DIY Retro Pillow Covers

Simple Sewing Project

I have been searching for the right retro styled pillows for our living room couches for 2 years.  Yes, you read that correct.  2 years!  It hasn’t been a constant search but whenever I passed a pillow section at an interior décor store, I searched. 

I wanted the colours blue and mustard yellow to play in the main theme.  I wanted a retro vibe.  It was starting to feel like a far-fetched dream trying to find the right pillow. While my wish list wasn’t long.  I just had a very specific look in mind.

So after 2 years, I came up with the idea to make my own pillows!  Easier said then done, considering I didn’t have a sewing machine nor did I know how to use one and I hadn’t even found the right fabric yet.  But once I have a plan, I can get rather determined.  Within days I found a sewing machine available on market place.  It was probably a little pricey considering the age and simplicity of the machine, at a whopping 50 euros.  Had I done more research in advance I would have probably tried to haggle the price, but the fact it was available in my neighbourhood and came with multiple extras, I was sold!

My 10 year old son and I watched a few Youtube video’s and figured out how to get the machine up and running with a simple seam. I then purchased a variety of pillows, 8 in total for 36 euros and only had to find the fabric of my dreams.  I had ordered free samples of fabric online but unfortunately they kept falling flat of my mid-century goals. Until I found the perfect fabric in a store in Amsterdam.  I bought a total of 4 meters (2 meters of each fabric) for a price just shy of 50 euros.  So in total I did put 136 euros into the project or 17 euros per pillow. Or only 10.75 euros per pillow if I had decided to borrow a machine or if I decide this is as far as my sewing adventure will go and I resell the sewing machine. 

Supplies

  • Favorite fabric
  • Pillow insert
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Iron
  • Sewing machine
  • Pins
Second hand sewing machine

Step 1: Measure your pillow. I had a variety of different pillow sizes, so each measurement was different. When cutting out fabric for multiple pillows, try to measure them all first and with a piece of chalk you can lay out the required measurements on your fabric to ensure the least amount of waste.   

When measuring, you will want to add 5 cm’s to your total measurements.  Therefore if your pillows were 50 cm by 50 cm you will want to cut your fabric to 55 cm by 55 cm.  You however, also want to ensure you do not add to much additional fabric as a slightly tighter pillow cover will give the impression of a thicker, higher end pillow.

Retro Fabric

Step 2: For the back section, you will want to measure and cut two separate pieces that will become the envelope. You want them to match the height but will be shorter in the width.  Approximately just 2/3 of the width. So for my 50 x 50 pillow, I cut two 55 x 40 cm pieces.  

Cutting pillow covers

Step 3: Now iron flat the largest piece of fabric and put aside. For each of the smaller pieces of fabric you want to iron to create a fold for a finished seam on one of the longer sides of the fabric.  For in the case of my 55 x 40 cm piece of fabric, I would take one of the 55cm sides and iron a crease of about 1.5cm to 2 cm’s.

iron seam into fabric for pillow cover
sew seam

Step 4: After Ironing a seam into one of the long sides for each piece of fabric, you will then need to sew along that seam to hold it in place.

place top of pillow right side up and 1st back flap right side down.

Step 5: Once the seams are finished on one of the long sides for each smaller piece of fabric, you need to match up the front and bottom fabrics together.  Place the larger piece with the right side upwards. Place one of the smaller pieces on top with the right side down. Then place the final smaller piece on top of the larger piece facing down. You should have the seam you created for both shorter pieces overlapping.

prepare for sewing

Step 6: Now pin along the edge of all 4 pieces to hold each piece in place so that you can sew. I sewed approximately 1.5 cm from each edge, taking care to ensure the fabric didn’t move or bunch while feeding it through the sewing machine.  

Beginner tips:  When you start to sew, go forward for about 1 cm, then using the reverse button on your machine, sew backwards for about the same distance, before returning to the forward position and finishing the side.  When you finish, repeat the backward and then forward motion. This will ensure your begin and ending points will not unravel easily.

While sewing, stop occasionally to remove the pins you are using to hold the pieces of fabric together.  You do not want to accidentally sew over one, as it can break your needle.

sew sides together

Step 7:  Once all 4 sides have been sew, you can turn your pillow case right side out. For sharper corners, I was given the tip to use a chop stick to push the corner fully out.

flip fabric inside out

Step 8:  Now you can open the envelope that you have made and taking your pillow inset, you can stuff it into the slip. Ensure the pillow corners get into the corners the then fluff it according to your tastes.

Mid-Century Modern Pillow Cover
Mid-Century Modern Pillow Cover

I am thrilled with the final result of the pillows.  They look great in our living room and are exactly what style I was looking for.  A retro, Mid-Century Modern vibe with the colours I was looking for. 

The overall project was easier then I initially thought it would be, however; it definitely took longer then I thought it would.  I put part of this down to my sewing machine and my lack of understanding on how to set it up.  Therefore, this part took me regularly longer then expected. 

I would definitely recommend this project for anyone looking for the perfect pillow but failing miserably to find it.  In terms of being a money saver…. I am less certain, as the project took time and quiet a lot of it, as a beginner with sewing. 

I would love to hear if you undertake the project and try to sew your own pillows.  Need help?  Don’t hesitate to reach out to me.  

Love the retro vibe?  Check out this easy DIY Retro Wall Mural or these other ways to bring the retro vibe into your home.

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Hey, I'm Sarah, the owner of Bold Wallflowers.

I'm on a self-taught journey through furniture refinishing and restoration, loving every experiment in my workshop.

Join me as I share my discoveries and gained knowledge with our vibrant community of fellow refinishers!

This post may contain amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, if you decide to make a purchase through the provided links, at no additional cost to you.

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