How To Make a Standard Pillowcase With Inner Flap: PRO Way

This tutorial copies the pillowcase design that stores use. I studied 9 professionally made pillows to figure this out.

Today, we’re making the envelope style in a standard size. “Envelope pillows” have an inner flap to hide your pillow insert. I’ve also included measurements for queen/king pillows.

I’ll show you how to make it with and without a serger machine.

This pillow took me about 15 minutes to cut and 45 minutes to sew (the first time I made it).

I also have a similar pillowcase tutorial with french seams. If you only have a basic sewing machine, and hate the look of zig zag edges, use this method instead. It creates a super neat finish!

diy envelope pillowcase in bed
standard size diy pillowcases in bed
diy red check pillowcase in standard size
Here’s the pillow from the front.
diy envelope pillowcase with inner flap
Here’s the inner flap stopping the pillow insert from falling out.
diy pillowcase with no raw edges
The inner flap hides all the finished edges! This is a clever way stores use to make the insides look neater.
red homemade pillowcase with inner flap

Contents list:

How professionals make pillowcases with inner flaps

I looked at 9 store-bought pillowcases from budget to mid-range stores.

  • They’re sometimes made with a front and back piece. Other times, the pillowcase is made from 1 piece of fabric and just folded in the middle.
  • The inner flap is often folded and sewn. So the flap is not a separate piece.
  • The top and bottom raw edges are often finished with an overlock stitch. A special machine creates this. It’s called a serger in the USA and Canada, and an overlocker in the UK and Australia.
  • The other raw edges are turned under twice and stitched.

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What pillowcase measurements do stores use?

I looked at standard size pillows from 7 brands. (source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

A standard pillowcase normally measures 20″ x 30″ (height x width). However, some brands use 20″ x 32″. Some UK stores use 50cm x 75cm, which is about 19.7″ x 29.5″.

The inner flaps I measured were 5 6/8″ to 7″ long. This is big enough to stop the pillow insert from falling out.

pillowcase being measured
Here I’m measuring a store-bought pillowcase. The inner flap is 6 6/8″ long.

Note: these are finished item measurements. You’ll need to cut your fabric bigger than this to include seam allowances and the inner flap.

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.
  • Cotton-polyester blends are also used by stores.

How much fabric you need for a standard pillowcase

I squeezed 1 pillowcase out of 1 meter of fabric. That’s about 1.1 yards.

I recommend buying a little more than this to be safe.

how much fabric was used to make 1 pillowcase
How much fabric I used for 1 pillowcase: 1 meter (1.1 yards) of fabric.

I have a full post on exactly how much fabric you need for pillowcases in different styles and sizes. The charts are so useful! They show you how much fabric waste to expect, and which way to cut your pillows.

Tools needed

  • “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.
  • Sewing pins.
  • An iron.
  • (Optional) a serger machine. It’s also known as an overlocker machine.
  • (Optional) hand sewing needles.

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Tutorial: how to make a pillowcase with an inner flap

This method uses a front and back piece. It’s ideal if your fabric is shorter.

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.

Prepare your fabric

Pre-wash and dry your fabric before cutting. This will stop any future shrinkage.

Here’s a fabric pre-washing tutorial.

turning a dial on a washing machine

1) Cut your fabric

Cut 2 rectangles. For a standard pillowcase (20″ x 30″), the measurements are:

  • Front piece: 20 6/8″ x 37 6/8″ or 52.8cm x 96cm (height x width)
  • Back piece: 20 6/8″ x 31″ or 52.8cm x 79cm (height x width).

The front piece is longer because it includes the inner flap.

These measurements work for a queen pillowcase (20″ x 30″) too.

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).
pillowcase fabric cut into 2 rectangles

2) Sew the 2 pieces together on 1 short edge

Pin the front and back together on one short side. Make sure the “right” sides of the fabric are facing each other.

Sew them together using a 3/8″ (1cm) seam allowance. You now have 1 long rectangle.

Suggested sewing machine settings:

  • Straight stitch.
  • The store-bought pillowcases I checked used a 3mm stitch length.
  • Try a tension of 4.
  • Use a “universal” sewing machine needle in size 80/12. This is for light to medium weight fabrics.
sew pillowcase front and back pieces

Finish the seam with a serger machine (pro method). Or use the “overcast” or zig zag stitch on your sewing machine.

This will stop/reduce any fraying.

pillowcase front and back pieces being serged

3) Finish the short raw edges

Now we’ll neaten the 2 short edges (the left & right sides).

With the “wrong” side facing up, fold 1 short edge by 2/8″ (0.6cm), and fold again by 3/8″ (1cm).

My hand is pointing at the finished middle seam. That’s how you know you’re working with the “wrong” side facing up.

It’s important that the folds are on the “wrong” side of the pillowcase. Otherwise, you’ll see them from the outside.

Iron and pin the fold in place. The raw edge will now be hidden (see arrow).

Repeat this for the other short edge.

fold and stitch pillowcase edges

Sew the 2 folded edges. I’m about 1/8″ away from the fold.

Now both short edges (on the left and right sides of your rectangle) will have neat, finished edges.

stitching on pillowcase edge

4) Sew the sides together with a flap

Turn your rectangle over so the “right” side is facing up (you should see no raw or finished edges).

Look at your front piece (it’s the longer rectangle). Measure 6 6/8″ (17cm) away from the short edge.

Mark this line at the top and bottom, or put a pin there.

pillowcase measured and marked with blue chalk

Bring the back piece (the shorter rectangle) to the mark. The “wrong” side of the back piece should now be facing up.

You can tell it’s the “wrong” side because you can see the finished middle seam (with the black thread).

pillowcase folded
pillowcase fabric

Fold the left side (the inner flap) over everything.

The mark/pin is now at the top edge (see arrow).

pillowcase fabric being folded by a hand

Sew the bottom edge. Use a 3/8″ (1cm) seam allowance.

Repeat this for the top edge.

stitching line on pillowcase

5) Finish the raw edges

Finish the 2 seams with a serger machine (pro method). Or use the “overcast” or zig zag stitch on your sewing machine.

This will stop/reduce any fraying.

pillowcase being serged

Option 1: knot the ends of your serger thread. Cut the rest off.

We want to stop it from unraveling.

Ignore this step if you don’t have a serger machine.

serger thread being knotted

Option 2: slide the serger thread through a hand sewing needle with a big “eye”.

Ignore this step if you don’t have a serger machine.

serger thread and hand sewing needles

Slide the excess serger thread through about 10 stitches. Cut the rest off.

Ignore this step if you don’t have a serger machine.

neat serger thread on pillowcase

6) Turn the pillowcase inside out

Turn it inside out so all the finished seams are hidden inside.

finished diy pillowcase

(Optional) Iron the pillowcase for crisp and flat edges.

Place your pillow insert inside.

The inner flap will stop it from falling out.

pillowcase with inner flap

You’re done! 🙂

red check pillowcase with standard insert inside

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Common problems when making a pillowcase

  • All the folds you need to do can be mind-boggling! Pay special attention to this. Make sure you’re working from the right or wrong sides at the right time.
  • I don’t recommend using quilting cotton. I don’t think it’s smooth enough to sleep on.

This post was originally published on 4 January 2021. It has since been updated.

Related posts

How to make a neat pillowcase with french seams – no raw edges!

How much fabric you need to make pillowcases (with charts)