DIY Vintage Grain Sack No-Sew Pillow Cover; Monthly Contributor Project

Please tell me this has happened to you (and it’s not just me): you’re changing up your pillow covers to get a little more in the wintery mood when you realize you have a chair sans pillow – ugh, could anything be worse!? So you decide, for the time being, to just let one of your other pillows sit in until you find “the one” to fill that chair more permanently – after all, you’ve got a few months to find it, right? Before you know it, it’s spring, and that “place holder” pillow has started looking really good in that previously naked chair. But now your couch needs it back; and sin of all sins, you’ve put off finding that new pillow for all these months. Now you’re in a bind, and there are just NO good, economical, pillow options out there… or are there?

Good Morning Remodelaholic-aholics!

Christina here; all the way from Designing by Numbers, a blog where I endeavor to find inspiration in other’s home designs and implement creative ideas in my own space. Today I’ve come to you to solve your pillow hunting problems (you’re welcome!) I’m going to show you how to make, yes make, a grain sack pillow cover on the cheap and completely without sewing your fingers into the pillow in the process!

Grain sack pillows are all the rage these days – and why not? They look fabulous. Unfortunately the cost of a vintage grain sack anything makes me cringe. But that’s no reason not to have the look for less!

To get an awesome grain sack pillow on your naked chairs, here are the supplies you’ll need:

1. Fabric: I used the remnants of last month’s Ballard Designs inspired bulletin board, which was a linen at $9.99/yard. Since I was working with remaining fabric I let that determine my pillow cover size (I had enough for a 14” square). To construct my pillow, I needed to account for an extra 2″ for the width and an extra 8″ for the length; thus, my fabric was 16″ wide x 36″ long (works out to about $2.96, if you wanna get all technical… and I do).
2. Fabric Paint: I used Martha Stewart’s acrylic craft paint with a satin finish which I already had on hand as well. It’s good for a variety of mediums, including fabric – so score! I purchased this from Michael’s Craft Store – you know, crafter’s heaven – on sale at $2.44.
3. Hem Fuser: I’m on a “shop around the house” roll with this project, as I already had hem fuser from another previous project too. This stuff is absolute gold – a MUST have for anyone who shares the same shameful lack of sewing skills as I do (come on people, put your hands up, I know you’re out there!) I picked mine up at Designer Fabrics for $2.80 and it’s 3/4″ wide x 27 yards in length (perfect for a TON of no-sew goodness… just so you know, I used $0.21 worth for this project – oh yeah, baby, I did the math!)
4. Other Supplies: Such as a measuring tape and fabric pencil (to measure and mark your fabric), scissors (to cut your fabric to size), painter’s tape (for marking the lines of your grain sack pattern), foam brush (to apply your paint), damp cloth and iron (for fusing the hems and pillow sides together).


A good starting point for this project is to decide on the grain sack pattern you’d like to mimic. I just hopped on over to Google and did an image search for vintage grain sacks, and came upon this little gem of a pattern from our good ol’ pal, Pottery Barn:

Pottery Barn Grain Sack Pillow Case

I just love the multiple lines of varying widths and how they are combined – I also quite liked the colour of these lines as it would fit just nicely in the room I wanted it for. What I decided to alter was the size of the pattern, and to place it centered on the pillow instead of at the sides. While the colour of this pattern is beautiful, I did want it to be a bit more subdued and not so bold red. Don’t be afraid to change things up a little to make a project your own, after all!

Once my fabric was cut to size (remember, for a 14” square I needed one large piece of 16” x 36” fabric), it was time to start measuring and taping off my pattern. I wanted each of the larger lines to be 9/16” with the space beside large lines at 1/4”, and the smaller lines at 1/8” with the space between the smaller lines also at 1/8”. I found the middle of my pillow and centered the first large line there. I used the painter’s tape to mark off my line and double checked my spacing of the line using measuring tape (there’s no going back once you’ve started painting, so do your checks before!)

Measuring Stripes

When applying paint to the fabric I found it best to use a foam brush with a very small amount of paint on it. That is, I dabbed the brush into the paint, then dabbed off much of the paint back onto my paint plate or onto a paper towel. I then gently dabbed the brush onto my fabric, applying paint sparingly. I did this to simulate a more weathered look for my faux grain sack. However, if a nice, thick, bright pattern is your thing, feel free to load up the paint! Just be sure, no matter what, to protect whatever surface you have your fabric on top of (paint may soak through after all, and acrylic that’s good to cover most surfaces won’t be easy to remove from a nice wood coffee table).

Paint Each Stripe

I found Martha’s paint to be super fast at drying, so as soon as I had completed one line I moved onto the next (oh, and I reused my original two pieces of painter’s tape too – waste not, want not!) Be sure to measure out your spacing between, and for, each line and mark where you should place your tape using a fabric pencil. Then just place your tape and keep painting!

Continue Measuring and Painting Stripes

Don’t worry about placing tape on top of previous lines, especially if you’re going for that more vintage vibe; the paint should be quite durable. If, however, you are slightly worried, then give each line a sufficient amount of time to thoroughly dry before moving to the next line. This process can be tedious, but believe me, in the end the money you save by making this design yourself will be well worth the effort! I just LOVE how my pattern turned out!

Close Up of the Final Pattern

Now onto the EASY part – no seriously, this is going to be a cake walk, I promise! When working with hem fuser it’s a good idea to first measure out and press each hem. For my pillow I just went with a 1” hem around the entire piece of fabric (simply press using your iron to the appropriate fabric setting).

Pin then Press a 1" Hem

Start fusing at the shorter ends of your fabric. Cut a length of hem fuser to fit (i.e., the width of my fabric was 16”, so that’s how long I needed the hem fuser to be), and place it right inside the very corner of the hem. Fold your fabric right on top of the hem fuser so that the fuser is no longer visible.

Insert Hem Fuser into Corner of Hem

To fuse the hem first cover your fabric with a damp cloth (not dripping wet, just damp). For my hem fuser, the instructions indicate to set my iron to it’s “cotton” setting and press firmly for 15-20 seconds. Follow the instructions on your hem fuser just to be safe. There’s gonna be some steam and searing sounds, but don’t fret, it will be OK! Allow the bond to cool for a bit before you test it. You should get an excellent bond right away, but if you find that the fabric pulls apart you can always apply your iron again for another 15-20 seconds.

Fuse with a Damp Cloth and Iron

When you have both short ends of your fabric hemmed, it’s time to start really constructing this pillow! Remember, we’ve allowed for an extra 8” of fabric in length, and just used up 2” for a 1” hem at each short end. That means we have 6” of extra fabric left. Fold that extra 6” over so that the right sides of the fabric are touching. Place a 6” length of hem fuser as close and as precise as you can get to your 1” side hems. Then fuse each edge together according to your hem fusers instructions once again.

Fold 6" of Fabric Right Sides Together

Then cut a long piece of hem fuser, corresponding to the length of your pillow; for example, with my pillow I needed two 14” lengths of hem fuser for each side. Again, place the hem fuser as close and as precise as possible to the 1” hem sides. Fold your larger 14” piece of fabric over, again with the right sides of the fabric touching, and also right on top of your 6” pocket. Once more, fuse each edge together with a damp cloth and iron. Always remember to give your bond some time to set before testing it.

Fold 14" of Fabric Right Sides Together

Pillow just about done! All that’s left is to turn it right side out. Start by turning the larger 14” pocket right side out, then just stuff your pillow on in there.

Flip 14" Pocket Right Side Out

Once you have your pillow in, you can now turn the smaller 6” pocket right side out so that it covers the exposed part of the pillow.

Flip 6" Pocket Right Side Out

The last and final step is to place your newly created grain sack pillow (sans any sewing!!!!) onto that naked chair of yours and bask in its glory! This is a very simple project to accomplish, and it makes such a great statement. It will also save you so much money! This pillow cover cost me a mere $8.20 (really a lot less when you consider I still have tons of paint and hem fuser left over), which is a fraction of the $40 my Pottery Barn inspiration pillow cover retails for (and if you go true vintage grain sack, the costs can soar well over $40). Not to mention I got exactly the size I needed for the chair I was trying to accent (a happy accident considering I was using left over fabric scraps!), and I created precisely the pattern I wanted as well!

Place Pillow on Chair

Even if you’ve never sewn before in your life (like you, right over there, yeah, I see you!) you can still make an awesome pillow cover for your home in almost no time flat! So what do you think? Is this a project you think you can get your hands on? Have you ever created a pillow case using hem fuser alone? What about the vintage grain sack craze; are you ready to jump on board?

I hope I have given you a bit of inspiration to try something new in your home. Thank you to my gracious hosts, Cassity and Justin, for inviting me to share my project today, and thank you all for reading. Please feel free to drop by for a visit with me at Designing by Numbers anytime.

Take care,


Designing by Numbers

( image source 1 )

Christina from Designing by NumbersChristina is the author of the blog Designing by Numbers, where she takes inspiration from design and incorporates creative elements into her home decorating, often in an economical and hands-on way. While she is not formally trained in design, she has the passion, creativity, and motivation to work towards building the home she desires. Join Christina here at Remodelaholic for her monthly contributor spot and at Designing by Numbers for more decorating inspirations.
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Cassity Kmetzsch started Remodelaholic after graduating from Utah State University with a degree in Interior Design. Remodelaholic is the place to share her love for knocking out walls, and building everything back up again to not only add function but beauty to her home. Together with her husband Justin, they have remodeled 6 homes and are working on a seventh. She is a mother of four amazing girls. Making a house a home is her favorite hobby.

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    1. Ugh, I really need to learn to sew one of these days! I do find the no-sew option to be extremely simple, since all it really requires is some hem fuser and an iron (and I get irons!). I just don’t know where to even begin with a sewing machine – threading the needle, all those buttons and knobs, not to mention my fear of pushing that pedal and controlling the fabric as it passes through that sharp little needle! Anyhow, I do promise that one day I will get over my sewing fears and just learn!

      Take care,

  1. My house is almost a pillow free zone, and it’s a cool pillow free zone for sure. I can’t sew, even with instructions.


    1. Pillow free zone! How did you manage that!? I envy you! I’ve become way too obsessed with pillows. There is certainly something to be said for keeping things simple and clutter free – but I do like how pillows give me an option for easily changing up my decor at a relatively low cost.

      LOL, and high five to you my no-sewing skill sister… and now we must hang our heads in shame. Actually, the worst part for me is that I DID take sewing classes waaaaaaay back when in school. I have retained absolutely nothing. It’s quite terrible!

      Take care,

  2. Thank you! I am on my way out to buy some of that hem fuser now. I too have been intimidated by the whole sewing machine thing, and have never learned to sew. I want to make some porch pillows with my house numbers on them and this is exactly the tutorial I needed – yay 🙂

    Can’t wait to look around your blog some more. Thanks for helping out us non- sewers out there!