How Pillows Are Made

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation


You sleep on it every night—but have you ever wondered how your pillow came to be?

Pillows date back thousands of years, and even then, your ancestors understood their importance. In ancient Greece, wealthy people rested their heads and feet on lavishly embroidered cushions; the Egyptians, who believed the head was the seat of life, spent a lot of time and money on pillows for the dead; and the Chinese believed that soft pillows took vitality from the body, so they made theirs from leather, as well as surprisingly hard materials such as wood and ceramics, sometimes filling them with herbs to cure disease and bring pleasant dreams. Check out how pillows are crafted nowadays:


The first part made is the pillow covering. Typically crafted from a hefty cotton or a cotton-polyester blend, fabric is shipped to the factory in large bolts, where it is specially treated or calendared, so that the sewn casing can be easily opened and separated during filling. Then, the calendared fabric is brought to large tables, where dozens of layers at once are cut apart with special machines.


Some factories use automatic sewing machines, while others still have people doing the work. Either way, two pieces of rectangular-shaped fabric are sewn together around the edges, except for about a six-inch hole, which is left open to stuff the pillow. This is also the stage where the tag that lists the pillow’s contents is attached. Finally, the case is turned inside out to ensure that the seams are on the inside of the covering.


The cases are brought to the pillow machine, which fills the pillows by blowing the filling into them and combing it to make it fluffy. There are two ways to do so, depending on the machine. The more expensive ones are loaded with an entire bale of filling that the machine unloads automatically, while less expensive machines need an operator. The filler used depends on the price of the pillow—real down is the priciest, while polyester is the cheapest. Often feathers and synthetic fibers are blended for a mid-price option.


Once the pillow is stuffed, it’s taken to another section of the factory where workers use an industrial sewing machine to seal the opening. Then the pillow is weighed to make sure that it has the right amount of filling.


Finished pillows are brought to machines for bagging. The machines open plastic bags by blowing air into them, and then the individual pillows are placed inside. Finally, the bagged pillows are put in boxes and shipped.