A long-time crafter, Dolores has created sewing projects for private clients, including pillow covers, linen pillowcases, and sink skirts.
Benefits of Linen
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–$120 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 mixing. 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?
How to Use a Linen Skirt or Dress to Make a Pillowcase
- Use a pillowcase 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 a 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.
How to Make a Linen PIllowcase Step-by-Step
- 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 1½ 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 ¼-inch 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 ½ inch wide. This creates a nice piece with no ragged edges. Linen can really fray.
- Iron again.
- Hem the pillowcase. Fold a tiny ¼–½ 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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Dolores Monet
Jean on September 09, 2016:
I have been saving all my "light" colored dryer lint for some time now.
:-) ps. we are both on the east coast. :-)
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on September 05, 2016:
Jean - for paper making I recall that we used a lot of plant materials as well as lint from the dryer. You have to soak the plant material and it gets quite stinky, just like when you soak the flax for the linen! Stinky fiber messes - so much fun!
Jean on August 26, 2016:
Yes, it is quite a process.
Yes, I grew the linen kind of flax (plant)
but planted too late. (had to wait for seed to come)
Flax needs "springtime" moisture.
I have looked into making paper so many times now that I cant
remember if I actually tried it myself or not! That sounds funny...
I remember doing it, but, I dont remember when and where I did it!
Save your white and natural threads scraps for paper making!
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on August 26, 2016:
Jean - looking around the web, I found several blogs and articles that showed how people grew small patches of flax with hopes of weaving small pieces of linen. Though it sounds complicated, it also seems like a lot of fun. But first you have to go through all the steps prepare the fiber, including spinning it.
There are different types of flax grown for either seed production or for fiber making.
Love the old linen! And as for paper, the last time I made it, it was nowhere near as fine as the one pictured here. Good luck with your projects!
Jean on August 23, 2016:
I grew flax this year... but, got it in the ground too late in the year. It was also a dry year. Needless to say... it did not do very well. I am thinking of letting itself reseed. Definitely shows that the soil is more depleted then I had thought.
Was going to go to a flax workshop this summer but had to cancel.
(I was very disappointed not being able to go!)
I am hoping to teach a very young lady to sew. Hoping to start with making pillowcases. I have a vintage pair of linen pillowcases and it looks almost like the seams were french seams that were sewn down.
Need a powerful magnifying glass to see up close. They could be felled seams, I am not sure at this point.
re: paper: go for it!
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on August 19, 2016:
Hi Jean - I did not make the paper, someone else did. I do not know what they made the paper out of. But wowie wow is that a good idea! I have made paper in the past but it sure didn't look like what is pictured here! I have some flax drying out back - maybe I'll try to make paper out of it!
Jean on August 14, 2016:
Thank you for sharing.
What part of the linen plant did you use to make the paper with?
The actual plant or parts of the plant left over from the process of
making flax into linen? Thank you, Jean
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on May 06, 2015:
Susanne Day - Hi Suzanne, look for fabric sales. A local chain store (joanne's) sometimes offers coupons for 50% off. That can make a big difference! I also make mismatched cases out of used skirts I find at thrift stores. If it feels like linen, check the inner tag that tells you the fabric contents.
Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on May 05, 2015:
As a pillowcase bra bag maker, I am fascinated by this! Do you have any tips about where to find linen? I certainly would love to save some money and have the finest pillowcases to sleep on! Voted interesting and up!