A super easy pillow cover pattern for beginners using mitered squares and only garter stitch
Are you looking for an easy-knitted pillow pattern? Something you can finish even if you just started out knitting. But do you want something that looks very stylish at the same time? Then you came to the right place because this post will show you exactly how to knit a pillow cover. I even included a step-by-step video tutorial so you can knit along. And of course, everything is free.
This knitted pillow is constructed out of simple mitered squares. This means you can use some very basic knitting techniques to achieve some stellar effects. And the best part, you get to decide which yarn weight you use. You could use super bulky yarn and big if you want to a use huge insert (or finish fast), or you knit it with smaller needles as I do.
The finished look will largely depend on your yarn choices and I urge you to get creative. You could pick something really fuzzy or even a neat novelty yarn. I used a vegan yarn spun from cotton, linen, and nettle. Not because I am a vegan but because I really thought the rather rustic look would create a nice contrast on my balcony couch. Ah, the hypocrisy of it!
So, let’s dive right into my pillow pattern.
Materials you will need for this pillow cover
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This pattern can be adapted to basically any yarn weight and needle size. So, do feel free to experiment a bit. I wanted something fine with a lot of drape and that’s why I went for a more delicate yarn:
- Yarn in 4 different colors. I used the Pascuali “Nepal” yarn (180 m per 50 g/197 yds per 50g) in the colors: undyed, cobalt blue, gray-blue, and black 12. Altogether I used around 540 m/590 yds.
- Knitting needles matching your yarn weight. I used the Knitter’s Pride Karbonz in size 2.5 mm
- Scissors & sharp tapestry needle
- Measuring tape
- Stitch markers
- A pillow insert
- 4-6 small buttons (optional)
- A crochet hook (optional)
Gauge & Size
My finished pillow cover is around 39 cm x 39 cm (15.4 x 15.4 in) and fits an insert of a similar size in a snug but not too tight way. Gauge for a blocked 5 x 5 cm (2×2 in) swatch in garter stitch: 11.5 stitches x 23 rows
As said in the introduction, you can use any other yarn weight (& matching needle size) as well. I will show you how to adjust this pattern to your size further down below.
The pillow knitting pattern
Cast on 89 stitches using a standard long tail cast-on around two needles and the black yarn. Leave a sizeable tail for weaving in later on (at least twice as long as your pillow insert is wide). You can use a hair clip to secure the tail and prevent it from getting tangled.
From here, start knitting a mitered squares as follows:
Row 1: Knit across and place a stitch marker 2 stitches before the exact center (in my case after 43 stitches), k1, p1, knit across the remaining stitches. (89 stitches)
Row 2: Knit across until you are three stitches before the stitch marker, knit a centered double decrease (CDD), remove the marker, knit one stitch, place the marker again, and knit across the remaining stitches. (87 stitches)
Row 3: Knit across, slip marker, k1, p1, knit remaining stitches.
Row 4: Knit across until you are three stitches before the stitch marker, CDD, rm, k1, pm, and knit across the remaining stitches. (85 stitches)
Row 5: Knit across, sm, k1, p1, knit remaining stitches.
Row 6-18: Repeat rows 4+5 over and over again. Always decrease with a CDD in the exact center of the row on the right side and purl the stitch in the exact center in the return row. Here’s how to count rows in garter stitch, just in case you are unsure where you are. (69 stitches)
Row 19: Join in the white yarn, cut the black yarn, and continue repeating rows 4+5 to decrease the mitered square.
I always use the twist and weave method. And then you can use the weave-in as-you-go method to take care of the tails. Warning: There are multiple ways to seam together mitered squares. If you want to seam together edge stitch to edge stitch to create concentric squares, then you can only weave in the tail of the old color as you go. You need to leave a sizeable tail for seaming with the new color.
Row 20-44: Continue decreasing the mitered square as detailed in steps 4+5. (43 stitches)
Tip: Take your tape and measure the width of your work in progress at the base. It should be about half the width of your pillow insert (if you do it before, the fabric might still be a bit distorted).
Row 45-62: Join in the light blue yarn as detailed in row 19 and continue decreasing the mitered square using the new color. (25 stitches)
Row 63-85: Join in the dark blue yarn as detailed in row 19 and continue decreasing the mitered square. (3 stitches)
Row 86: CDD, break the yarn, and pull out the last stitch. Repeat these instructions seven more times until you have altogether eight squares. I recommend starting with the blocking & seaming right away.
Important: If you are knitting the pillow cover in a different size, then you will have to adjust the stitch/row counts accordingly. But basically, it boils down to knitting 8 mitered squares.
Tip: You can also only knit four identical squares and choose a different color distribution for the other side.
Putting the pieces together
Before we can start sewing things together, I recommend blocking your squares so they are all the exact same size. It’s much more difficult to do that later on when your pillow cover is finished.
Step 1: Figuring out the orientation of your squares.
Now, if you look at the pictures accompanying this pattern, you will notice that I sewed them together in a specific way. But nothing speaks against doing it differently. In fact, I urge you to lay your blocked squares on a table in front of you and try out how you want to arrange them. There’s no right or wrong here. Do whatever you enjoy.
Step 2: Sewing them together
That being said, the way you want to sew them together depends on which edge you join to which edge. The way I joined them, means you are mostly joining edge stitches to edge stitches and cast on stitches to cast-on stitches. And that generally produces the neatest seams in my opinion.
I created two distinct sides.
For the front, I seamed together two squares cast-on edge to cast-on edge using the simple garter stitch grafting method. This will create a bigger rectangle. Next, create another rectangle like this by seaming another two squares cast-on edge to cast-on edge. And then, graft together these two rectangles to form the front of your pillow cover along the remaining cast-on edges.
For the backside, I always joined edge stitch to edge stitch using the mattress stitch for garter stitch. In a similar way. Here, you just have to take care that you always do the seaming in the respective color of the stripe. That’s why I said that you shouldn’t weave in the tail of the color your joined in as you go (row 19).
Also, make sure that you don’t accidentally skip a row. The stripes should align perfectly.
To join front and back, you will have to use this super easy method to join seams in garter stitch. Only close 3 out of 4 seams. From here, you have three options:
- You can stuff in your pillow insert and close the last seam in an identical way
- You can set in a zipper
- Or you attach a button tab and close your pillow with buttons (see below)
Button tab Instructions:
Step 1: Pick up stitches from the remaining open side using the black yarn. Preferably by picking up one stitch through every little bottom purl bump of the edge – either using a crochet hook or your knitting needles. For a neater closure, I recommend keeping the button tab to the middle. The smaller the opening, the better. It only needs to be big enough to squeeze in your insert. I leave a margin of about 1/6th on either side and only picked up 60 stitches in the middle.
Row 1-3: Knit across.
Row 4: K4 stitches, bind off 3 stitches, k13, bo3, k13, bo3, k13, bo3, k4. This will create the foundation for 4 evenly spaced-out simple buttonholes. Depending on the size of your buttons/yarn/needles you may want to bind off more or fewer stitches.
You can, of course, also place more buttonholes. Just distribute them evenly with two at the very edge.
Row 5: k4, cast on 3 stitches using the backward loop increase, k13, M1BL[3 times], k13, M1BL[3 times], k13, M1BL[3 times], k4
Note: This is a super simple buttonhole. You can also use the technique of your choice for a neater finish.
Row 6-18: knit
Row 19: Bind off all stitches.
Step 2: Close the remaining seams on either side of the button tab. If you followed my advice, then there should still be a little remaining edge to the left and to the right of the button tab. And you can close that using the exact same technique you used for the other three sides. No difference here. You just stop a little earlier.
Step 3: Now you need to attach the buttons. To facilitate this process, turn your pillow cover inside out, fold the finished button tab over the other side, and place stitch markers through each little buttonhole. Then fold things back and attach one button at the spot of each respective stitch marker (remove them as you go).
Voila, you finished knitting this pillow cover. Now, stuff it with your favorite pillow and enjoy!
Tip: Consider adding tassels to each little corner for an extra polished look.
Adjusting this Pillow pattern to your size
Now, as I said in the introduction, this is more of a general recipe. Feel very welcome to use the yarn and needles of your choice. In this case, you will have to knit a little swatch and do a very simple calculation. The true beauty of a mitered square is that the number of stitches you cast on equals the number of rows you have to knit. And this makes things super simple.
Step 1: You need to knit a simple swatch in garter stitch that is big enough so you can measure 5×5 cm (2×2 in) in the middle comfortably. In my case, I cast on ~20 stitches and knitted across around 30 rows. Here’s a post that shows you how to knit a swatch just in case.
Step 2: Using a tape or a ruler, find out your gauge. Note how many stitches in a row you need to cover 5 cm/2 in = your gauge. (e.g. 11.5 st).
Step 3: Measure the width of your pillow insert using a tape measure (e.g. 39 cm/15.4 in).
Step 4: Calculate your cast-on like this:
- Divide the stitches you counted by the length you measured. Eg.: 11.5 st ÷ 5 cm = 2.3 st/cm
- Multiply the resulting factor with the width of your pillow insert. Eg.: 2.3 st/cm * 39 cm = 90 st
- Round down to the next odd number. E.g. 89 st
Step 5: Once you found out how many stitches you need to cast on, you can get creative and decide when and where you want to change colors. This is just as simple. For a mitered square, you will always knit as many rows as you cast on (minus 3 stitches as you will decrease these together in the last row). Just grab yourself some (graph) paper (or use a knitting app like StitchFiddle) and start drawing.
In my case, I will have to knit 86 rows (89 – 3). And you can knit as many rows as you like with each color to create interesting shapes. Feel free to toy around a bit before you commit! There is only one rule: You can only change colors on the right side. So you always have to knit an even number of rows in each color. But the rest is up to you and your creativity (see next page for how I distribute the colors!