Herbal Pillows for All Occassions

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

I have already stated that I don’t care for the Holidays, and yet there are a few staples that I do enjoy: cooking and eating good food, making bath products for friends, super tacky over-the-top decoration, and sewing little herbal squares. I’m not sure what it is about the last one. I suppose it started out as a small gift for friends just like the bath products, but now-a-days I get a hankering to make them almost as soon as December rolls in, even if I don’t give them away.

The basic idea is simple: sew a square and fill it with herbs. The applications, depending on the size and what you put inside, are nearly endless. I grow a lot of herbs and inevitably there are a few that I always have in droves. Making an assortment of herb pillows for different applications is a good way to be sure the extra doesn’t go to waste. I figure, I go to the trouble to grow it and dry it, the least I can do is use it up.

Here are just a few ideas that can be applied based on the same basic principal:

  • Herbal Bath Tea – Mixed herbs inside a large muslin square with a little added oatmeal makes a healing and relaxing bath.
  • Brain Pillow – A large 6 X6″ cotton square filled with lavender or dried rosemary and some rice or flax seed can be used as a headache pillow, the weight of which feels nice on tired eyes.
  • Sleep Pillow – A bag made of scrap cotton, terry cloth, or silk fabrics and filled with lavender or dried hops makes a good relaxation pillow. Stick it underneath your own pillow to help you fall asleep at night. I collected a load of hops this year to test its’ ability to ease the insomniac into sleep, however I seem to be allergic to the stuff and get sneezy whenever I am near it. I finally get why I’ve never taken well to beer. Maybe it will work for you.
  • Dryer Bag – A small 5 X 5″ square filled with lavender can be put in the dryer to give freshly washed clothes a light, fresh scent without the chemicals.
  • Closet or Drawer Sachet – Fill up a small square with bug repellent herbs such as catnip, wormwood, lavender, rosemary, peppermint, juniper, fir, or cedar. Great for friends who have moth problems in their home.
  • Cat Pillow – Fill up a 6 X 6″ square with dried, homegrown catnip. My cat goes crazy for these little pillows and has been seen cuddling with them on many occasions.
  • Sachet d’Espice – Just a fancy way of saying a small open-weave muslin or cheesecloth square filled with culinary herbs (aka bouquet garni). Gift your friends with your favourite soup and sauce herbs that can be submerged directly into the pot like a giant tea bag and removed when cooked.

These little squares are so simple to make, all you need are some very basic sewing skills. They’re a great way to use up scrap bits of fabric too small for much else. Keep them as simple and easy-sew as you’d like or get fancier by embroidering or silk screening designs, adding ribbons and strings, or sewing in decorative edging.

Making Herbal Dryer Bags

The following instructions outline how I make the dryer bags, but you can apply these steps to any of the items listed above. Be sure to see the Herbal Bath Tea project for recipes and further instructions. I’ve listed a lot of materials and tools below, but you can easily get away with making these bags utilizing far less. A bit of fabric, a needle and thread, and some lavender flowers are enough to turn out a simple bag.

You Will Need

  • Dried lavender flowers (about 1/2 – 1 cup per bag)
  • Scraps of cotton fabric (Old shirts, sheets, towels, pillowcases, bits from old projects…)
  • Quilting ruler
  • Rotary fabric cutter
  • Scissors or pinking shears
  • Sewing machine (These are simple enough to hand-sew too)
  • Thread
  • Point turner (Knitting needle, chop sticks, or pencil will work)
  • Piece of scrap paper
  • Scotch tape
  • Pins
Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

1. Cut two 5 X 5″ or 6 X 6″ fabric squares. You can do these in two pieces of the same fabric or mix and match with contrasting fabrics. I make quick work of cutting the squares using a quilting ruler and rotary cloth cutter but a pair of scissors will do the job too.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

2. Pin the right sides together and sew a 1/2″ seam around the square, leaving a 2″ opening on one side, big enough for filling. Cut off the corners on a diagonal using scissors or pinking shears to help reduce bulk. Cut around the entire square with pinking shears (optional).

3. Turn the square right-side out and iron flat. Use a point turner to push the corners out.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

4. Open up the hole and fill the square with about 1/2 – 1 cup of lavender flowers. Getting the flowers into the hole can be a pain but is easily done using a paper cone. Make one by rolling a scrap piece of paper into a funnel shape. Tape it to secure.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

5. Pin the hole closed. Using a matching thread, sew a seam very close to the edge of the bag sewing straight across the hole to seal it up.

6. For a more decorative finish, sew a 1/4″ seam around the entire square. Use less flowers if you plan to do this since the extra bulk can make it difficult to sew. Try to keep the flowers away from the seam as you sew each side by pushing the flowers to the opposite side of the square.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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8 thoughts on “Herbal Pillows for All Occassions

  1. Just what I need, another project in the queue. (But really, the dryer bags are a great idea and I’ll be glad to have them! Thank you!)

  2. What a neat idea. I’ve always wanted to grow lavender, but don’t really like it for culinary purposes, so I couldn’t justify giving it space in my garden. But lavender scented laundry might give lavender a worthy purpose…

  3. Wish I could grow lavender after april. Such a shame, the climate down here and global warming. I haven’t even bothered trying to grow it in years. Maybe I should grow it between now and april, just to try these ideas!

  4. Victoria?
    Where is down here, there are many varieties of lavender from the purple we usually think of to stark white; all with variable scents.

    Many of them are drought tolerant, it’s just getting them started. We get torrential rains all spring, then after about April not much and I’ve got it in the gardens. It does wonderful. It just doesn’t like to be transplanted once its got its home.

    Gayla, I love the sachets! I’ll have to fill mine with rosemary (it’s out of control back there!) or make culinary sets. As much as I love lavender it has to stay in the garden; triggers my husband’s asthma everytime. It’s a shame because I really, really like it.


  5. In England we call them pot – purri bags, we make them to keep the linen smelling nice, old fashioned ones are made of lace. Thank you for wonderful explanations. Very clear and helpful.

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