Saturday, November 22, 2008


One of my regular sewing projects is pillowcases. This is because my cats decided that my bed pillows are their favorite place to lounge, as Ghost demonstrates in this photo. So I started making extra pillowcases that they could sleep and shed on. I remove them when it's my time to use the bed.

This is another sewing project that's simple and provides almost instant gratification. Since my bedroom is decorated in an Asian style, I make mine from cottons with a similar theme. I often use quilting cottons, but lightweight home dec fabric or a sheet could be used just as well.

I mentioned sheets because it's a good way to take advantage of white sales. How many times have you wanted to buy a set but there aren't any pillowcases left? Just pick up an extra flat sheet, and that problem's solved.

They also make great gifts. One of my friends makes sets of pillowcases that her son takes to the many birthday parties he's invited to. The other kids like them, especially when the fabric is customized to the recipient's interests and color preferences or features a popular cartoon character.

These instructions are based on the queen sized pillows I have on my bed, but you can customize these to whatever size you want. Start with a pillowcase you already have or use a standard chart to determine the finished dimensions.

In my case, I want the finished pillowcases to be 30" long

and 20 1/4" wide. This is a set that I completed a while ago from quilting cotton.

Therefore, the fabric needs be cut into a rectangle, with the width equal to 2 times the finished width plus 2 seam allowances. The length will be equal to the finished length plus the seam allowance plus the hem allowance.

Here's the arithmetic:

Width = (2 x 20.25") + (2 x 0.5") = 41.5"

Length = 30" + 0.5" + 2" = 32.5"

Yes, the width is the larger measurement. Trust me on this, there's folding involved.

I typically use 1/2" seam allowances. Because the serged seam is 3/8" and the knife trims off 1/8", this is the simplest and least wasteful way for me. But you can use whatever seam allowance works best for you. Although this is a serger project for me, you can also make pillowcases with only a sewing machine. Remember that you'll need to finish the raw edges of your seams and the hem to prevent ravelling. For the seams, a zag zag or overcast stitch would work. For the hem, you can just fold under the raw edge before machine stitching it.

The 2" hem allowance is somewhat arbitrary. I think I initially measured it off a purchased pillowcase, then fudged a bit for a fabric layout. But 2" is an easy number to measure and remember, so that's what I do.

For my examples in the following pictures, I'm using a toile from The Pile. It's a directional print, and I want the design to be face up when the pillows are propped against the headboard instead of sideways. Thus, I'll lay out the fabric so that 41.5" is measured along the lengthwise grain and 32.5" will be measured along the cross grain. Here's one of the pieces cut out:

Yes, you can go the other way. It depends on the effect you want and how much fabric you have on hand. If you want the pattern to be face up when the pillows are on the bed, as I do, you need to have at least 2 1/3 yards for a set of queen pillows. If you want to have the pattern run the length of the pillow, you'll need a bit less than 2 yards.

OK, back to layout and cutting. I actually rip the fabric if possible. I feel that it's more accurate than scissor cutting on projects like this, and the fabric will be on the straight of grain.

Now, to sewing. Serge the rectangle along one of its longer sides. This will form your hem later.

Then, fold the fabric right sides together--your rectangle is now 20 3/4" wide and 32 3/8" long. Serge across and down the raw edges of the rectangle (2 passes through the serger).

Press up the hem and topstitch.

I use a template for this kind of pressing whenever possible. This is a technique I learned from The Sewing Workshop.

Turn right side out, and you're done.

Repeat with the other rectangle. You can get fancy with this, making a contrasting hem, piping, machine embroidery, buttonholes, etc., etc. These are just the basics--mine are cat fur protectors, after all.

Pleasant Dreams!


Alana said...

What a pet friendly idea! They look nice, too!

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

I was looking at the American Girl Doll catalogue this morning and noticed that they sell pillowcases for the little girls. Since I have to make a couple of AG doll clothes for Christmas, I just may use your info and include a matching pillowcase! Thanks for the info!

Terri K said...

Nan I see you're doing the home dec as well. I love sheeting too, especially for all sorts of clothes bags. Thanks for the ideas!