pillow on a couch with title.

Sewing Simple Pillow Covers

Cushions and throw pillows are fun to use in decorating. They are great to add unexpected colours and patterns because you can easily switch them out when you change your mind.

But if you switch out pillows seasonally, they take a lot of storage space. Pillow covers are the perfect solution.

You can make a pillow cover for a plain pillow, either purchased or custom made. (Check out this IKEA pillow hack.)

Be creative about where to get pillow forms. You can put any cushion inside a pillow cover, even if it is already a decorative pillow. I saw a woman at a discount store stocking up on One Direction pillows from a bargain bin. She was going to make covers to turn them into throw pillows. What a great idea!

Requirements

To make pillow covers, you only need a few basic supplies. They are a great beginner project.

Fabric

The amount of fabric you need will depend on the size of the pillow, but most pillows will not take more than 1/2 yard of fabric.

If you are a beginner, avoid knit fabrics (like a t-shirt). but any kind of woven fabric will work. Quilting cottons come in limitless colours and patterns but there are lots of other great fabrics too. Just experiment and have fun.

If you have kids or pets, you will probably want to check the washability of the fabric. Pre-wash to get any shrinking out of the way. You can just put in the washer and dryer following the directions for the particular fabric you have.


pillow on a couch with title.
pin for later

Thread

Get thread in a coordinating colour.

Don’t worry about getting high end expensive thread, but don’t get bargain bin thread either. Cheap thread won’t hold up to a project and it might damage your machine. Polyester dressmaker thread is fine.

Tools

A basic sewing machine is all you need. Be sure you know how to thread it, load the bobbin and watch the seam allowance. Change the needle regularly.

If you are a total beginner, it is worth taking a class at a local store. Even with a basic machine, you will learn things you didn’t know it could do.

Besides a sewing machine, you just need fabric scissors, pins, and you’re ready to go.

Assembly

Measure

Begin by measuring the pillow form. Most purchased pillow forms are made in standard sizes. Twelve inches and sixteen inches are popular.

measuring a blank pillow form.

Cut fabric

You will need three pieces of fabric. One square for the front of the pillow cover and two rectangles that overlap for the back. This overlap creates the opening.

Cut the square the exact size of the pillow front. That will make it slightly smaller than the pillow, so it will be a snug and firm fit.

For the back rectangles, take the square measurement, divide by two and add 2-1/2″.

In my case, the square is 16″, so I divided 16 by 2 to get 8. Then I add 2-1/2″ to get 10-1/2″.

The back panels are 16″ x 10-1/2″.

Hem back panels

Fold over one long edge of the back panels 1/2″ and press. Topstitch 1/4″ away from the edge.

hemmed rectangle for the pillow back.

If you have directional print, check to make sure the prints are going in the same direction. You want the hems to be on opposite sides of the rectangles so they line up.

fabric panels for sewing a simple pillow cover.

Pin together

Place the pillow cover front right side up.

Align one of the pillow cover backs with one side, right side down.

placing fabric right sides together for pillow cover.

Be sure the prints are going in the same direction.

Place the other back piece on the other side of the pillow. Hold in place with a few pins.

pinning the back fabric onto the front.

Stitch

Stitch together using a straight stitch going all the way around the outside of the square. Use a 1/2″ seam allowance.

To turn the corners, stitch until you get 1/2″ from the edge of the fabric. If it helps, mark the fabric at the stopping point. Stop with the needle down in the fabric.

sewing machine stopping to turn a corner on the pillow cover.

Lift the presser foot, keeping the needle down.

lifting the presser foot to turn the corner.

Turn the fabric. The needle will help it stay in place.

turning the fabric to sew a corner.

When it is turned, lower the presser foot and stitch the next side.

stitching the second side after the corner.

Once you get all the way around to the starting point, overlap by about an inch of stitching and that’s it. Trim the thread tails.

Finishing

Snip off the corners of the cover, being careful not to cut the stitching. This will help it lay flat and smooth.

trimming the corners.

Turn the pillow cover right side out. It just needs a quick press to smooth the edges.

pillow cover back.
finished pillow cover.

You’re done!

Put the pillow form inside and enjoy.

simple pillow on a chair with a quilt.

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Elizabeth DeCroos

Elizabeth DeCroos

designer, teacher, speaker

Elizabeth enjoys doing all types of sewing and needlework and teaching others new techniques. For more information or to have her speak to your group click HERE.

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