Easy DIY Pillowcases

About six years ago, I undertook my first big sewing endeavor. It was a quilt for Jared. Maybe it was my lack of skills or my 19-year-old impatience, but I hated every minute of it. Seriously, I think I complained the whole way through. A grand seamstress I was not.

But times change, and fortunately patience seems to grow a little stronger with age. When I bought those gobs of fabric for the bean’s room a while back, I was a little hesitant about coming face to face with my old rival again. But something about making things to decorate a baby girl’s room seemed infinitely more enjoyable than stitching together a blanket for my boyfriend (sorry, Jared), so I decided to go for it, despite my trepidation.

For Christmas this year, my parents got me a snazzy new sewing machine (after much insistence from me that I would, in fact, put it to use), and after more than half a year of box-sitting, it’s finally getting a chance to show me its stuff. Because I’m an extreme beginner on all this sewing business, I really did have to start from the ground up. Yes, I sat with the instruction book (my dad would be so proud!) and learned how to thread the machine, thread the bobbin, turn it on and make it go — all those important details that I’m sure I learned in seventh-grade home ec but somehow lost along the way. So after a good solid hour of figuring out how the thing worked (Google was a mighty fine help as well) and a few practice runs on some scrap pieces of fabric, I was ready to roll. Full speed ahead!

First on my baby room project agenda: two zippered throw pillowcases. Aside from getting the zipper installed, which worked a bit better on the second try than the first, the process was actually fairly simple. Again, I chalk it up to the increased patience of a 25-year-old versus 19-year-old. Just think; by the time I’m 40, I’ll be a regular sewing machine.


What you’ll need:
• Fabric (1/2 yard or more per pillow, depending on its size)
• Sewing machine
• Matching thread
• Scissors (for fabric-cutting and thread-cutting)
• Zippers (one for each pillow, about 4 inches shorter than the length of your pillow inserts)
• Pillow inserts
• Pins (dandiest piece of sewing equipment on the planet)
• Seam ripper (normal scissors can work in a pinch)

Start by cutting out your two panels of fabric for the pillow (ironing the fabric first is a good idea). You’ll want to add an extra ½ inch all around the panels for the seams, so add 1 inch to the height and 1 inch to the width before cutting. My pillow inserts were 18-inch squares, so I cut my fabric into 19-inch squares.

To make sure you get your edges straight when cutting, I think it helps to take your piece of fabric, fold it in half, then measure half your width all the way down and secure it with pins (half the width because the fabric is folded over). Make your cut using the pins as guides. Then once that’s done, do the same thing in the other direction. Fold your fabric in half, then measure half the height and mark it with pins. Voila! Perfectly straight edges!

Zipper time. Once you have both panels cut, turn the right sides of the fabric facing each other and line them up along all four corners (the rough side of the fabrics should be facing out). Take a peek inside and make sure the fabric is turned and lined up how you’ll want it to be once the fabric is flipped back the right way. This can be a little trickier with a patterned fabric.

Center your zipper a few inches from what will be the bottom edge of your pillow, and stick a pin just inside the metal stops on both sides of the zipper (pinning the fabric panels, not the zipper). Now you can take the zipper off for a sec.

Sew a small seam on the edges outside each pin, about ½ inch from the bottom of the fabric. Once those two small seams are in, use a basting stitch to make a seam connecting the two (you want to use a basting stitch because you’ll be ripping it out once the zipper is installed, so don’t reinforce this part of the seam with a reverse stitch).

Iron the basted seam open, then (with the wrong side of the fabric facing up) line up the zipper along the seam (teeth of the zipper should run right along the seam). Pin in place.

Sew both long sides of the zipper to secure it in place. Once it’s sewn down, you can open the zipper from the other side by using a seam ripper to carefully cut the basted seam you sewed earlier (be careful not to cut the small seams on either side of the zipper that you sewed first). The zipper is now installed!

The rest of the process is pretty easy peasy. Pin the final three sides of the panels in place, making sure that all four corners are lined up. Now sew the panels together on the three remaining sides. (Note: To go around corners, simply lift the sewing machine pedal and rotate the fabric 90 degrees. Then keep on sewing until you get to the next corner, and repeat the process). Make sure you’re using reverse reinforcement stitches to hold the seams in place at the beginning and end.

Hit the pillow case with a quick iron to get out any last wrinkles, and snip off the extra fabric at the corners, which will allow you to have nice, sharp edges once the pillow is turned right side out.

Flip the case right side out, slip the pillow insert inside, close the zipper, and you’re done!


Pretty nifty, right? I think Ella is still trying to figure out how she feels about this sewing business. There she is trying desperately to reach the bean’s new décor. Or maybe she’s going for Pooh Bear. She is a toy hog, that one.

What DIY projects have you been up to these days? Any expert sewing advice you’d like to share? I’m all ears!



  1. says

    Excellent visual tutorial, Katrina! And I love the fabric for the pillows. I’ve never sewn a zipper in a pillow before. With this tutorial, I won’t be as scared! 😉

  2. Michelle says

    YAY! It’s so great to see the finished product- my mom would be very proud:) You’re so adventurous with your sewing- jumping in with zippers right away- you are so brave! I just figure that I’ll be tired of my throw pillows by the time they need washing, so I can just re-do them (but I also don’t have a puppy or bean around either). I can’t wait to see your next sewing project!

  3. says

    What a brilliant tutorial, especially the bit about the zipper, thanks for sharing!

    I agree with you about the age thing too, I had no patience for sewing when I was 19, and now, ten years later, I am even sewing clothes myself, something I never tohught I would be good enough to do!

  4. says

    My sewing machine spat the dummy when i was making my summer skirts last winter, so as soon as i get a new one for christmas (fingers crossed lucky you) I am going to come back and look at this again.. excellent c

    • Katrina Tauchen says

      Thanks so much! I saw it again at Jo-Ann’s the other day, so it’s still out there and waiting to be made into pillows or something equally awesome!


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