pillow tutorial

finally i’m delivering on a promise! this is a tutorial for simple pillow covers, ones that you can remove from your pillows to wash or change out. they will not be sewn onto the pillows, so no hand stitching is required (yay!). and no zippers, just a fold over the back that keeps it all together. confused? it’ll (hopefully) make sense in a few minutes…

i made these pillows as a custom order for a customer. the pillow forms i had underneath were a little too big and full, but they worked good enough for the picture.

supplies: fabric, scissors, pins, thread, ricrac or any other trim (if you want to add some embellishment – not necessary), rotary cutter and self healing mat. you can do without the cutter and mat, but why would you?! they make cutting straight lines sooo much easier.

i started off by squaring up my fabric because i had a large print that would be really noticeable if i was off a bit. if you are a beginner i suggest using a fabric that is not a large graphic print, just because mistakes are much more noticeable.

decide what size pillows you want and add 1/2 to both sides, for seam allowance. for example: i wanted my finished size of pillow cases to be 17 x 17 so i cut the front piece 17 1/2 x 17 1/2.
cut one piece this size. then cut 2 more pieces the same height (17 1/2, in my case) and about 2/3 of the width (about 11″ for me). this doesn’t have to be exact. these pieces are for the opening in the back. the above pic is of the larger front piece and the 2 smaller back pieces.

for the 2 back pieces, the outside edges need to be finished, so you need to get out your iron. i never measure this part, just eyeball it. fold the fabric over about 1/4″ and press. then fold over about 1/3″ and press again.

make sense?

then use a straight stitch and 1/4″ seam allowance and stitch that fold closed.

for a little bit nicer look, i like to run a second stitch down next to the first. it helps the edge from not rolling in a funky way, too.

get it?

good! now do the other back piece the same, but on the opposite edge. oh, this is getting confusing!

next attach the ricrac all the way around on the right side of the fabric if you want some extra embellishment. you could easily skip this step and it would still look great without it. i don’t pin my ricrac because i feel like it actually makes the job a bit harder.

i just hold it close to the edge (refer to pic above) and run a straight stitch through it as close to the edge of the fabric as i can, definitely less than 1/4 seam allowance.

here is the top piece with the ricrac sewn down onto it. i should’ve ironed it. sorry.

now you want to attach the 2 back pieces that you finished the edges on. did i make it clear which edges you finish? look above and it should make sense. it will be the edges that will be exposed, the ones that you would pull open to shove in your pillow form. i do like to pin this part, to hold everything together.

now with a straight stitch again and a 1/4 inch seam allowance, go around the entire pillow. turn it right side out to make sure that you don’t have any exposed seams from attaching the ricrac. if so, just go back over those spots with a little wider than 1/4″ until its all covered. i like to trim my inside corners a bit of the excess fabric, flip it right side out, then poke the corners to a sharp point with a very fancy sewing tool – a chopstick.

shove in your pillow form and toss it on your couch. pat yourself on the back and have a cookie!

if you have any questions or i left something major out, please let me know! remember, i’m not an expert, i just taught myself most of this along the way, so there are probably better ways of doing things. but this works for me!

here are a few examples of what you can do with a little bit of patchwork, and the backside are done exactly the same, with the fold over enclosure.


  1. 1
    MeganAnne says:

    Thanks for the tutorial! I've been meaning to make some pillow covers. I probably would have eventually figured, but with some head aches. This is so helpful!!

  2. 2

    I was just asking for help in this area!!!! Yah…thanks for the great tutorial…Im so excited!!!

  3. 3
    Christina says:

    Lindsey, I absolutely LOVE my new pillows! And you did such a great job explaining how to make them … even I understood exactly how to do it! Given that I've never sewn anything in my life, your explanation is completely easy to understand! :o) Thanks again! The pillows totally make our entryway look so much more "us" than the pillows I had in there before.

  4. 4
    kaylin rose and mara anne says:

    I just got new bedding and need to make some pillows…this will be perfect and I am pretty sure I can follow your directions.

    Thanks again!

  5. 5
    Farmgirl Paints says:

    Those are adorable. Great tutorial!!

  6. 6
    Mama Mote says:

    I don't sew much…just mend here and there, but this sounds really simple and I'm considering making covers for a couple of pillows that are looking shabby – give them some new life? Think that'll work?

  7. 7
    katherine says:

    Thanks for the tutorial! I've been waiting for this. I once used to sew but have completely forgotten everything. This will be a project I'll do sometime in the summer. Thanks again!

  8. 8
    unfinished says:

    just a reminder for all new sewers. that's "sooers" not "sueers", oh, all you new seamstresses. anyway, be sure the preshrink your fabric and trim (like the ric rac) if it is washable. you don't want the pillow cover to shrink and be too tight on your form, or the trim to shrink and make the pillow cover poochy.

  9. 9

    Thanks for the crazy easy tutorial. I just finished my first pillow and I'm already thinking about the next one.

  10. 10

    Where did you find the "Fun With Dick & Jane" fabric? I love this project!

  11. 11
    lindsey says:
  12. 12

    Do you really have a white sofa? Love the pillows…and thanks for the sewing machine recommendation…still in the box, haven't had a chance to look at it yet, but can't wait.

  13. 13
    lindsey says:

    sarah – yes, i do have a white couch. but its a slipcover that is bleachable, which makes the most sense to me with kids. however, after 8 or 9 years of bleaching it, its starting to get tiny holes. uh oh! i don't know what i'm going to do!
    and so fun you got a new machine. just take it out and spend an hour on it. its super easy to just start right up with. my sister-in-law likes to do practice stitches on paper towels so you don't waste fabric when you're playing around. maybe try that? good luck!

  14. 14
    summer... says:

    so cute.

  15. 15
    Federica says:

    So cute! You did a great job!

  16. 16
    SoBella Creations says:

    The fabric is adorable! Thanks for sharing the tutorial.

  17. 17

    I just followed your blog over from Sugarplum and am in love! Love these tutorials!!!

  18. 18

    Thanks for this tutorial!!
    I've always just made my own dress pillows by covering an old one all the way around (hand stitching the final opening) because I'm a beginner sewer, but I made 2 beautiful pillows the other day using your envelope opening method so the covers can be removable and I'm addicted!

  19. 19

    Great tutorial! I was looking for one just like this. I also, love the fabric with the vintage looking children scenes. Do you know who the designer is or the name of the fabric? Thanks : )

  20. 20

    So cute! I need to make two pillows like this. Question: how do you turn the corner with the ric rac?

  21. 21

    hmm, its been awhile so i can’t exactly remember. i think i folded the ricrac over on the corner so when it flipped open it would wrap all the way around? be sure to allow for a little extra length there.

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