So you want a new duvet cover, but can’t find anything you like in the shops? Well, make your own, I say! And make it better and stronger than one you’d buy at the same time. How? By using French seams, your duvet cover will be stronger and last longer than anything you can purchase off a shelf. Also, it’ll look awesomer (yes, that’s a word) than anything anyone else has!
(Warning: Photo-heavy post. I’ve made the photos a bit smaller so that it doesn’t chow so much data)
first, what is a french seam? It’s a way of finishing a seam or by enclosing the original stitchline in fabric and making a second stitchline, thereby enclosing the raw edge. As one would then see the second seam on the outside, the first seam is in fact sewn on the outside and the second seam on the inside, making it neat and strong.
I made this duvet cover for a client – I actually made four, a double set for each of her daughters, it’s a three-quarter bed size duvet, measuring 200cm x 150 cm.
The chosen fabric was too narrow and we had to add fabric to the sides. Since the fabric has a patchwork- look to it, it was quite easy to not only hide the seams, but even enhance the patchwork look a bit. I also used French seams in the additional side panels. I recommend a fabric of 160cm wide at least if you don’t want to add pieces to the sides.
Having a large work area will make your life easier. If you don’t have two foldable tables like I have, clear out an area on the floor. One can fold the fabric over in half, but I don’t trust myself to make straight cuts with such large quantities of fabric folded over. As we are going to make a French seam, our seam allowance is going to be larger than normal.
I also prefer to have a wide seam allowance on something like a duvet cover, as it will have to withstand quite a bit of wear-and-tear. Seam allowance of 3cm on each side and on the top seam, but a seam allowance of 5cm at the bottom. Your measurements will therefore be 208cm x 156cm for each of the front fabric as well as the back.
Be precise with your measurements, spend time making sure your measurements are correct.
Now lay the two pieces of fabric wrong sides together. With a normal seam, we will put the right sides together, but we’re making a French seam, so we start with the wrong sides together. Pin your fabric. Since these are large pieces of fabric, don’t try to take shortcuts and not pin, the fabric is quite likely to shift because of the weights that are going to be hanging off the sewing-machine bed.
If you have a directional fabric, make sure you know which side is UP, then start sewing with a 1cm seam allowance at the one bottom corner, sew up the side – what I do here is to backstitch a bit at the corner before pivoting. Pivot 90degrees, sew and backstitch in the corner a bit again and sew across the top to the next corner, doing the same backstitching before sewing the third side.
Now to your ironing board. Iron the stitches as sewn – I explained why in my pincushion tutorial.
Now you will see that your stitching line can be caught up to run beautifully on top of your fold, which is what you want for a perfect french seam. No poking around trying to get the stitchline to come up – this is why you ironed the seam open, you’re welcome.
Pin again and sew – this time with a 2cm seam allowance. It might seem quite extravagant to have such a large seam allowance, but a duvet cover should be made to last, especially as you spent a bit of money choosing good quality, pretty fabric. You will thank me later – like years from now, I promise!
Now for the bottom opening.
From the corner to your mark sew each side with a 2cm seam allowance, this will basically be on top of the folded hem’s fold – backstitching at the beginning and backstitching a few times at the mark – you want this to be strong as it will get pulled quite a bit every time the duvet inner is taken out or put back in.
The press studs or poppers are now put in in the portion left open between the marks. Usually five are placed in the covers one buys, I prefer 7, as it keeps the opening closed more securely and much neater. Measure and mark your points. Now you have to concentrate. You have to remember that the 2cm seam folds to the inside of the cover, so that it looks like a seam, so basically your press-studs are going to face the “wrong” way.
Attach your poppers in whatever method you prefer – I have this plier-like thing that’s made to attach them. You can also put in Velcro, I suppose, put it tends to be hard and scratchy, and it has to be sewn down really well to withstand the pulling apart, and if you don’t press the sides together precisely, your duvet can look messy, not to mention the irritation of trying to get the duvet inner inside without it clinging to the Velcro. So, no. I wouldn’t use Velcro – but hey, it’s your choice!
Now iron the whole thing one last time and you’re done.
Ready to make your own? Well, here’s a handy-dandy little table for you to see how much fabric you will need for what size bed duvet.
As always, your comments and commentary is welcome!!