How to Sew a Simple Pillowcase

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Sewing a pillowcase is a great project for beginners. It provides the opportunity to get more comfortable with your sewing machine. In addition, you get to practice foundational sewing skills like squaring up fabric, measuring with a sewing gauge, pinning, and using the 8 basics of sewing.

The directions in this post will guide you through the process of sewing a simple pillowcase.

If you are new to sewing, I strongly encourage you to follow the directions in this post. The steps for making the pillowcase were carefully designed so you could practice some basic sewing techniques and get more comfortable with your sewing machine.

How to Sew a Simple Pillowcase

The finished dimensions of this pillowcase will be 30″ x 20″. It will fit a standard-sized bed pillow.

Tip: Read all of the steps before you begin so you know what you’ll be doing.

Preparation

Gather the Supplies

supplies to sew a simple pillowcase

  • 1 yard of 100% cotton fabric at least 42″ wide (You may want to buy a little extra to account for shrinkage.)
  • thread
  • sewing gauge
  • pins
  • scissors
  • a way to measure and cut the fabric (cardboard pattern cutting board or rotary cutter, mat, and ruler)

Get Your Sewing Machine Ready

Put the all-purpose presser foot on your sewing machine. Wind thread on the bobbin. Insert the bobbin and thread the machine. It should be set to do a straight stitch (a width of 0 and a length of 2-3 for a medium length stitch).

Prepare the Fabric

Before cutting the fabric, it needs to be prewashed and dried. The raw edges may unravel and tangle a bit but that’s okay. You can snip off any really bad tangles.

After washing and drying the fabric, press it to remove any large wrinkles.

Then, square it up. This will ensure it lays flat and doesn’t ripple as you make the pillowcase. Also, there won’t be a twist to it when it’s on the pillow.

Finally, cut a 36″ x 41″ rectangle. If you didn’t buy extra fabric to account for shrinkage, you might not have enough to make the rectangle 36 inches long. That’s okay. Make get as close as you can. Your pillowcase will still fit a standard-size bed pillow.

Construction

Tip: Read all of the steps before you begin so you know what you’ll be doing.

  1. Lay the fabric down with the wrong side facing up. On one of the long edges, use the sewing gauge to measure and turn 1″ to the wrong side of the fabric. Press in place.measure, turn, and press one inch
  2. On the same edge, measure and turn 4″ to the wrong side. Press in place. (The 1″ you pressed in the first step will be between the two wrong sides making a narrow bit you’ll sew on in step 4.) measure, turn, and press four inches
  3. Pin the hem in place to hold it securely while you sew.
  4. Using a straight stitch and the left edge of the presser foot as a guide, sew the hem down.

    sew down the hem
    The left edge of the presser foot moves along the fold. The 1 inch narrow bit is secured under the seam.
  5. Now, fold the right sides of the fabric together. Line up the edges on the side and bottom. Make sure the corners match up as well as the hem. Pin in place. pin on two sides
  6. Use a 5/8″ seam allowance (find the measurement on the needle plate) and sew the pinned edges together from the pillowcase opening to the bottom. Make sure to backstitch a couple of stitches when you start sewing in order to reinforce the seam. sew down the side
  7. Stop sewing about 5/8″ from the corner. You’ll need to pivot the fabric on the needle. Lift the presser foot and rotate the fabric so you’re ready to sew along the bottom edge. Don’t forget to backstitch when you get to the end of the seam to reinforce it.
  8. Remove the pins if you stitched over them.
  9. Leave the pillowcase inside out. Look at the corner where you pivoted and clip the point off. Be careful not to cut any stitches. Clipping the corner removes extra fabric and helps the corners have a crisper point. cut corner off
  10. Turn the pillowcase right side out.
  11. If the corner isn’t crisp enough for you, carefully use the closed pointy end of scissors to push out the corner.
  12. Put the pillowcase on a pillow and bask in the feeling of a wildly successful sewing experience! sew a simple pillowcase

More Than a Sewing Project for Beginners

Making a simple pillowcase gave you the opportunity to get more comfortable with your sewing machine. Also, you were able to practice some foundational sewing skills. However, pillowcases have the potential to be more than just a sewing project for beginners.

Be Inspired

If you search online, you’ll see all kinds of creative ways people have mixed and matched fabrics as well as different methods to construct pillowcases.

Now that you’re getting more comfortable with sewing, take a look and see what inspires you. Use the knowledge and skills you’re learning and see where your imagination and new abilities take you.

For Yourself

Select a fabric that coordinates with some of your favorite sheets. The next time you make your bed with those sheets, cover the pillows with the pillowcases you made from the coordinating fabric.

What a great feeling it is to look at something and know that you made it. Plus, it’ll feel like you have a whole new set of sheets!

For Others

Almost everyone sleeps with a pillow. It’s super fun to pick out a fabric and make a pillowcase knowing you’ll be giving it to someone who’ll appreciate it.

As Gifts

Pillowcases make great gifts for holidays and birthdays. They’re not only practical but gifts that are thoughtfully prepared and sewn with love.

Keep an eye out for fabrics that celebrate holidays (Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc.), feature favorite characters (Disney, superheroes, etc.), sports teams, or just fun prints that remind you of a friend or family member.

As a Donation

Pillowcases can also be donated to a good cause. I discovered the American Patchwork and Quilting 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge by All People Quilt.com.

At the time I wrote this post the count was up to 786,391. The challenge will remain ongoing until they reach 1 million. This is a great way to practice your sewing skills and make a difference in someone’s life.

Check out the Frequently Asked Questions because All People Quilt.com give practical advice on how to find a participating charity. It’s great advice not just for this particular challenge but also may spark some ideas if you want to find a worthy cause in your community to make and donate pillowcases.

Share What You Made

One of my greatest joys of being a teacher is seeing the results that happen when learning is applied. I would love to see what you made! Send a picture of your pillowcase(s) to nicki@theruffledpurse.com.

If you have questions about making the pillowcase or sewing in general, don’t hesitate to email those to me, too.

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2 Comments

  1. Nicki, I always look forward to your emails. I have found that you have a kind and generious heart. You are an asset to the sewing world. Keep up the great instructions.
    Warm regards,
    Irene

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