Making a case for the pillowcase

Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Making a skirt out of a pillowcase is not just for little girls playing dress-up. With a few sewing skills and some thrift-store ingenuity, a pillowcase skirt can be made to fit a woman's size 12, perhaps a size 14.

When I was a little girl I was so jealous of my grandmother's pillows. Some children ran around their houses in capes made of bath towels. My cousins and I draped my grandmother's pillowcases over our hips and pretended to be high-class ladies.

So imagine how excited I was when I found a Web site touting the beauty of pillowcase skirts. These simple skirts combine a basic knowledge of sewing with grandma's exquisite pillowcases which, lucky for us, have since been donated to thrift stores.

I made my first pillowcase skirt after a trip to a thrift store. Pretty pillowcases of all designs were on sale for 50 cents apiece.

I chose a daisy-covered white pillowcase to test this interesting sewing project. As a girl who fluctuates between sizes 10 and 12, I was concerned about my chances of fitting into the new skirt. No worries, though. I had no problem slipping in at a size 12.

I would guess the largest one could go would be a 14, but that's only a theory. As for smaller women, it's all about cinching. The directions call for a drawstring so one could tighten the waist down quite a few sizes without it seeming too gathered around the waist.


Sewing machine

Seam ripper



Small spool of matching thread

Basic design

There's no need for a pattern with this sewing task, we're just going to follow the lines of the pillowcase.

Once you've picked out the perfect case, wash it and give it a good trip on the ironing board. Lay the case out flat, remembering that the open end of the pillowcase will become the bottom of your skirt.

Measure 1 inch down from the closed short end of the case. Cut across this line to open your pillowcase on a second end. Now you have a tube. Save the end you cut off. We'll use it later for your drawstring.

Now it's time to pull out the sewing machine. Everyone should know how to sew a hem and use a simple sewing machine. It's not hard, and it's a great way to save money and have cute things around your house.

But I digress. Pull the tube on and decide where you'd like the bottom hem of your skirt to hang. That length will determine how much you will cut off the recently trimmed top of your case. I, personally, liked the knee-length look I got by not trimming down the top.

After you've determined how long you want your skirt, subtract 1 1/4 inches from the amount you plan to cut off. That excess will be used in your hem.

After trimming your skirt to length, turn the unfinished edge under 1/4 inch, then roll it over another inch. Sew across the bottom edge of the hem, making sure to catch three layers of fabric with your needle and thread.

Now you've made a casing for your drawstring. "But where are the holes to pull the drawstring through?" you ask. Here's how you get them: Lay the skirt flat again. Find the center of your skirt and measure over 1/2 inch on each side. Cut a small slit in the top layer of the fabric on both sides of your center point.

I used grommets to finish the holes of one skirt. I've also finished one with a buttonholer. Use whatever method you prefer -- just make sure you cover the frayed edges somehow, or you'll wind up with a torn waistband.

You're almost done now. Don't give up yet. All you have left is to make your drawstring.

Find the 1-inch piece you previously cut from the top of the case. Grab your seam ripper and divide the strip into two pieces. Iron the pieces flat and pair up two of the short ends. Sew them together, and you've got the beginnings of a drawstring.

Now fold the long ends together and sew close to the cut edges. To give the cord a finished look, clip a safety pin to one end of the cord and pull it through itself until it's right-side out. Make a knot in one end of the drawstring large enough to not slip through the hole you made in your skirt.

Keep the safety pin attached to the unknotted end of your drawstring and feed it through the casing you've made in your skirt. Once you've got the second end of your drawstring through the skirt, knot the end.

Now it's time to try on your beautiful new frock.

Remember: Most pillowcase fabrics are thin, so be sure to get a slip of some kind to make your new skirt G-rated. I like to pair a dark slip under a light case sometimes to give it extra flair.

Vanessa Cook is a former Southeast Missourian copy editor who dabbles in decorating. If you have a question, comment or idea, contact her at

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