Thursday, February 25, 2010

How to Sew a Basic Pillow Cover

Sometimes I am surprised when people who I consider to be pretty crafty point to something like a simple pillow cover and say "I could never sew that!" I am quite positive they can. And since I am in the middle of sewing several pillow covers for use in my new place, I decided to document one of them to show just how easy it is.

Supplies you will need:
  1. One (1) pillow form of your choosing.
  2. Fabric to cover pillow
  3. Trim to edge the perimeter of your pillow (add up the length of all four sides plus a little extra)
  4. Scissors
  5. Measuring tape
  6. Sewing machine and thread
  7. Iron
Let's begin.

Step 1: Measure your pillow form.

Here is my pillow form. I would show you how to measure it were it not for the fact that I got to skip step one because... is from IKEA, and they already told me what the finished measurement is:
I am sure you can figure out how to measure your pillow, though. By the way, I LOVE these IKEA feathery pillow forms because they feel like a fancy down insert but cost a fraction of the price. They also have free measuring tapes at IKEA, but if you're going there for a paper measuring tape, you might as well pick up a cheap pillow form while you're at it.
Step 2: Take the measurement you got in Step 1 and add one inch to length and width
My pillow is 20 inches by 20 inches, so my cutting measurement is 21 inches by 21 inches to allow for a half-inch seam allowance all the way around.
Step 3: Cut out the fabric.
For the front, simply cut out a piece according to the measurement you arrived at in Step 2.
For the back, cut out two pieces. The width should be the same as your Step 2 width, but stacked together, they should be several inches taller than the front piece, as show below:
Put together, the two back pieces will overlap and provide a nice opening for the pillow insert. You have a lot of leeway in cutting these out--as you can see, due to the fabric pieces I had leftover after cutting out the front, my back pieces are not equally sized and the pattern is going the wrong way. This will be just fine, I promise you.
Step 4: Turn under the "opening" edge of each of the back pieces and sew down.

Step 5: Pin the trim to the front piece and sew/baste it in place
Bear in mind that you have a half-inch seam allowance. Lucky for me, the seam allowance part of the pom-pom trim (i.e., the part I don't want to show on the finished pillow) I am using is just shy of a half inch. Therefore, I pinned it just shy of flush with the edge of the fabric.

Be sure to pin the trim with the decorative part (here, the pom-poms) pointed toward the inside or center of the pillow.
When you come to a corner, clip the trim close to--but not through--the edge.

This will allow you to turn the corner with the trim, like so:

Once your pinning is complete, sew down the trim. You can use a basting stitch. Here, I also used a zipper foot because the dang pom-poms were so unwieldy.

Step 6: Make a fabric sandwich
Start by laying the front piece on the ground, right side up:
Next, pin the top piece of the back to the front, right sides together.

Finally, pin the bottom piece of the back to the front. It will overlap the top piece by several inches. This is exactly what you want it to do. Be sure to pin the overlapping parts extra well so that nothing gets loose on the sewing machine.

Step 7: Sew around the whole pillow, using a half-inch seam allowance.
A good trick is to sew with the side that is already stitched (from basting on the trim) facing you. Be sure to sew either right along that line or, even better, just inside it (i.e., towards the center of the pillow). If you are outside that line, the basting thread will show once you turn the pillow right side out.

Step 8: Clip the corners to reduce bulk
Just make sure not to clip through the seam.

Step 9: Turn the pillow cover right side out and press.
A note about pressing trims: most purchased trims contain some synthetic material--that is, they are basically plastic and will melt under a high iron heat. Not only will this ruin your new pillow cover, but it will take you forever to get the residue off your iron and your house will smell like you're cooking meth and that, in turn, could create all sorts of legal problems for you. My advice is to press close to the trim, but avoid touching it at all with the iron.

Step 10: Stuff that pillow form into the cover and enjoy your new pillow!

Even better, give it some friends:


  1. I love those pillows. I love your bed. I love your room. It's all so darling.

  2. I was going to say the exact same thing as Kate... I love it! In addition, I have 3 or 4 throw pillow forms that have been sitting at the top of my closet for the past two or three years. Now I know what to do with them! Thanks!

  3. Wow. I wish I was that creative! At first I was somewhat skeptical with the print and the boarder but seriously... that turned out awesome! It really looks amazing! You should come decorate my place hehe.