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Throw Pillow Inserts: Polyfill vs. Feather

This post features some quick tips and insights, drawn from my experience, to help you choose between a feather/down and a polyfill insert for a decorative pillow cover. I used to think that an insert is an insert is an insert, but have learned that this is not so.

Ultimately, the choice of one type of insert over another is personal, but if you want someone else's input as you weigh your decision, read on!


Feather/Down Inserts

Pros of Feather/Down Inserts

  1. Soft: feather/down inserts are airy and light and are easier to stuff into pillow covers.

  2. Comfortable: a feather/down insert yields to pressure and conforms to objects placed on it, which reduces the chances of experiencing pressure points. A picture of a feather/down insert would be appropriate next to the dictionary entries of the words huggable and squishy.

  3. Luxurious: There is a certain je ne sais quoi that makes feather/down pillows look and feel more luxurious. Maybe it's the convergence of the softness and comfort factors mentioned above. Who knows?!

Cons of Feather/Down Inserts

  1. Cost: In a head-to-head comparison by size, a feather down insert will generally be more expensive than a polyfill insert.

  2. Flattens: Feather inserts can flatten over time, especially if the pillow cover is made from a heavier decor fabric or if the insert is loosely filled or contains a high proportion (greater than 20%) of down. If the look of a flattened pillow bothers you, keep this in mind if considering a feather/down insert. Of course, a quick fluff restores the pillow to its full glory in seconds.

  3. Pin pricks: This is probably the most frustrating feature of feather pillows. Depending on the quality of your inserts, you will experience either few feather pin pricks or a lot of pin pricks. I have not met a feather down insert that doesn't shed at least a few feathers with use, but some are worse than others. All my feather pillows, even the ones that claimed the original shells were down-proof (they were not!), are covered with a feather-proof cotton ticking. This tightly-woven fabric essentially eliminates feather pricks and pokes, but I still see the occassional stray feather make its way out especially when removing the decorative cover.


Polyfill Inserts

Pros of Polyfill Inserts

  1. Cost: In a head-to-head comparison by size, polyfill inserts are less expensive than feather/down inserts.

  2. Availability: Polyfill inserts seem to be widely available in more sizes.

  3. Uniform: Polyfill inserts keep their shape and spring back when compressed, thus require less fluffing, if at all.

Cons of Polyfill Inserts

  1. Intractable: Polyfill inserts are generally stiffer and will resist attempts to make them fit the contours of a pillow cover. This can be a problem if the pillow cover has overly pointed corners because the insert will only fill the area outside of the corners and this could lead to floppy or dog-eared pillow covers.

  2. Harder to insert: Assuming the insert is the correct size (see below) for the pillow cover, a polyfill insert, because of its rigidity, can be more cumbersome to maneuver into the cover.

  3. Less comfortable: Some polyfill inserts contain smooth foam in a smooth shell such that the insert feels slippery against itself. This type of insert also resists pressure and “pushes back“ against weight placed on it. If using a polyfill insert for a floor pillow, be on the lookout for pressure points and some slipping and sliding.


Selecting Pillow Insert Sizes

For large square pillows (16“ and up), choose an insert that is 2 inches larger than the cover, e.g, choose a 20"x20" insert for an 18"x18"cover (give or take 1/4").

Two throw pillows with different insert sizes
Choose a larger pillow insert for a plump throw pillow

For small rectangular pillows, choose an insert that is about 1 inch larger on the longer side. The shorter side of the throw pillow cover can be the same length or up to 1 inch larger, e.g, choose a 12”x16” insert for a 12”x15” throw pillow cover.

The general guideline is to use a larger insert than the pillow cover for fuller, tidier decorative pillows.

Note that factors like fabric weight and the type of insert may shift these ranges slightly.

All Lara Threads decorative pillow covers are listed by insert size and the cover dimensions are already adjusted according to the guidelines above. Just use the insert size listed; no calculations required.


Getting an Insert Into a Zippered Cover

If a pillow insert is larger than the cover as suggested above, getting the insert into the decorative pillow cover—without any mishaps—will take some maneuvering because chances are that the zipper opening will be even smaller than the full cover width.

The ends of the zipper seam are vulnerable to rips, so take special care to not stress those areas.

The following process always works for me (you can probably guess that I do this a lot!):

  • Compress and fold the insert in half, and, still folded, fit as much of it through the zipper opening as possible

  • Gently work the insert corners into the far cover corners first

  • Repeat for the corners near the zipper

  • Push the insert down to close the zipper

  • Fluff, fluff, fluff.

This is where feather/down pillows shine because they are airier and easier to fold, will stay pushed down long enough to allow you to close the zipper, and fill back up quickly and easily to give a nice, plump, huggable throw pillow.


Now, how about some stunning Lara Threads throw pillow covers for those inserts?


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