How to Make a Pillow Cover

I love pillows! I’m embarrassed to admit that I have a closet full of them that I swap out each season. My husband is thrilled about that! Pillows can transform the look and feel of a room instantly, but buying them from your favorite store can get pricey. They are actually quite easy to make on your own, and it’s fun to find a fabric you love for a completely custom look. I created the pillow I’m featuring today as a baby gift for a dear friend. It only took me a few hours to complete.

A few years ago I hadn’t the slightest idea how to sew a pillow. In fact, I wasn’t too sure I even knew how to operate a sewing machine since the last time I had used one was in Home Ec in middle school. Once you remember the basics of using a machine, making a pillow cover is one of the easiest projects you can do. If you need help with the basics of the machine, let me know and I will back up and start from the very beginning with some posts explaining sewing basics.

Here’s what you’ll need to make a pillow.


  • 16 x 16 pillow insert
  • One or two of your choice of fabrics. A home decor fabric will work best.
  • Thread in your choice of color
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors

Step 1

Taking the fabric you want to make up the front of your pillow, cut it to 17″ x 17″. Then taking the fabric you want to make up the back of your pillow, cut it to 17″ x 21″.

Cut Front Fabric

Cut Back Fabric

Now, take the larger piece of fabric (the back of your pillow), fold it in half and push down to make a crease, then unfold and cut on the crease line. Iron all pieces of fabric if you haven’t already.

Cut Back Piece in Half


Step 2

Taking the two pieces of fabric for the back of the pillow you will want to finish the edges of what will be the envelope enclosure. The envelope enclosure allows you to remove the cover from the pillow insert to wash it without having to sew a zipper. Take one piece of the back fabric and fold the long side over 1/4″ (folding back toward the non-pretty side of the fabric). Press with iron.

Fold Over and Press


Then fold it over on itself again another 1/4″ and press with iron.

Fold Again and Press

Then using your sewing machine, stitch down ironed line with seam allowance in line with the presser foot. Repeat with other half of fabric for the back.


Two Back Pieces

Step 3

If you want the front of your pillow to feature an appliqué design, now is the time to do that. Please see my tutorial on appliqué to learn how. You will follow the same directions just sew the appliqué to the front of your pillow rather than the front of a baby shirt. If you just want a plain pillow front, move to Step 4 below.

Step 4 

Putting the pretty sides of the fabrics together, lay the front fabric and the bottom fabrics on top of each other. For the back fabric, overlap the finished ends (see image above) that you sewed in the middle of the pillow so that all unfinished edges of both fabrics line up with the 17″ x 17″ piece of fabric from the front of the pillow. Pin all four sides of the pillow together.

Line Up FabricsStep 5

Using your machine, stitch around all four sides of the pillow using a 1/2″ seam allowance, removing pins as you sew. Be cautious when you sew over the overlapping parts of the back envelope enclosure as there will be more layers of fabric to go through.

Step 6

Cut off any messy thread or fabric edges on the inside of the pillow that you’d like to remove. Then turn it inside out. Use your scissors to push fabric out of corners.

Poke Out CornersOn this pillow I also added some ribbon ties to the envelope enclosure just to make it look a little more special on the back. Cut four pieces of grosgrain ribbon. Measure 5 1/2″ down from the top and the bottom of the pillow and about 2 inches in from enclosure overlap for each piece. Pin down. Stitch down end of ribbons. Tie together.

Envelope Enclosure Pillow

Back of Pillow


Enjoy your handmade pillow! It makes a very special new baby or birthday gift.

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