upholstery basics: poolside roll up

It’s been heating up around Austin — 90, 95, 99 . . . 100+! The hotter it gets, the more I want to dive in, so this month on Upholstery Basics, I thought we’d whip up a poolside roll up for the upcoming months of sunbathing, daydreaming and catching up on Us Weekly (I’m not ashamed to admit it!). The best part is, it’s made of beach towels!  — Amanda

Read the full how-to after the jump . . .


  • 3 large beach towels
  • painter’s tape
  • chalk
  • square
  • yardstick
  • measuring tape
  • compass
  • scissors
  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • t-pins
  • 24″ of velcro
  • carpet padding
  • polyester fiberfill
  • curved needle


Don’t forget to check out Upholstery Basics: Tool Time to learn more about the tools we’re using today.


1. We’ll need three large beach towels for the project: two for the mat and one for the neck roll and straps. (These are made by Martha Stewart for Macy’s!) Draw out the pieces listed below on the backside of the towels. Since towels have a loose weave and tend to stretch and move around, tape the edges to the table to hold the towels in place while you draw.

(1) 5″ tall x 30″ wide (piece that connects the neck roll and mat)

(1) 20″ tall x 31″ wide (body of the neck roll)

(2) 7″ diameter circles (ends of neck roll)

(2) 37″ tall x 5″ wide (straps that wrap around the rolled-up mat)

(2) 66″ tall x 31″ wide (mat)

2. Fold the piece that connects the neck roll and mat in half lengthwise with the good sides facing in. Sew across one end and down the side.

3. Turn the piece right side out, fold under the open end to make a clean edge and sew it shut.

4. Sew together the long edges of the neck roll with the piece sewn in step 3 centered and inserted into the seam.

5. Sew the ends on the neck roll but leave one end halfway open so you can stuff it with padding later. Make small release cuts in the main body of the neck roll so the material lies flat as you attach it to the ends.

6. Repeat step 2 to sew the ends and sides of both straps.

7. Turn the straps right side out and attach 12″ of the loop side of the velcro to each strap on the sewn end.

8. Sew both sides and the bottom of the mat together. As you sew, insert the straps in the bottom seam 9.5″ from either side. When you insert the straps, make sure they are inside the mat pieces with the unsewn ends lined up with the bottom edge of the mat.

Here’s what the bottom of the mat should look like when it’s turned right side out.

9. Sew 12″ of the hook side of the velcro to each strap 1/2″ away from the bottom edge of the mat. This velcro should be on the opposite side of the strap from the loop side.

10. Cut a piece of carpet padding 64″ tall x 29″ wide and insert it inside the mat.

11. Measure and draw lines every 5″ down the mat.

12. Turn the neck roll right side out and center and pin the connecting piece inside the top edge of the mat. Sew the top edge shut while sewing the connecting piece inside the seam. The edges at the top of the mat should be folded under as you sew.

13. After the neck roll is connected to the mat, smooth and adjust the carpet padding inside the mat and sew on top of the lines marked in step 11. Topstitching the mat to the padding will prevent the padding from moving around.

14. Fill the neck roll with a polyester fiberfill until it’s nice and plump and hand-sew the open end closed. (See steps 11–24 from Wall Upholstery, Part 2.)

For compact storing and easy carrying, roll it up with the velcro straps.


  • Towels are comfy and super absorbent, but consider using an old sheet or tablecloth for a thrifty alternative.
  • If you have a small sewing machine, topstitch around the perimeter of the mat to hold the padding in place since it will be a tight squeeze getting the rolled-up mat under the arm of the machine.
  • Use nylon instead of cotton thread for weather resistance.
  • Towels stretch a lot when sewn, so be sure you pin your pieces together to avoid uneven stretching while sewing.

Enjoy your poolside naps. See you next month on Upholstery Basics!

Thanks to my neighbor, Lee, for letting me take photos by his beautiful pond!

  1. LInda Starr says:

    wow, a padded beach towel, I love it.

  2. Courtney says:

    this is really, really great! and that pond looks so relaxing. i’d love to be lounging there right now.

  3. stephania says:

    This is so perfect for this summer! I love the pattern you chose too!

  4. ryann says:

    what a cute idea!


  5. elizabeth says:

    this is awesome!!! what a great gift idea too. i wish i had seen this a few weeks ago and i would have asked my mom to make it for my birthday :)

  6. Debra Matlock says:

    SO CUTE! I’m not familiar with carpet padding, is it washable? I’m apt to spill things: sunscreen, margaritas etc.

  7. Jennifer says:

    So colorful! Will you make me one?

  8. Isadora says:

    Love this! I may even try. I think adding some handles would be a great addition

  9. 3lin says:

    u are very creative

  10. Madeline says:


  11. Jill says:


  12. Arial says:

    Wow, this must’ve taken a long time! I admire how much work you put in to it. I find it quite inspiring! Thank you for posting ~(^_^)~

  13. VVires says:

    That’ll be pretty useful for lounging in the sun. Though summer has already arrived so everyone’s already gotten a little lazy to take on a DIY project.

  14. Beaula says:

    I’m going to skip the padding that way I can take it with for swimming. Dont think you can wash the padding.

  15. Windy says:

    I like this idea, but now it’s not machine washable anymore, right?

  16. Great idea…somehow I’d want to find some chevron print towels for a Missoni-inspired roll-up and then wear a Missoni swim suit. Yeah, I’d just blend into the towel. Ha ha. Btw, some really great foam can be had at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston,IL.

  17. Deidre says:

    Can probably use layers of quilt batting for the padding instead and topstich as noted to keep it in place ?…. then it will be machine washable – thinking of making for my kids but it would need to be washable!

  18. kate pretorius says:

    Great idea. I’ve got to ask, what kind of machine is that?

  19. monika says:

    Oh I love it. I think I am going to repurpose these for some deck benches that I have been struggling to find cushions and pillows since I want to be able to lay on them! And since they wrap up and store easily, its perfect!

  20. Amanda says:

    Kate, the machine is a Consew 206RB5. It’s a great industrial machine!

    All the contents of the poolside roll-up are washable. I chose the synthetic fiber carpet padding because it is dense without being too thick, and it’s also absorbent and mildew resistant.

    Like outdoor cushions, I’d still recommend spot cleaning over machine washing since the size of the roll-up may be too big to fit in a typical washing machine.

    Thanks, all! I really appreciate the comments!

  21. Jessica says:

    Where are these photos taken? I’m an Austinite myself and can’t figure out where that is- it looks amazing and I want to dive in.

  22. linda barton says:

    Would love more sewing on my Facebook page for others to join in too can you help please

  23. Deb says:

    I do not sew, but I would buy this in a NY minute!


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