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Three Ways to Make a Pillow Cover

Martha Stewart Living, July 2010

These three simple finishing styles -- a slipstitched closure, an envelope-backed closure, and a zippered closure -- provide nice options for any sewn-from-scratch pillow project.

Although the instructions are for square pillows, you can make rectangular pillow covers in the same fashion.

Slipstitched Pillow Cover

For this streamlined style, the cover is closed with an invisible seam after inserting the pillow form. Because the closure is permanent, the cover is most appropriate for pillow forms that won't be washed.

If you do need to wash the filled pillow -- particularly if it's made of a delicate fabric, such as silk -- have it dry-cleaned.

Tools and Materials

Basic sewing supplies
Pillow insert
Fabric

Slipstitched Cover How-To

1. Add 1 inch (2.5 cm) to the height and length of the pillow insert for the seam allowance. With a ruler and a disappearing-ink fabric pen, draw 2 squares of fabric with these dimensions; cut out squares.

2. Pin the squares together, right sides facing. On the bottom edge, make marks 3 inches (7.5 cm) in from the right and left sides. Starting at one of the marks, sew along all the edges of the pillow with a 1/2-inch (13 mm) seam allowance, leaving the space between the marks open. Clip the corners and turn the pillow right-side out. Use a point turner or a closed pair of scissors to push the corners out.

3. Press the edges of the pillow, turning the unfinished edges of the opening under 1/2 inch (13 mm). Insert pillow form. Slipstitch the opening shut.

Envelope-Backed Pillow Cover

Creating an envelope backing is simple: One long rectangle of fabric is overlapped in the back to create the closure.

Tools and Materials

Basic sewing supplies
Pillow insert
Fabric

Envelope-Backed Cover How-To

1. Measure the dimensions of your pillow. To determine the size rectangle you'll need, add 1 inch (2.5 cm) to the height for the seam allowance, and multiply the length by 2, then add 6 inches (15 cm). (For example, an 18-inch [45.5 cm] pillow insert would require a 19-by-42-inch [48.5 cm by 106.5 cm] rectangle.) With a disappearing-ink fabric pen and a ruler, draw the dimensions of the rectangle onto your fabric; cut it out. Place the rectangle right-side down. Double hem the left and right edges: Fold each edge in 1/2 inch (13 mm), press, then fold over again 1/2 inch (13 mm), and press. Pin and edge-stitch 1/8 inch (3 mm) from the inner fold.

2. Fold the left and right edges in, overlapping them by 4 inches (10 cm). Measure the square to make sure it matches the dimensions of your pillow insert.

3. Pin the top and bottom edges and sew with a 1/2-inch (13 mm) seam allowance. Turn the pillowcase right-side out. Use a point turner or a closed pair of scissors to push the corners out. Insert pillow.

Zippered Pillow Cover

Adding a zipper to a pillow cover makes it versatile; you can easily remove the insert to wash the cover, or replace it altogether. Use a zipper that is the exact length of or slightly longer than the pillow opening. A polyester coil zipper is a good choice because it is easy to shorten.

Tools and Materials

Basic sewing supplies
Pillow insert
Fabric
Zipper
Zipper foot for sewing machine

Zippered Cover How-To

1. Add 1 inch (2.5 cm) to the height and length of the pillow insert for the seam allowance. With a ruler and a disappearing-ink fabric pen, draw 2 squares of fabric with these dimensions; cut out squares. Pin the squares together, right sides facing. On the bottom edge, make marks 3 inches (7.5 cm) in from the right and left sides. Starting at one edge, sew to the mark with a 1/2-inch (13 mm) seam allowance; backstitch to secure. Repeat on the opposite edge. Set your machine to a basting stitch, and sew between the 2 marks (see dashed line; this is where you'll install the zipper). Press the seam open. With a disappearing-ink fabric pen, mark the seam allowance 3 inches (7.5 cm) in from each edge (over your first marks).

2. If the zipper is longer than the pillow opening, mark the zipper the same length as the opening. Use a needle and thread to sew 5 to 10 times around the coils at the mark (this will prevent the zipper pull from slipping off the coils). Trim the zipper 1/2 inch (13 mm) below the stitches.

3. Lay the zipper facedown on the opening seam, aligning the coils with the seam. Flip the zipper pull up, so that it can be moved down while you're sewing. Pin the zipper in place and use a needle and thread to baste the zipper tape to the seam allowance. Using the zipper foot, and starting 2 inches (5 cm) from the top of the zipper, machine-sew around the zipper (about 1/8 inch [3 mm] from coil), stopping 2 inches (5 cm) from the top. Bring the zipper pull below the 2-inch (5 cm) mark, and finish sewing around the top of the zipper, including the top edges. With a seam ripper, remove the basting stitches along the zipper tape, and from the opening. Unzip the zipper. Pin the front and back pillow pieces together, right sides facing, aligning the edges. Replace presser foot, then sew the remaining 3 edges with a 1/2-inch (13 mm) seam allowance. Clip corners and turn the pillowcase right-side out. Use a point turner or a closed pair of scissors to push the corners out.

Comments (5)

  • 12 Dec, 2013

    These look so lovely — those berries are gorgeous! I hope you continue to feel a little bit better each day. Thinking of you!
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  • 29 Jun, 2013

    Oh, duh, I was expecting images to be inline with the steps they correspond to, not part of a slide show at the top of the page. That would have been easier for me to see and follow. I appreciate you including them.

  • 29 Jun, 2013

    Thanks for these instructions. I don't know enough about working with zippers to follow them without a line drawing or two.

  • 7 Apr, 2013

    It's good to find instructions without having to watch a video and listen to someone. I hate videos. Written instructions with pictures are much better.

  • 20 Dec, 2012

    I wish you would make a video of this.