Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Perfect Pillowcases

The easiest (and probably most used) sewing project I have ever done has been making a pillowcases.  Or should I say pillowcases as I've made many many of them.  They're so easy!  Can you sew three straight seams?  Then you can make a pillowcase.  And it will be way cooler than any other plain, solid colored, boring pillowcase that came with your plain, solid colored, boring sheets.

When my husband and I got married a year ago I made a quilt for our bed.  Since then I've been meaning to make some pillowcases to match but kept having other more interesting things come up.  But this weekend I decided to just do it.  So I did.  They turned out pretty awesome.

I also tried my hand at making decorative throw pillows.  They turned out better than expected.

So after looking at these you're probably thinking to yourself, "Wow, those are awesome!  I want to make some!"  Good.  You've come to the right place.


I'll start with the easy pillowcase.  You will need the following:
-- 3/4 yard of main color fabric
-- 1/4 yard of accent color fabric
-- spool & bobbin of matching thread
-- cutting mat, straightedge, and rotary cutter (or other means of trimming/straightening your fabric)
-- iron/ironing board
-- straight pins

Recommended fabrics are cotton and flannel.

Sometimes when they cut your fabric off the bolt at the fabric store it doesn't turn out square.  To be certain you have enough fabric get a little extra.  By "a little extra" I mean about an extra 4 inches or so (that would be 7/8 and 3/8 yard for the main and accent colors respectively).

Step 1: Boring Pre-Craft Preparations

You should wash (read: pre-shrink) your fabric before cutting it out.  This step isn't absolutely necessary but it guarantees that your fabric won't shrink after you sew your magnificent pillowcase.  Often this process unravels the edges of the fabric so you'll probably be thankful for getting the extra few inches.

Next you should iron your fabric to get all the wrinkles out.

Step 2: Cutting the Fabric

Now you need to cut your fabric to size.  I made pillowcases for standard size pillows and cut the main color piece to 42 inches by 26 inches and the accent color to 42 inches by 9 inches.  Your fabric is probably 42 inches from selvage to selvage (aka the uncut part that doesn't unravel on either side of your fabric).  If it's 43 or 41 inches, don't worry.  It will all be OK.  I promise.

To make your cuts, fold your piece of main color fabric in half, matching up your selvage edges.  Line up your fabric on your cutting mat with the selvage edge along a line.  The sides which are unraveling are probably not quite even.  Even them up by lining them up with lines on the mat.  I lined them up and evened them off at the edge.

You will need to make your fabric 26 inches wide.  Fin the 26 inches mark on your mat and line up your straightedge.  Make sure it lines up at the bottom....

...and at the top.

Now run your rotary cutter along the straightedge to make a nice, neat, straight cut.

Yay!  Your fabric is now 26 inches wide!  Next you need to cut your accent color fabric.  Use the same method as you just did with the main color fabric but cut it 9 inches wide.  Line the fabric up and even it off first.

Then cut it so it's 9 inches wide.

Good job!

Step 3: Sew the Pieces Together

Fold your accent fabric piece in half raw edge to raw edge (the edges that want to unravel which you should have just trimmed up).  Your folded piece will be 4.5 inches by 42 inches.  Match up the corners neatly.  You should have a really long, narrow rectangle of double thick fabric.

Next match the accent piece to a raw edge of the main color piece.  They should be about the same length.  Make sure that you pin it to the right side of the main color fabric (the side you want to see when the pillowcase is done).  Pin in place.

The selvage edges should match up.

Next sew along the raw edge.  Leave a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  Backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam to secure it.

Don't forget to remove your pins BEFORE the presser foot runs over them!

Once you have completed your seam (1 down, two more to go), press open the seam with your iron.

One side of the pressed open seam - the side of the accent color fabric - should have a double thickness (see picture below).

Step 4:  Sew the Pillowcase Seams

Match up the selvage edges (trim them so they're even if necessary) and pin into place.  Make sure that the seam you just sewed lines up.

Sew along the side you just pinned (it should match the above picture).  The seam allowance should again be 1/2 inch and don't forget to backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam.  The backstitch part is particularly important in this step.

At this point you should have a tube.  Pin up the end of the tube that doesn't have the accent fabric.  Sew another seam along this edge with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, backstitching at the beginning and the end.

Step 5: Finish the pillowcase

Trim the hanging threads and then turn the pillowcase inside out.  Push out the corners as shown.  Put one hand inside a corner.  Hold the outside with your other hand.

Push out with the hand that's inside the pillowcase so that the corner is crisper.

Iron if you so desire and then put it on a pillow!  Congratulations, you made a pillowcase!  Have your cat help you model them on your bed.


This one is for the more adventuresome.  You will need the following.

-- Strips of fabric in a few coordinating prints; the amount will depend on how wide you want your stripes
-- spool & bobbin of matching thread
-- cutting mat, straightedge, and rotary cutter (or other means of trimming/straightening your fabric)
-- iron/ironing board
-- straight pins

I used cotton fabric but you could use flannel or even a decor fabric if you're feeling extra adventuresome.

Step 1: Cut Fabric into Strips

You'll need to cut your fabric into strips (or calculate how much fabric to purchase).  Math time!  (You never thought word problems could be applied to crafts, did you?)  Your strips will need to be sewn together to be about 29 or 30 inches wide.  If you want 4 stripes they'll each be about 7.5 inches wide each  and you'll need to add an extra inch for the seam allowance so you'll cut your four strips 8.5 inches wide.  If you want more stripes or stripes of varying widths calculate accordingly (remembering to add 1 inch to the width of each strip for the seam allowance).

Step 2: Sew the Strips Together

Sew the strips together in whatever order you like, backstitching at the beginning and end of each seam and leaving a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Step 3: Press the Seams Open

This will take a little bit since there are probably a lot of seams.

Step 4: Finish Selvage Edges

The edges of all the strips probably won't be even.  Fold over so that the shortest piece has been folded over about 1/2 inch.  Iron in place.

Then sew a seam along the folded over edge.  I used a fancy stitch on my sewing machine.  If you use a straight stitch sew it about 1/4 inch from the edge.

I really like the way this finished edge turned out.

Step 5: Sew Side Seams

You want these edges to end up on the back of your pillow.  Fold the two finished edges to the middle of the "back" of the pillowcase.  Instead of being folded in half with the edges along the edge of the rectangle formed by the fabric, the edges should be in the middle.  I hope this makes sense as I didn't get a good picture.  Overlaps the edges a little bit (about 1.5 or 2 inches) and line up the raw edges of the sides.  This picture shows the overlap.

Pin the edges.

Sew seams along the sides with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  Then turn right side out.  The finished edges should overlap a little bit.

Put the pillowcases on your pillows and enjoy!

This picture shows how the opening should be a "slit" across the back of the pillow in approximately the middle of the pillowcase.

You could do all sorts of things to spruce these pillows up.  Here's a few ideas:
-- put buttons as decorative closures to close the back of the fancy pillowcase
-- embroider your name on the accent part of the simple pillowcase
-- stitch a fancy, decorative stitch along the edge of the accent part of the simple pillowcase
-- make the stripes go the other way on the decorative pillowcase
What ideas do you have to make these more interesting?

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