Rag pillows are homemade pillows assembled from old clothing and fabric scraps, much like rag rugs. They gained immense popularity in the Great Depression era, when oftentimes families did not have extra money to purchase new pillows, and instead had to make their own from items they had lying around the house. Rag pillows are extremely versatile, and can be made with almost any fabric and stuffing desired. Making them can also be a fun activity for children and teens, and a great way to keep favourite clothing items and blankets as keepsakes.
Gather several old shirts, skirts, trousers and other unwanted clothing items. You can use new store-bought fabric, but rag pillows are traditionally made with old clothing, scraps or even cleaning rags.
Cut along the seams of the clothing with scissors until you have disassembled them and are left with several large pieces of flat fabric. Trim the edges of the fabric to create uniformly square-shaped pieces.
Lay each piece flat in front of you, and cut into long strips about 1 1/2 inches wide. Tie these strips together end-to-end to form one long fabric string. Set two fabric strips (about three to four feet in length) aside for later.
Crochet the large fabric strips into one large rectangular shape. It should measure 1 foot by 2 feet in length for a throw pillow, or 2 feet by 2 feet for a bed pillow.
Fold your crocheted piece of fabric in half on a flat surface (lengthwise for throw pillows). Line all edges up evenly. Loosen the edges by tugging with your fingers so that the loops of fabric on the edge stand out.
Thread one of the remaining fabric strips through the bottommost loops on the edge of both layers of fabric and tie in a knot. Continue threading the fabric strips through the edge loops until three loose edges are completely sewn shut. Knot the fabric to tie it off.
Fill the pillow with desired stuffing. Depending on what you use for filling, you may need to stuff it into a pillowcase, sew it shut and use that to stuff your rag pillow. Synthetic stuffing, feathers and other small items can easily fall out of the pillow if not contained first.
Stitch the last end of the pillowcase shut using the technique from step 6. Fluff pillow to the desired shape and use.