I am sitting here at one of my favorite places in the world making pillowcases for the VA hospital in Helena. Big Sky Quilts has adopted this charity project after completing their previous one for Montana Soldiers. It is a great way to use up some of the fabric stash and left overs. You know the ones, OMG, there is fishing fabric I don’t have…. now what do I do with it. My favorite use for these pillowcases is in the foster care system, children enter the system with the clothes on their back and acquire a few things along the way. As they move through the system they typically take their belongings in a plastic grocery bag, it is much nicer to have a pillowcase bag that is your own to keep your things in.
There are quite a few different instructions out there for a making a pillowcases but I thought I would share my version. It is quick and easy, has an attitude strip, doesn’t require much pinning and has all enclosed seams. I have made MANY of these pillowcases for various gifts and donations. I like to use flannel because it is so soft but if you are sewing with flannel I suggest a more generous seam allowance. Making pillowcases is one instance when I DO pre-wash in warm water to shrink the fabric before construction.
Main Fabric: Cut 1 WOF (Width of Fabric) 27 inches
Border Fabric: Cut 1 WOF 9 inches
Attitude Strip: Cut 1 WOF 1.25 inches
Place 9 inch strip right side up. If directional fabric is used lay with the top at the top 🙂 As in make the horse right side up.
Next lay main fabric piece right side up on top of the 9 inch strip with the cut edges even. If the selvages don’t match up exactly don’t worry about it. Let one piece extend.
Next you will fold the attitude strip in half lengthwise with right sides out. If you would like to press this in half you can but I don’t. I just fold it and hold it, sew a ways and fold again. Match the cut edges of the 3 pieces and sew the width of the fabrics with approximately 1/4 inch seam allowance. What I actually do is just aim down the middle of the folded attitude strip and call it good. It seems to keep the attitude strip an even width this way. I sew this without pinning. It really doesn’t matter what the seam allowance is, just make it all the same.
Now roll the main fabric up. With the border fabric on the bottom and the main fabric rolled up close to the previous sewing line, bring the border fabric up and pin so the cut edges are even and the roll is inside the border fabric. I match the border fabric selvage edges and the cut edges. Pin ends, center and half way between the 3 pins. Sew this with the previous stitching on top. Sew on the previous stitch line or or use a slightly wider seam allowance so the previous stitching will not show. You end up with one long sausage tube.
Now it is time for the birthing process. It is actually too easy to call it the birthing process but it is time to get what is on the inside to the outside. So, grab the rolled up fabric on the inside and fold the border fabric back so that it is right side out. As you pull the main fabric out the border will become right side out. How cool is that??
Time to press it flat. If you have done it correctly you will have the main fabric on top, the attitude strip showing and the border fabric encasing the seam. If your edges are not even (because the fabrics were not all the exact same width) now is the time you can square things up. Trim what needs trimming. If the selvage is wide and going to show you can trim that off as well. Here is where the exact size is really not going to matter. No 2 pillows are exactly the same so why should pillow cases have to be exact? Life is too short to worry about that. You just want the width at the border to be the same as the width at the bottom. Confession time here, I just line it up so it is parallel and sew it, you will be trimming it later anyway, your choice. If you like things neat and tidy trim, if you are in production mode, go for it.
Fold the pillow case with right sides out and cut edges matching (or lined up parallel). I pin matching the border edge, attitude strips and the corner. If you are inclined to add more pins, feel free. Begin stitching with 1/4 inch seam allowance at the border edge, back stitch to secure, sew to bottom corner to 1/4 inch from cut edge. With needle down, lift presser foot, pivot fabric and continue sewing to edge of fabric fold, back stitch to secure. If you didn’t square things up it might be easier to start sewing at the folded end and end at the border fabric, just make sure that edges stay matched.
Trim seam allowance to about 1/8 inch. Now it is time to press. The way I do this is turn the pillowcase wrong side out and press the seam to one side and if convenient press to the other side as well. It is like ironing in a big hole. Get as close to the corner as you can with the iron but don’t sweat it. It will just make it easier to press at the next step. Now smooth out the wrong side out pillow case and press the sewn edge so the seam is in the crease line.. What you are doing is creating a “French Seam” for those of you who didn’t have to do that in 4-H back in the dark ages. Start sewing 1/4 inch seam allowance at the border (open) end of the pillowcase, back stitch to secure, and sew to 1/4 inch from the corner. With needle down, lift presser foot, pivot fabric and continue stitching to the fold, back stitch to secure. If you have done this correctly the seam allowance will be encased in the seam. Turn the pillowcase right side out, press and you are ready to start the next one. I cut out 20 this afternoon and stitched 9 of them together. I took a few photos and will finish up the others in the morning then it is back to Great Falls in the afternoon. Looks like some of the photos I took last night are dark so re taking some today. I will try to replace with better photos as I can.
Hope you found this helpful and are inclined to attack that stash and put it to a good use!
Hugs & Stitches,