Making your own pillows and cushions is a great way to think outside the store—you can choose whatever fabrics you want, the sewing is much easier than clothes because it’s all just rectangles and straight seams, and you can often make them out of items already in your house.
Pillows are just about the easiest thing you can make with a sewing machine if you just make squares. If you want to challenge yourself, you can also add frills around the edges, or make creative shapes with patchwork (see picture).
Cushions are a little more complex, but not much! You can completely change the look of a room by changing cushion covers, like I did for the Blind Dog Café near U Street (see picture). They already had the foam pads, they just wanted a new color scheme, so all I had to do was sew together a few covers in an appropriate upholstery fabric.
You can buy fabric for your pillow and cushion projects, but you don't have to. For example, the piano bench cushion that I made for my piano teacher friend (pictured here) was made out of items that were already around the house.
She had told me that some people get piano bench cushions because if a kid is too short, they won’t be able to reach the keys properly without the added height. She often has kids sit on a folded towel if they don’t have an appropriately sized cushion—which gave us an idea for a fun do-it-yourself project: a custom fit piano bench cushion cover, stuffed with folded towels.
So, I measured the dimensions of the bench, cut out and sewed together pieces of fabric from 2 pairs of pants to make a cushion cover with those measurements, and 2 inches thick. Then I cut several old towels into those same dimensions and stacked them on top of each other and sewed them together to make the “cushion” that we stuffed into the cover. We even found that you could adjust the height of the cushion depending on how many towels we stuffed into it. Success!