You Can Accomplish This Before Your Effing Head Explodes: Pillow Covers

The pillow on this chair was purchased from Amazon.com a number of years ago. I didn’t sew it.

I’ve been working on updating our decor while making the house more kid friendly.

We (had) some lovely upholstery, which I absolutely adored; however, with the kid and pets, it was getting rather beat up.  For years, I resisted covering it.

I liked it and wanted to enjoy it.  I figured if it got ruined, that was the price to be paid and we’d have it recovered.  Why treat it so preciously?

But finally I was forced to admit, it was ridiculous for me to continue to lint roll and vacuum and spot treat all the favorite places the cats laid around (and barfed) as well as the spots the dog used as her personal napkin twice daily.

So I purchased a bunch of cream and taupe drop cloths, slip covers and curtains and well, the house became very beige.

At first, it was a refreshing change.  It also allowed me to have a “summer look” with the light slip covers (and ticking pillow covers) and then a “winter look” with the more rich looking original upholstery (with fancy silk pillow covers).

But you know what I don’t much give a damn about with the arrival of Mac’s toddler-monkey stage?  Summer and winter decor.

And all the beige was making me feel uninspired. . .maybe even bringing me down a little? 

So after considerable stewing, I decided we should get more kid friendly in a much more colorful way.  After all, the two rooms that made me feel happiest were our wildly colorful bathrooms.

Plus, since the dogs and kid seem to think the main living area of the house is occasionally a bathroom, it seemed like a logical move on my part, to make the rest of the house look more like the bathrooms.

So I decided to go big with color and clashing patterns. . .

Both the red and black polka dot fabric I ordered from Jo-Ann’s about 4 years ago. The green chevron fabric is from Amazon.com

As an added bonus, I figured Mac would love looking at all the colors and patterns.

I’ve found the most inexpensive ways to switch up a space include paint and small yardages of decorative fabrics to make pillow covers and other small slip covers.

I wasn’t about to repaint this joint.  Plus, I really liked the slightly lemony/green shades of the walls. . .The have proven to be very versatile.

So a week or two ago, I purchased about 10 yards of various fabrics for about $88 from Amazon dot com.

And if all of this isn’t offensive enough to the retina, I also purchased a yellow suzani print for the kitchen window!

How did I decide what to purchase?  I loosely based some of the colors on the colors in the original stained glass transoms in our front windows.

As for the patterns?  I just picked what I liked making sure each pattern contained limited amounts of white.

Some of the yardage, I’m planning to use as a window treatment for the kitchen window.  The rest I put to work right away making slip covers and toss pillows.  Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far:

I gave away the 2 larger chairs that were originally here and replaced with two similar chairs I had in other rooms. These seem to be less appealing to Mac to climb all over.  That stupid baby gate is a nice touch no?  The stool was in our bathroom but it looks better here.  Bonus?  I can hide Mac’s toys in it and he can easily access them without fear of pinching his fingers.

Here’s how:

(And this is going to be annoying because I don’t measure anything and my seam allowances are sloppy as hell.  For an alternative tutorial check out this one on Little Green Notebook.  Also, I’m sure if you Google Envelope Pillow Cover you’ll find scads of instruction/guidance).

This is the back of the envelope pillow cover. You can make your opening run horizontally or vertically depending on the size and pattern of your fabric.

1.  Wash and iron your fabric.

2.  Take the fabric and place it wrong side down (i.e., put the pattern side up facing you) on a solid flat surface.

3.  Place your pillow form on top of the fabric.

4.  Wrap the fabric around the pillow making small rough marks with a washable fabric markers to guide your sewing and trimming – if needed.  I usually just eyeball it, try to get a feel for how the fabric should be positioned and generally where the seams will be, what needs trimmed, etc.

5. The fabric should overlap at the back of the pillow.  This will allow the pillow to slide into the cover without the need for a zipper.

6.  Where the fabric overlaps in the back, you’ll need to finish the two raw edges.  Fold back both sides and press the folds lightly.  You’ll need to individually sew both folds down using a simple straight stitch.  (If you are making a no-sew version, secure the folds with a fusing tape and iron.)  If you are picky about loose threads, you’ll want to make a double fold on each side, so the raw edge is completely hidden.  I’m lazy so usually I just trim my fabric with pinking shears, fold it once and sew it.

7.  Once you have both sides of the opening finished, you’ll need to take the fabric, place it  wrong side down on the flat solid surface (i.e., the pattern will be facing you).  Place the pillow form on top and wrap the fabric around the pillow again arranging the fabric so the two finished edges are overlapping in the back center of the pillow form.

8.  At this point you will still have two “openings”/unfinished edges you need to address.  Carefully, make a light mark with a fabric marker on the two remaining unfinished edges of the fabric to guide where you will sew.  More precise and less wasteful sewers, would probably suggest measuring and determining a suitable seam allowance.  Not me, I just eyeball it by smooshing down the pillow form a little bit.

Remember, when you address the remaining two unfinished edges, you will basically be sewing the pillow cover inside out.

9.  Pin the folds if needed to keep things neat while you sew the two remaining sides using a straight stitch. (Or iron shut using fusable webbing).

10.  Trim any excess fabric.  Turn the cover right-side out, press lightly and stuff the pillow form into the pillow using the opening in the back of the pillow.

I made covers for the two small chairs’ cushions in the same fashion.  I just treated them like large pillows!  These covers are easy to get on and off. . .which is nice since they need to be washed ALL THE TIME!

One thing I’ve learned after making a LOT of these covers over the past few years:  It’s useful to double stitch (back and forth a few times) over the places were the fabric overlaps in the back to form the opening.  Our pillow covers get washed A. LOT. and extra reinforcement in that area helps since it sees a lot of action.

Also?  A little too much wine while sewing and you might just end up with something like this:

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10 thoughts on “You Can Accomplish This Before Your Effing Head Explodes: Pillow Covers

    • Thanks! I hope I’m not sick of all these patterns by Halloween. . .but maybe it won’t matter, because we all know I’m terrible at finishing projects. . .And I still have a considerable amount of sewing to do.

  1. OH! Perfect timing. I need to make pillow covers for the pillows that came with our new sofa bed – they’re the same color as the couch (boring) I’ll have to keep this in mind when I go at them…

  2. This is awesome and also what I have been dying to do! I’m totally doing this now. I’ve been feeling creative in my hibernation.

  3. Pingback: You Can Accomplish This Before Your Effing Head Explodes: 30 Minute Window Treatment | The Diary of a Reluctant Mother

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