How to Make a Throw Pillow Cover With a Cloth Napkin

A new use for pretty cloth napkins that you may have stashed away in a drawer or a linen closet. I am a big fan of repurposing and did just this when I wanted to add some spring color in the way of decorative pillows to my living room by repurposing vintage floral linen napkins I haven’t used in a long time.

Spring day out bike riding

Now that the weather has warmed up, I like to get out and walk or ride my bike every day. After the cold winter months, it is so energizing to be outside in the sunshine and see signs of spring in the way of colorful blooms popping up all around.

When I got home yesterday from bike riding on my lavender bike, the beautiful day inspired me to get into spring decorating action.


As soon as I was in the door, I went in search of these vintage floral linen napkins that I knew would allow me to quickly bring a spring decor vibe into the house.

I found them in my china closet buried under dozens of cloth napkins I have – and even pressed them – you know I am in a happy mood if I pressed napkins. :-) I found the napkins years ago at a yard sale.

Bonwit teller Logo
Bonwit Teller Logo

I call them my Bonwit Teller napkins because they remind me of one of my favorite stores I used to love to browse in.

Does anyone remember Bonwit’s and their beautiful logo? 


There was a store in Jenkintown, Pa, not far from my house.  I remember as soon as I got my driver’s license at 16, I could drive there by myself and browse as long as I wanted.

The store was still around in NYC on 5th Avenue when I was attending college, but went out of business in 1990.


These napkins will always remind me of the store and how inspired I felt browsing the aisles viewing all the pretty merchandise, colors, and elegant style the store was famous for.

Vintage Floral Linen Napkins Into Throw Pillows

repurpose old cloth napkins into throw pillow covers

I made throw pillow covers for pillows on my sofa with the napkins along with purple and white check ones. I had them made quickly without the need of a sewing machine.

close up of flower pattern on vintage linen napkin

Making pillow covers like this is something I like to do as it makes it easy and very affordable to change out the look of your throw pillows if you are like me and like to change them out every season.

Repurposed old cloth napkins being used as pillow covers on a sofa.

Pillows make a room look happy and loved.  You know when you are in someone’s home and they have a few pretty throw pillows about that they care about how their home looks.

Purple and white old cloth napkins made into DIY throw pillows.

More Napkin Pillow Inspiration

How-to-make-a-throw pillow-covers-using-cloth-napkins

I few summers ago, I made a pair of coordinating blue and white napkin throw pillows. I used cotton yarn to make this pillow.

How to make inexpensive throw pillow covers using napkins

And used 2 strands of blue embroidery floss to make this napkin pillow.

DIY Cloth Napkin Throw Pillow Making TIPS

  • Cloth napkins are fabric where 75% of the pillow is already made for you since you use cloth napkins already have finished hems. No raw edges to sew.
  • You don’t need a sewing machine, only a large-eye sewing needle. EZ-Peasy basic sewing stitches that many of us learned in Home-Ec class way back when. I made my two pillow covers in an hour while watching a movie.
  • Budget friendly.  You can buy napkins for about $4 a piece or less at places like HomeGoods. Vintage cloth napkins can be found at thrift and antique stores as well as garage sales.
  • When you tire of the cover you can simply snip the stitches and the napkins will come right off ready to be re-used again as a napkin since you didn’t have to alter them at all.
  • Can be made over an existing pillow, (not only a pillow form)  if the napkin is opaque enough to hide the colors of an existing pillow.
  • If you don’t have cloth napkins, you can also use pretty dishtowels, tea towels, or vintage handkerchiefs.

Even Easier: Instant Napkin Covered Pillow

As an option to hand stitching the napkins together around a pillow insert, you can wrap rubber bands or tie a small ribbon at each corner to hold the napkins around the insert or old pillow.

Whipstitched Edge decorative pillow at Kirklands
Decorative stitch: Whip stitch Edge

Instead of using a blanket-stitch as I did, you could also do a simple overcast stitch or whipstitch as shown in the pillow I saw at Kirkland’s.

Tutorial: How to Repurpose Old Cloth Napkins Into Throw Pillow Covers

How to make a pillow cover using cloth napkins

supplies needed:

  • Two 20-inch square napkins.
  • 18″ – 20″ pillow or pillow form
  • 1 skein embroidery floss, yarn, twine, or ribbon in coordinating color to napkins
  • Large-eyed needle
  • Scissors
  • Straight pins
  • Iron and ironing board

Square napkins can vary by a few inches depending on the manufacturer. Most are about 20″ square. If using two different napkins on the front and back to make a coordinating pattern pillow, make sure the napkins are the same size.

If the napkins you have are smaller than 20″, you may need to use a smaller pillow insert.

Time needed: 30 minutes

How to Make a Throw Pillow Cover Using Cloth Napkins

  1. Press Napkins

    Remove pillow or insert. Press napkins with iron if needed to remove creases or wrinkles.

    two folded cloth napkins

  2. Place Napkins on Work Surface

    Place one napkin on work surface right side down. Place pillow form on top and then place second napkin on top right side up, making sure if there is a pattern on the napkin that is is running in the same direction as the bottom napkin.

    Pin the napkins together at each corner using straight pins.  Check to make sure pillow form is a good fit for the size of the napkin.
    If it looks too big, it may be fine since you will be able to smoosh the pillow a little once it is sewn inside the napkins.

    How to make a pillow cover using cloth napkins

  3. Hand Stitch

    Sew 3 sides of the napkins together using a blanket stitch, overcast or whipstitch. I used white yarn for this pillow cover.


  4. How to Sew a Blanket Stitch

    Pull needle through to front at #1. Insert needle at #2 and come out again at #3 holding the thread under the needle as you pull the stitch tight.


  5. Place In Pillow Insert

    After finishing 3 sides, place the sewn together napkins back on work surface and place pillow inside.

    Pin the remaining open side closed and then stitch closed. Remove pins.  Fluff pillow to fit perfectly inside the sewn together napkins.

    how to insert a pillow insert into a DIY napkin pillow cover

pillow cover using cloth napkins and blanket stitch to attach together

I used two strands of embroidery floss to make this cover. Also instead of evenly spacing the stitches around the pillow, I followed the lines on the pattern of the napkin to create unique spacing that coordinates with the napkins.

blue and white napkin covered pillows

Other Creative Ways to Repurpose Old Cloth Napkins or Old Linens

As you can see cloth napkins just don’t have to be used at the dinner table. There are many ways to repurpose old cloth napkins or even new cloth napkins.

  • Decoupage them to cover books to use as decorative lifts for lamps and vases.
  • Cover storage boxes using them to create pretty storage on an open shelf.
  • Stained napkins can be cut up and used to make fabric crafts like small sachet pouches.
  • Sew a few together to make a table runner.
  • Frame them to use as wall art.

Do you have any pretty napkins hidden away in a drawer or closet in your house that you could make a few throw pillow covers to add a splash of new color or pattern to your sofa, chair, or bed?

Vintage linen repurposing idea using old cloth napkins

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  1. Thank you for memories of Bonwit Teller!! I went to school in Boston while the store still inhabited a magnificent historical building. I didn’t have an extra dime to buy anything, but I stopped by just to browse & dream, when I could. I also remember attending a Bridal
    Show there when a dear friend
    got engaged. Everything was so beautiful and elegant !! We need more stores like Bonwit’s – such a wonderful shopping experience !!!!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Noel – I agree we need more stores like Bonwits. Most stores today all look the same and sell the same merchandise.

  2. I love those napkins and they make a beautiful pillow! You look so cute with your lavender bike and that looks like a great road to bicycle on. Happy Spring!

  3. Lovely idea Diane – I am going to try it. I do have a lot of napkins, but not as lovely as your violets.

  4. Thank you for the napkin/pillow idea! Those pillows are so pretty!

  5. Great, simple idea 💜. Violets are my favorite…what a gorgeous pattern!!

  6. Just lovely, thank you

  7. I love this idea. Great quick and easy project.

  8. Peggy McDonald says:

    Hi, I just love your napkin covered cushions and the different colored yarn you used on the floral pillow. Very clever. Thanks so much for your great ideas. I need something to inspire me today. Kind regards, Peggy

  9. Lisa Brown says:

    Diane, I remember Bonwits! I have a little china egg shaped trinket box that came from there, back in the 70’s. Violets are a favorite flower, so l loved their logo. I even carried violets in my wedding bouquet.

  10. Oh, I miss Bonwit Teller in NYC!
    Sometimes I like to crochet a scallop or other design right into the blanket stitch for a different look as well. Have never made a pillow with napkins, though, so this is a great idea.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Alison – That is a great idea to crochet a design onto the pillow. It would add a nice texture against an upholstered chair.

  11. Such pretty pillowcases!!! I’ll be on the lookout for napkins this size at outdoor sales! Thanks so much!

  12. Those napkins/pillows are gorgeous! I think I am going to look at some of the napkins in my stash and give this a try. I don’t own a sewing machine, but the thought of hand stitching them together sounds very relaxing.

  13. I always enjoy your posts but today’s with its Bonwit Teller reference warmed my heart. My mother and I would often go to the center city Philadelphia store, where I modeled in the children’s department. What a lovely store and special times. Thanks for the smiles.

  14. Your violet pillow is SO pretty! Violets are one of my favorite harbingers of spring. I also loved Bonwit’s—my mom bought my first homecoming dance dresses there, & I still remember feeling so sophisticated.😉 I love your pretty lavender bike, too, Diane.

  15. Peppy Sclafani says:

    Hi Diane, I’m realizing that you have to find the right sized napkins for the size pillow forms sold (brainstorm, huh?!) I was thinking of using travel sized pillow forms to make these covers, but I doubt I’ll find dish towels that would fit those. Hmm….

  16. Melissa@ElegantlyCountry says:

    I love of the blue in these pillows just pops! I also love that these pillows can be done without breaking the bank.

  17. Another great idea and tutorial. I love blue and white also. Will definitely be making some new throw pillows.Keep sharing your good posts.

  18. Elaine-in-Baltimore says:

    Love this!

  19. It seems the color of your pillow is suitable to mine. Thanks for sharing

  20. Diane, thanks SO much for sharing this. At a time when we are reusing and repurposing, and very much wanting to exit “consumption madness”, the idea of using napkins in this way really is genius. When I have purchased expensive throw pillows or spent hours sewing them I ‘ve felt compelled to live with them for a long time. Your idea is freeing – new throw pillows are possible often and, when disassembled, become napkins for the dinner table!

  21. Diane, this is such a good idea!!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Gail. XO

  22. It’s not limited to men… I don’t get throw pillows, either! :D But I can’t stand overly stuffed pillows, so maybe if throw pillows were flatter I’d be able to tolerate them better… for the most part, they’re just a pain. But these ARE awfully pretty, and this was such a fabulous tutorial that I’m tempted to try some out! Using napkins and whipstitches–genius!!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Mariele –

      Over the years I have edited the number down to 3. I move them one to a chair when needed. When I saw the whipstitched pillow at Kirkland’s I was immediately reminded of a pillow to sit on that I made in Girl Scouts. It was the project where I learned to sew the blanket stitch. My mind associates stuff like this to come up with new ideas. :-)

  23. This is a great idea to add the blanket stitch, for Christmas I bought placemats that were 2 sided, had a front and back panel. I unstitched a bit at the bottom, stuffed them with Polyfil and then restitched them by hand. I found a nice variety of them at great prices. They are not very big after stuffing them but do make a cute accent pillow.

    I noticed your beautiful clock from Kirkland’s on the wall. Do you love it? Do you recommend it?


    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Dianne –

      Great idea to use placemats to make accent pillows. I bet they looked very festive for the holidays. I love the Kirkland’s clock. It runs on a battery that I have had to change once since owning the clock. If you have the space and like the styling of the clock, I would highly recommend it. They do have a smaller version of it also. So does Wayfair.

  24. Norma Rolader says:

    Oh love love the blanket stitch on the pillows and thank you for sharing and giving inspiration to try

  25. Phyllis E says:

    Thanks so much, Diane! What a timely tip, for me at least, as I was about to attempt turning a rag rug (recently bought on clearance sale) into an accent pillow cover! I wasn’t sure if my sewing machine could handle stitching through such thick material, so I think that your idea of using the blanket stitch will be the perfect solution. Besides, it helps give the outside edge a more decorative touch, for much less money and fuss than buying trim. I will have to do the sewing while watching a good movie (or home decorating show)!
    I love the idea of using napkins, too! I am going to have to be on the look out for some that would work for my color scheme.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Phyllis –

      I made pillow covers using rag rugs for my oldest daughters college dorm room about 5 years ago. They were thick and very hard to sew, but doable with some determination. You can see it in the last photo of this post:

      They looked nice on her bed. Hand stitching the napkins together with a large decorative stitch is soooo much easier than have to sew trim or cording. :-)

  26. Good needlework! I couldn’t even see the blanket stitches on the blue & white plaid!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Helen – Thanks – I tried to work/hide the stitches into the plaid design. :-)

  27. Another great idea! I was just looking today at an old, but good quality, throw pillow and debating about how much I would be willing to spend for a new cover. I have many pretty cloth napkins I have bought over the years and rarely used. I’m definitely going to try this!

  28. Love this ! I have a lot of napkins that I can use for this!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Sarah – And the best part of using your napkin stash, once you tire of the pillow the napkins can still be used again as napkins. :-)

  29. You’re a genius! I will keep this post.
    Thank you.

  30. Just love the post! Thank you Diane for such a great idea, easy instructions and the encouragement that I can do this….. Blessings.

  31. Another great idea and tutorial. I love blue and white also. Will definitely be making some new throw pillows. Haven’t done the blanket stitch in a very long time. Sounds fun!

  32. Shelly Mathes says:

    Thank you Diane. I think I might be able to do tnis, ha. I am heading to the stores, lookout. I love those pillows by the way, so pretty. Let the imagination run wild!

  33. What a great idea! Throw pillows can be so expensive and the if you want to change out for the season, even with just buying covers it can get pretty costly. I definitely will keep this in mind!