Selecting the right amount of fabric is as important as choosing the color and design of the material. Buying too little results in fabric that can't be used and buying too much is also wasteful. Knowing the measurements of the pillow you'll be covering will ensure the pillow is covered with very little material left over.
Measure the length and width of the pillow using a flexible tape measure. Allow for a 1/2-inch seam allowance around the entire pillow. A 14-inch square pillow will need two 15-inch square pieces of fabric to cover it. The correct amount of material for this size pillow would be 1/2 yard of material. You will receive 1/2 yard in length and whatever the width of the bolt. Depending on the pillow size and the bolt width, you may at times be able to make two pillows from one fabric purchase.
Fabric is sold on bolts and the bolt sizes will vary by width. The shortest width is 36 inches and increases to 45 inches, 54 inches and 60 inches. The fabric is wrapped by the manufacturer around sturdy cardboard in a double thickness. Upholstery fabric is sold in wider bolts of 72 and 118 inches in a single layer of fabric rather than double thickness. Fabric stores cut the fabric from the bolt according to your requested measurement. When asking for a specific length, always refer to the measurement as a yard or portion of a yard. Ask to have your fabric cut in 1/8-, 1/4-, 1/2- or 1-yard segments rather than inches.
Choosing a Pillow Size
Fabric stores and discount department stores sell foam pillow inserts. These sizes range from 12-inch square forms to 24-inch square pillows, but available sizes will vary depending on the manufacturer. The size you select will depend on where and how the finished pillow will be used.
A solid-colored fabric won't need extra material upon purchasing; however, fabric with a print may need more fabric to make allowances for the design. When making a pillow with a flower print, the flower should be centered on the pillow. Also, when choosing a plaid print, allow for extra material to "match," or line up, the plaids at the seams. Before having the material cut, figure out the placement of the design over the pillow and buy extra fabric. The finished pillow will look more professional with this added touch to details.