Creating a designer-looking pillow sham on a budget is totally doable with some clever tricks and affordable materials. We’ll share step-by-step instructions and tips to make a pillow sham that looks store-bought for less than $15.

Gather Your Materials

Making a pillow sham is an easy sewing project that doesn’t require much. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 yard of fabric for the sham – Choose a printed cotton, linen, or even satin. Solid fabrics can work too.
  • Coordinating thread – Match the color to your fabric.
  • Basic sewing supplies – sewing machine, scissors, straight pins, tape measure, seam ripper, iron.
  • 12-inch invisible zipper to match or contrast your fabric.
  • 16×26-inch pillow form – Size may vary based on your sham dimensions.

Opt for cheaper fabric like cotton prints and solids from discount stores. Thrift stores are another great source for discounted fabrics. Not a fan of sewing? No problem! There are no-sew methods using iron-on hem tape too.

Cut Your Fabric

Decide what size you want your pillow sham to be. Standard sizes range from 16×26 inches up to 26×26 inches.

Cut a rectangle of fabric 2 inches larger than your finished sham size on all sides. For example, for a 16×26 inch sham cut a 20×30 inch rectangle.

This extra fabric allows for the seam allowances. The zipper will be installed along one of the longer edges.

Sew the Side Seams

On both short sides of the fabric, turn under the edges 1/2 inch and press with an iron. Then turn under another 1/2 inch and press again.

Sew these folded edges in place close to the inside folded edge to create a clean finished edge. The side seams are now complete.

Install the Invisible Zipper

Now for the fun part – installing the invisible zipper along the longer edge. This gives a clean, hidden zipper look.

First, press the remaining two raw edges 1/2 inch under along the longer edges that will get the zipper.

Place the invisible zipper face down along the pressed edge on the back of the fabric. The zipper coils should be exposed.

Using a zipper foot, stitch the zipper tape in place close to the coils. Repeat on the other long pressed edge covering the other side of the zipper tape.

When zipped up, the zipper should be nearly invisible from the front of the sham.

Create the Lining

Cut a second rectangle of fabric the same size as the sham exterior piece. Follow the same steps to sew the short ends with 1/2 inch folded hems.

Don’t install a zipper on the lining piece. You want the lining to completely cover the zipper on the sham exterior.

Attach the Lining

With right sides facing, lay the lining on top of the exterior sham piece, matching up all the raw edges.

Pin the layers together and sew around the perimeter, leaving a 5-inch opening along one side.

Trim the corners, turn right side out, and press flat with an iron. Hand stitch the opening closed.

Add the Pillow Form

Your designer pillow sham is complete! Simply insert the pillow form through the zipper opening and fluff for that luxurious store-bought look.

Designer Details to Elevate Your Sham

Take your basic sham up a notch with some extra details and design elements:

Add tassel or pom pom trim – Sew or glue decorative tassels, pom poms, or fringe along the edges for a boho or nautical vibe.

Embroider initials or designs– Personalize with embroidery hoops or even just hand embroidery floss.

Add a contrasting band – Sew a strip of contrasting fabric 2-3 inches from the edge.

Make a flange– Sew bias tape or a strip of contrast fabric around the edges to create a flange detail.

Sew on trim – Trims like rickrack, ribbons, cording, or braid sewn on the seams or edges amp up the interest.

Gather the fabric for a ruffled look. Leave one long side raw, gather it up, and sew onto the sham before adding the lining.

Use door knob tassels as tie closures instead of a zipper for a beachy look.

No-Sew Options for Your Pillow Sham

If sewing is not your thing, you can make a sham with no stitching required. Here are some options:

  • Use iron-on hem tape on the raw edges instead of folded seams.
  • Use fabric glue like Liquid Stitch to adhere trims or close openings.
  • Fold over the edges and secure with decorative duct tape on the inside.
  • Use embellishments like studs, pins, or clips to hold edges in place instead of stitching.
  • Attach trim and embellishments with fabric glue only for a glue-only method.

Make a Designer-Inspired Sham on a Budget

Part of the appeal of designer home decor is the high price tags. But you can recreate that upscale look in your own home for a fraction of the cost.

Here are some designer sham inspiration ideas you can DIY for under $15:

1. Metallic Shimmer Sham

Buy a sheet of metallic foil iron-on vinyl like Instant Decorator to make any fabric shimmer. Adhere to a solid sham for instant glam.

2. Watercolor Floral Sham

Dip dye the base fabric using diluted acrylic craft paint to create an ombre watercolor design. Stencil on some floral designs for a high-end look.

3. Woven Striped Sham

Use masking tape to tape off stripes and paint in contrasting colors with a stenciling brush. Peel off the tape to reveal super crisp stripes.

4. Frayed Edge Sham

Simply cutting strips into the edges of a cotton sham and tugging creates the popular distressed frayed look. Bleach pens add further distressing.

5. Embroidered Monogram Sham

Personalize it with your initial in a large scale floral font design you can find for free online. Copy the design onto the fabric with a lightbox or window and embroider.

6. Pom Pom Fringe Sham

Take yarn or fabric strips and wrap around cardboard to create a sea of cute, fluffy pom poms. Adhere around the sham edges either by hand or with fabric glue.

With a little creativity and effort, your budget sham can rival those seen in high-end home stores and catalogs. The designer details really make them look luxe for less.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about making designer-look shams on a budget:

What size pillow form do I need?

Choose a pillow form 2 inches less than the finished size of your sham on all sides. A 16×26 inch sham would need a 14×24 inch form. This allows space for the seams and overlap.

What fabrics work best?

Lightweight cottons or linens have enough structure for a sham but are easier to work with than heavier fabrics. But really, anything goes – even old bedsheets make great shams on the cheap!

How do I get crisp folds and edges?

Starch or iron-on interfacing is the secret to getting sharp and crisp folds that look professionally done. Apply to fabric edges before hemming for perfect creases.

What’s the best way to gather fabric?
For gathers, use a long basting stitch and gently pull the threads to gather up fabric. Secure in place with a normal stitch length. Make sure to pull both top and bottom threads for even gathering.

How do I get a designer look on a basic sham?

Adding trims like fringe, pom poms, tassels, ribbons, embroidered designs or even just contrasting printed fabrics around the edges of a plain sham adds designer flair.

What no-sew methods can I try?

Fabric glue, iron-on hemming tape and embellishments like trims, studs or pom poms attached with fabric glue give the look of a sewn sham without any stitches.

Can I make a sham without a zipper?

Absolutely! Leave one side open and use tie closures made from fabric strips or trims. Or fold over the edges and glue or iron down instead of a zipper closure.

Making your own designer-quality pillow shams is easy, fun, and affordable. Follow the tips and tricks in this guide to sham success! Let us know if you have any other questions.