Tuesday, July 27, 2010

HOW TO: make a rolled pillowcase

Hi all!  Last Christmas, I made a very, very magenta pillowcase for my younger brother.  He is 19 and thinks pink is somewhere between funny and cool, as I understand.

 [pillowcases I made for my parents, to match my mom's latest quilt... more on that next month!]

The point is, I spent a stupid amount of time zig-zagging all of the raw seams so they wouldn't fray.  At the time, I didn't have a serger; I also had not learned how to make a rolled pillowcase, a technique which completely encloses the seam where the cuff/accent band/body fabric meet.  Like this:

Generally when sewing, I look at the diagram and read the instructions if need be.  I couldn't figure this one out on my own, and didn't understand the instructions as my boss at the quilt shop had written them.  Someone finally gave me a demonstration and it all made sense!

These instructions are written for a home sewing machine and serger, although the side and bottom seam can be sewn without a serger.  You can use a French seam, or just zig-zag your edges to overcast.  I linked to French seam instructions, but can post a tutorial if anyone is interested!

Materials needed:
  • 3/4 yd by width of fabric (WOF) for body of pillowcase
  • 1/3 yd by WOF for cuff
  • 1/8 yd by WOF for accent band (3" will do if that's all you have on hand!)

There is no need to trim your selvages before sewing.  This is part of the assembly process later.

 First, fold your accent band  in half the long way, wrong sides together, and press.

On the table in front of you, lay your cuff piece RIGHT SIDE UP.  Next, lay your folded accent strip on top of that, matching raw edges with the cuff.  Finally, lay your body piece WRONG SIDE UP, matching raw edges with the accent piece and cuff.  You now have four layers. 
Note: If your fabric was milled at slightly different widths (mine was), just align the selvages on one side.  See below.

Pin these layers together along the top raw edges.  Starting from the bottom, long, unpinned edge of the main fabric, begin rolling it toward the pinned edge until you are about an inch from that edge.

Now, bring the free raw edge of the cuff fabric up and over the main fabric roll.  You will have a right side and a wrong side together, which will look weird, but it's correct!  Pin in place.

Now you have a big fabric snake.

With a 3/8" to 1/2" seam, sew along the raw pinned edge of your fabrics.  It doesn't really matter what your seam is, so long as it's straight.  It's easier to keep your layers from shifting with a larger seam allowance.

Grab the main rolled fabric from the center and pull, turning your tube right side out.

Smooth out the cuff and press it flat.  The little accent band always seems to want to turn back onto the main fabric, so I press in that direction.  I find it easiest to press from the front first, making sure everything looks nice, then turn it over and press the back of the seam.

Trim off the selvages on either end, making sure your edges are straight.

Fold your pillowcase in half the long way, so that the raw side edges meet.  Pin together if desired and serge the long edge.  If you don't have a serger, make a French seam or just zig-zag your raw edges to prevent fraying.  (Anyone want a French seam tutorial?)

Serge, French seam or zig-zag the bottom of your pillowcase.

Thread a chenille or tapestry needle with your thread chain and sew it back up through your stitching.

Trim the excess thread and you're done!  I didn't bother doing this with the thread chain at the bottom of the pillowcase--I just made a big knot.  It saved me about eight seconds, and might be breaking some big serger rule, but I think it'll be okay!  I just didn't want a knot at the cuff seam, because it would be visible when on the pillow.

Congratulations!  Your pillowcase has one magically enclosed seam, and the rest are nicely finished.  
A word on directionality: I intended for the acid landscape fabric to be facing the direction it is, but didn't notice that the main blue fabric was directional until I had assembled the whole thing.  If this sort of thing would bother you (it does me), choose true all-over prints.  Is that called multi-directional?  Four-way directional?  (I remember reading about it on True Up, but couldn't find it again.)

Please leave a comment or email me if you have any questions!  This is the first tutorial I've written so I hope it makes sense.


  1. Pillow cases are fun! I really need to make more! Nice tutorial!

  2. My sister made me a pillowcase for Christmas and I love it. Thanks for the tutorial. Perhaps now I can return the favor to her! :)

  3. i think this is one of those things you have to see to understand. my boss gave me written directions too and i totally had a wha?? moment. but then someone showed me and i had my light bulb moment
    i so wish i had a serger
    did you tell me on the flickr pic what the cuff fabric was? because i really think i need some asap

  4. I used your tutorial and I love how the pillowcases turned out!! Thanks for sharing!!

  5. Cherry Heart Designs: I'm glad my instructions worked for you! Thanks for taking the time to use my tutorial and thanks for the link on your blog!

  6. I just made a bunch of pillowcases for the Craft Hope project. This really makes the pillowcases look more professional. I'm bookmarking this so that I can come back next time I do another batch! Thanks!

  7. Excellent tutorial! The pattern I have is very hard to follow. I was confused about the accent band until I found your site . . .. Thank you, thank you.


  8. Thank you so much, I too had instructions that made absolutely no sense, and only 2 hours on a Sunday until Birthday time (it was a gift) You were a life saver! Ruth

  9. Well thanks anyway but I ruined 2 complete 'cut outs' for 2 pillowcases as apparently one is to sew everything along the longside?? Now not enough fabric to complete the 2 cases....oh well!