Everybody loves a great homemade gift, especially one that’s practical. That’s why I made these flannel pillowcases for a Christmas gift exchange a few years ago. You, too, can make these with minimal sewing skills — either by hand or with a machine — but they’ll look like you put a lot of time and money into them. You may want to make an extra set for yourself, because who doesn’t like a soft, warm pillowcase on a cold winter night?
To make these pillowcases, use 100 percent cotton flannel fabric that’s 44 to 45 inches wide. You can choose contrasting fabrics, but make sure they complement each other. I like to use subtle stripes or checks for the body, and bold floral designs for the border. Stripes or geometric patterns can be tricky for the border, because they need to be cut precisely so the repetitions line up on the finished pillowcase. The fabric for the accent strip can be strongly colored, but be sure to prelaunder it separately from the other fabrics in hot water so the color doesn’t bleed onto the case later.
Tools & Materials
- 2 yards subtle stripe or check flannel fabric for body
- 1/2 yard complementary floral flannel fabric for border
- 2-by-44-inch strip of plain, unpatterned flannel fabric for accent strips (2)
- Sewing machine, optional but preferred
- Rotary cutters and cutting mat, optional
- Steam iron
- Straight pins
- Serger, optional
These instructions show how to make a pair of rectangular pillowcases measuring about 20 inches wide by about 33 inches long. Most standard pillowcases are 20-by-26 inches. Super-standard pillowcases are 20-by-28 inches, and queen pillowcases are usually 20-by-30 inches.
Although this pattern may seem too long by those measurements, it actually works quite well for either standard or super-standard pillows, because the slightly longer pillowcase shows off the border and accent strip nicely.
Step 1: Wash Fabric
Prewash all fabric on a normal washing machine cycle in hot water. Dry in a dryer on the cotton setting. This step is important, because it preshrinks the fabric and washes out any excess dye, which is especially critical for the bold accent strip. Wash bright colors separately. Remove any frays and clumps of thread along cut edges that are the result of washing. If necessary, iron the fabric so it lies flat.
NOTE: The fabric measurements from now on will be approximate, as the fabric will have shrunk a bit when it was washed and dried.
Step 2: Cut and Prepare Fabric
2a: For the body, cut the 2-yard length of fabric in half so you’re left with two pieces, each 1 yard long. Take up one piece and fold the fabric in half widthwise, right sides together. If necessary, true up the edges to create an accurate rectangle; rotary cutters and a cutting mat will make this job easier. You should end up with a (folded) rectangle measuring about 21 by 44 inches (or less, because of shrinkage), with three open edges and one long folded edge. Repeat with the second piece of fabric. Set both pieces aside.
2b: For the borders, take up the 1/2-yard piece of fabric, and cut it in half lengthwise so you end up with two pieces, each measuring approximately 8 inches by 44 inches. As with the body, trim as necessary to create true edges. Repeat with the second piece of fabric. Set both pieces aside.
2c: For the accent strips, take up the 2-by-44-inch fabric strip and fold it in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. Press with a steam iron so the folded strip lies flat. Repeat with the second strip. Set both pieces aside.
Step 3: Sew Borders
3a: Place one border piece right-side-up on your work surface. Pin an accent strip to the top of a long edge on the border piece so their cut edges line up. Stitch the accent strip to the border with a 5/8-inch seam allowance.
3b: Turn the accent strip out, so the seam is now on the back of the border. Press.
3c: Repeat with the second border piece and accent strip.
Step 4: Attach Borders to Body
4a: Unfold one body piece and place it wrong-side-up on your work surface. Pick up one border and place it right-side-down along a long edge of the body piece, lining up their raw edges, and pin it in place. Sew the border to the body with a 5/8-inch seam allowance. Turn the seam allowance onto the border, and press.
4b: Turn the border up and over so it lies on top of the body’s face side. Press and pin in place. Topstitch the border to the body along the border’s top edge, just below the accent strip, using a complementary thread color.
Step 5: Sew Body
Fold the body in half widthwise with right sides facing. Smooth the fabric, and pin along the unseamed long edge and the short edge opposite the border. If the accent strip and border are longer than the body, you can trim them up with scissors, or, if you’re using a serger, let the machine’s cutter take care of it for you. Sew the pinned edges with a ⅝-inch seam allowance. If you’re not using a serger, you’ll need to treat the seam differently to prevent raw edges from fraying. You can create a folded seam by turning over the raw edges ¼ inch, pressing, and then turning them over another ¼ inch before stitching along the fold’s inside edge. Another method is to turn the raw edges inward by ¼ inch, toward each other, before stitching. You can also use your sewing machine to zigzag along raw edges to slow fraying. Note that all these methods can affect the width of a pillowcase, so plan accordingly.
Step 6: Finish Up
6a: Repeat Steps 3 through 5 with the second body, and you’ll have a pair of custom-made flannel pillowcases.
6b: Launder the pillowcases on your washing machine’s normal cycle in warm water. To prevent having to iron the cotton fabric, promptly remove the pillowcases from the dryer when the cycle is finished, and then immediately smooth and fold them.
6c: For gift-giving, tie a piece of ribbon around a pair of pillowcases, before wrapping or bagging them.
Rebecca Martin is a Capper’s Farmer editor who enjoys sewing all types of useful projects for the home.