We’re going basic sewing today with how to sew a pillowcase.
Simple DIY pillowcases are one of my favorite beginner projects. Fresh pillowcases are so nice! It’s an easy way to add some personality to your bedroom. They take just over a yard of fabric and it’s straight line sewing.
We’ll talk about the best fabric for making pillowcases. After that, I’ll walk you through 2 different ways to make a pillowcase with a contrast band.
Grab some cozy cottons and let’s stitch this up!
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Can you sew a pillowcase in 15 minutes?
Whenever I test projects for time, I try and be fair. I sew the project with a timer at a leisurely pace. Who wants to be a crazy person when you’re sewing?!
I clocked in at just over 12 minutes on this project. When my son made one, he came in around 20 minutes. That’s the sewing time. Of course it’ll take a couple minutes past that to cut your pillowcase.
For an adult making this, I feel confident that you can sew a pillowcase in 15 minutes. For a kid who might need a little help, bank on spending a little extra time, especially if this is your child’s first time behind a sewing machine.
Let’s talk supplies for how to sew a pillowcase.
What kind of fabric can you use to make your own pilowcases?
If we’re talking the best fabric for making pillowcases, there’s a couple options here. Mostly it comes down to what you like in a pillowcase.
Go for feel here. I mean sleeping on it for multiple hours, so if it feels bad, you’re going to hate it. Here’s some ideas.
- Cotton percale: it’s literal sheet fabric! You can’t go wrong here. Elizabeth Allen Atelier has some beautiful cotton percale prints worth checking out.
- Cotton pima: super soft, silky cotton! Mood has some good options.
- Cotton quilting fabrics: widely available about everywhere. Mix up those fun fun prints.
- Cotton flannel: great choice for winter, plus the brushed surface feels nice.
- Cotton voile: extra soft and silky. This is a lighter weight cotton.
- Satin: nice and smooth. This can be a great option for curly haired people. It’ll help prevent bed head and breakage on your curls.
- Silk charmeuse: look at your fancy self! This is luxury upon luxury, but if you want an ultra smooth DIY pillowcase you can’t beat silk charmeuse.
- Linen: you can’t beat linen for it’s breathable nature. In hot weather, the idea of a linen pillowcase is pretty awesome. You may or may not like the feel of linen in a pillowcase. Look for handkerchief linen or linen/rayon blends. Both tend to be very soft and more finely woven than heavier linens.
Now that you have some ideas for your fabric, let’s cut some pillowcases.
How much fabric does it take to make a pillowcase?
For this project, you’ll need 1 yard of fabric and 1/4 yard extra for a band.
What are the measurements of a standard pillowcase?
This project will show you how to make a standard pillowcase for a queen bed. Standard pillowcases measure 20″x26″, and a standard queen is 20″x28″. If you want to make a pillow for a different size, just add width or length to the measurements in the cutting step as needed.
Cut your pillowcase pieces
Our first step in how to sew a pillowcase is cutting the pieces.
I personally think it’s easier to use a rotary cutter and mat. If you don’t have a rotary cutter, I’d use a gridded cardboard mat for nice accurate cutting. Definitely use a ruler!
From your main fabric first fold your fabric selvage to selvage. Cut 1 piece 29″X21″ with the 29″ side on the fold.
Next fold your contrast fabric selvage to selvage. Cut 1 piece 7″x21″ with the 7″ side on the fold. This is your contrast band piece.
How to sew a pillowcase with a contrast band
For the basic pillowcase, we’ll add a contrast band. The inside seams can be finished with a zigzag stitch or a serger. This is the fastest way to sew a pillowcase. It’s suitable for all cottons minus maybe cotton voile.
Prep the contrast band
First we need to prep the band. Fold back 1/2″ on one long edge of the contrast band piece. Press this hem in place.
If you’re working with a child, this might be a step for his adult helper. 1/2″ hems + little hands + iron =recipe for burns!
Sew the band and pillowcase body
Next, match the band right sides together. Sew the short edges together with a 1/2″ seam allowance.
After that, match the pillowcase body right sides together. Sew down the long side and one of the shorter sides with a 1/2″ seam allowance.
Make sure to pivot the needle at the corner before you sew across the bottom of the pillowcase.
Finish the seams on the pillowcase with a zigzag stitch along the edge. If you have a serger, you can serge this for a fast, clean finish. There’s no need to finish the seam on the band.
After this, press the seams of the side of the pillowcase and the band to one side.
Sew the band to the pillowcase
Now it’s time to sew the band to the pillowcase.
First match the right side of the band to the wrong side of the pillowcase. Be sure to line up the seam of the band to the pillowcase’s side seam.
Now stitch the band to the pillowcase all around the top with a 1/2″ seam allowance.
Next, press the seam allowance towards the band. Fold the band towards the right side. Press the top edge. The band now should be sitting entirely on the right side of the pillowcase.
Glue stick the band
Okay this is a weird step, but it’ll make the next one a breeze.
Flip the pillowcase to the right side. Glue stick the wrong side of the band’s hem where you pressed it earlier.
Lightly press the band with your hands on the pillowcase. The glue stick will lightly baste the band to the pillowcase smoothly and without pins. Bonus, the glue is non-toxic and will wash out with no residue.
Let’s finish this guy!
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Topstitch the band
Last step in how to sew a pillowcase is to stitch the band to the pillowcase.
First flip the pillowcase back inside out.
Stitch the band to the pillowcase close to the pressed edge you just tacked down. Try and get as close to the edge as you can for the best look.
Pro tip for topstitching
If you have one, use a ditch quilting foot.
First pop on the foot, then move the needle to the right by adjusting the stitch width on your straight stitch to 6.0-7.0mm.
Now the little blade of the foot can ride along the edge of the band while you stitch. It’s an easy way to get perfect topstitching!
Flip your pillowcase to the right side, and you’re done.
Okay, so that’s the basic pillowcase with a contrast band. Here’s how to fancy up a DIY pillowcase with some French seams.
How to sew a pillowcase with French seams
Now let’s talk how to sew a pillowcase with French seams. For this version of your DIY pillowcase, you’re going to sew it the exact same way with one exception. This time you’re going to sew the pillowcase body with French seams.
Why would you bother with making a pillowcase with French seams?
This will give the pillowcase some extra strength since the seam will be sewn twice. It’s also a beautiful inside finish for lightweight cottons.
I’m using cotton voile here. This will be kind of a thick finish for heavier cottons, but French seams shine on lightweight fabrics!
Here’s how to do it.
Sewing French seams on a pillowcase
First match the pillowcase body wrong sides together.
Next stitch one short side and the long side of the pillowcase together with a 3/8″ seam allowance.
Trim down the seam allowance by half it’s width.
After that, flip the pillowcase so the wrong sides are showing. Press the edges you just sewed.
Finish off the seam by sewing down the sides you sewed earlier, this time with a 1/4″ seam allowance and the right sides together.
The trimmed edge will be enclosed inside the second part of the French seam.
Press the French seam you just made and continue with the steps for adding the band above.
See how simple it is to sew a pillowcase? Make up several for your household, and use it as an opportunity to spend some quality time with your kids and a sewing machine!
What can you do with DIY pillowcases?
So you’re thinking, I’m down with making your own pillowcases, but what do I do with them? Here’s a few ideas of what to do with a DIY pillowcase:
- Use them! Find some fun fabric and enjoy a little bit of extra color on your bed.
- Keep extras for wash days and for guests.
- Change up your DIY pillowcases seasonally. Use linen in summer, cozy flannel in winter, and use seasonal prints whenever your fancy strikes you.
- Make DIY pillowcases for Ryan’s Case for Smiles: Ryan’s Case for Smiles is a charity focused on distributing handmade pillowcases for kids facing long term stays in the hospital. There’s some guidelines about this, so be sure to read more about Ryan’s Case for Smiles and other sewing charities here.
Check out more easy sewing projects your kids can make themselves or with a little help from you:
Kid’s sewing cards
A simple quiet project for kids
How to embroider a t-shirt
Turn your kids’ art into a fun t-shirt they’ll love
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.