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How to Make a Throw Pillow Cover With a Cloth Napkin

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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.

Wood-Table-Refinishing-Tutorial

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? 

How-to-strip-a-wood-finish-tutorial

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.

Pretty-Napkins

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.

    How-to-sew-two-napkins-to-make-pillow

  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.

    how-to-sew-a-blanket-stitch

  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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41 Comments

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

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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!