How to Make DIY Outdoor Throw Pillows Using Plastic Grocery Bags

How to Make a Weather Resistant Outdoor Throw Pillow on a Budget

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 an outdoor 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.

Why I Like Making Outdoor Pillows Using the Plastic Bags:

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.

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.

outdoor pillow insert with grocery bags

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 outdoor pillow insert form

More Easy to Make Outdoor Pillow and Cushion Ideas:

Follow these links to learn other easy ways to cover pillows and cushions with new fabric.

Plastic bag storage and organizing idea: 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.

Pretty Outdoor pillow made using plastic grocery bags.

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  1. Renee’ McClure says:

    I am using my Walmart bags to make rope so that I can make different items such as crocheted, reusable shopping bags, flower pot covers and drink coasters. I love the idea of using the bags to stuff a pillow. What I’m really wanting to know is have you ever tried cutting up the Walmart bags like into chunks and tried making a pillow with that? When I make the rope, you have to cut the handles off of the bags, then construct your rope. This leaves scraps of the bags behind which I’m trying to find a use for so I don’t throw it away.

    Renee’ McClure

  2. Carmen Soliz says:

    Are they noisy? Any ideas about how to low the noise?

  3. Oliver John says:

    Love this amazing guide of making pillow for outdoor activity. This is a quick way to make pillow you shared. I learned a lot

  4. This is awesome. Thank you so so much team

  5. Josh Edwards says:

    Thanks for your wonderful crafting ideas.

  6. Love this amazing guide of making pillow for outdoor activity. This is a quick way to make pillow you shared. Thank you for this amazing post.

  7. Love this idea. Do you have problems with mold? Does the plastic get enough air to dry if left out in the rain?

  8. This is a terrific idea. I cannot throw anything usable away. Diane, I look forward to your posts & always open it first.
    I have pillows & white rocking chairs on the porch but pillows slide or blow off. I cut strips from a white pillowcase & sewed to each side (could staple or safety pin) then tied them onto the chair. The white ties are not obvious and the pillows are always in place.

  9. I have been doing this for a few years now. I used to pay $40 per cushion. Now i buy the big burlap coffee sacks foe $2 a piece and stuff with grocery bags. I dont bring in the cushions when it rains so the burlap bags usually need replacing every year but the plastic bags are reusable every year and they never mold or mildew!!!

  10. cara mengatasi keputihan says:

    Nice info. I wanto to try it..

  11. Elena M. Cornide says:

    Hi Diane! GREAT idea! Can you put a regular pillow insert surrounded by the plastic bags?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Elaine – Yes of course. That would make for a very nice and waterproof pillow. Great idea. :-)

  12. Awesome! Great idea and it looks simple, I’ll follow your tip. Thank you Diane for sharing!

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

  14. Amanda Berry says:

    Great tips for me. I will follow it to make my own pillow. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Amanda Berry says:

    Great tips for me. I will follow it to make my own pillow.Thank you for sharing.

  16. Really great ! I will follow this to make my own pillow for my kids, Love ur work…keep it up, all d best 

  17. Great idea! Now I know how to deal with a dump of plastic bags in my house. Thank you very much

  18. Nice tip! I definitely follow it to make my own pillow.Thank you for sharing experience!

  19. There is also a way to actually “fuse” plastic bags onto fabric making the fabric waterproof and perfect for outdoor use.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Suzanne – I will have to check into the process to use the bags. Thanks for taking the time to share about it.

  20. Jo Clayton says:

    What a brilliant idea. Thank you Diane for sharing.

  21. I can’t wait to try this. I am getting some outdoor stuff gave to me.

  22. 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

  23. 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 :)

    1. Diane Henkler 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.

      1. 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 :)

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

  25. outdoor bags says:

    Thanks Melissa. XO

  26. 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.

    1. Diane Henkler 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 :)

  27. 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!

    1. 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!

  28. 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.)

  29. Love this idea! Your pillow looks great. Megan

  30. bridget b. says:

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

  31. 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.

  32. Mrs. Handyverger 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. :)

  33. Chara @ Stitching Hearts Together says:

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

  34. Jill Flory says:

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

  35. Holly Lefevre says:

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

    1. 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.

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

  37. 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?

    1. 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.

  38. 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!

  39. 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.

  40. amy@Life in Pink Hi-Tops says:

    Genius idea!

  41. Coastal Femme says:


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

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

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

  44. Susie @Bowdabra says:

    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,


  45. 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!

  46. Kelly @ Eclectically Vintage says:

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

    Pinning this!!

  47. 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!!

  48. 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!

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

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

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

  52. Connie@Connie Nikiforoff Designs says:

    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!

    1. Get friends to save some for you. Gives them a way to recycle theirs through you.

  53. Sheryll & Critters. says:

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

    Just wow!

  54. Mary Cardini-Anderson says:

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


  55. Laura @Ms Smartie Pants says:

    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!

  56. Amanda @ House Revivals says:

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

  57. Jessica S. says:

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

    1. Karen bonney says:


      If you cut the bags up like paper shredding it should take less bags to make a cushion filler and maybe smoother too !

      1. Diane Henkler says:

        Hi Karen – What an excellent idea! Genius. I will try it, I bet the bags would shred just fine in a paper shredder. Thanks for taking the time to share your idea with me. :-)