Outdoor pillows add a cozy element to outdoor spaces. But how do you make these pillows waterproof and able to hold up to the elements? In this post, I will show you exactly how to sew your own waterproof outdoor pillow covers that you can add to any of your outdoor spaces.
How to make pillows waterproof
As I was getting my front porch ready for spring and summer, I realized that my antique church pew needed some pillows for added comfort and style. However after shopping at many local big box stores, I could not find any outdoor pillow covers that fit my farmhouse/vintage decor style. Therefore, I decided to make my own farmhouse style waterproof outdoor pillows so that I could customize the fabric and swap out the pillow cover with the seasons.
To make these pillows extra durable for the outdoors and making them truly waterproof, I used three layers of “protection”.
Use a waterproof Insert
Make sure that you use a pillow insert that is rated for outdoor use. I love using down-alternative pillow inserts, but I knew these would not hold up outdoors over time. Therefore, I grabbed two of these waterproof outdoor pillow inserts off Amazon. The fabric of these pillow inserts are thicker than other inserts and can wick away water (rather than absorbing it) so I know these will last a long time outside.
Select a Outdoor Fabric
In addition to selecting a waterproof outdoor pillow insert, make sure you select a fabric for your pillows that is specifically made for the outdoors. You can find outdoor pillow fabrics at most craft stores and there are alot of options to choose from. However, in this tutorial I am using a couple yards of ticking stripe fabric I had in my stash of craft supplies. I picked this ticking stripe fabric up from Walmart. It is not necessarily advertised as being an outdoor fabric, but it feels just as thick and almost plastic-y as outdoor pillows you can buy already made. I actually picked up this fabric to reupholster some chairs but realized it was too stiff and plastic-y. But it will make a great outdoor pillow fabric. Whatever you choose, make sure to pick out one that will hold up to the outdoor elements.
Waterproof Spray for outdoor cushions
Lastly, you can choose to even further protect your outdoor pillow covers from the weather and rain by spraying the pillow cover with an outdoor fabric spray. I used this one by ScotchGuard. All you have to do is spray down your pillow with this spray and it will shield it from the water. I actually tested whether the water would bead up on the surface of the pillow or absorb into the fabric after spraying this on, and it totally worked! This spray is totally optional. If you already choose a waterproof pillow insert and an outdoor fabric- it may not be necessary. However, it certainly doesn’t hurt to add that extra layer of protection.
How to make an envelope style pillow cover
I will be making an envelope style pillow cover in this tutorial. I like to make envelope style pillow covers because they are super easy and beginner friendly. But also, because envelope style pillow covers can be swapped out the pillow cover as much as you want. Pillow covers also take up less space when in storage than a bunch of throw pillows you are not currently using.
- waterproof pillow insert
- outdoor fabric
- sewing machine or needle and thread
- basic sewing supplies (iron, fabric pins, and scissors)
- waterproof fabric shield spray (optional)
DIY Waterproof Outdoor Pillow Process
1. Cut out the front and back pieces of the pillow cover
cutting the Front pieces
Since I like my pillow covers to look full and plush, I cut out my fabric without adding extra fabric for a seam allowance. This means my pillow cover will end up being just slightly smaller than the insert- creating a plush look. So for my 18×18” pillow, I cut out one piece of fabric that is 18×18” as well. If you are sewing a different sized pillow, I recommend cutting out the exact same sized piece of fabric for the front.
Cutting the back pieces
To create an “envelope” in the back, I needed to cut out two pieces of fabric that would overlap one another and allow the pillow to be removed whenever. To do this, I cut out two pieces of fabric that are the same width of pillow (18”) and a length that was 5” shorter. For example, for my 18×18” pillow, I cut out two pieces of fabric that was 18×13” because 18-5=13”. This will allow plenty of fabric to overlap in the back and still leave plenty to finish the raw edges.
2. Create a rolled hem on the back pieces
To make sure the back pieces of fabric does not have any raw edges showing, I created a rolled hem on both pieces. To do this, flip over a piece of the back panels so that you are looking at the “wrong” or backside of the fabric. Fold over about ½” of the fabric at the top and iron this fold down with an iron. I used a seam gauge here to make sure I don’t fold over too much fabric- but if you don’t have this tool, just measure with a ruler or measuring tape (an approximation also will work fine)! After you have folded over a ½” section, fold over another ½” section of fabric over the top of the last fold. This will hide the raw edges of back panels in the fold and thus create a rolled hem. Press this fold with the iron and pin with fabric pins to keep it in place. Do this process for both back pieces.
Once the rolled hem is pinned down on both of the back panel pieces of fabric, sew a straight stitch to secure these folds.
3. Pin the right sides of pillow together
After creating a rolled hem on both of the back pieces, now it’s time to attach all the pieces of fabric together and create the pillow. If your fabric is really wrinkled like mine, I recommend ironing before pinning the fabric together. When pinning your pillow together, on a flat surface lay down the front piece of the pillow down (right side up). You want the right side/ the side you want to be seen facing up. Then lay down the top and bottom back pieces of fabric down on top with the wrong sides facing up. It’s important that you pin the right sides of the fabric together that way when you flip the pillow inside out, the correct sides of the fabric will be shown. If your fabric does not have a right and wrong side, then it doesn’t matter how you pin them down. Once you have made sure the fabric is turned correctly, pin all along the perimeter of the pillow.
4. Sew all the pieces of fabric together
Once the pillow is pinned, sew all away around the perimeter of the pillow with a ½” seam allowance. When you get to a corner, lift the presser foot and pivot the fabric to start on the next side of the pillow. This will create sharp corners and really look nice once the pillow is turned inside out. Also make sure to sew a few backward stitches when starting and ending your pillow. This will create a knot in the thread to add extra durability to the stitching.
5. Finish all of the raw edges
Once your pillow is stitched all the way around, you’re almost done! But this final step- in my opinion is arguably the most important step. You need to seal in these raw edges so that the pillow cover can be washed, which is especially important with outdoor pillows. If you skip this step, the fabric and stitching will unravel over time in the washing machine!
To finish these raw edges, most experienced sewers use a serger machine. However, if you don’t have one (like me!), you can use a basic sewing machine to achieve similar results. Simply select the zigzag stitch on your machine, and zig zag stitch all away around the pillow. As your stitching, make sure the raw edge of the fabric is in the middle of the presser foot to ensure the raw edge of the fabric will be incorporated into the zig zag stitch. After you have done this, your pillow cover will be durable enough to be machine washed without worry that the stitching will be removed.
6. Spray with outdoor waterproofing spray
Now that your pillow is finally created, you can choose to add an additional layer of protection. I sprayed my pillows with a waterproof fabric spray that will help water to be wicked off the surface of the fabric rather than getting absorbed. This is a completely optional step, but one you might want to consider doing if you don’t want to worry about your outdoor pillow holding up in the weather. If you choose to use this product or something similar, test out that the spray will not discolor your fabric by spraying a scrap piece or the back of your pillow. If not, go ahead and spray 1-2 coats of the spray all over the pillow to protect it from the weather outdoors.