Napkin Pillowcase Tutorial – How to Create Quality Pillowcases Using Cloth Napkins

A tutorial for sewing a throw pillow cover using cloth napkins. A napkin pillowcase is an inexpensive way to have more throw pillow options.

napkin pillowcase

Throw pillows are a crucial accessory when it comes to decorating a bedroom or living space. The right pillow provides a pop of color to a neutral space. Or a different texture that creates interest. The problem with throw pillows is that they are sometimes expensive. And they take up a lot of storage space. I prefer purchasing throw pillow covers because they are easier to store. But pillow covers can be just as expensive as a whole pillow. A great alternative is making your own pillow covers.

Now, before you start to panic about your lack of sewing skills. Let me tell you a little secret. Cloth dinner napkins are typically square. And many of them are 18″ x 18.” Which are the typical dimensions for a standard throw pillow. If you can sew 5 straight lines, then you can turn a napkin into a pillowcase. A napkin pillowcase is less expensive than a standard throw pillowcase, easy to make, and easy to store. Plus, a napkin pillowcase is more unique and often times more durable than a standard pillow cover.

I sewed my first napkin pillowcase many years ago. It was after we made our first big furniture purchase, a large sectional. I desperately wanted to replace the standard throw pillows that the sofa came with, but we didn’t have the money to purchase a bunch of new throw pillows. While at Target I spotted some fun red floral napkins on clearance. I thought they would make fun pillow covers! So I bought the napkins, then headed to the craft store for zippers. I decided to use zippers so I could easily swap out the covers whenever I wanted to. I used the pillow inserts from the pillows the sofa came with. So I created two new throw pillows for less than $5! See them in a 2014 living room tour!

Photo from 2014

I made that first set of napkin pillow covers almost 10 years ago and they still look great! They are machine washable and incredibly durable. They have to be with the kids using them to play the floor is lava… Durability and the quality of the napkin are definitely important aspects to consider when making these pillowcases. I always check the cloth napkins at Target, just to see if anything fun catches my eye.

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diy pillow cover

How To Make a Cloth Napkin Pillowcase


  • Set of 4 cloth napkins
  • 2 14″ zippers (Pick a color that coordinates with the napkins)
  • Sewing pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread (Pick a color that blends into the napkins)
use napkins to sew pillowcase

Sewing a Napkin Pillowcase

The very first step is to wash the cloth napkins. Washing the napkins helps rinse out any extra dyes in the fabric. And if the napkins shrink, it’s better they do it before you sew the pillowcases, not after. Once the pillowcases are washed and dried, it’s time to start sewing.

Lay two cloth napkins over each other with the exterior of the fabric on the inside. You are sewing the napkins inside out to start with. Line up all of the edges of the napkins. Place sewing pins every 4-5 inches to keep the fabric from shifting while you sew.

sew pillow cover

Sew a straight stitch with a sewing machine along three of the four napkin edges. You need to leave the fourth side open to attach the zipper.

A Note on Sewing Machines

Most home decor sewing projects, like simple pillowcases or hemming curtains, don’t require a fancy sewing machine. You just need a basic machine meant for sewing and mending. I have a Brother LS2125i Portable Sewing Machine. This machine costs less than $100. It’s perfect for basic sewing needs. Plus, it is simple to pack up in between uses.

Brother sewing machine

Attaching the Zipper to the Pillowcase

If you’re a novice sewer, like me, it’s easiest to use a zipper that completely unzips into two separate pieces. Typically, these are zippers meant for coats or jackets. But they work just fine for a pillow cover.

Start by pinning the zipper to the fourth side of the pillowcase. Keep it zipped to ensure the zipper lines up! Since the cover is still inside out, just lay the zipper directly over the fabric. Then, unzip the zipper completely. Attach each side using a straight stitch on the sewing machine.

zippered pillowcase

Complete the fourth side of the cover by sewing together the fabric on either end of the zipper.

Once the zipper is attached, unzip the pillowcase and un-inside out it. Then stuff your pillow form gently inside. Pillow forms are available for purchase at most sewing and craft stores. You can also cannibalize throw pillows you already own by removing their inserts.

Washing Napkin Pillowcases

Napkin pillowcases are machine washable, which makes them so easy to clean! Simply remove the pillow insert from inside the cover. Place the cover in a mesh laundry bag and wash on the gentle cycle in cold water. I highly recommend using the mesh laundry bag and the gentle cycle to protect the stitching on the pillow cover. Since the stitching was done on a domestic machine at home it may not hold up to several vigorous wash cycles. As I mentioned, some of my napkin pillow covers are almost 10 years old. I’ve never had issues with loose stitching or rips washing them this way.

Once the wash cycle is complete, hang the pillowcase dry. Since most cloth napkins are made of cotton, they make shrink in the dryer or on a warm wash cycle. Avoid shrinking by using cold wash cycles and not placing the pillowcases in the dryer. Use a steamer or low heat iron to smooth out any wrinkles. Then place the pillow insert back into the pillowcase and return it to your couch or bed.

diy throw pillow

Creating a napkin pillowcase is a simple and inexpensive way to change up your throw pillows. Many stores rotate their cloth napkin selection seasonally, so there is no limit to the type of pillowcases you could create. These pillow covers are simple to store. Roll them up in a basket in the linen closet. Or simply fold and stack them on a shelf. Their durability and stain resistance make them create for households with pets or children. And of course, they are more affordable than most quality throw pillow covers.

Next time you’re out looking for home decor, check out the cloth napkin selection and try making your own napkin pillowcase!


  1. I am absolutely fascinated by this! I’ve never heard of anything quite so creative as turning cloth napkins into pillowcases. What an amazing way to save money – especially if you have a sewing machine handy! I love this idea. And the pillowcases are so cute!

  2. Oh my gosh, they turned out so cute!! What a great idea! Throw pillows can be *pricey* so I love this alternative.


  3. I have never heard of using cloth napkins as pillowcases— great idea! Pillows and cases can be soo pricey so this is genius to get a cute cover without the cost!

  4. Ooh wow, what a great idea! I have a couple of old cloth napkins I can do this DIY sewing project with! Gonna try it this weekend!

  5. I haven’t seen this style of sewing project before and I love it! I haven’t done sewing in a long time and I miss it!

  6. This is such an amazing idea and the design possibilities are endless! Thank you for sharing!

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