European Pillow Tutorial

European Pillowcase – A Make Your Own Tutorial

The other night after we had tucked Timothy in, I went to peak in on him.  He was lying flat on his back, trying to hold up an enormous map book with his little arms.  His pillow is quite flat so I decided I would get him a European pillow and make him a cover.  The next day we went and looked at swatches of fabrics that would coordinate with his existing bedding.  He was like a miniature interior designer – talking patterns and colours, but most importantly feeling the fabric to make sure it would be nice for him to lay on.

The big square European pillow is a great way of smartening up a bed and they are so comfy to use if you are sneaking in a bit of reading or a well earned cup of coffee.  I always find store bought covers too floppy as they are usually made from the same light weight fabric as bedding.  I like to use a medium weight upholstery fabric, which gives them just a little bit more structure.  Timothy chose a beautiful soft velvet.

European Pillow

These covers are a doddle to make so I thought I would do my first tutorial for those that wish to add a little something homespun to their home.  This tutorial is for a European pillow cover with a buttoned back fastening.  It also gives you the option to add piping around the edge.  Omit steps 8 and 9 if you don’t want to tackle piping.  Happy making!

European Pillow Tutorial

Step 1 – Measure the Pillow

  • Measure the height and width of the pillow.

Measure Pillow

Step 2 – Calculate the Sizes of the Sections

  • Back Section A = (Half the height measurement)+(10cm overlap)+(5cm turning allowance)+(1.5cm seam allowance) x (width measurement)+(3cm seam allowance)
  • Back Section B = (Half the height measurement)+(3cm turning allowance)+(1.5cm seam allowance) x (width measurement)+(3cm seam allowance)
  • Front Section C = (Height measurement)+(3cm seam allowance) x (Width measurement)+(3cm seam allowance)
  • Piping Section D = (Distance around pillow)+(20cm allowance for joining) x (4cm)

Timothy’s pillow measures 65cm x 65cm, so the cut sizes for this cushion would be…

  • Back Section A = 49cm x 68cm
  • Back Section B = 37cm x 68cm
  • Front Section C = 68cm x 68cm
  • Piping Section D = 292cm x 4cm (cut on a 45 degree angle)

With these measurement the back two sections will overlap and button up in the centre of the cushion.  You may wish to alter the height measurements above to move the buttons off centre.

Step 3 – Mark and Cut Fabric

  • Using a fabric marker, mark out your pattern pieces.
  • The piping can be made by joining smaller strips together, but they must be cut on a 45 degree angle.
  • Mark the top left hand corner of all your pieces to ensure you put your cushion together with the fabric pieces all going the same way.  Even some plain fabrics look different in the light when you turn them upside down.
  • Cut your pieces.

Mark the Top of the Fabric

Step 4 – Prepare Section A

  • Turn under 1cm along the width. Then turn under 4cm.  Press and sew.
  • Ensure your fabric is the right way up.
  • Fold this hem on the left hand side of the fabric.

Prepare Section A

Step 5 – Prepare Section B 

  • Turn under 1.5cm along the width. Then turn under another 1.5cm.  Press and sew.
  • Ensure your fabric is the right way up.
  • Fold this hem on the right hand side of the fabric.

Prepare Section B

Step 6 – Mark Positions for the Buttons

  • Divide the width of your cushion by the number of gaps between the buttons.  There are also two half gaps at either end.

With Timothy’s cover, Section 3 had a cut width of 68cm.  I chose to have 9 buttons running across the back.  My calculations went as follows…

  1. 68cm – 3cm (seam allowance) = 65cm
  2. I divided 65cm by 9 (the 8 gaps between the 9 buttons plus the 2 half sized gaps at either end) = 7cm with a remainder of 2cm
  3. Share the remaining 2cm between the two half gaps at either end.  Initially these were 3.5cm, they are now 4.5cm.

Mark Positions for Buttons

Step 7 – Sew and Open Buttonholes

  • The buttonhole should extend beyond the width of the button by 2mm either side.
  • An unpick is a great tool for cutting the buttonhole.


Optional Step 8 – Prepare the Piping

  • Sew the top of one strip to the bottom of another strip.  These are positioned so the strips make a right angle and are joined with a 1.5cm seam allowance.
  • Once stitched, open seams flat and press.

Join Strips for the Piping

  • Lay cord along the middle of the fabric.  Fold the fabric over the cord and stitch using a zipper foot attachment.

Prepare the Piping Cord

Optional Step 9 – Attach Piping

  • Begin stitching the piping to the right side of your front section (C), still using the zipper foot.  Don’t sew the first or last 15cm – leave these sections unattached.

Attach Piping to Front Section

  • Stop 5cm before each corner.  Leave your needle down and lift the foot.  Make small cuts in the piping seam.  This will allow you to turn the piping nicely around the corner.
  • Put the foot down and stitch around the corner.

Piping Around a Corner

  • Attach the two ends of the piping.

Trim Piping

Join Piping

Trim Cord

  • Finish attaching the piping to the front section.

Step 10 – Layer, pin and sew all the sections in place. 

Step One
Lay Section C first, with the right side facing up.
Step Two
Lay Section A on top of Section C, putting the right sides together.
Step 3
Add Section B to the existing layers, overlapping in the centre by 10cm
  • Once your fabric is positioned as above, pin around the outside and stich using a piping foot (or if you don’t have one, a zigzag foot).
  • Neaten seams and then finish the edge with a zigzag stitch.

Join All Sections

Step 11 – Attach buttons.

Back View

So now Timothy has a little something soft to rest his head on as he reads!

European Pillowcase


  1. So cool!! Very straightforward instructions. Also LOVE how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, such a gorgeous passion to pass on. Xxx

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