When I was first learning to sew pillows several years ago, I purchased most of my material at a local fabric retailer. This fabric store had multiple shelves in the back of the store filled with all kinds of pillow inserts - poly-fil, down and feather fil, foam, cluster, and more. I did not understand the difference at the time and would often purchase the poly-fil inserts because they were the most inexpensive.

...but then I wondered why my pillows didn't look as full as the designer pillows I saw in magazines and online.

Do you have a pillow you purchased or one that came with your sofa that you just don't like? Maybe it's too flat? or maybe you can't chop it? or maybe the cover overall seems too loose? I'd be willing to bet a simple switch of the pillow insert would bring that pillow cover to life.

There are two important things to consider when shopping inserts - the type of filling and the size. I won't get too far in the weeds discussing all the different types of filling available for pillow inserts because I want to focus mostly on sizing here. In general, I recommend a synthetic (or faux) down insert or a feather down insert. Either of these fillings will give you the desirable designer look AS LONG AS you purchase the right size...

So let's dig a bit deeper into determining the right insert size and how to measure!

It's important to be sure when you purchase a pillow insert that you purchase the right size to fit the decorative pillow cover and fill the corners. An insert that is too small will leave the pillow feeling saggy and loose. An insert that is too large will be too bulky and will put too much stress on the seams and the zipper. So where is the sweet spot?

Most pillow insert manufacturers recommend that for decorative pillow covers less than 18", a 1" larger insert is needed, and for pillow covers that are 18" or greater, a 2" larger insert is needed. This is the standard we use for the pillow inserts we offer in our shop as well.

Our shop offers a synthetic down pillow insert that is the closest you can get to feather down but without the feathers and quills that shed. These inserts are choppable and are also hypoallergenic. They have such a good weight to them, and it's incredibly difficult to tell they are "faux." 

Square and lumbar pillow inserts are sold separately from pillow covers in our shop. Many of our clients already have inserts on hand, and some clients simply prefer a different insert fill type than the synthetic down we offer. We've found it best to offer inserts separately so that you don't purchase something you don't need. However, this means when you do purchase an insert, you need to be sure you're purchasing the right size. Below is our insert sizing chart to use when purchasing an insert to fit the pillow cover you're ordering from our shop.

 decorative pillow insert size chart

But what if you already have an insert on hand and need to be sure the pillow cover you purchase from us will fit?

Over the years, we've discovered some manufacturers do not include the insert size on the tag. And if you're like me, it's also possible you removed the tag immediately after receiving it so that it wouldn't be seen in the pillow. So how do you determine its size without the tag?

One less accurate way is to measure each side from corner to corner. However, this measurement can be off sometimes by 1-2" because of how the insert is sewn. The most accurate way is to measure the girth of the insert and then divide by 2. All you need is a soft measuring tape.


how to measure square pillow insert size


how to measure lumbar insert size


Ok, but what if the insert you have on hand isn't the right fit, and you need to know the pillow cover size so you can purchase the right insert size to fit?

The most accurate way to determine the pillow cover size is to measure from interior seams. This means you'll need to remove the insert and flip the cover inside out.

 how to measure a decorative pillow cover

A less accurate way is to measure this same distance across the exterior of the pillow cover when the insert is removed. This measurement can sometimes be off by 1-2" depending on the thickness of the fabric.

Once you've determined the right size insert or pillow cover you have on hand, you can follow the same insert sizing guidelines shown above to make sure you purchase the right size pillow cover or pillow insert more confidently.

Still have questions or are unsure about which pillow cover or insert size to purchase? Reach out to us for more help! 

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