Shhh! Let’s Not Tell Laurel Bern About These Pillows

A few months ago, I suggested a terrific article by interior design blogger Laurel Bern.

It was a details-matter article about an everyday accessory, one that I agree can add so much to a room.

The Little Known Truth About Throw Pillows was kind of eye-opening for me, I loved the “rules” about pillows: what makes them special, what makes them work well in a room, what are the construction details that make them better and more comfortable.

That’s why I’m asking you NOT to tell her about the ones I just made:

throw pillows, outdoor pillows, red pillows, floral pillows, striped pillows, ball fringe, rick rack, outdoor furniture, bold prints, bold pillowsWhy?

Because I ignored most of the things in her post and guess what? I LOOOOVE them anyway!

I can’t promise that if I wasn’t currently hobbling around or find it difficult to sit in one spot for long periods of time that things would be different.  And if I regret my decision to short cut just about everything about them, I do solemnly swear to fess up later…but here’s the thing:

These particular pillows are already better than many of the store bought ones we have, and they brought the perfect pop of color and warmth I was looking for in the outside area where I’m using them.

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Last week, my parents trekked out to see me and they offered to spring me from my cabin fever.  It was my first outing post-surgery, and after not participating in all the exciting activity around here, I just needed to MAKE something.

So we headed off to Joann Fabrics for a brief shop.  I limped to the far back of the store where the candy (decorator fabric) is kept and told myself to pick three bold prints of a similar scale.  I specifically wanted to avoid a grouping or collection so If I found a print, I decided I would leave that particular color area to avoid matchy-ness…just three big prints.

I found three pretty easily in three different areas, and guess what?  They still looked like they were coordinates from a collection (sigh).

And then I spied one more with a stripe that unified the whole thing…so ironically
I started out by breaking my own rule.  But time was short and I was not leaving that store without a project to accomplish.

I had decided beforehand, given my injury, to keep things simple because of this Kravet ad,

throw pillows without piping welts trimwhich gave me permission to skip piping, welts or any other decorative trim work…

until I reached the cutting table and saw a clearance rack with beautiful pre-pleated, leaf-green grosgrain ribbon that called to my fabric and said “look what I can do to make your colors pop…don’t let her leave without me!”

When I opened my wallet, revealing its web-filled cavern, it hissed, “Noooo, it will nearly double the cost of the pillow….be sensible, you don’t neeeeeeed trim!”

Of course I agreed with my wallet, paid for my fabric and returned home…

where I immediately regretted my decision!

UUUUUHHHHH…..stuck at home….pillow fabric….no trim….SO, SO antsy!!!!

I went on line, took screen shots of what I wanted, and asked Doesh (daughter #1) if she would pick them up on her way home.  God bless her!  Look at the difference (btw, the greens DO match in person):



Next day, I got busy.  Sorry, Laurel…these were “quick and dirty” pillows….no zippers, finished edges, down fill or lining….perfect enough for outside 🙂

The basics:

First cut two squares (i used both 18″ and 20″ sizes)….

Next I sewed on the trim, facing inward, all around the good side of one of the squares.   For the ball fringe trim, I sewed very close to the inside edge of the border, so only the pom poms would be visible once the two sides were sewn together.   (A zipper foot made this much easier.)

NOTE: I also used large rickrack trimming on the black pillows, attaching the trim by stitching right down the center…so only one side would show (as in the photo above).

Then I sewed both pieces together, wrong sides facing out, and sewed a scant 1/8″ to the left of the seam I had made to apply the trim.  Leave an opening at the bottom.

Turn the pillow cover inside out and press.  Take care to carefully press the seam allowances flat where you left the opening.

Stuff the pillow as desired.

Sew the opening closed, being careful to sew as close as you can to the edge.  Fussier?  Hand sew the opening closed.

One other hideous confession: I recycled all the pillow stuffing from other unused pillows we have in the house.  I had saved a box of them in my basement (Hoarder! WHO does that?!!).

Some were matching bonus pillows to furniture or bedding that we never used…and it was a great, frugal way to get ‘er done, ahem, inexpensively.

HOWEVER!  In deference to Laurel Bern’s article…the insides really DO matter.  Some of the recycled pillows had nice covered inserts.  I popped off the old covers and the inside fluff was wrapped in white cotton.  I was sure to measure those forms and make the new pillows one inch smaller so they would not be baggy (thanks for that tip, Laurel!).

Then I ripped open a few other other oldies and this is what was used:


But again, housebound, I shoved that hunk o’ ugly in one of the pillows and told myself that no one would know…except you….don’t judge.

My favorite fill was this stuff from our old decorative Euro bed pillows…the giant square ones that come with a “comforter set”.

I can see where this would make a difference in the comfort of the pillow.  It was both surprisingly easy to work with and to clean up.

In all, I made eight pillows for the patio…spent about $80 in decorator fabric, $30 for trim, and scrounged the fill for free (with the added bonus of emptying one basement bin). The polka-dot pillows were “borrowed” from the front porch.  I loves me polka-dots.

The pillows look really nice on the beige-overload furniture …and are plenty comfortable according to the six people who live here.  Would I shortcut again…heck yeah!  Our front porch needs a facelift, and that area takes a beating, so quick, dirty and easily replaceable will be perfect for that space.

But I solemnly swore to tell the truth, right?

Laurel Bern could tell you what’s wrong with this picture.

Look at the bottom corners of the back print.  Where’s the beef …er, stuffing?  Even though I was pretty careful to poke stuffing tightly into all the corners, I think this is a case of garbage in, garbage out….it didn’t stay poked.  Fortunately, it only happened with the fill in that particular print (which I properly centered, per Laurel’s tips, but did not properly duplicate).  So, I’ll either eventually open ’em up and add some of that perfect fill to the corners, or I’ll leave it and call it a lesson learned.

Pillows for inside the house?  Different story.

I will definitely pay very close attention to Laurel’s suggestions/rules when I start remaking indoor pillows.  I really notice the difference in the ones we use regularly in our family room…and we all seem to like the same ones…which means comfort counts.  And for this family of floppers, so will durability.

When I make THOSE pillows, go ahead, tell Laurel Bern what a good student I am 😉





  • Em, you are so funny. I love your writing style. Love the pillows too. I have no pillows. Ugh. I’m so lame. I really need to add color to my interior. Because of the dogs, I have leather, brown leather. Need I say more? Oh and I have a hope chest full of old pillows that came with furniture!

    • EmDirr

      I know, right?…. Spend more time around here and you’ll see that our dogs match our sofas for the same reason….the same reason I’m dumping that navy blue ottoman to the kid’s room. I’ll pretend that I made outside pillows first for the practice and not because we care more about outdoor living for a few months than indoor living year round.

  • Jodie

    Em!! I have to tell you that my mom is quite the pillow maker (of course, right?). And to keep the filling inside old pillows is not a bad thing. I admit, i just usually keep the entire pillow until I want it recovered (thanks mom)!!
    And no normal person would ever notice that the corners aren’t “properly” stuffed!! The pillows are so beautiful that you concentrate on that fact that they are amazing!!!

    • EmDirr

      Thanks, Jodie! I bet your mom’s entire place is amazing with all that talent! Now…if I can just translate that print mixing to my wardrobe choices, you will have converted me!!