If you only have a basic sewing machine, this is the best way to make neat pillowcases with no raw edges.
We’ll be using the french seam technique to create “hidden” seams. And we’re adding an inner flap to stop your pillow insert from falling out. This is sometimes called an “envelope” pillow.
This tutorial is inspired by the design, measurements, and construction used in professionally made pillows. I studied 9 store-bought ones to figure this out.
I have another tutorial that shows you how to make professional pillowcases using a serger / overlocker machine. But today’s post is great if you don’t have this tool, just a basic sewing machine.
This pillow took me about 15 minutes to cut and 45 minutes to sew (the first time I made it).
Fabric & tools needed for diy pillowcases
Best fabric for pillowcases
- Stores tend to use light to medium weight, non-stretch fabrics.
- They’re always smooth, so quilting cotton is not great for pillows that you sleep on. They feel slightly dry and rough.
- Cotton is a popular choice. Cotton percale and sateen are often used by stores. They’re smooth and tightly woven types of cotton fabric, but hard to find by the yard. Try looking for cotton poplin or broadcloth instead.
- A cotton-polyester blend is also often used by stores.
How much fabric you need for 2 pillowcases
You’ll need about 2 to 3 yards of fabric to make 2 pillowcases.
For a more specific answer, check out my post on how much fabric you need for pillowcases.
I have charts there that show the yardage you need for different pillow sizes and fabric widths. Here’s an example below:
- “Universal” sewing machine needle in size 80/12. This is designed for non-stretch, light to medium weight fabrics.
- Basic sewing machine.
- Measuring tape.
- Fabric marker. I like and use chalk pencils. They’re easy to sharpen.
- Fabric scissors. Or a rotary cutter and mat. I use the Fiskars brand.
- Small scissors for making close cuts.
- Sewing pins.
- An iron.
Tutorial: how to make a pillowcase with flap and french seams
Sewing words explained:
- Seam: a line of stitching that joins fabric together.
- Seam allowance: the area between the stitching line and the fabric edge.
- Wrong side: the side of the fabric that you don’t want to see on the outside.
- Right side: the side of the fabric that you want to see on the outside.
- Hem: to neaten a raw edge.
Note: I taped a big “W” to show the wrong side of the fabric in this tutorial.
Prepare your fabric
Pre-wash and dry your fabric before cutting. This will stop any future shrinkage.
Here’s a fabric pre-washing tutorial.
1) Cut your fabric
Cut 2 rectangles.
For a standard or queen pillowcase (20″ x 30″), the measurements are:
- Front piece: 21 2/8″ x 37 6/8″ or 54cm x 96cm (height x width)
- Back piece: 21 2/8″ x 31″ or 54cm x 79cm (height x width).
For a king pillowcase (20″ x 40″), the measurements are:
- Front piece: 21 2/8″ x 48″ or 54cm x 122cm (height x width).
- Back piece: 21 2/8″ x 41 2/8″ or 54cm x 105cm (height x width).
The front piece is longer because it includes the inner flap.
2) Hem the short edges
Hem 1 short edge on both pieces (see arrows).
With the “wrong” side facing up, fold 1 short edge by 2/8″ (0.6cm), and fold again by 3/8″ (1cm).
Iron and pin the fold in place. The raw edge will now be hidden.
Repeat this for the other short edge.
Here’s a close-up photo of me turning and pinning 1 of the edges.
It’s important that the folds are on the “wrong” side of the pillowcase. Otherwise, you’ll see them from the outside.
I taped “W” on my wrong sides to make it obvious.
Sew the 2 folded edges. I sewed about 1/8″ away from the fold.
3) Sew 3 sides & the inner flap
Place the front & back pieces on top of each other.
Make sure the “wrong” sides of the fabric are facing each other.
The blue fabric that’s extra (on the right) will become the inner flap.
Fold the inner flap fabric in between the front & back pieces.
Pin all 3 layers together. They should match at the edge (see photo).
The layers should be in this order:
- Top layer: back piece (white fabric)
- Middle layer: inner flap (the excess blue fabric)
- Bottom layer: front piece (blue check fabric)
Pin and sew these 3 sides (see photo). Use a 2/8″ seam allowance.
Make sure you keep the side with the inner flap OPEN. No stitching should be done on that side.
Trim the seam allowance down to 1/8″.
Turn the pillowcase inside out.
Turn the flap to the other side.
By doing this, the only open side will be closed temporarily. Don’t panic! It’s part of the plan.
Here’s what the flap will look like when it’s on the other side.
Iron the pillowcase so that all the edges are flat.
Pin & sew the same 3 sides as before. Use a 3/8″ seam allowance.
Remember to keep the side with the flap OPEN. No stitching should be done on this side.
Your “french seam” is now done. All the raw edges are hidden.
4) Turn the pillowcase inside out
Turn the flap back to the other side. Your pillow now has an opening again.
Turn the pillowcase inside out. All your seams should now be hidden inside.
Iron the pillowcase so that all the edges are crisp.
Your pillowcase is done!
Place your pillow insert inside.
Here’s the end result (front view).
This post was originally published on 11 January 2021. It has since been updated.