Tuesday, August 9, 2011

how to make a basic pillow cover

pillow cover, patchworked, hand-appliqued and hand-quilted
This tutorial is one of several that Rikka from Ricochet and Away! and I will be posting in the upcoming days. Refer to these tutorials for getting the best results in the Retro Pillow Cover Challenge! Read more about the challenge here and do let us know if you're participating!
pillow cover, machine quilted using a free motion foot
Here's how to make a basic pillow cover. It's really easy!
We'll be giving tips on how to enhance and embellish your pillow cover very soon!

This pillow cover has a zipper installed in the back piece rather than along one of the edges. This method has several advantages:

  • The zipper doesn't show at all from the "pretty front side".
  • The zipper head doesn't poke the person resting on the pillow.
  • Inserting embellishments along the edges, such as ruffles, piping, or bias binding, is much easier this way.
zipper installed in the back
Let's begin!

You will need
  1. Fabric for the front and fabric for the back - 
  2. See dimensions below, you really don't need much. You may even be able to use scraps you have on hand. Recommended fabrics: sturdy, lightweight / medium / heavy weight cotton or blends.
  3. One regular (not invisible) zipper - approximately 45 cm (18 in) or longer
  4. Pillow filling - (stuffing that is trapped inside very plain fabric-like material)
Step 1: Cut the fabric

In this tutorial we will be creating a 50 cm x 50 cm (19.5 in x 19.5 in) pillow cover.
We will place the zipper 7 cm (2-3/4 in) below the seam line on the back piece.

Seam allowances (included):
2 cm (3/4 in) where the zipper is installed; 1 cm (3/8 in) for all other edges.

Cut the following pieces of the fabric for the back of the pillow:

  • Top Back Piece: 10 cm x 52 cm (3-7/8 in x 20-1/4 in)
  • Bottom Back Piece: 46 cm x 52 cm (17.5 in x 20-1/4 in)

Cut the following piece of the fabric for the front of the pillow:

  • Front Piece: 52 cm x 52 cm (20-1/4 in x 20-1/4 in)
Step 2: Install the zipper in the back piece

Install the zipper between the top back piece and bottom back piece (centered zipper application method). We will leave about 7 cm (2-3/4 in) of a closed seam between the zipper opening and each fabric edge.

Here's how to do it:

Place the top back piece on top of the bottom back piece, right sides together, matching top edges (the long edges - 52 cm / 20-1/4 inch). Pin 2 cm (3/4 inch) away from the edge - this is the seam line for installing the zipper. Along this seam line, make a small mark 7 cm (2-3/4 inch) away from the start of the seam, and another one 7 cm (2-3/4 inch) away from the end of the seam. The segment between these two marks will be the zipper opening.
pinning along the zipper seam.
The fabric dimensions are different, but you get the idea :-)

Stitch along this seam line as follows:
  1. Up until the first mark: stitch normally (2.5 mm stitch)
  2. At the first mark: back stitch a few stitches
  3. After the first mark and up until the second mark: stitch using a long stitch (4 mm) - machine basting stitch. 
  4. At the second mark: back stitch a few stitches
  5. After the second mark, stitch until the edge using a normal sized (2.5 mm) stitch.
Finish the seam allowances of the seam you just stitched (overlock / zigzag / pink). Leave the seam allowances at their current width - don't trim them down significantly.
seam allowances finished with an overlock stitch
Baste the zipper onto the seam: Turn the back fabric piece wrong side up and lay the zipper on it, teeth down, so that the line of zipper teeth lays exactly centered on the seam line. Pin in place. Baste along the length of both zipper tapes and take out the pins. 
making sure the zipper teeth are centered above the seam
pinning the zipper in place, before basting
On the right side of the back fabric, make two marks that are 6.5 cm (2.5 in) away from each edge along the seam line. These mark the borders of the rectangle that holds the zipper in place.

Place the fabric right side up in the sewing machine, and stitch a rectangle holding the zipper in place, using a top stitch setting (3 mm stitch). Make sure the zipper head gets "trapped" inside the rectangle. You can use a zipper foot, but I find it just as convenient to use a regular foot and move the needle towards the zipper.
stitching the rectangle that holds the zipper in place
Remove the basting and carefully rip open the zipper opening seam, inside the rectangle, which you previously sewed using long stitches (4 mm). 
ripping open the temporary seam, exposing the zipper
That's it! The zipper is installed. 

Step 3: Connect the back and front pieces

Now the back fabric is of the same dimensions as the front fabric, though it has a zipper installed in it. Place the back fabric and the front fabric together, right sides facing. Keep the zipper open so that you will be able to turn the pillow cover right side out! Pin and stitch along all four edges, 1 cm (3/8 inch) away from the edge.

Step 4: Finish the seams

Clip each corner at an angle so that it will be easier to turn, without cutting the seam. Finish the seams together using an overlock stitch, a zig-zag stitch, or using pinked scissors. My preferred method is an overlock stitch.

Step 5: Turn right side out

Turn the pillow cover right side out through the zipper opening. Gently pull out the corners to get crisp points. Press lightly along the seams to get a crisp edge if you wish. And you're done!

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