How to Make an Outdoor Pillow Insert Using Plastic Grocery Bags

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.




  1. Paula says

    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?

    • says

      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.

    • says

      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.

  2. says

    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. :)

  3. MelissaJane says

    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.

  4. June says

    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.)

  5. TQ Fabulous says

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

    • TQ Fabulous says

      Update- thanks to your tutorial, I was able to make the plastic bag pillow insert. But I cheated and bought two shiny dollar store pillow covers. They have been on my bench for a year , all seasons, now a still look new! Thanks again!

  6. Deniseinark says

    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.

    • says

      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 :)

  7. says

    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 :)

    • says

      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.

      • says

        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 :)

  8. Bonnie says

    We made floor pillows stuffed with plastic bags as a summer project with my kids a few years ago. Just last week we made outdoor pillows using clearance sale cloth shower curtains. We’ve stuffed those with plastic bags and some ugly outdoor pillows we found at goodwill. We made 10 pillows in various sizes and shapes from one shower curtain

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