Outdoor Pillow for Comfy Relaxing

2 Materials
2 Hours

Aside from spending more time with Hubs, this project is probably the best thing to come out of the stay at home order this year. Hubs hasn’t worked since March so I want him to take advantage of the opportunity to take it easy for change. If anyone deserves some rest and relaxation it’s him. But I bet you do too and I’ll show you how!

Upcycled Outdoor Patio Chairs

Last year we found these perfectly good outdoor patio chairs tossed to the curb and are now using them in our backyard. Known as Adirondack chairs in the US, here in Canada we call them Muskoka chairs :).

Hubs like to lean back when he’s reading or unwinding, but these chairs aren’t exactly comfortable (which is probably why they were tossed in the first place!). A neck support pillow is the perfect solution to relax in comfort!

Envelope Slipcover

For easy care, I want the fabric to be removable so I can can wash it. Enter the envelope slipcover, which has two overlapping flaps at the back. It encases a pillow without a zipper. Hubs may be relaxing a little more these days, but he’s still got his manly chores to do, like laundry 😉. This slipcover will be easy to put on and take off.

Outdoor Fabric

Just before Fall set in last year, we went looking for a suitable outdoor fabric so I could make Hubs this pillow. We found the fabric below at our local Fabricland. It’s bright, cheerful and well suited to our little urban oasis. If you're still avoiding stores and prefer to shop online, I've got some suggestions on my site.

I also bought outdoor piping and a 13 x 20 pillow form. Hubs wanted a fairly wide pillow so he didn’t have to worry about keeping his head centred on the chair! That would be too much like work :).

Pieces to Cut

You need 4 pieces of fabric for this pillow (a piece for the front, two pieces for the back and 1 piece for the tab). Since the pillow form is 13″ x 20″, the front piece of fabric will be 14″ x 21″. If you have different size pillow, all you have to do is add 1″ to the height and 1″ to the width to get your finished measurement. Note that this already includes a 1/2″ seam allowance.

The back is where the opening is, so you need two pieces. To make it easy, cut one piece first and then cut it in half. I want my opening to be horizontal, so to calculate the back, the width is exactly the same as the front (21″), then you will ad 9″ to the height (13″ + 9″ gives you 22″). You’ll end up with a piece of fabric and is 22″ high x 21″ wide (again, the same width as the front).

Then cut the back piece in half to form two pieces that are 11″ x 21″. Clear as mud? See the dimensions below (and feel free to ask me questions in the comments if you run into any problems).

The Tab

The last piece you need is the tab. I cut mine 6″ high x 16″ wide. Again, that includes seam allowance but only 1/4″ this time.

Have a look at the picture below. Here’s the calculation of how I figure out the slack needed to get around the spoke on the backrest. The width of the middle spoke is 7″ and there is also 1″ of depth on either side (which totals 9″ needed just to get the tab around it). You’ll find that between the two ‘X’s’ on my pattern (which I’ll demonstrate later) there’s an extra 1 1/4″ giving you a total of 10 1/4″ of extra fabric.

Prepare Back

If your fabric has a direction, be sure to fold the edges for the back in such a way that when they overlap in the middle, the pattern will still be going in the same direction on both pieces.

On each of the two pieces, fold 1/2″ on the edge of the long side and fold again. Iron.

Topstitch on right side to enclose raw edges. Set the back pieces aside while you work on the front.


The piping gets sewn onto the front piece of the pillow with right sides together. I accidentally started to pin with the wrong side facing up before I realized my mistake and flipped the fabric right side up.

Note: Start the piping at the bottom of the fabric. This will make the connection of the piping much less noticeable than having it show at the top of the pillow.

I like to pin my piping first and notch the four corners before I begin sewing. However, you can just start stitching right at the machine and notch as you go. Some sewers will make several notches in the seam allowance of the piping and actually curve it around the corners. I prefer to do sharper corners.

Pre-Notch the Piping

I make myself a cardboard template (shown below) that has pencil markings at 1/2″. Then I line it up to the corner of the fabric and cut into the piping at the top of that mark (i.e. the edge of the cardboard). Be sure that you don’t cut through the stitching on the piping, just right up to it as close as you can get.

As you can see below, I could come a tiny bit closer to the stitching on this corner cut. Turn the piping 90 degrees and continue pinning it and cutting the corners in the same manner.

Here’s how it will look if you decide to pre-notch the corners like I do. Leave yourself plenty of overlap before you cut the end of the piping when you’re back to where you started.

Sew Piping

Use a zipper foot so you can get close to the edge of the piping. When you start sewing, don’t start right at the edge of the piping. Start a few inches down as shown (this is so you can overlap the two edges together later). Don’t forget to backstitch at the beginning and end of all seams.

When you get to a notched corner, make sure your needle is in the down position right at the tip of that notch. Then lift the presser foot and pivot the fabric 90 degrees. Continue sewing to the next notch and continue around until you’re almost back to where you started. 

As you approach the starting point again, stop a few inches back and lower the needle. Use a seam ripper to rip out a few inches of stitching on the piping. Do this at both ends.

That will allow you to fold back the fabric and overlap the piping as shown below.

Where the pipping meets in the middle, cut right across both pieces with scissors as shown. This will allow you to butt the two edges of the cord together like this:

You can cut away a bit of the piping cover on the lower end if you find you have too much, but make sure it extends past the cut edges of the cord. Tuck the lower fabric inside the upper fabric of the piping.

Fold the upper edge under to hide the raw edge then bring it down over the lower edge so it’s neatly finished like this.

Sew Tab

Fold tab in half to form a tube and stitch 1/4″ seam along one short edge and the longer edge leaving one end open to turn. You don’t have to serge the edge because it will be enclosed, but I did it anyway.

Position the seam in the centre and iron flat. 

Turn the tube inside out. Turn in 1/4″ on the open edge and iron. Topstitch all around.

Determine Where to Position Tab

There's an entire section on how to figure out where to sew the tab on the back of the pillow, that will put me over the picture limit. There are variables for how tall a person is that have to be taken into conservation. Head to our blog for the full discussion (where you see your logo at the end of this post).

Sew on Tab

I like to sew a 2 1/2″ square between the pins with a criss cross through the middle to hold it securely.

Sew Front & Back Together

Now position both back pieces onto the front, right sides together. They will overlap each other. Ensure that when the pillow is turned inside out that the flap will be facing downward.

If your slipcover looks like the picture below, you’re good to go. Stitch 1/2″ all the way around. Trim corners and serge edges if desired.

Turn the pillow inside out and stuff with the pillow form.

If desired, you can add a piece of velcro to keep the flap closed.

After stuffing his pillow, the tab just slips right onto the middle spoke of the chair back.

Pillow Talk

Here’s how Hubs’ pillow sits on the chair. It sits much higher than mine because he is taller. He thinks his new neck cushion is the best reading pillow ever; no more neck pain!

Thinking about adorning your outside space this summer? Check out Birdz of a Feather's outdoor projects.

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Have a question about this project?

1 question
  • Joan Hornung
    on Aug 13, 2020

    Ah, that looks so comfortable, especially because it is bigger than the tiny ones they make for chairs. Your husband must love taking breaks from his chores there! Where is YOURS?

    • Birdz of a Feather
      on Aug 14, 2020

      Unlike the shoemaker's family, my husband is reaping the benefits of my skillset, but I haven't got around to doing mine yet - lol. Strangely enough, my husband started taking an interest in sewing right after I made this for him. He actually make me a smaller indoor version to test out his new skills and surprised me with it just a few days ago :). I love that he's taking an interest in one of favourites hobbies.

      As a matter of fact, now he's restoring vintage sewing machines too (he used to restore cars, so at least this takes up less space)! I never imagined that one little act of kindness would snowball like this  .

Join the conversation

3 of 17 comments
  • Tonya
    on Aug 19, 2020

    Great job!! Your Hubs should be glad to have a talented woman like you are!! tfs

  • KT
    on Aug 26, 2020

    Lovely fabric. You've made a superb job. I like the tab idea so cushion stays in place. If chair didn't have vertical slats, you could do a pocket the whole length of cushion and sit it over the entire back of chair. Also a fan of no zip or stitched closure.

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