Etsy Is My Secret for Custom Pillows on a Non-Custom Budget

White bedspread with custom leopard throw pillow.

Courtesy of Heather Bien

Custom pillows—they’re the jewelry that elevates a room from off-the-rack to designer. When you pick one up, there’s something that feels different. They’re weightier, have stitching that fits like a glove, and details you won’t find on a Home Goods shelf. 

The not-so-great part? The price tag. Custom pillows can run upwards of hundreds of dollars each. Between the fabric by the yard, the trim, and the workroom labor, the cost escalates quickly. And, for those of us whose budget is more DIY than designer, a bevy of custom pillows isn’t necessarily realistic when you’re decorating multiple spaces—or one space for that matter.

But, I have a secret for custom pillows on a non-custom budget: Etsy. Your favorite craft marketplace is a treasure trove of designer fabrics and high-end details for a fraction of what you'd pay through a designer. With endless sellers, including both hobby sewists and entrepreneurs running sophisticated online businesses, you’ll scroll for days with a simple search like, “leopard pillow.”

Bed with sunburst mirror above and custom throw pillows.

Courtesy of Heather Bien

How to Search Etsy for Custom Pillows

The first thing to know when you’re looking for custom pillows on Etsy is that 99.9% of the listings are for pillow covers only. This can throw people off when they’re used to buying an entire pillow from Target. The standard reaction is, “Wait, I have to buy an insert, too? Isn’t that another step? Is it expensive?”

I’ve got good news: no, it’s not expensive, and while it’s another step, you can order several pillow inserts for a few dollars off Amazon. Plus, you’ll get to pick whether you prefer down or down alternative.

Then, there’s the best part. With a pillow cover rather than an insert, you can wash it. How many times have you spilled your evening wine or afternoon snack on your living room pillows and desperately tried to blot it off with a wet towel? A removable pillow cover solves that problem.

Pillow with cheetahs and tigers on it.

Courtesy of Heather Bien

When it comes to the actual searching, the options are truly endless. I try to get as specific as possible. Perhaps I’ll search for a specific fabric name like “Scalamandrew Le Tigre,” or I’ll try “Blue and white striped linen pillow” or “Midnight garden pillow." It sounds weird, but it pulled up the dark florals I was looking for.

On the other hand, something like, “green pillow,” could leave you weeding through more than a few pages. Of course, if you’re feeling a wild card, go vague with your search and see what Etsy gives you. 

Most custom pillow listings on Etsy will have options for size and backing. Your least expensive option is typically to do solid linen back and prices go up as the size goes up. For reference, the standard size for an accent pillow is 18-20” square.

If you don’t see what you need, don’t be afraid to reach out to the seller. Many of them are small businesses and they’re willing to work with you to create what you need. Just last month, I had a seller create a custom-size bolster pillow for me—and it’s gorgeous.

A Few Terms to Know When Searching for Custom Pillows

What are a few of the details you should look for in custom pillows? When I’m looking at custom pillow options, I tend to skip over the simple options, including a knife-edge, which is a seam that simply meets at the edge. I came to Etsy and custom sellers for the details. A few terms to know include:

  • Welt or cording: Welt or cording is the contrast piping that runs the length of the pillow. This elevates the edge in the way that tailoring elevates a dress.
  • Self-welt: A self-welt is simply a welt that is made out of the same fabric as the pillow.
  • Flange: Flange is a border on the pillow that is often made of the pillow fabric
  • Fringe: Fringe is, quite literally, a fringe that runs along the edges. You can also have tassels or other finishing in its place.
  • Scalloped edge: A scalloped edge is a rounded scallop edge that you’ll often see in more traditional design.
  • Zipper closure vs. envelope closure: A zipper closure is a pillow cover that zips at the bottom, while an envelope closes with a flap of fabric at the back.
Close-up or cording on throw pillow.

Courtesy of Heather Bien

You’ll find that, even if these terms sound intimidating now, most Etsy sellers make it easy to navigate and are more than happy to answer questions or show photos. 

So, now you’re in on my secret. The craftsmanship on every custom pillow I’ve ordered from Etsy thus far has been impeccable, the textiles are incredible, and the details are intentionally finished. From a velvet tiger print to a British-inspired whimsical toile, these are statement pieces that make a room.

While they may cost a bit more than the $20 mass-market find, though far less than designer-ordered custom, they’re beautiful works of art that I’ll have forever—or at least until I start redecorating again.