This Pillow Needs a Serious Makeover!

A pillow in need
of a makeover.

When I moved into my house almost four years ago, I was going from a one-bedroom city apartment to a full-size suburban home, and while I had collected and inherited some nice items over the years, I didn't have enough furniture to fill a home, especially the den where we would do most of our living.

I quickly went to Route 110 on Long Island, which is filled with furniture stores from one end to the other. Historically, this miles-long strip dates back to post-World War II, when all the GIs came back from overseas to settle down with their sweethearts, and the Long Island housing market exploded.

After painstakingly canvassing every store on that strip, I picked out a couch that was not too light and not too dark, and in fact almost exactly matched the color of the fur of my two golden retrievers: golden beige. I would like to say that I am very strict with my dogs and never allow them on the furniture, but that would be a lie. I have however trained them to only climb onto certain seating. I am pretty impressed by their ability to distinguish between formal and casual furniture, even if my mother is not. She spends much of her visits trying to mend their ways, and they try to humor her as best they can.

Matching golden beige or not, time (and my dogs) have had their way with the couch and it's time to change things up. I'm not really up to making a slipcover myself, and I don't have the budget to hire someone to do it, so I'll probably find an inexpensive neutral and washable cover.

Which brings me to the pillows.

I have never liked the pillows that came with the couch. But back then they were new and somewhat modern, and friends and family argued ferociously to keep them as is, in spite of my instant instinct to cover them. Fast forward a few years, and they aren't so modern and are a bit worse for wear and tear. I don't think anyone would defend these pillows now, and it's time to recover them.

Pillows are my most favorite decorating tool (closely followed by painting). For me, there is no easier way to change the look of a room and use a favorite fabric swatch at the same time, than by recovering the pillows. The problem is that I have looked at this dotted fabric for so long that I can't imagine it any other way. Any ideas on how I can recover it? This pillow needs a serious makeover!

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Let me know how you would revive this pillow if it were yours. I'm all ears!

Happy stitching!




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For the Home, Pillows

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

49 thoughts on “This Pillow Needs a Serious Makeover!

  1. Find a coordinating solid fabric(s) that you love. Cut up the existing pillow fabric and used that fabric for the petals of a flower or as part of a simple 4-patch, 9-patch, log cabin? That’s what I would do!

  2. i would stitch around the circles using fab stitches like buttonhole, chain or lazy daisy and then add buttons. You can co- ordinate or go for brights and completely change the look.

  3. I think I’d make an envelope style cover, with a nice button to hold the flap down – you can lean on the other side if it sticks out as lot 🙂

    Then you could change and change again as the fancy took you.

    Kath the Indecisive in Scotland 🙂

  4. My favorite way is to make a few and change them seasonally. In my home I have a couple pillows I custom appliquéd to match decore. But, the ones I love
    are those with changeable covers made from favorite old soft knitted vests and sweaters. Because it is spring and one sweater is pale yellow, light weight and matches decore it was the perfect item to recycle. I made 13 years ago with hook and loop closure so it slips on and off easily. Washes well also.

  5. All you need to do is take your dogs with you to the quilt/fabric store and match up a lovely print to accent the neutral color of the couch, or choose several prints that coordinate and make additional pillows. While you’re in pillow mode, make some seasonal ones as well. Just make sure to either use a zipper or flap seam method so you can easily remove the covers for cleaning.

  6. Buy some really super soft leather use an embroidery machine and embroider a design on the front. Complete the pillow. They are super sturdy and are beautiful. You can make it to fit your personality.

  7. That pillow could be spiced up with a row of homemade pom pom border, with pom poms alternating the various colors of the dots, perhaps ranging in size as the dots do too? If it were me, I would make a giant fabric covered button to attach to the center, in one of the darker colors, then when attaching it, I would pull it tight to pull the pillow top in towards the center, giving it a bit more dimension. The pillow certainly has some life left in it with a few little tweaks. Let us know what you end up doing with it!!

  8. Since I think pillows should be comfy, if the pillow itself is soft and not hard as a rock, I think I would go for a microfiber, minkee, or velour depending on how formal you want to be. For embellishment I’d go for a soft fabric flower along one edge of the pillow. I wouldn’t use beads or other heavy embellishment because they are uncomfortable for those little naps on the couch.

  9. Go Chevron ! It’s a great comtemporary look yet will co-ordinate with so much else. It’s a style that will transcend as a classic as well, so two or three years from now it will still be current. Have fun !!

  10. Since your favorites things to do are painting and sewing, why don’t you fabric paint your dogs on fabric and stitch into pillow covers for the old pillows? You did state that the dogs were allowed to get onto the sofa, so proclaim it as such. This way, too, your mom won’t be so ‘confused’ about whether or not the dogs can get on it.

  11. Since your favorites things to do are painting and sewing, why don’t you fabric paint your dogs on fabric and stitch into pillow covers for the old pillows? You did state that the dogs were allowed to get onto the sofa, so proclaim it as such. This way, too, your mom won’t be so ‘confused’ about whether or not the dogs can get on it.

  12. If it goes with the rest of your decor, how about making large (3-4″) 3-D stacked circles graduating to small at the top, using the same colorations but adding texture with fraying, edging, etc. Then top off the design with glitz somewhere: hot-fix crystals. That’s my 2 cents worth…..spend it wisely. Good luck.

  13. The (pillow) world is your oyster! With a solid, neutral sofa you can choose any color or design that you like. I would definitely want my favorite bold colors showcased with a big floral applique for summer months and a warm patchwork of felted wool squares for winter. I agree the covers should be easily removed for cleaning and interchanging- with button or velcro closure.

  14. I would find some great drapery fabric remnants, and use different coordinating prints on either side. Or piece one side and use a coordinating fabric for the “back”. Then you could flip the pillow over for a different look. Joann’s had their sample swatches for $2 each the other day, and I wondered how I could use them for the pillows on my couch! Alas, I already have too much fabric and too many projects waiting in the wings. Good luck!

  15. Chevron prints seems all the rage now. It’s far from dots and not boring stripes. I’m tempted to try this out on a pillow, as well. I may even do it quilt style!

  16. Make new zippered covers with a spring/ summer print on one side and a solid, coordinating microfiber on the other. Make piping with the same or another coordinating microfiber to insert between the two. Add a couple of oversized pillows (extra comfy for “couch-time”) done likewise to change it up whenever the mood strikes.

    Victoria K.

  17. You have a neutral backround so why not add some color. Pick up some bright colors in some art work or accessories you might have in the room. With the dogs, it might be fun to do the pillows in two different colors, one for the front and the other for the back and then pick on of the colors or a third color for a welt trim. When considering colors and material of course you want something that is going to collect fur too much. Goldens are so gorgeous, but as you know, they do tend to shed. Just have fun!

  18. You have a neutral backround so why not add some color. Pick up some bright colors in some art work or accessories you might have in the room. With the dogs, it might be fun to do the pillows in two different colors, one for the front and the other for the back and then pick on of the colors or a third color for a welt trim. When considering colors and material of course you want something that is going to collect fur too much. Goldens are so gorgeous, but as you know, they do tend to shed. Just have fun!

  19. I would de-beige the couch with a brick red enveloppe that seam to be your accent color (red circles), or any bright color that would fit in your decor. i would put the accent on the fabric (dupion silk, paisley motif?) and use ans hidden zipper for easy wash up.

  20. If I wanted to keep the color scheme, I would criss-cross it diagonally with bias tape in the mos salient colors, red, brown and white, for instance.

  21. if you don’t want to just “slipcover” the pillow with something completely different:
    -randomly turn the circles into the center of handstitched fabric flowers in fabric that complements the colors you want to emphasize; allow some of the circles to show through, but especially on the edges, let the flowers dominate
    -take grosgrain ribbon, stitch down diagonally about 1/3 from the top (wide enough to cover one of the “lines” of circles), then add buttons (or fabric flowers) along the ribbon that complement the circle theme’
    -create a really big (covers 2/3 of the pillow) ruffled flower using concentric circles of different colors that complement the ones in the pillow, with a big button in the center that reflects the concentric circle theme.

  22. RE your pillow: check out Jude Hill’s spiritcloth blog, she has made some wonderful pillows using repurposed tapestries and embroidered fabrics, just sewing them over the front of an already-made pillow. Her work is to die for. Another idea from Jude is to weave torn strips into a surface textile and embellish it from that point. She also has pictures on flickr of some of her projects. Full disclosure: I am currently taking an on-line class from her, and am a huge admirer of her textile techniques. Enjoy!

  23. I would trade it to me for my ‘need a makeover’ pillows. I happen to love yours! Mine on the other hand…………

    You sure have lots of great ideas to consider! Fun!

  24. I sew for several decorators and have sewn many pillows. I’d ask myself is the pillow worth salvaging? If you don’t like pillow, is the form inside down/feather mix or a poly form? If it’s down you can reuse it. If it is a poly form, over time the pillow will look old & tired. Poly forms do not keep their shape & the poly fibers ball up inside. If the form is not down throw the form out buy new forms or donate the pillow to Goodwill.
    I would pick some contrasting fabrics that coordinate with your sofa and room. Most of the pillows I have made are either 22″ or 24″ for sofas. You could make 2 of each size depending on the length of your sofa.
    As for the pillow, I have a template that I use so the corners are not real pointed and don’t look dog eared. You can make a pattern easy enough with a piece of craft paper & modify the corners to prevent the dog eared look. I would put cording on 22″ pillows either made or purchased. I would make a small 1/2″ flange to put on the 24″ pillows. I put in invisible zippers in all the pillows that I make along with cotton lining. The lining makes a nicer pillow & the zipper makes for easy removal of the form for cleaning, etc. Hope this helps & good luck!!

  25. The remedy would depend on how you chose to use the pillow. For a washable pillow for the car, I would probably dye it something that would dramatically change its appearance. For just a bit of jazzing up, I’d join the circles with narrow, brightly-coloured silk/polyester ribbon. You might even applique something in and around the circles. Finally, you could make a grid around selected circles or sew something interesting in the circles to join with something else….and …..Sue

  26. Lose the dots, your first instinct was correct. They are awful!!

    While chevrons are big (and small) this year, I would go for something that wouldn’t be dated immediately. I love the look of a big print like pale leaves on an even lighter background with a single line of embroidery (or couched yarn) scribing a line with outlined leaves up one side. Use a darker, coordinating fabric on the back. Use the same leaf print and the coordinate to make an “envelope” pillow. A third pillow could be the coordinate with the big leaves cut out and appliqued on the front.

    How many pillows do you have to recover? If a lot find another fabric that is a contrast and fits the “theme” you have going. Make each pillow different. What fun! Love making pillows.

  27. From working in a furniture factory, I learned that ‘arching’ the seams ever so slightly so the length at the corners is shorter than the center by about 1/4 to 1/2 inch will keep corners from apprearing empty and flopping around. Piping edges keeps square shapes looking sharp. I make a muslin or other cotton cover over the stuffing for stability, then put a zipper in the decor fabric. cover. I’d take a paint swatch the matches the couch and look at show homes to find a modern color I love. And use a sticky roller to remove dog hair. Febreeze can remove old smells.

  28. It all depends upon the colour of the cover that you get for your couch, as well as the look you want in your room. It has nothing to do with the existing design on the pillows now. I have some small and medium pillows on my couch that I have recovered 3 times – different every time. The pillows are just forms.

    If you cannot see past the existing design, and the way the pillows look now, remove them. Then look at your couch with a new cover and your room in its entirety from a distance, ie a doorway. You want to see the whole picture, and then what you would like to accent – a certain colour in a painting or a vase or something else that catches your eye.

    Then go to the fabric store to look for fabric that brings out the new aspect you are looking to bring into your design scheme, and give the pillows new life.

  29. Use the size of your pillow . 14 ” or what ever the size . Make a circle with two sides – back and front – now sew with a four patch of your colors on one side and maybe a solid on the other , with right sides together sew a circle and take pinking shears or rotary blade of waves and go all the way around and trim closely , now on the side of the circle that has the solid take a small slit with your scissors and kind of close to edge of stiching and now turn right side out . Now take a ruler and mark a square on the circle , now fold on those lines covering up the slit you made to turn it . Sew all of them down and now it looks almost like the wedding ring pattern . Now sew another one like that with a zipper inserted or velcro , so you can take the cover off to wash . Now you still have some portion of a circle but not so many . Trish

  30. I’m dying to make the good day sunshine pillow. That would liven up any sofa.
    Unfortunately I technical skills aren’t sufficient to post it here for you, but it appeared on your site a short time ago.

  31. Being an uber dog lover myself, (mine pretty much have the run of the place and I’d NEVER find fabric to match all of them), I think you should make them a flap style but make the flap look like a golden retriever face! Ears and all. And the nose could be the button that holds the flap down, a black leather one would work perfect! You may as well give into the fact that they’ll always be on the couch.


  33. Well, if all you can see is the way it has been, how about updating it with a fresher variant? Don’t lose the dots, exactly. You haven’t said what the colors are like in the rest of the room. How about covers in a texture that is comfortable, and washable, as a background, then add appliqué circles in various sizes, to cover the top? Maybe use a washable felt that is easily found these days in beautiful colors, and buttonhole stitched in contrasting colors, so the stitches become another design element. You could even layer the circles on top of each other, on a few, or add a little embroidery within one or two larger dots. Modern, but not going to be dated.

  34. What similar to the dots, but isn’t round? Stripes. Find some home-dec fabric in stripes that will go with the new slip cover. But, just cover one in the stripe. Now find some other fabric with the same colors as the stripes, but with another shape. If you, like my friend, have to decorate all matchy-matchy, then make one side of each pillow in the stripe and the other side in the other fabric. Either find a solid color cording that matches one color in both pillows, or make your own cording with the striped fabric on the bias.
    This is from a person who has had one pillow on her couch split with the stuffing case showing for over a year. I need to find a good covering for my couch that will enclose all the cat hair that has been embedded in it over the last 15 years.

  35. A pillow wrap would be great in a coodinating stripe/plaid or print that is either larger or smaller than the circles on the existing pillow. The wrap can be made seasonal with as many techniques tried without a great expense of time or money. The pillow wrap could have a longer flap that buttons to itself or you could have side ties(which ever would go with your decor better). Good luck. Karen

  36. My very first thought was to make a ‘modern’ dog applique for the pillow! Either a face or the silhouette of a golden retriever. This seems very appropriate to your lifestyle. I also have had years of golden retrievers. On one occasion I needed to refinish hardwood floors I tried to find a color that wouldn’t show every hair. In walked the big reddish dog while I was talking to the floor re-finishers so I pointed at the huge golden retriever and said, “Match that!” The floors were beautiful! Those of us that are dog lovers and cherish our pets do what it takes to minimize the impact on the house, but maximize the dog love time. Let us know what you decide!