sewing 101: making a duvet cover


I don’t know about you, but I never cease to be shocked at the price of bedding. And nothing sets off my “I could make that myself so much cheaper and better” instincts like duvet covers. It’s just a big flat case of fabric, yet even the simplest options easily soar into the three digits—but all it takes to make your own is a bunch of fabric, a few straight seams, and a spare afternoon.

Not only will going DIY with your duvet cover save you some cash, it’ll also allow you to custom-make exactly what you are looking for. What’s better than that? Let’s go! Brett Bara

*if you missed any of brett’s sewing 101 columns this month, check out her archives: curtains, zippered throw pillows, ottoman slip cover

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

What You’ll Need

Approximately 10 yards fabric (see below to calculate exact amount; I suggest buying extra just in case)

Yard stick, long quilter’s ruler or tape measure

Sharp scissors

Straight pins

Sewing machine

Iron and ironing board

Selecting and Preparing Fabric

I recommend machine-washable cottons or cotton-linen blends for duvet covers. Quilting shops are a great place to look for fabrics, as there are tons of choices there for cottons in tiny prints, large prints, solids and everything in between.

Here I’m working with Denise Schmidt Hope Valley Piney Woods from Free Spirit Fabrics.

Be sure to wash, dry and iron your fabric before beginning to pre-shrink it.

Fabric Tips

*If you find yourself head over heels for designer bedding, check to see if you can buy two flat sheets from the line, and use these to sew your own duvet cover. This can be much less expensive than buying the duvet cover itself, and sometimes the manufacturer uses the very same fabric for the sheets as for the duvets, so you’re really working with the exact same material.

*Consider using a different fabric for the front and back of the duvet so that the piece is reversible—two looks for the price of one, and a special bonus for the décor commitment-phobes among us.

Planning and Cutting

There aren’t strict standards for bedding sizes in the US (comforter sizes tend to vary among manufacturers), so I recommend measuring the comforter you plan to cover and using those numbers to plan your duvet cover.

Since fabric generally isn’t sold in widths wide enough for a full duvet, you’ll need to seam a few panels of fabric together to make the front and back. I suggest placing one full panel down the center of the duvet with two smaller panels to each side of it; this is generally nicer-looking than making one seam down the middle of the duvet.

NOTE: Remember that you should trim off the selvedge edges of your fabric (these are the finished edges on both sides of the fabric which are a little different in texture and/or color from the rest of the fabric) before sewing. Remember to subtract the selvedge edge from any measurements as you plan your piece.

Measure the width of your fabric without selvedge; plan to place one full panel of fabric down the center of the duvet and two smaller panels to each side of it. Simply make the side panels as large as they need to be to reach the desired width of your duvet cover, adding 1” to the width of each panel to allow for seam allowance.

So, if your center panel needs to be 40” wide and each side panel needs to be 20” wide, cut the panels 41” wide and 21” wide. Those extra inches will be consumed by the seams.

The length of your duvet is simply the desired finished length plus 2 ½” for hem and seam allowance.

*Remember that you need a front and a back, so plan all your measurements and double them to calculate the total amount of fabric you’ll need.

Here’s what your panels will look like when they’re ready to go.  (Note: I’m making a mini duvet here to make it easier to see the big picture of shape and construction.)

Sewing: French Seams

To begin, you’ll sew each side panel to its corresponding center panel, to make the front and back of the cover.

For a really nice professional-looking finished result, I recommend using French seams in this project. These seams are finished on both the inside and outside, so that no raw edges of fabric will be visible anywhere.

French seams may sound fancy, but they’re really easy! Here’s how:

Place two pieces of fabric WRONG SIDES TOGETHER. (This is the opposite of normal; usually you sew most seams right sides together.)

Sew the seam with a ¼” seam allowance.

Trim away about ½ of the seam allowance, being careful not to get too close to the stitches.


Iron the seam to one side, then fold at the seam so that right sides of the fabric are facing together, and iron the seam closed.

Pin the seam closed to avoid shifting, and sew it again with a ¼” seam allowance. Iron this seam to one side, and your French seam is done.

From the outside it looks like a regular seam, but on the inside all you see is this nice finished flap. Nice, right?!

For a nice finishing touch, you can top stitch to tack down the flap. All you do is top stitch on the right side of the duvet alongside the French seam, stitching over the folded-over flap in the back.

Iron the seam once again after top stitching to smooth and relax it.

Repeat for all center/side panels so that you have a complete front and back.

Attaching the Front and Back Together

Place the front and back together with wrong sides facing, pinning each side seam in place. Sew each side with French seams as described above (but skip the top-stitching for the sides).  After sewing the sides, sew the top closed with a french seam as well.

The inside of the duvet is now fully finished, with no raw edges visible at all. Isn’t that nice? Here is what the corners will look like on the inside.

To hem the bottom of the duvet, fold 1” of fabric to the inside and press. Fold up another 1” and press again; pin folds in place.

Stitch hem close to the exterior fold line and again close to the interior fold line.

Getting Closure

You have many options for closing up the bottom of the duvet (in each of these cases, I suggest placing a button/snap/ribbon about every 8” along the bottom):

*Buttons and buttonholes: easy to do with the buttonhole attachment that comes with most sewing machines.

*Sew-on snaps: very easy to sew on by hand, and quick to snap/unsnap when you change the duvet.

*Snap fastener kit: All you need is a hammer and the special tool that comes in this set to attach snaps without sewing for a very professional-looking result. (Check the instructions on the package.)

*Ribbon or twill tape: even easier to install. I suggest tucking 10” lengths of ribbon or tape under the folds of the hem before sewing it.

*Zippers: long zippers can be purchased online; you might consider a zipper closure along the bottom, using the same zipper-installation method as the zippered pillow cover.

That’s all there is to it! Don’t you feel so wonderfully nice and cozy with your new handmade duvet cover?!

  1. Katie says:

    I’m working on the finishing touches of my duvet right now. Thanks for the tutorial! I’m not too good with patterns but I enjoyed the easy to read instructions and visual aide. If you want I can email you a picture so you can see what you inspire (if not that’s fine too!)

    Thanks again. :-)

  2. Emma says:

    Your tutorial is fantastic – the photos just make it so much easier to visualise. I have a question though – I am making my daughters doona cover with a 10cm ruffle around 3 edges – I can’t do the french seams around the edges still can I? I can’t seem to get my head aorund that one. Any advise on adding the ruffle would be appreciated. Great work! Emx

  3. Joanna says:

    I once sewed my own, but saw how the comforter slipped around inside the cover. How do you keep it from bunching up to one side, or sliding down from the top edge?

  4. Lisa says:

    On the topic of securing the duvet in place – as well as having ties on your covers, sew a little loop on each corner of the duvet.
    In Japan, all the quilts/duvets have loops on the corners (some even have them in midway on each lengh as well,) and all covers have little ties sewn on the inside corners. It’s so intuitive so I don’t understand why they aren’t like that everywhere.

    1. Nancy B. says:

      Great idea Lisa!

  5. Sandra Dennison says:

    The Angry Chicken says some duvet covers have a fold-over closure like a lunch bag. She gives instructions on a tutorial for a snack bag. I am afraid to do that as I might not add enough material on the bottom.

  6. Angie says:

    Thank you so much for posting this tutorial! I can’t wait to get started on a duvet cover for our bed! Do you have any tutorials on making Euro Shams or other pillows to go with the bed?

  7. Angie says:

    One more quick question: The ribbon closure sounds adorable, but I’m having trouble picturing it and how to do it. Can you give me a picture or suggestion? Thank you so much!

  8. Diane says:

    Excellent explanation, Lisa, on the tie/loop solution to quilts slipping inside the cover. Thank you.

  9. Joanie says:

    Thanks so much for this tutorial. I just finished making my daughter your duvet cover with the Waverly Paris fabric that I bought 2 years ago for her French themed room. It came out gorgeous! The French seams were beautiful, and so easy to do with your easy instructions & pictures. I sewed ribbon on all the ends to tie the comforter in as well. What a great idea. Off to make some matching curtains now. Thanks again!

  10. Sarah Roberts says:

    This is great! I have plenty of cool sheets I plan to use for a duvet! Thanks for making it look easy :D

  11. Kris Van Allen says:

    I just recently found shower curtains on clearance (79%off!) off at Target….one matched the living room and became an easy window treatment, and the other two coordinated and matched our master bedroom and became a new duvet cover….button holes already for the shower curtain rings! I was even able to add on a hand crocheted edge. Love it! And for only about $10 for all 3!

  12. btram says:

    Quick question…some of you have mentioned that you’ve quilted one side of the duvet before sewing it together. I was going to attempt this but was wondering, can I just sew the squares together and be done or do I need to put some batting behind it to make it an actual “quilt” top?

    1. Nancy says:

      You could just line the whole top by pinning to a sheet and top-stitching the top to it along the lines of your patchwork. then just do the duvet construction. the only difference will be that your top has a double layer of fabric.

  13. Dolly says:

    A great forum: clear instructions for beginners/more experienced alike. Hi Emma! If the ribbon edge is still on your ‘do-list’ it can certainly be achieved – just insert (sandwich) the ribbon between the two sides of fabric so you marry up all 3 seam edges exactly – then pin carefully (I’d also tack it to ensure smooth look to ribbon) before you sow the first quarter inch seam. Next, trim,turn,press and (tack) then sow again/press + top stitch. An economic tip for anyone who’s interested in sowing … try to make use of any existing material. So, for a bottom vallanced sheet (a UK term, which you appear to call a bed skirt) which is rarely worn out or faded, but covers a large surface area – simply create and attach a new ‘skirt’ to the original flat sheet area (the material covering the bed base which is fully hidden by the top mattress). I’ve had great results and saved on buying unnecessary material just by adding a new box-pleated/frilled vallanced edge in either a matching or contrasting fabric, using the existing frill to estimate the material required. Best wishes all you sowers!

  14. Debi Sokol says:

    I went to JoAnn’s yesterday to buy fabric for a 3-color duvet cover. Every quilting fabric was 30% off, which prevented me from using coupons which were 40-50% off. An employee told me that the company made a bid deal of getting coupons out before the last Midnight Madness Sale , but had everything in the store already discounted so the coupons were worthless or dated for a future time. I’m getting tired of their tactics and ready to go somewhere else. Walmart carries fabric in many of their stores as does Hobby Lobby. I’d rather go to a thrift store.

  15. Barbara Michalak says:

    Especially if you are considering upholstery-type fabrics, keep in mind that the two layers of fabric in the duvet cover can add considerable weight to the actual duvet inside. Experiment by sleeping with two flat sheets on top of your existing duvet to make sure the weight won’t be too much for you.

  16. Quilt lover says:

    Just a few thoughts.
    First, if you own a serger, for heaven’s sake use it to finish your seams! So much easier than making French seams! Also, many quilt shops sell wide fabric especially made for quilt backs. These are 106″ or larger and for most projects you won’t have to seam. Definitely use some method to attach your corners of the comforter and duvet cover to each other or the comforter will always be bunched up one way or the other.

  17. Tara says:

    My Mom and I found some quilt tops that my great-grandmother and grandmother made in the 1930’s and 1940’s. They were never finished into quilts. I would like to make duvet covers out of them instead of quilts. Would I use a quilt back fabric first before sewing a sheet as a bottom for the duvet? Thank you for a great tutorial!

    1. Lisa says:

      For the safety if the quilt top please back it first. I would even recommend tacking down at random places through out the quilt then attach your back if the duvet. They will be wonderful heirlooms you can display . Good Luck

  18. Catherine says:

    This tutorial made a daunting project so much easier and I would never have even considered using the French seams-because I never had before in window treatments, curtains, etc., if you hadn’t included those directions. I was looking for years for a duvet cover that was what I wanted and finally decided to make the investment in the fabric that met my needs which nothing else ever quite did. While the material was not inexpensive, I consider this a great investment because we will have this for the rest of our lives. To justify my cost even more, using the french seams allowed me to make what was intended to be a two-sided duvet cover with two different fabrics/looks, into a completely reversible item with a careful thread color selection and straight stitching. I now have 4 options instead of two that all look professional!! The “wrong” sides of both fabrics were just as lovely- I had discussed using the “wrong”side of one intentionally with an extremely knowledgeable seamstress who actually liked it better than the finished side when she sold me the fabric and now am so incredibly pleased at the versatility of my creation! Your simple directions made a significant impact for me! Thanks so very much!!

  19. Fraser says:

    hi, love the step by step, but still a bit confused over the french seams. 1/8th of an inch seems to be a very tiny amount, and without drawing, or very close up step by step of the seam, can’t figure out quite what I am supposed to do with it . . . without a raw edge showing . Can not get 1/8th inch to fold the way it is supposed to? What am I doing wrong? Any help would be great. this is expensive fabric and I don’t want to ruin it :(

  20. Sue Sanchez says:

    Check eBay.., I’ve bought down comforters, 1200 thread count sheet, the whole thing really cheap… Think I will take the top sheets from a couple of sets and make a backup duvet cover though.

  21. Confectionery Wench says:

    Although I used to sew everything I wore and all of my home soft furnishings, I quit sewing over a decade ago. I have forgotten SO MUCH! I promised friends 2 duvet covers for their daughters. The hard part of this project is measuring and cutting a large amount of fabric. I was so grateful for the detailed instructions for a perfectly finished duvet. The part that I didn’t consider at all was the open end and the extra length necessary for the 2 inch hem. If I hadn’t read that several times, I would have made the mistake of shorting the hem. It is so nice to have a wide hem for buttonholes and also for allowing the opening to lay flat. Thank you very much for taking the time to take pictures for great visuals to go along with your directions. I found both necessary and helpful in order to complete the duvets. I’m always amazed at the generosity of sharing information in both sewing and food blogs and am really grateful for this generosity.m

  22. Joce says:

    Awesome project idea! And all the comments are super helpful too. A commenter posted a link to Martha’s (assume they meant Martha Stewart I hope?) instructions for tying the duvet cover to the duvet. I don’t quite understand that part so that’s good. From what other commenters wrote looks like this is a better tutorial on making a duvet cover from sheets than others online, so thank you! I’m not that advanced a sewer so hope it’s not too hard! Thanks all for the tips about places to find cheap sheets and cheap fabric! Gonna check Etsy!

  23. Nancy says:

    Before you go to all the trouble to make a duvet cover, put the duvet on the bed with two layers of the fabric you intend to use. The lighter the fabric the better. Heavier fabrics render the properties of the duvet useless and make the sleeper more uncomfortable because of the weight on their feet and legs. I made a beautiful one with decorator fabrics. I fled to the guest bedroom where it was on the bed and slept under it to escape my husband’s snoring… It was waaaaaaay to heavy!

  24. Taylor says:

    Thank You!!! I have had so much trouble finding twin xl bedding for my dorm room that I like. I think that I will just make my own perfect bedding!! :D

  25. In addition, I have found that one really needs to be able to secure the comforter inside – so I added loops of twill tape at the corners and about 2 additional per side on the comforter, then long pieces of twill tape, (about 12″) stitched through the center of the length to corners and corresponding points on the sides. Then, stick one end of the tie t through the loops and tie securely.

  26. Liz P says:

    Just wanted to leave a note to thank you for this awesome tutorial. Just finished my daughter’s queen sized duvet for her college dorm. I did the french seams and it came out beautifully! The down comforter stays securely inside!

  27. jen says:

    This was a great tutorial! But my question is how to cut/place the fabric if you are using a print that needs to line up? And how to cut the panels, its great if your fabric is the perfect size…but mine is 43″ wide. To make a queen I need a finished size of 88″ wide…so even four panels uncut would not be enough…where am I gonna put one odd size panel? Or cut them all into 22″? Or leave the top center panel whole and cut the others into even widths? That seems like a ton of work…and cutting!!! Any ideas or sugfeations would be greatly appreciated! I’ve been sitting on this fabric for my sons room for ever! Trying to make it the right size has been a daunting issue…so I just keep putting it off! Help!

  28. jen says:

    P.s. the fabric is expensive…$9.99 a yard. So originally I only bought two panels thinking I could use a colored sheet for the bottom…but even to do that I think I will need an additional panel to make it even!

  29. Renee says:

    @Jen – to get your 88″ inches with only her 3 suggested panels, buy 2.5 yards if a cheap solid cotton that goes with your print. Cut like a 4 – 6″ strip of the solid and piece it into the long seams for contrast, extra width, and not having to worry about matching the prints exactly. And if you want to have them match, cut one panel 2″ longer than your needed length, and cut the two side panels an extra foot or so longer, so you can shift the side panels into the appropriate place.

    I’ve been planning to make one with home dec fabric on one side and a cotton on the other. I will probably use a flat sheet, as suggested. The home dec I am using because my boyfriend’s dog is rough on his sheets. I want to give him a sturdy side and myself a soft comfortable side.

  30. Addie says:

    Do these measurements take into account the thickness of the comforter? I am tempted to add another 1-2 inches onto these measurements to make sure my comforter is not too constricted and therefore not free and fluffy still.

  31. Morgan Linder says:

    Question: If the duvet is say 50″ x 63″ what would the cover measure? Exactly the same or larger or smaller and by how much? I’m cutting down a king size down filled duvet to fit my full sized bed and want to make a cover for it.

    1. Barb says:

      Morgan, you would want to make the duvet a little. I would give it 2 inches not counting the seam allowance and the amount needed for your closure so 52×65 plus Seam allowance and the closure amount….

      1. Barb says:

        Sorry a word was cut off a little bigger….

  32. Cheryl says:

    Thank you, I love those French Seams.

    Cheryl

  33. Catherine Morton says:

    What a great tutorial! I was not able to find a reasonably priced 120×120 Duvet Cover anywhere! I saw this and was able to use 108″ wide fabric and added side panels. Thinking of adding bottom corner ruffles to spruce up a plain white cover. Thanks again for your time…This was very helpful for me.

  34. Tom says:

    I bought my first duvet cover at Ikea about 2 years ago then started to make my own. Have made 6 so far. Sometimes it’s cheaper than what I could buy in the stores, other times not but at least I get to use the fabric I like. I used the first cover as a template for the rest since the duvet itself came from Ikea. For the backing, an inexpensive Queen size sheet from Walmart works well, and only costs $12. The duvet measures 86″x86″ and the cover 82″x82. Works well.

  35. Stephanie says:

    Hi, I probably am just not comprehending this.. but about finishing the bottom. Are you supposed to hem each side of the base/opening? So the “top” and “bottom” of the duvet? and then that’s when you sew in your ribbons, etc? What would you recommend if you only want the middle part to be open, so the base of the left and right panels will be closed? Would you recommend hemming and then sewing together? Doing the french seam and hemming the rest?

    Thank you!

  36. mojdeh says:

    I like this idea,Thank you.

  37. Hali says:

    Excellent! My new duvet cover looks and feels great! I absolutely loved the the french seam, it was my first time using it but it looks very professional!

  38. Sherrie J. says:

    Just wanted to say that I used to purchase all my fabrics to make baby crib sheets from Joann Fabrics. I don’t do that anymore. Almost all of their fabrics are 43″ width rather than the standard 45″. And besides that…having made at least a dozen of these sheets this past year…they all shrink up. I usually purchase 2 yards to make the sheets. The last ones I made shrunk up almost 3″ in length!! I’m trying to find somewhere I can purchase good 45″ fabric that doesn’t shrink much. We need to be careful when we purchase fabric to make these duvet covers. I agree that sheets are probably the very best option…and wash up well. I love this tutorial :-)

  39. Carol Ann says:

    I have searched on a tutorial on how to do a button flap on a queen size duvet cover without success.

    Can you please help me?

    Sincerely,
    Carol Ann

  40. Karen says:

    Thank you for clear and easy instructions on making a duvet! Other tutorials I’ve see made it sound too involved. Love the French seam idea and using it for my project:)

  41. Sandy says:

    This is to Sherri J. : Fabrics haven’t been a “standard 45 inches” wide in years. Many are 42 inches. You should always wash cotton fabric before using it. Yes, it will shrink! Always buy more length than you think you will need.

  42. paola says:

    hi, how many yards do I need for a king size duvet cover? thanks!

    1. Barb says:

      Paola, you should really measure the comforter…. even though they are sold as twin, queen, king they are not all standard in sizes.

  43. Heather Bourke says:

    To secure a duvet to the cover is easy, simply cut 4 pieces of velcro, sew them diagonally across the back corners of the duvet and the inside of the cover, (I normally sew these velcro strips onto the rear of the cover before joining it to the front.)
    Never moves until you want to remove it to wash. Works well on polar fleece too, doesnt get full of lint when washing, if it does, sticky tape removes any lint.

  44. Julie says:

    Are these instructions for a twin sized bed?

  45. Fozie says:

    Thank you so very much for an awesome tutorial. The idea of French seams is great.I am so thrilled with your notes and pics as I am coming to the step of putting the duver cover together. I did heirloom machine embroidery designs on the top cover and a plain white piece for the bottom.now that everything is ironed I have to put this together and here I stumble on your awesome tut. Thank you soo much for your generous tips .reallly appreciate this. God bless

  46. Aly says:

    Hi! Quick question, you said I would need about 10 yards of fabric, but later on you mentioned something about doubling. Do I need 5 yards for the front and 5 yards for the back?

  47. Mary says:

    A great tut. I stumbled across it only to realize that I have a feather duvet of my grandmothers that is in rough shape. I haven’t used it for fear of further damage. Now that I have your tut, I can make a cover and actually use it this winter. Thanks so much for the great tut. And simplifying the French seam.

  48. Donna says:

    I’m about to move into our new beach house and I really wanted to make my own bedding but I didn’t think I could. Thank you so much, I really think I can do this, can’t wait to start !

  49. Amanda says:

    Absolutely fabulous tutorial. I’m an experienced seamstress who’s made lots of bedding and window treatments, but I’d never thought of doing the French seams (as someone else had also commented). Thanks a million for the photos and clear, clear directions!

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