I have a pillowcase fetish.  They are so simple and quick and pretty to make – Abigail has at least 20. I know, this is perhaps a wee bit indulgent, but they are such an inexpensive way to show off lovely fabric and we have them for all occasions and fancies.

And I’m lucky enough to have an almost never ending supply of patchwork scraps with which to trim them AND live around the corner from the Brisbane Fabric Market which sells 100% cotton 280cm wide sheeting.  1.7 metres at $15 per metre provides me with 5 pillowcases.  Who could say no!? 

In preparation for Christmas, we had a little pillowcase party last Friday.  Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, we were all waylaid by the VP debate, and then, whilst Mum and Carolann diligently cut and sewed as instructed, I sat hunched over my needlepoint and failed to finish a single pillowcase.

So today, it was out to the back porch, retrieve the scraps from where they’d blown (it’s been so dry and gusty!), re-iron the sheeting ( which now looked more like polar bear nests) and stitch up the first two of several planned.  I am using some of the leftover Kaffe hourglasses, trimmed with my favourite Wee Play red, and an old Kaffe purple that I made Abigail’s Christmas frock out of a few years ago and then found on sale, so used to back the Bear’s Paws.

And just in case any of you readers out there have not put together a pretty pillowcase, I thought I would turn today’s sewing into a little photo tutorial!

Cutting out the pillowcase

I prefer to cut my pillowcase from one loooooong piece, instead of a front and a back.  This saves a seam, makes for tidier and more accurate sewing, and looks neat. So I cut a rectangle of sheeting – or any fabric you like – 52cm wide by 164cm long.  If you do want to cut a front and back, you would cut the front 52cm by 74cm and the back, 52 cm by 94cm.  The extra 20cm on the length of the back allows for the fold or tuck.  

Trimming the pillowcase

For trimming this pillowcase, I have used existing hourglass blocks.  I have found that little patchwork seams do not fold over to make a smooth edge – they make my top stitching wobbly, so to counteract this, I generally put a long straight border on pieced trims – it sits better.  (If you don’t want the borders, I find ironing on an ultra-light weight pellon to the back of the pieced trim makes it much smoother.)

So, take your pieced trim/border and pin it, RIGHT SIDE DOWN, onto the WRONG SIDE of the pillowcase front (i.e. one end of your loooong 164cm piece)  Stitch a 1cm seam.

Now, iron the seam towards the pillowcase – this helps create a sharp edge when you turn the trim/border to the front of the pillowcase.

At this point, I do not serge any of my seams – they will all be encased and top stitched and I have had no problems with fraying.  But if you are anything like my mum – go ahead!  Serge away!

Now you have your pillowcase with trim/border attached.  Before turning the trim/border to the front, iron a 1cm hem down the unsewn edge of the trim/border – we will call this the inner edge.

And finally, fold the pieced trim/border over to the front of pillowcase, ironing the outer edge smooth and sharp.  Top stitch the outer edge …

… smooth the pieced trim/border across the pillowcase front, then pin the inner edge, and top stitch it.

Ta-da!  Your pretty trim/border is done.  Now it is easy-peasy quicksticks!

Assembling the pillowcase

Measure 70cm from your outer trim/border edge (which is the edge of the pillowcase) ..

… to where the tape measure reads 70cm – or in this instance, 27 1/2 inches – and mark with a pin.


Do the same on the other side and then fold and iron.  Now you have the divide between the front of the pillowcase (with the trim/border) and the back (with its extra long bit!).

On the short edge of the back, iron over 1cm and then again, pin and stitch.  

I do find that it is very hard to push pins through sheeting – especially when it has a high thread count – and I even have fine and sharp pins!  Oh well!

Now, fold the front over the back – according to the crease you ironed at the 70cm mark – so that the right sides are facing.  Remember, you will have another 20cm extra on the back (with its nice doubled 1cm hem), flopping away looking like a big 20cm mistake.  But it’s designed to fold over and make the tuck for the pillow to sit in.

So here we go, fold it over the top of the front edge – so that it firmly – but keep it smooth and flat – encases the front edge.  This might sound nonsensical but trust me!

See – here’s your trim/border edge, neatly tucked inside the fold.  Gosh – I make a lot of references to neat and smooth and sharp and flat don’t I!  Must be my nursing grandmother’s genes – I’m the queen of the hospital corners! I’ve even managed to convert Julian to their perfection – but this did take almost 15 years.

Now, pin the sides …

and sew a 1cm side seam, down both sides -1 at a time of course ;-) – through all layers. I always start at the top where the fold is – that way, if there’s any pushing along of fabric, it’s pushing it in the right direction.  Doesn’t look as nice if when you turn the pillowcase out, the back is longer than the front!

Once the side seams are finished, I then reinforce the side seams where the fold is – about 3 inches worth – 1 1/2 before, 1 1/2 after the fold – and stitch down, and back and down again.  This ensures the pillowcase will not tear when you’re stuffing in your pillow.


I ALWAYS serge the side seams … made all the easier when Mum’s serger is sitting there on the table beside me!  And you’re serging down the folded over bit too – it all works out in just a sec.

Now turn out – you turn the fold back over – and your pillowcase is inside out – and then turn your pillowcase out the right way and you have a lovely pillowcase with fold just waiting for your pillow!

So go and pop them on!  And admire your lovely sewing!  

Okay – after you’ve oohed and aahed a minute – and called in your daughter and husband who duly smile and nod – take them off again, iron them beautifully, fold so as to best appreciate your pretty trim/border …

… and now they’re ready to be gift wrapped for Christmas!

If you find this as clear as mud – feel free to email me for clarification! :-)



the production of pretty pillowcases

7 thoughts on “the production of pretty pillowcases

  • October 7, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    You’re a genius! But I knew that. The pillowcases are pretty and thank you for the wonderful directions. I’m going to try it this way. Someone in the house has quite a stash of pillowcases herself, but they need freshening and updating. I’m all about lumpy French seams. Maybe I’ll dust off the serger instead…

  • October 7, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    I love the pillowcases! I’m going to try it your way. I haven’t done patchwork ones, so I think I need to get cracking on that!

  • October 7, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    You are amazing! I am sure there are many, who like to get those lovely pillowcase “mrs. Santa” has sewn!

  • October 7, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    That is so clever and cute. I love them. What a pop they give to a bed/room! So lovely, just like you!

  • October 8, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Hi Lily,

    It’s lovely to hear from you. Thanks for the kind comment on my cardinal project.

    Lovely pillowcase. I have never made one before, but you have inspired me to try it once things slow down a bit for me…

  • October 8, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Those pillowcases are so cute! I love the way you used the hourglass-blocks :-)

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