Sewing a new pillowcase is an easy way to upgrade your home without breaking the bank because even adding a bit of color and texture can substantially change the look of a whole room.
A pillowcase is probably one of the easiest items to DIY because it is essentially a rectangle with an opening for the pillow insert. Even if you are completely new to sewing, this DIY is still quite simple to follow because it takes no practically time and skills at all.
Textures in your home are especially important during different seasons, and you will want to switch up the linens to match the weather. Summer often calls for bright and lightweight linens, while winter requires warmer and more textured linens. Although if you choose to reverse this, we sure won’t judge you!
So how do you sew a pillowcase by hand? A simple way to sew a pillowcase by hand is to measure and sew a long rectangle of fabric. It should fold into two halves, each the length of the pillow. You can leave the edges open or add length to one side to create a flap (the sides are sewn to the rest of the case length, the top is free).
If that’s not clear, don’t worry! In this tutorial, we’ll walk you through sewing a pillowcase by hand, step-by-step. Things will be a lot clearer when we go slowly.
Read on to hand sew your very own pillowcase!
Planning Your Pillowcase
Before you can sew your pillowcase, you need to determine a few things. Although many pillowcase shapes are similar, knowing which to use will depend on your pillow and how you want to use it.
You’ll want to start with these decisions:
1. Decide the Purpose of Your Pillow
What purpose will this pillow serve in your life? Is it a throw pillow to spruce up your living room couch or a bed pillow to help you sleep better at night? Answering this simple question will help you decide what type of fabric, the color and texture, the size as well as the design of the pillow.
Once you have decided where this pillow will go – in your bedroom, your living room, or lounging area – you can move on to decide other factors that will help you create the perfect pillow.
2. Determine the Size of the Pillow
Bed pillows are usually rectangular, with sizes ranging from 20” by 26” (standard size) to 20” by 36” (king size). If you are making a pillowcase for a body pillow, the size is substantially bigger at 20” by 54” (on average).
On the other hand, decorative pillows are usually square-shaped with a smaller size, ranging from 18” by 18” to 26” by 26”. You will typically find pillow inserts sized 20” by 20” or 22” by 22”.
Other special types of support pillows also vary in size and shape, like lumbar pillows or neck pillows. You will need to adjust the size of the fabric and the sewing pattern to match the type of pillow that you are making.
3. Decide Which Fabric You Want to Use
The purpose of the pillow will also affect how much direct contact this pillow will have with your bare skin. This factor will affect the type of material you are using for your pillowcase.
For example, if you are replacing a pillowcase that you sleep in every night, you’ll want to use really soft materials that feel luxurious against your skin, like cotton or silk. Other types of materials may scratch your sensitive skin and rough up your hair. I love this silk/cotton blend fabric for pillowcases.
However, decorative pillows won’t be touching your skin as much, so you can use other textures like linen, flannel, or knit. These types of fabric can add interesting textures to your design and add depth to your home.
Depending on the season, you may also want to switch up the material of the fabric to match the weather. During summer, you may want to use lightweight and breathable materials like silk, polyester, or linen. On the other hand, during winter, you may want to employ cozier textures like knits, flannel, or fleece to warm up your home.
Another important factor is whether the fabric’s colors and textures will fit with the overall design of your home. If you’re buying fabric from a craft store, take a photo of your bedroom or living room, where the pillow will be, and match the fabric with the existing color scheme for the best result.
4. Determine the Basic Design of the Pillow
Although it’s just a rectangle with an opening for the pillow insert, you will need to decide whether to incorporate a zipper or use a flap with buttons to close the opening.
For pillows that you won’t be washing regularly (like a decorative pillow), it is possible to not include an opening in your design and just sew all four sides together using an invisible ladder stitch.
However, we recommend sewing a pillowcase that has an opening, either with a zipper or a button, so that you can keep the pillowcase clean and fresh over time.
For the purpose of this beginner-friendly tutorial, we will show you how to hand sew a square pillowcase with a flap cover.
How to Sew a Pillowcase By Hand
Let’s get started!
Here’s what you will need:
- A pillow insert size 20” by 20”
- A piece of fabric at least 22” by 60” in size. If you don’t have a sewing machine or serger, you’ll want to use a fabric that doesn’t fray. Otherwise, you will need to hem the edges so that the fabric doesn’t unravel in the wash.
- Threads that match your fabric
- Sewing needles
- Fabric pins
- A 20mm button
- Fabric marker
Step-By-Step Instructions To Hand Sew a Pillow
Now that you’ve gathered your supplies, we can get on to the fun stuff!
We’ll go through the process slowly, but if you want to understand how to do some of the stitches, skip to the end for a brief guide to the more sophisticated stitches.
Here’s how to sew your pillowcase:
On the “wrong” side of the fabric (the side you won’t see when you’re done), draw a 22” by 60″ rectangle.
Inside this rectangle, draw a 22” by 22” square. Three sides of the square should match three sides of the rectangle so that when you draw out the shape, there’s only one straight line across the fabric (line A).
Use a sharp pair of fabric scissors to cut out this shape. If you are using a fabric that frays a lot, you should cut a rectangle that is 23” by 61” in size, adding an extra inch for seam allowance.
After cutting, you will need to fold the rectangle twice to hide the frayed edge and hand sew it in place.
Fold the fabric along with line A, right sides together. Use pins to pin the two layers of fabric together on the two sides.
Use the backstitch to sew along the dotted lines to close the sides, leaving 1 inch on top where the pillow opening is.
Turn the pillowcase inside out after you finish sewing.
After sewing the sides, you will see that side B (the pillow opening) is still open. Fold the edge inside 1 inch and use sewing pins to secure the hem.
Use the backstitch to sew the hem, removing the pins as you go.
On the flap, fold the edges along the dotted lines and use sewing pins to secure the hem.
Use the backstitch to sew the hems, removing the pins as you go.
Fold down the flap and mark where you want the button to go on the case, and mark a corresponding place on the flap for the buttonhole.
Sew the button to the pillowcase.
Cut a small opening on the flap, where the buttonhole will be. You should test whether the button can go through this hole (test it with the pillow inside first!) before hemming the edges of the buttonhole.
Use the buttonhole stitch to hem the edges of the buttonhole so that they won’t fray.
Insert your pillow inside your new pillowcase and button up the flap.
And that’s it, you have a brand new pillow to decorate your home!
If you’re new to sewing and only know the basic running stitch, here is how to do the stitches we used in this tutorial:
How to Do a Backstitch
A backstitch looks like a straight stitch on the right side and a series of overlapping stitches on the wrong side. When you sew with a backstitch, you should always sew on the right side so that the final result will look correct.
A backstitch is recommended because it is quite secure – the thread can break at any point in the stitch and your sewing still won’t unravel easily.
To do a backstitch, follow these steps:
- First insert the threaded needle from the wrong side to the right side and pull the thread through.
- Then, insert the needle from the right side to the wrong side, and back up to the right side, creating two stitches about a quarter-inch apart.
- Then, go back to the last stitch and insert the needle from the right side to the wrong side through the middle hole.
- Carry the thread forward to form a new stitch by inserting the needle from the wrong side to the right side, leaving a quarter inch from the last stitch. Pull the thread through.
Repeat the last two steps as needed, and you should have a uniform looking backstitch that looks nice and even on the right side.
How to Do a Buttonhole Stitch
A buttonhole stitch is a useful way to hem the edges of a buttonhole by hand. It’s quite simple and straightforward – you are essentially binding off the edges of the fabric using small stitches on the edge so that the fabric doesn’t fray.
Here’s how to do it:
- With your threaded needle, start by inserting the needle from the wrong side to the right side. The thread is now on the right side.
- Then, insert the needle from the right side to the wrong side through to the buttonhole opening.
- Wrap your live thread around the needle and pull it through. You will have created a small binding stitch around the buttonhole opening that will prevent it from fraying.
Repeat the last step around the buttonhole opening and you will have a completed buttonhole that won’t fray even after washing.
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