How to Make an Outdoor Pillow Insert Using Plastic Grocery Bags

by Diane Henkler on 05/24/2012

This is a super inexpensive way to dress up your deck or patio for outdoor living this summer.  If you are like me then you like to see a few pops of color placed around your outside living space in the way of a decorative pillow or two.  You see colorful outdoor pillows gracing chairs and chaises in every decorating magazine and catalog this time of year – they make the furniture come to life.   Not only do they provide a little bit of color, but comfort as well.  I think one or two strategically arranged pillows makes any outdoor space look more inviting.

The downside – they are a bit pricy for something that is truly an extra.

To still have my outdoor pillow decorating desire fulfilled on my small budget, I have devised a way to make outdoor pillow inserts for free.  All you need are two dishtowels and a bunch of plastic grocery bags.

How to make a pillow with plastic grocery bags

You could use a few indoor pillows or regular pillow forms for your outside décor and I do have a few of these, but I hesitate to use them outside because:

1. They fade.

2. I forget to bring them inside when it rains and by the end of the summer they are ruined, mildewed etc.  No more pretty pillow.

I like using the plastic bags for 3 reasons:

1. They are free!

2. I feel good that I am recycling the ever-growing pile of them that seems to multiply every second.  One trip to the grocery store and you get an average of 10 bags.  If I am getting only a few things, I take a bag into the store so I won’t get another plastic bag.  For my once a week grocery shopping trip I don’t have enough bags to hold everything so I usually end up getting plastic to haul it all home.

3.  You can make the pillow form any size you want – big, small, or even a roll style pillow.

These are not perfect – they do make a scrunching sound.  To lessen the sound – add more bags to make a denser pillow.  I found the dishtowels to make my pillow at the dollar store.

Outdoor Decorating Ideas

1.   Gather all your plastic bags. Find a bag that is about the size of your pillow cover or a bit larger to use as outer bag.  Try to use the same type of bag to stuff your outer bag. Some plastic bags are thicker than others and won’t form to the shape as easily. Use the thicker bags as the bag you stuff all the other thinner bags into.  Grocery store bags work the best. The kind you get at Walmart.   To get a smooth and uniform pillow shape – spread each stuffing bag out and then loosely roll it, then place in the bag.  Try to keep them lined up so the outer bag will stay as smooth as possible. If  you just bunch them into the bag, the pillow will look lumpy.

2.   Keep rolling your bags and lay into the outer bag. Press the bags down after every 10 bags or so.  I used about 60 bags to get the size and density I wanted. Use more if you want an extra-firm pillow.

3. When you get the size pillow form you desire, fold over the top of the outer bag and staple it closed.

4.  Add one more line of staples to ensure the seam is secure.

5.  Shape the plastic bag pillow form to the size of an existing indoor pillow form if you have one.

6.  Place it in the pillow cover.  Don’t be afraid to press, mold, and shape it to fit your cover like a glove.

All done.

Plastic-Bag-Pillow how to

My patio chairs are not very comfortable and having a pillow to mold to your back makes the chairs much more comfy…and colorful, too.

How to make a plastic bag pillow form

 Related Posts:

-Follow the link here to learn how to make the No-Sew Dishtowel Pillow Cover

-If you are looking for a way to help control out-of-control plastic bags in your house you may like to see how I conquered mine. You can see it in the post I did about how I organized my pantry.



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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jessica S. May 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Your ingenuity never ceases to amaze me! Love this idea, and especially looking forward to the no-sew cover post! Thanks, Diane!


2 Amanda @ House Revivals May 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Love this! Your post brought back memories of my grandmother, who used to do something similar using dry cleaning bags. Thanks for the tutorial :)


3 Laura @Ms Smartie Pants May 24, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Before I read a word I said to myself, she always finds the prettiest fabric!!! Dollar store towels, seriously???? What a smart idea with the bags, my pillow last year got eaten by a critter!


4 Mary Cardini-Anderson May 24, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Your pillow came out beautiful. I love thatyou recycled the store bags and that your pillow is so colorful and and cheerful looking.



5 Sheryll & Critters. May 24, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Pure genius is what you are! I have to reiterate Jessica S.

Just wow!


6 Connie@Connie Nikiforoff Designs May 25, 2012 at 12:55 am

I REALLY like this idea! What a way to get a fabulous outdoor pillow! But with two dogs, a lot of our extra bags get used for “yard cleanup” :-) I do want to try this though. Necessity is the mother of invention! You are great!


7 Johanna May 25, 2012 at 3:00 am

What a clever Idea! Now I have to go and search all my plastic bags to try this out!


8 Kim May 25, 2012 at 7:01 am

What a great idea. The pillow looks wonderful. Thanks for sharing how you did it. I am looking forward to the next post.


9 nicole May 25, 2012 at 10:14 am

That was seriously awesome!!!! Such a great idea..all my favorite things…easy and cheap! Thanks for sharing…:)


10 amy May 25, 2012 at 11:06 am

I am in love! I have just been struggling with spending money on outdoor pillows. I know one or two on the bench on my porch would add a lot of color and comfort, but for all the reasons you mentioned I didn’t feel like it was justified. This is it; I am so excited to go dish towel hunting now! Thanks Diane!


11 barbara May 25, 2012 at 8:41 pm

How FUNNY!! I also stuffed some outdoor pillows for my front porch chair with plastic grocery bags!!! One pillow was made from a 25 cent drawstring purse I got at a garage sale as I liked the fabric ( just tied the handles like a tassel in the front) and the other was an XL sweater sleeve that I stitched closed with contrasting yarn and then tied knots all over it to form a pattern. I did them both in about 20 min when I was going thru a pile of random stuff in “USE it or LOSE it mode!” love your dishtowels!!


12 Kelly @ Eclectically Vintage May 25, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Genius! You had me at no sew – and extra points for using a stapler!

Pinning this!!


13 Gina May 26, 2012 at 6:17 am

I love this idea! I make pillows out of cloth napkins a lot but usually use an insert or fiberfil and they do get nasty if they get left outside. Plastic grocery bags do seem multiply and I am always taking a bag ‘o bags to the recycle bin. Cannot wait to make some pillows for my deck!


14 Susie @Bowdabra May 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Oh my! This is fabulous! You take great pictures of your work, too! Very fun!

We would LOVE for you to stop over and link up this awesome idea in our Crafty Saturday Showcase. The Showcase runs Saturday through Thursday. Then our Designers will pick their top linked up picks and feature them on Friday! Stop over and join in the fun! We have a linky for crafty bloggers and ETSY/Business Bloggers, too!

Have a super weekend,



15 Sherry May 27, 2012 at 11:02 am

What an ingenious idea! We accumulate so many grocery bags when we go food shopping and this is a great way to recycle them!


16 bj May 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I love this idea. Will come back later to see how you made the cover.
Thanks so much.


17 Coastal Femme May 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm


You’re so clever….wonderful idea. I must try this.


18 amy@Life in Pink Hi-Tops May 28, 2012 at 11:04 am

Genius idea!


19 Cussot May 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm

So you don’t have to pay for grocery store bags in the US? We do in Canada and I retrained myself to use cloth bags so well that I occasionally have to buy a plastic bag or two for my kitchen waste. And between composting and recycling programs, even that has shrunk away to almost nothing.

Nevertheless, this is certainly a good way to put excess bags to use.


20 gail May 29, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Diane–your pillow is so cute! I can’t believe you got those towels at the dollar store, I never find anything good there.
I use my bags for “scoopin’ the poop” I’m always having to get donations from friends, cause I shop so little. 60 bags would take forever for me to collect. ;)

great pillow!


21 Paula May 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm

I tried this and it turned out great. However, the pillows are extremely noisy. My family hates them because of the annoying plastic bag sound. Is the noise just what you get for using plastic bags or did I do something wrong?


22 Diane May 30, 2012 at 9:20 am

Hi Paula – The pillows do make a scrunching sound, but the denser you make the pillow the less scrunching you will hear. I would add more bags and keep pressing them down into the outer bag to get a denser pillow to lessen the scrunching sound.


23 mahoo May 30, 2012 at 1:05 am

How cool! I’ll be trying this out for my deck chairs for sure. Thanks.


24 Shauna@ Satori Design for Living May 30, 2012 at 8:50 am

Great idea! You should share this over at Amanda’s outdoor decorating party as part of the Outdoor Extravaganza we’re hosting!


25 Diane May 30, 2012 at 9:22 am

Thanks Shauna – I will check out the outdoor link parties. I am doing another outdoor project in my next post that I will link up also.


26 Holly Lefevre May 31, 2012 at 2:16 am

What a great idea! I always forget to bring my pillows in…so I really need this!


27 Jill Flory May 31, 2012 at 8:36 am

I’m impressed! That is a really clever idea! Filing that one away now!


28 Chara @ Stitching Hearts Together June 1, 2012 at 7:03 pm

The link to the no-sew dishtowel cover seems to just bring me back here… :)


29 Mrs. Handyverger June 2, 2012 at 12:47 pm

What a great idea! I always hesitated to use pillows outside because of my fear that they’d get moldly and mildewy.

Stopping by from the Outdoor Extravaganza. :)


30 MelissaJane June 5, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Diane, I never stop by this blog without being impressed by how creative you are, and how practical, and how clever. You just have the BEST ideas.


31 Diane June 5, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Thanks Melissa. XO


32 bridget b. June 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm

I absolutely LOVE this idea. So sensible and a great money-saver.


33 Megan August 6, 2012 at 7:11 am

Love this idea! Your pillow looks great. Megan


34 June March 14, 2013 at 1:52 pm

What a great idea! If you have sticky back velcro, that could be used instead of staples. (Or better yet, sew on velcro which won’t come off if you decide to wash the pillow case.)


35 TQ Fabulous March 22, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Wonderful! I’ll have to hold back a few bag donations to local charity shop to get the pills made. Thank you!


36 Deniseinark July 20, 2013 at 9:19 am

One suggestion I can offer is to use the heaviest bag you can find for the outer one. I work at Pier 1 and our bags are crazy heavy-candles and dishes get heavy fast. This would be especially helpful if you want the firmest possible pillow. You might even stuff the bags into an old towel before putting them into the outside bag to lessen the noise.


37 Diane Henkler July 20, 2013 at 10:46 am

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your great ideas about using the heavier plastic bags and the towel. They both would help lessen the noise. Will have to shop at Pier One soon :)


38 outdoor bags August 1, 2013 at 3:55 am

Thanks Melissa. XO


39 Jackie August 16, 2013 at 11:48 pm

This is a great idea! I am definitely going to have to try this. Thanks!


40 Kelsey December 16, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Hello! Love this idea, used plastic bags as stuffing for a baby toy for a shower a few years back.. But I’m not sure how it would be in the washing machine?
I’m making another for my future nephew and am wondering if you have washed the pillows whole or if you just make new ones/spot clean when/if they become dirty :)


41 Diane Henkler December 16, 2013 at 4:22 pm

I have never washed the plastic bag inserts with the pillow covers. I remove them first. If you are making a pillow cover – create one edge with a fold over flap so you don’t see the open top edge. A flap will hide it. you can use a pin to hold the flap down if needed. You can also use Velcro on one seam when making a pillow cover so that you can easily remove the pillow insert when the cover needs cleaning. If you don’t think the pillow is going to get super dirty or mildewed, then you can just spot clean.


42 Kelsey December 16, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Thank you so much! I’m making an octopus for him, I’ll leave my sister with little compartments to take the stuffing out if she wants to wash the toy :)


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