Best of 2008 – 4. Pillowcase Tutorial

by Kelsey Norwood

in Crafts,Tutorials


I made the above pillowcase Monday night and wanted to share it with you all.

Materials for 1 pillowcase:

  • 1 yard of fabric for main pillowcase
  • 1/2 yard of coordinating fabric for end band
  • strip of coordinating fabric/ribbon for band transition – 43 inches long and however wide you want (somewhere between 2 – 5 inches would be best).
    • If you want 3 inches of band transition strip showing on the outside, cut the piece 3 1/2″ wide to accommodate the 1/2″ seam allowances.

Pillowcase will be sewn using 1/2″ seam allowances.


The first thing I do when sewing something, besides preshrinking the fabric using the care instructions on the end of the bolt it came from, is to find the straight grain. It’s impossible to cut fabric exactly straight on the grain and since the people at the fabric store cut it, it’s inevitably cut crookedly. Sometimes my fabric has been cut so crookedly that several inches are wasted. You don’t want to start sewing something using a crooked grain line, so this step is really important.

When you tear fabric, it tears perfectly on grain. Make a little snip, 1/2 – 1 inch, perpendicular to the selvage edge of the fabric and tear it all the way across. Sometimes the grain is off by more than the amount you’re cutting off the top so your strip will come off before you get to the other side. You need to keep tearing a little off the top until your tear travels across the entire width of the fabric.

Once you have torn a strip off the entire top of the fabric, your grain is perfectly straight and you can use the top edge and the selvage edge to line up the fabric to prepare for cutting. The torn edge will be wavy so you can press that edge to smooth things out. Not necessary, but sometimes helpful.

As a side note: not all fabrics tear well, so test on a scrap or just be careful. Also, some fabrics are really messed up and because they have been woven incorrectly do not tear on the straight grain. I bought a piece of flannel that tore at an angle. If that happens, I would suggest taking the fabric back – that is a manufacturing problem. BUT, most of the time tearing is a foolproof and easy way to find the straight grain.


The top edge is the one that has been torn – see how nice and straight and even it is!


This tutorial is for a standard size pillowcase, so the finished dimensions will be approximately 21×36.

Using a rotary mat and cutter makes this process sooo much easier than using scissors.

Cut a piece for the main portion of the pillowcase from your fabric 43 inches wide x 30 inches long. You’ll end up folding the 43 side in half so it’s about 21 inches when you’re finished – the fabric is folded in the picture, so what you’re actually seeing is 30 x 21.

Most fabrics come between 40 and 45 inches wide, so you can measure the width exactly or just go with the natural width of the fabric you selected. Do measure it so you know how wide it actually is. If your fabric is 55-60 inches wide, you’ll want to cut it down to 43.


I cut off the white strip on one of the selvage edges because it was wider than 1/2″. I’ll be using 1/2″ seams, so if I hadn’t cut that off it would have shown in the finished product.


This second piece of fabric is for the end band. This edge is also not straight, so I’m going to repeat the process of tearing a strip off the top to even up the grain.


Can you see the difference in this picture and the one above? Starting out with a straight edge will make your finished product a higher quality because the grain will be lined up and the fabric will lay flat and smooth.


Cut from the end band fabric a strip 43×12. The fabric is folded in half again so the actual dimensions in this picture are 21×12.

What you should have now is two pieces of fabric, one measuring 43×30 (for the main part of the pillowcase) and the other 43×12 (for the end band).

You’ll also need to cut the band transition fabric now – I used ribbon so I didn’t have to cut anything, but if you’re using fabric, cut a strip 2-5 inches wide and 43 inches long.


The next step is to sew the main pillowcase to the end band with the band transition strip in between. There are several ways you could do this; I’m going to tell you the easiest.

I used a piece of ribbon for the band strip. Pin the ribbon to the main pillowcase fabric, right sides together.


Fold the band fabric in half lengthwise and pin to the ribbon/main pillowcase, right sides together.

Don’t pin the fold edge, pin the other loose edge. So you should have two layers of the end band fabric that you’re sewing together with the other layers. You fold the end band in half and sew so that the opening of the pillowcase is already finished – you won’t have to hem the ends because the fold will be at the end. Doing it this way is much neater and easier than doing a single layer and hemming at the end.


If you’ve pinned correctly, you should have the main pillowcase fabric, the ribbon/band transition strip, and the two layers of the end band, in that order. The right sides of the ribbon/band transition strip and the end band fabric will be facing the right side of the main pillowcase fabric.

(You could sew the main pillowcase and the end band, right sides together, and then sew the band transition strip onto the top, but that is a little more time consuming – sandwiching the strip in between the main part and the end band is faster and easier, but it does mean that one edge of the strip won’t be sewn down.)


Sew the layers together at 1/2″.


Press the seam allowances down toward the main part of the pillowcase.


Turn over and press the top so the band transition strip lays flat.



Finish the seams. I don’t have a serger, which is the best option, so I used a zigzag stitch. Pillowcases get washed frequently so you’ll need to finish the seams to keep them from unraveling.


Now you are ready to pin and sew the side and bottom of the case closed. Because one edge of the case is a fold and the other adjacent edge is the opening, you only need to sew the other two edges.



Press the seams open using a sleeve board or point presser.


Finish the seams with a serger or a zigzag stitch.


VOILA!!! This simple pillowcase takes less than an hour to sew – using three different but coordinating fabrics is a little bit more work but the result is a wonderfully colorful pillowcase!

I hope this tutorial is helpful – I’m going to post a video of these same steps a little later. Let me know if I made any mistakes or left out any info. Good luck!!!


1 Trish January 8, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Thank you for sharing this. I may have to try this after I figure out how to use my new sewing machine.

2 Gigi Griffis January 15, 2009 at 3:29 am

That is cute. I just gave sewing lessons to my niece and we made pillowcases. Check us out:

3 andy June 14, 2009 at 1:56 am

Love the pillowcase,well done. Just wanted to say though that I work in a fabric store and we are carefull to cut fabric as straight as possible ofr customers….and we tear as much as possible to get a straight edge !

4 michelle April 7, 2010 at 1:43 pm

I just finished… One thing I realized after is that 21×36 is actually a Queen size. Crazy long when a standard is 32, but I make a call and the person I was making it for has new Queen pillows so I’m am truly done :).
Thanks for the tips.

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