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. Donna nutt says:

    My problem is a little different. I need to make a tailored duvet cover. almost like a day bed cover but the seams are open at the foot instead of closed. or, if that makes no sense, picture a comforter with the corners court out at the foot of the bed, eliminating the corner drape. making the cover is not a problem. I’ve done that. finding an insert with the corners cut out is the problem. I’m using down alternative Dixie to allergy issues and I’m wondering about the feasibility of buying the insert and sewing the corner notches and then trimming. I am reluctant to try this and am open to any alternative solutions. I only found two places online that sell these. One sells only to hotels. the other has a foot panel significantly shorter than the side panel. any ideas?

  2. Judy Linton says:


    I am making a Duvet cover for a friend, so found your question. This is my first experience with this, but I have done many quilts. I would suggest that, yes, you should get a duvet the size you like and stitch along the corner you wish to cut out. Cut the corner out, and bind the edge with bias tape to secure it further. It may help to make 2 lines of stitching on the side you will keep, to make it easier to bind, and sew a seam 1/2″ into the piece you will cut out so that you aren’t left with a mess of stuffing when you cut. then you can cut between two of the rows you stitched.


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.