Back when we moved last year, one of my visions for our new home was a new set of sofa cushions made by me. At the time, I was learning more about using natural materials, and instead of going to the craft or decor store and buying a bunch of new polyester-stuffed cushions, I wanted to source natural-fibre alternatives.
The final outcome differs a little from my original vision, because not all of our cushions are stuffed with natural fibres, but a few are; and the others, although polyester-stuffed, are made from secondhand sources. In the end I like the variety, as examples of different ways you can obtain decorative cushions without buying new ones.
First, the covers. In our living room we have eight cushions with covers I made. The fabric is new, a combination of cottons and linens; there’s nothing particularly ethical (or cheap!) about them, but they are natural fibres. I made them all with zippers so they can be removed and machine-washed. It felt expensive to buy all the materials at once, but I know I couldn’t have had such good quality covers for the same price if I hadn’t made them.
In the nursery/guest room, we have two big cushions. The covers for these are made from a thrifted curtain.
Now onto the cushions (or pillow forms) themselves. I had two old cushions from my single gal apartment days. Apparently gold brocade represented my style then? I almost tore them apart to reuse the stuffing, and then got lazy and stuffed them whole into my new covers. This is a very easy approach, and every charity shop and thrift store I’ve been to always has a variety of old cushions that could be repurposed this way.
Several other cushions are made from repurposed polyfill from other old cushions. At least one was used as packing material in a bunch of glassware my mom brought from my grandparents’ house – but I couldn’t tell you where the rest came from! I have a vague memory of tearing cushions apart to disembowl them…but I was pregnant and it seems like an eon ago. I simply made square cushions from an old (thrifted) sheet, stuffed them with the reclaimed stuffing, and sewed them up.
I have one lovely down feather cushion, made from the down from an old pillow, again packing material for the glassware. For this, I washed the pillow (down can be machine washed and tumble dried at low temperatures), then ripped it open and transferred the down into a new cover made from the old sheet. I rubbed the old sheet with beeswax to create better feather-containment. Do I recommend this? Hard to say. It worked, but was a huge mess, and the resulting pillow moults. However, down pillows are (in my opinion) the best, and they’re expensive, so in the end I’m happy.
I also have a cushion stuffed with raw wool. This was my initial vision – wool being the most like polyfill in texture, and theoretically the cheapest natural option. I think it would be cheap if you had access to a good farm where you could buy the raw wool in bulk. I had to order it on Etsy, so it was a little pricey. But it did work perfectly well as stuffing, again in a cushion made from an old sheet.
One cushion is stuffed with an old plush blanket folded up. Saved me from buying a cushion, saved me from discarding the blanket. I forgot about this until I took the cover off to wash it!
Finally, the two big cushions are filled with our two down guest (bed) pillows. This is the lovely thing about down – it fluffs and compacts as needed. The pillows are rectangular, but fitted nicely into these big square covers. Take the covers off, and pouf! Bed pillows again. The bonus is that I no longer have to store these pillows as extra bedding.
None of these cushions are perfect, and the variety of stuffings leads (as you might expect) to differing levels of fluff and flatness. But they serve their purpose, and I enjoy what they represent. I hope they serve as inspiration for the possibilities of repurposing!