Turn Rag Rugs Into Heavy-Duty Floor Pillows

Learn how to turn inexpensive rugs into large, sturdy cushions. 

I realized while writing a story on beautiful home accents that building my own stash of durable floor pillows was going to be a mandatory course of action in making our new home super cozy.

The best part about creating your own set of pillows is that you can choose a pillow form and a few yards of fabric and — wham, bam — sew yourself a simple little pillow. Easy as pie!

But what if you want something that you can toss around, sit on and step on? That requires a bit more thought, which is why I turned to making DIY floor pillows using heavy-duty area rugs.

The common rag rug is an exceptional piece. It’s durable, colorful and inexpensive — the trifecta of what you want (or what I want) when it comes to a home decor piece that needs to last through a lot of mileage. Floor pillows need to be large enough to be sat on. Large enough to serve as a backrest against a wall. Large enough to substitute as a tabletop in a pinch for a child’s tea party.

For mine, I chose two $7 rag rugs from IKEA. Each was 24″ x 35″ which is conveniently just large enough to accommodate a Gosa Aster pillow form from the same store, also priced at just $7. Here’s a tip: It’s always good to find a form that’s just a little bit larger than your casing. It helps to create more volume inside the pillow. It’s like they were meant to be together all along.

The thing with rag rugs over conventional fabric though? They’re heavy. Too heavy for the regular sewing machine, and even too heavy for a conventional needle and thread. You need something heavy-duty to sew them, and that’s where you’ll want to use an awl to hand-sew lock stitches. Master the awl, and you’ll feel like you can conquer the world!

Using lock stitching along three sides of the cushion worked well. For the fourth side, the side that I had to cut in order to make my pillow a 24″ square, I used the same heavy-duty cord and the needle of the awl to pierce and bind the fabric. Cutting a rag rug and disrupting the seams is a lot like tearing pages from a composition notebook. It makes the whole thing want to fall apart.

To remedy this potential disaster, I went very slowly and sewed looping stitches, almost like spiral binding a notebook. Yes, lots of notebook references, here — pillow making is very much like back-to-school season, apparently. With stitches every few millimeters to grasp the last three rows of rug together, this created a very heavy, strong and intertwined hem that has held up very well, even to the jump tests (i.e. where I jump on the pillow to make sure the seams remain intact).

How often can you find durable, cushy, attractive floor pillows for $21? That’s right: not very often. But you can make them easily with a few simple area rugs and a pillow insert. Happy pillow making!

Simple Sew and No-Sew Pillows, Cushions and Toys

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No-Sew Whatsoever

Here is a quick, simple way to make pillows without having to learn to sew. These pretty cushions were put together using fabric glue and an iron. No one ever has to know that you didn’t spend hours at the sewing machine.

©Kara Hill

Cottage Style

Vintage quilt squares found at an antique fair are fastened onto coordinating fabric to make a set of charming window seat pillows.

©Joanne Palmisano

Upcycle Old T-Shirts

Kids sometimes have trouble parting with favorite T-shirts after they outgrow them. Instead of getting rid of the old tees, upcycle them into decorative throw pillows for their bedroom or playroom. Get the step-by-step instructions >>

©Jess Abbott

Memory Foam

Turn your couch cushions into a photo album, use iron-on transfers to add family photos to throw pillows.

©Joanne Palmisano

Stuffed Toy for Baby

If you are new to sewing, this is a great starter project. It requires only a basic straight stitch and you can use old scrap fabric or upcycled clothes. Get the step-by-step instructions >>

©Kara Hill

Cute Monster

Kathryn Johnson offers a charming menagerie of plush monster characters at her Etsy shop, Dust in My Eye, all recycled from unloved sweaters. This fellow, called “Battyfly,” is crafted from an old wool sweater stuffed with fiberfill; his expressive face and diminutive wings are made from cotton fabric and buttons.

©Kathryn Johnson

Easy Chair Cushions

Re-covering your dining chairs is probably the easiest and one of the most inexpensive ways to get a new look in your dining room or kitchen. Go for a durable fabric that can be wiped clean. Keep in mind that a random pattern is easier than stripes or chevrons because you don’t have to worry about the design lining up.

©Janell Beals

Stuffed Rattlesnake Toys

Beginners can handle this simple toy sewing project, says Becky Hutcherson, who sells her rattlesnakes on Etsy.com at The Boomin Granny. She stuffs a single tie with poly filler, glues or whipstitches the opening shut, and then adds button eyes, a ribbon tongue and a “rattler,” usually a plastic bottle filled with beans. If you’re making the toy for a child, she says, be sure to stitch on the accents securely rather than gluing.

Photo By: Picasa ©Becky Hutcherson

Sweater Pillow

Etsy shop owner Denise DuBois (House on the Hill Quilts) loves making pillows from her old sweaters and her stash of fabric remnants and notions. “Cotton sweaters work the best for me,” she says. “They don’t stretch as much as polyester or wool and, best of all, they won’t pill!” Cable-knit sweaters in particular make smart-looking contemporary designs. Here, DuBois machine-quilted a panel cut from an old sweater to a piece of cotton batting and some fabric backing so that the pillow retains its shape.

Photo By: unknown ©Denise DuBois

Slipcover Pillow

Instead of purchasing new decorative pillows, make simple, no-sew slipcovers and cover the old ones with new fabric that suits your updated decor. Get the step-by-step instructions >> 

Cylinder Cushion

Instead of covering your bed with a pile of throw pillows, try the simple, fuss-free look of a single bolster. They’re easy to make and provide comfy support when working in bed or just curling up with a good book.

©Marian Parsons

Felt for Color and Personality

To add a memorable pop of color, felt a favorite old sweater or baby blanket, cut out an unusual shape and stitch it onto a plain pillow.

Upcycled T-Shirt

Even when never worn, some old t-shirts are just too precious to throw away. Gather up those tees and upcycle them into an easy, no-sew pillows. See how easy it is >> 

Tie It Up

Perfect for decorating on a whim, these no-sew pillows will give any room a polished look. Get the knot pillow instructions >>

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