Pillowcase Tutorial

by Kelsey Norwood

in Crafts,Tutorials

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I made the above pillowcase Monday night using my Bernina sewing machine and wanted to share it with you all. If I left out any steps or if anything is unclear, please let me know so I can make this tutorial better…it’s my first one so there’s lots of room for improvement. (Get sewing help, if needed, with this sewing for beginners ebook.) And my camera isn’t the best for this sort of thing, so please excuse some of the pictures. Here we go…

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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Sew the layers together at 1/2″.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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Finish the seams with a serger or a zigzag stitch.

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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!!!

P.S. If you need sewing help then check out this sewing ebook.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 mom2triplets04 April 4, 2008 at 4:49 pm

This is a really neat idea. I want to say thank you for sharing it. I have so much left over fabric from when I was quilting. I’m printing it up and hopefully one day when I have a free moment I’ll make some for my children.

2 JHS April 6, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Thanks for participating in this week’s Carnival of Family Life hosted by Pickel at My Two Boys. The Carnival will be live on Monday, April 7, 2008, so make sure you stop by and check out all of the other outstanding entries included in this week’s Edition!

3 RecycleCindy April 8, 2008 at 12:08 pm

What a wonderful MIFS project. I’m submitting it to Stumble so others can take advantage of your great tutorial. Best wishes!

4 Susan B April 11, 2008 at 1:55 pm

That sewing machine looks like a bernina 730. What foot are you using for your zig zag stitch? I have one too.

I have made several pillowcases for friends and family. My daughter loves dora so I made her a few; now she is moving on to disney princesses, so that one will be next. I bought a little pillow and make matching pillowcases for her doll, too.

This is my first visit to your web site – I like it!

5 vanillajoy April 11, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Susan,

I’m so glad you like my blog – thanks for letting me know, it means a lot to me!!!

I do have a Bernina 730 – my Grandma gave it to me and I love it. I would like a newer Bernina someday, but this one does the job just fine for now. It still sews great and feels substantial, unlike a lot of sewing machines these days. I used just the standard presser foot that I use for all normal sewing – I think it’s the zigzag embroidery foot?

Good luck with your pillowcases!

Kelsey

6 kacey April 21, 2008 at 7:47 am

This one caught my eye on your favorite scoops! How cute. It has me inspired to make some pillow shams for my bedroom.

7 Marne August 26, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Thanks…I am going to use your tutorial to make birthday pillowcases for my 3 kiddos. :)

8 Stephanie Shumway August 28, 2008 at 5:53 pm

This is so much fun! I made my kiddos pillowcases when I found some fabric that they like- batman and my little pony. Would make awesome birthday presents for kids! …As long as it’s cool fabric :o)

9 Sue D August 29, 2008 at 11:40 am

Great tutorial! I had forgotten about finding the grain of fabric. I plan on making pillowcases for my granddaughter. After raising 4 boys I’ll have to go to the store for “girly” fabric!

10 Casey Toney September 1, 2008 at 11:01 pm

Kelsey:
I was a major sew-a-holic as a young girl. Never made a pillow case. I am going to be “gifted” my Mom’s sewing machine for both sewing projects and to stitch on my scrapbook pages. Do you have your own markings on the sewing machine for measuring? Love the pillow case. Oh Lord…do I have a long crafty to-do list. Thanks for posting this.

11 Leah December 13, 2008 at 1:28 pm

This is so perfect for a MAMA like me who loves making everything from scratch!
I already know the first pillowcase I am going to make! : ))) Thanks so much!!!!

12 d best February 2, 2009 at 6:06 am

thank you!!
it made me finish my project…
GOOD NEWS!!
my teacher marked me 100 on that project because of you..
thank you again!!

13 olivia February 5, 2009 at 2:15 pm

thanks it helped a lot when making my pillowcase for my brothers room,thanks again!

14 THE ALLIE May 24, 2009 at 9:08 am

I love this pillow case its ah-mazing! im making one for my friend who’s movin. me and my homes r gonna sign the light band, the second 2 largest one, with a fabric pen. Its ahmazin!

-TA

15 Baba August 3, 2009 at 10:23 am

What a satisfying project! Those turned out so pretty! Can’t wait for my sewing room to be ready!

16 Vera August 31, 2009 at 8:51 am

Well I found this turtorial to be Awesome…..
I am not a beginner although I am a beginner at making things other than quilts. I think your awesome. Do you think You could do this on a video?
I really loved the way you wrote everything down but I am not so advanced.
I thank you for putting this out there for everyone to read.
Happy Sewing,
Oh yeah I bought some fabric and I am going to see if I can apply your technique for making the pillow cases. Much love ,
Vera

17 Wallis Bolz March 12, 2010 at 8:18 am

Thank you for the tutorial. What is the “seam guide” attached to the free arm of your sewing machine, the item with the red and blue lines? This looks so useful! (I, too, sew with a Bernina 730 Record.) Where do I find one? Wallis Bolz

18 Island Sewer September 15, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Here’s a little tip that not many sewers seem to know for getting sharper corners. Instead of stitching a plain right angle when turning a corner as you have (like the letter “L”), pivot the fabric only 45 degrees instead of 90 degrees, then take 2 stitches, then pivot again another 45 degrees which should set you on the path along the next side of the pillowcase. In other words, you are sewing a little 2-stitch diagonal line when you turn the corner, instead of making a sharp, 90 degree turn all at once. If you try both ways of doing it on a practice piece, I think you will see an improvement in the appearance of your corners. And it’s so easy…all you have to do it remember to do it!

19 Kelsey September 16, 2010 at 7:56 am

What a great tip – I’m definitely testing this one at ASAP. Thanks for sharing!

20 Pat August 31, 2011 at 6:29 am

Thank you for this WONDERFUL tutorial…

21 Ashley December 3, 2012 at 7:38 am

That’s adorable! Thanks for the tutorial!

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