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what is a bed sham

What Is A Bed Sham? (Explained)

A detailed guide that answers the common question...what is a sham for a bed?

Are you not exactly sure what a bed sham is? You know it has to do with your bed or pillows, but that’s about it. Well, in this post, we’ll not only tell you what a bed sham is, but we’ll explain the different types and also how you can easily make one yourself.
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The Slumber Yard team is composed of a wide range of millennials, and quite frankly, none of us can accurately tell you what a bed sham is. Jeff actually guessed that it was a mattress you buy off a sketchy website that never shows up, haha! But in all seriousness, from our extensive research, we’ve learned that a bed sham is basically a fancy pillow cover or a “false front” that serves a decorative purpose.

bed-sham
Now those are some fancy pillow covers

They first popped up around the 1700s. They’re suppose to tie together your bed set, rather than be comfortable and supportive to sleep on. Essentially, they spruce up your pillow with a border or flange (usually around 2”) to make it more festive and pull the theme of your bedroom together more completely. Bed shams are typically sold at department stores as apart of an entire set, or sold individually. Of course, though, you can purchase them on Amazon as well.

Different Types Of Bed Shams

Bed shams come in multiple sizes. A standard bed sham should fit a standard pillow at the measurements 26” x 20”. If you’re looking for your sham to cover a king size pillow, look for one that measures 36” x 20”. A European pillow sham measures 26” x 26”, making a perfect square. These pillows tend to be more decorative, but they can also be nice as support while reading or watching television in bed.

euro pillow sham
European pillow sham example

Shams also differ in their closures, which is how you can secure them around your intended pillow. Most can be put on a pillow through a slit on the back of the shame that overlaps (also called “envelope style”), unlike regular pillow covers that typically have a wide opening on the side. But shams may also have a zipper closure or a button closure, which in most cases gives the sham a closer fit around the pillow.

Normally, when you get an entire bedding set that includes shams, the shams will be the same fabric as the duvet or comforter. Sometimes these sets also include two more regular, non-decorative pillowcases for your sleeping pillows. They are typically made out of cotton, but can also be found in other materials such as polyester, silk, velvet, or fabric blends. The outer edges of the pillow shams are traditionally made with lace, but can also just be an extension of the material used for the face of the bed sham. We’ve even seen some with tassles or pom poms as borders. There are many different styles to choose from.

How To Make Your Own Bed Sham

You can easily make a bed sham yourself. All you need is some vision, good fabric, and minimal sewing skills to do it. Fabrics that are on the thicker side and have some body to them are usually best to use (especially if you plan on using it for the edge as well, as thicker materials will stand up better), but any material should work.

Materials & Supplies You’ll Need:

  • Fabric. You will need fabric for the front, for the back, and the flanges. They can be the same or different.
  • Matching thread
  • Pins
  • A ruler
  • Scissors

Step One — Cut the fabric to fit your pillow. You can measure yourself or check the dimensions mentioned above for common pillow sizes. If you want a more substantial look, make your flanges larger. Or you can make them small, or not have it at all; the design is all up to you. Once you have all your pieces, cut your back piece in half for the opening.

Step Two — From here, you’re going to assemble your sham. Begin by taking your front facing pillow panel and face it front side up. Next, place the back panels front side down on top of the front panel. Make sure all of the edges are aligned. The back panels should overlap about 8-10”.

Step Three — Sew, sew sew! Sew up your bed sham all around the edges. When you’re done, just flip the sham inside out through the envelope opening in the back.

Step Four — This step is only needed if you want the surrounding flanges. Just add another stitch border down about two inches into your bed sham. Be sure to plan ahead and measure out the extra inches when you’re cutting your fabric.

Step Five — Now, insert your pillow into the bed sham and throw it on your bed to enjoy!

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