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Sewing With Silk - a Simple Pillowcase + Free Tutorial

My cousin Amanda mentioned she was looking for a silk pillowcase, as she'd heard it would be good for her curly hair.  She had no luck in her local stores, so I decided to make one for her.  I had bought some silk samples from The Silk Route before, so I asked Helen which type of silk would be best for a pillowcase.  She suggested using silk Dupion or silk cotton.  

I opted for silk cotton. "This ivory material is a 57% silk - 43% cotton mix and comes from China. It is a very useful silk with a lovely sheen.  It is suitable for most needlework and dyes beautifully.  It has the strength of cotton with the beauty of silk."  It is 112 cm (44 inches) wide.

I unpicked a pillowcase I had in my recycling stash to take the measurements I needed, but the normal way is to;

  • measure the pillow length (mine was 28"/71 cm) and width (18"/45 cm)
  • cut out fabric twice the length, plus 9 1/2" (24 cm) for turnings and flap
  • add 1 1/4" (3 cm) to the width for seam allowances 

The pillowcase should be cut in one continuous length, but the cotton silk is not wide enough and I won't waste fabric or money buying it long enough; so am going to buy 2 half metre lengths (so I don't have to struggle to cut it) and then join them together to make them long enough, with the join positioned on the fold.

Prepare fabric

When the fabric arrived the first thing I did was re-thread my overlocker (serger) in cream and neaten the cut edges. To prevent it puckering, I held it before and after the needles. Then I put it in the wash (40 degrees) to pre-shrink it.  When it came out I hung it out to dry, then ironed it while it was still damp.  Ready.

Prepare sewing machine

  • First I gave mine a good clean with Surgical Spirit (Rubbing Alcohol) to get rid of all the sticky residue from previous jobs as, after all, it's silk!
  • Thread - I'm using Gutermann Sulky 100% cotton 30, colour 1071
  • Foot - Even Feed (Walking foot)
  • Needle - Schmetz Microtex size 60/8
  • Stitch Length - 2 (I tested it on a silk sample I already had)

Prepare to make the pillowcase

Pin the two strips together, matching the selvedge edges and pinning within the seam allowance of 5/8"/1.5 cm.  I am not cutting the selvedges off as then they would need to be neatened.  Worked for me.

Stitch, holding fabric before and after needle and backstitching both ends.

Press to set stitches.  Then press seam open and flat.

Of course if your fabric is cut in one continuous length you can skip this step!

Make the front

Measure out your length (28"/71 cm) from the seam

+ hem 1 (2"/5 cm)

+ hem 2 (1/2"/1.5 cm)

Total = 30 1/2"/77.5 cm, and pin/mark both sides.  

Fold from mark to mark and press crease across width.  Use a ruler to cut on the crease, overlock raw edges, and press.

Turn up 1/2"/1.5 cm to the wrong side and press.  Turn up another 2"/5 cm and press again.

Stitch, close to edge, holding fabric before and after needle.  (I stitched from the wrong side so I could see what I was doing).  Press.

Make the back

Measure out your length (28"/71 cm) from the seam

+ flap (6"/16 cm) 

+ hem 1 (1/4"/5 mm)

+ hem 2 (3/8"/1 cm)

Total = 34 5/8"/88.5 cm  and pin/mark both sides.  Fold from mark to mark and press crease across width.  Use ruler to cut on crease, overlock edges and press.

Turn up 1/4" (the width of the overlocking) press and stitch.  Turn up another 3/8"/1 cm, press and stitch close to edge.

Make the flap

Fold in half wrong sides together, along the seam, with the front (shorter) piece on top.  

Check the the back extends 6"/16 cm beyond the front.  

Fold the flap back over the front (so the right side of the flap is against the wrong side of the front)

Match edges and pin within seam allowance.  Stitch with 3/8" seam, backstitching over the edge of the flap to strengthen it.  Press.

For the other side first check the width (18" + 2 x 5/8"/45 cm + 2 x 1.5 cm seam allowance) and mark the seam line (I used a lead pencil).  Stitch.  

Trim excess and neaten edges with overlocker/serger.  Press

Turn right sides out, press.  Done!  Insert pillow and admire your handiwork.

You can download and print off the instructions in pdf format here

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Comment by Susan on June 8, 2015 at 1:46pm

Anytime you need to convert cm to inches or the reverse:

https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/3284611?hl=en-CA#unitco...

Get quick answers when you enter math equations or conversions in the Google Search box.

https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/3284611?hl=en-CA#unitco...

Comment by Peg Kinney on June 8, 2015 at 1:04pm
Had never heard of silk cotton. You definitely have my interest!
Comment by Peg Kinney on June 8, 2015 at 12:58pm
MaryAnn, you should invest in a tape measure with inches on one side and cm on the other. It's as simple as that
Comment by MaryAnn Lansky Bunjevac on June 8, 2015 at 12:15pm

It's in cm's ..... I still do inches, yards, etc.  =  thus I am skipping this for time's sake :(

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