Placemat Pillow DIY

I am always looking for quick and easy ways to update my home. By keeping major pieces of upholstery neutral, pillows can be the catalyst for a whole new look.  I have found that a simple change of pillow covers is an easy way to embrace trends, add color, and give rooms a fresh look.

I noticed some time ago that many placemats were roughly the same size as a lumbar style pillow.  I realized that by opening up one seam on a lined placemat, a pillow form could be inserted and the seam re-stitched, resulting in a lovely custom-made pillow.

I found this placemat on clearance at Target for a mere $3.88.  I loved the subtle herringbone pattern and the elaborate crewelwork embroidery.  The colors just happened to fit perfectly with my current living room color scheme. Importantly, it was lined with a backing that separated from the front which made it possible to open up a seam and insert a pillow form. Naturally I snatched it up!

After considerable research, I’ve found that Crate and Barrel has the best variety of pillow forms at terrific prices. I got my 12″ X 18″ feather/down pillow insert for only $9.99.  They have the same size down-alternative pillow for just $9.00.

Here’s what you’ll need for this project:

  • Lined placemat
  • Pillow form
  • Seam ripper
  • Pins
  • Sewing needle
  • Thread
  • Scissors

First measure your placemat.  Mine measured 14″ X 20″ so I decided to find a form that was slightly smaller than those dimensions because I prefer a soft mold-able pillow.  If you prefer a firmer pillow, just use a larger pillow insert.  I ended up purchasing a 12″ X 18″ form which allows for easy sewing as well as possible shrinkage of fabric when the placemat is eventually washed.

Using a seam ripper, remove any top stitching first.

In most cases, the placemat will have a row of top stitching around the entire edge of the pillow.  You’ll first need to remove that in order to get to the seam inside.  Once you have removed the top stitching, firmly pull the fabric apart at the seam and use your seam ripper to find a stitch that you can cut.  Once you have the first stitch or two opened, it becomes easy to cut the other stitches and open up the seam.

After you have removed the top stitching, pull the fabric apart at the seam and begin opening up the inner seam.

After you have opened the seam enough to fit the pillow inside, insert your pillow.  Line up the front and back sides of the placemat opening and secure the edges together with pins.  Then use a blind stitch to hand sew the two sides back together. This will hold the opening together securely and the stitches will be “invisible” from the outside of the pillow.   (If you’re not sure how to do a blind stitch, here is a great tutorial.

You can also sew the opening together by top stitching on a sewing machine, but if you do, you’ll need to be able to sew a straight line very close to the edge, which can be a little tricky.  This is why I prefer hand stitching. If you do choose to top stitch on a sewing machine, I’d encourage you not to overstuff the placemat as it will be difficult to keep the edges together as you machine sew.

This is an extremely simple project that even novice sewers can do.  Keep an eye out for inexpensive placemats that you can convert into pillows throughout the year.  It is easy to undo the seam and pop the pillow form into another placemat, which allows you to change up your decor as the seasons change.






2 thoughts on “Placemat Pillow DIY

  1. Very clever! I had never thought of using placemats for pillows. I ‘ve always loved the idea of accent pillows, however, and during our travels I found that buying a decorative pillowslip (or cover) sans the pillow was an excellent way to return home with a light-weight, easy-to-pack, usable memento of the trip. Over the years, I accumulated colorful pillow covers from a variety of places, and also received them as gifts from family members who traveled. I used to array a whole bunch of them on a circular white leather coach in my last house. But eventually they seemed to overwhelm the space. Now I prefer more muted patterns. Still in use are a couple of Hmong pillow covers in unobtrusive shades, all beautifully hand stitched (I lived in an area of the Central Coat with a sizable Hmong population. ) Thanks for another interesting blog.

    1. Your comment prompted me to do a little research on the Hmong. I was unfamiliar with this culture and wanted to see what their textiles looked like. Their needlework is beautiful (and apparently in danger of becoming a lost art form), but I ended up learning a whole lot more. Another sad story of refugees created by war. They were settled mostly in CA, MI and WI so little wonder I did not come into contact with them in VA. Thank you for prompting the history lesson.

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