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Pillowcase Power

August 10, 2004

I do occasionally sew things that aren’t quilts, most recently two pillowcases (small ones, for a travel pillow). Of course, since I got the directions and a kit for the first one at a quilt shop, it’s not like I took a huge leap into the unknown. Since I might make more and because the directions I got weren’t entirely clear, I’m going to document the steps here so I’ll be able to find them again. The pillowcases aren’t hard to make, but there are a few tricky bits that I screwed up the first time. (Okay, one bit I screwed up the first AND second times, but I’m confident the third time will be the charm.)


Preparation–cut the fabric for the body, border, and accent:
a. Measure an existing pillowcase that fits the pillow.
b. Cut the fabric for the body. One side should be the double the width of the existing pillowcase plus 1/2 to 1 inch (depending on how tight the existing pillowcase is compared to how tight you want the new pillowcase; if the existing pillowcase is a bit big, go with the 1/2 inch). The other side should be the length of the existing pillowcase minus 2-1/2 inches. For example, if the existing pillowcase is 14 inches wide by 21 inches long, cut the body piece 29 inches by 18-1/2 inches.
c. Cut the fabric for the cuff. This should be 6-1/2 inches wide and as long as the larger dimension of the body piece. For the example, this would be 6-1/2 inches by 29 inches.
d. Cut the fabric for the accent. This should be 2 inches wide and as long as the larger dimension of the body piece. For the example, this would be 2 inches by 29 inches.

1. Lay the border piece right side up on a flat surface.


2. Fold the accent piece in half, right side out, and press the fold with an iron. Lay the folded accent piece on top of the border piece, aligning top edges.


3. Lay the body piece right side down on the border and accent pieces, aligning top edges. (Note: normally, the three pieces would be the same width, not like in the picture where the border and accent are bigger. I could say I did this so the picture would be more helpful, but I wasn’t planning ahead that much, I just mis-measured.)


4. Here’s the first tricky bit: roll the body piece up until it’s in the middle of the border piece, then bring the revealed part of the border piece up over the roll and align that with the rest of the edges. Pin along the stacked edges so you don’t undo the setup when you move to the next step.


5. Sew along the stack of edges using a quarter inch seam allowance (because that’s the quilting standard).


6. Here’s the first cool part: turn the roll right side out. The body piece will emerge and you’ll have a border that’s finished on both sides, with the accent piece inserted just where it should be. It helps to press the border at this point to flatten it out.


7. Here’s the second tricky part: Fold the piece in half right side out so the two ends of the border are stacked on top of each other. Seriously, right side out. Sew along both raw edges, again with a quarter inch seam allowance.


8: Here’s the last tricky part: Turn the pillowcase inside out and press, then sew along the seamed edges, making sure to take a deep enough seam allowance to cover the raw edges from the first seam. Evidently, this is called a French seam. I’d never done one before.


9. Here’s the cool part: Turn the pillowcase right side out and you’re done. Check it out–no exposed seams; it’s like magic.


Making these was very satisfying–a finished product in less than a couple hours, including digging through the fabric closet and mulling over what to use. I can envision making these with a pieced cuff–all the seams in the patchwork would be neatly hidden. Of course, that would add to the time involved and maybe make them less fun. If I ever catch up with the baby quilts I plan to make and do bed quilts for grown-ups, I might have to do matching pillowcases (babies shouldn’t use pillows is my understanding, but someone please correct me if that’s wrong and I can make baby pillowcases to go with the quilts).

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