probably last longer and have less color-fade if I dry cleaned it, but that’s just not happening.

So give yourself lots of points for doing something creative while clearing out your closet and sprucing up your room at the same time. Amazing! Maybe even celebrate with some Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more manageable ways to be creative.

Have any questions or comments?