Make Your Own Linen Pillowcases
Linen pillowcases are luxurious and expensive and way beyond the budget of most of us. But with minimal sewing skills, you can make your own linen pillowcases for a reasonable cost.
Linen has been around for thousands of years. It is strong, durable, and becomes softer with use and laundering. Linen keeps your skin cool and dries quickly. Studies have shown that sleeping on linen can reduce depression and anxiety. The fabric of the Pharaohs is antimicrobial and antifungal. It can also be expensive. Linen pillowcases show up in high-end catalogs for $80.00 - $120.00 a pair. And you can see what is called Belgian or Irish linen on a product made in China. Belgian or Irish linen may just mean that the flax was grown in Europe.
I have made linen pillowcases from material purchased at a fabric store and out of used skirts and dresses picked up at thrift stores. This is a simple project that requires minimal sewing skills. I will show you how to make these cases out of both. Just make sure that the fabric is 100% linen.
Make it Easy to Sew
Washed and dryer dried linen can be very soft, especially if it is an older piece you bought at a thrift store. The softness may be nice to sleep on but it can be difficult to work with. After washing and before cutting, starch the linen.
You can make your own spray starch by adding one tablespoon of cornstarch to a cup of water and mix. Pour into a clean and empty spray bottle. Shake often and spray the fabric. When you iron it, the fabric will become very stiff and easy to work with. After sewing the pillowcase simply wash to remove the stiffening.
Make a Linen Pillowcase Out of an Old Skirt or Dress
Making a pillowcase out of an old skirt or dress is easy and inexpensive. I have used garments that I purchased for as little as $5.50 from a thrift store. Check the label to make sure that the garment is 100% linen. A full-length maxi skirt or dress in a large size provides ample material.
Measure the width. It should be at least 21 inches wide on each side, and 30 inches long. The garment is already hemmed. If you don't have a tape measure, just fetch a pillowcase from the bed linens section of the store and use that to measure. Of course, you must allow an inch extra width for seams.
Look for decorative elements on the garment. A pretty embellishment along the hemline works well for this project and will give you an attractive edging. However, embroidery, extra seams, or other decorations on the main body of the garment will just get in the way of a comfortable sleep. Who wants to lay their head down on lumpy fabric even if it is pretty?
Use a pillow case that you have on hand as a template.
- Darts can be opened quite easily with a ripper or just a good jerk of the fabric.
- Wash and dry the skirt. Use your dryer.
- Spray with starch and steam iron on hot setting.
- Look inside the garment. If the seams are neat and finished and it's a straight skirt, you're good to go. If it's an A-line or part of the skirt is too wide, cut up the sides of the skirt and sew seams as instructed below, as you would with fabric off the bolt.
- Trim off the waistline. Sew that end closed, first on the outside. Then turn the case inside out and sew over the first seam. This will give you nice, enclosed seams with no ragged edges. Linen can fray and this makes your project neat and tidy.
- You may not have to bother hemming the case as it has already been hemmed. If the skirt hem is decorated, so much the better!
French Seams or Enclosed Seams
For this project, I made French seams or enclosed seams. This creates a fine finished look. There are no rough edges or loose threads. Take a look at the video below and see how simple this is.
Making a Linen Pillowcase
Shop for linen by keeping an eye on sales and coupons. While $18.00 a yard may sound pricey, a 50% off sale or coupon will give you a $9.00 linen pillowcase.
Check the label to ensure the fabric is 100% linen. Many fabrics resemble linen or have a similar weave. Fabric stores like Joanne's have labels printed on the end of the bolt. Decorator fabrics are usually labeled just inside the cardboard tube. Do not take anyone's opinion for granted. Check those labels.
- Buy one yard for each standard pillowcase.
- Wash and dry the linen in the dryer.
- Trim off ragged edges.
- Iron on hot setting using steam.
- Cut 2 pieces for 1 pillowcase; 4 pieces for 2 pillowcases. I don't really measure but use an old pillowcase as a template. Cut the fabric 1 1/2 inches wider than the pillowcase for seam allowance.
- If the fabric is printed, sew the first seam with the outside facing out. That's right, it sounds odd but this will create a nice double seam. Most linen fabric has no outside or inside but looks the same on both sides.
- Sew a small 1/4" seam on 3 sides. (If you cut out the fabric on the fold, you will only need to sew 2 sides. Iron.
- Trim the fabric as close to the stitching as possible.
- Turn the case inside out. Sew another seam, enclosing the original seam. The second seam should be 1/2 inch wide. This creates a nice piece with no ragged edges. Linen can really fray.
- Iron again.
- Hem the pillowcase. Fold a tiny 1/4 to 1/2 inch hem and press with a hot steam iron.
- Then fold a larger 3 or 4-inch hem and press again. Sew.
If you wish to add embroidery do that before the final hem. That way, the backside of the embroidery will be hidden. You can add a row of lacy edging, or create tiny pleats along the hem for a decorative element. Many people love the simple purity of linen so a very plain pillowcase is just perfect.
This project makes for an excellent gift. This past Christmas, I made several and wrapped them in handmade paper that was made from flax (the same plant material that is used to create linen). Instead of ribbon, I used string. I love the authentic look of this simple package.
Questions & Answers
© 2015 Dolores Monet