DIY: Patio Friendly Pile-Up Cushions filled with Styrofoam Peanuts


The weather was nice for a few days in April, uncharacteristically, and began the countdown to the Pacific Northwest Summer. Ahhh; the handful of blissful weeks that makes you fall in love with the trees again, and wipes the memory of the last 8 gray months.

Safety Husband and I have been trying to be more mindful, and that extends to the way we interact with our home. We are who we are [not catalog people] and we want everything at our house to be conducive to the way we live. (Safety Husband is really into Ham Radio, so he would also like to make a great deal of the house conductive*, but that’s a different story.) We have several outdoor areas that would make great external living spaces, but we haven’t done a great job of outfitting them for the task.

All this to explain why I decided I needed to make a giant pile of outdoor cushions that I could lay upon like the Princess and the Pea. I wanted them to be cheap, washable, refurbishable, and also work with our inside decor. Fabric and wood don’t do well outside over the Seattle winter, and I can’t store things in out non-existent storage space. So I put together a handful of pillow forms from scrap material, filled with recycled styrofoam peanuts; then covered them with painted canvas covers. In one afternoon I had 7 assorted cushions, and dreams of the perfect summer.


  • Fabric scissors and optional pinking shears
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • Pillow Form Fabric: approximately 24″ (2/3 yard) of 45″-wide lightweight scrap fabric per pillow
  • Pillow Cover: approximately 24″ (2/3 yard) of 52″ to 60″-wide canvas-type material per pillow
  • Styrofoam Peanuts: about a grocery sack full per pillow. Make sure that you are using styrofoam peanuts instead of the cornstarch ones that melt under water. Imagine the mess!


  • Tulip Color Shot Fabric Color:  I used Teal, Blue, and Green.
  • Scissors
  • Tape: masking, packing, cello, washi. Whatever you want!
  • Con-Tact Paper: A great option for cutting out larger masks or covering more material.
  • Decorative punches and scissors
  • Compass, or fun shapes to trace


Step 1: Making the Pillow Forms


Take your scrap pillow-form material and fold it so that the selvedged edges touch. Cut the other two sides with pinking shears so that you have an approximately 23″ square (45″x23″ unfolded.) Sew a 1/2″ seam along the two pinked edges, then do the same for about half of the remaining side.


Fill the form about halfway full with peanuts, then sew the opening closed to seal your pillow form.


Hire a professional to test the security of your stitching.


Repeat until you have run out of material. (I made 7 pillows so that I could make a GIANT PILE.)

Step 2: Making the Pillow Covers


There is dirt outside, so you want to make sure that your pillow cover can be easily removed and laundered; this also means you want to pre-wash your fabrics so there is no future shrinkage.

Cut your fabric to about 23″ wide. With the back side showing, fold the width of the fabric into a tube about 22″ wide. The overlapped pieces will make the flap for inserting and removing your pillow form.


Stitch up the two open ends of your tube approximately 1/4″ in.


Then turn the cover inside out using the open flaps. Make sure to press the corner all the way out with your finger or a pencil.


Stitch around the outside edges of your pillow cover, about 3/8″ in- then you’re done!

Step 3: Decorating the Cushions to Match your Life.


Decorating the pillows was definitely the biggest fun in this project (other than sitting in the sun on the cushions later.) If you’re a selfless person, you could share that fun with your family and friends, and let each person design a mask for their own pillow. Masking the pillow is as easy as using tape and scissors. Build shapes out of strips of tape, or cut shapes out of contact paper. (ABOVE: I used a compass to draw circles, then cut and arranged them on the front of my cover.) You could have the initials of everyone in your family, silhouettes of your pets and favorite animals… anything really.


Once you’ve settled on a masked design, take it outside and spray it down with your fabric spray paint. (I used Tulip Color Shot Fabric Color which is washable and flexible.) Remember that spray paint doesn’t ever go on consistently, so embrace the irregularity and leave some patches lighter than others.

After you’ve got a nice coat of paint on, let your cover dry for an hour or so before pulling off the mask.


Then let your covers air out for a few more hours.

When everything is dry (not sticky or smelly) you can put your pillow forms into your covers. Slip the form into the open flap, then push it down under the inner over-lapping flap. Press the corners of the form into the corners of the cover and shake and stomp it until everything looks nice.


Then build the tower of pillow on which you will reign.




Or, you know. Share with your friends.


Wheeee! Pillows.


*I have a feeling that SH will have something to say about this line in the post when and if he reads it, so I’m going to put a disclaimer- like all nerdy types, there is typically a method to his madness, so I am sure the most of the house will remain non-conductive, or resistive, or whatever. Just, you know, antennas. He likes antennas.


  1. says

    I love these! I’m thinking summer Dog Bed! Instead of packing peanuts, I have an old 3 inch thick memory foam mattress topper that will get cut into assorted squares and rectangles: one for the dog bed, one for each of the patio chairs, and the cat will complain unless there is one for him, too.

  2. says

    These are so great Alison!! I can’t wait to try them out, I sure that tester you hired knows what’s up. Party party! PARTY!

  3. says

    You make what looks like a TON of work sound so fun! Especially “Hire a professional to test the security of your stitching.” The results are stunning — thanks for sharing.