red flannel pantry

creative pursuits in the kitchen, garden, library and sewing room

personalized pillowcase tutorial

I have been making personalized pillowcases for my kids and their friends for years. They love them for sleepovers, camp, road trips and college dorm rooms. I personalize them with the recipient’s name, but you could put on camp, sorority, high school or college names and symbols.

I make my own pillowcases based on a pattern my daughters taught me. There are many pillowcase tutorials online–here is a good one. I usually use a complementary solid fabric on the pillowcase cuff for the best visual contrast of the chenille letters. You can also use a store-bought pillowcase that matches existing bedding.

I use a product called Chenille by the Inch from Fabric Cafe and order it from their website. It is basically stacked fabric sewn together with a stabilizer backing. I have tried other brands, but Chenille by the Inch is the best. Fabric Cafe offers a variety of colors and also has confetti chenille with stacks of different colored fabric, like red-white-blue and orange-yellow-pink. Depending on which layer you orient to be the top, you get a different look–very cool.

I start by mapping out the name. Generally, I make the letters 2 1/4 inches wide with 1/2 inch between the letters. The letter I is an exception! If I am working with a longer name, I scrunch up the letters to 2 inches wide.

I determine the center by folding the pillowcase cuff in half, and then I insert a pin at the crease. I measure out from the center and, using a chalk pencil, draw the letters–in this case, JA to the left of center, NE to the right of center.

Chenille by the Inch comes as a panel and must be cut into strips. To cut even strips, I place the ruler so that the next line of stitching is positioned between the 1/8″ and 1/4″ marks on the ruler and then cut with my rotary cutter. Note: I am lefthanded, which explains the goofy backward positioning of my ruler to all righthanders!

Although the product instructions say to remove the stabilizer before using, I leave it on and remove it after sewing the letters. I have found that leaving it on keeps the strips intact.

Position the strip over the letter and cut the strip to length. Some letters you can do in one strip (eg, J); others require piecing (eg, E). I find it best to cut and piece as I go.

Thread color is up to you. In some cases I use thread that matches the pillowcase cuff fabric. That way if I take a stitch or two beyond the chenille when I backstitch, it’s not as obvious. However, when sewing cream-colored chenille to a red pillowcase cuff, I would probably go with a light-colored top thread and red thread in the bobbin.

Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of each strip. Try to follow the center stitching in the chenille strip as you sew, but it is ok if you wiggle here and there. Sewing curves means you will get little pleats–just keep sewing, making sure the needle is in the needle-down position when you stop and readjust. None of this stitching will be visible in the end. Letters with curves (especially the letters B and S) are challenging. My favorite name? Eva (it’s short, and when in all caps, it’s pure angles, no curves!).

I have seam-ripped out a letter when it doesn’t look right in terms of scale, position or shape. But remember–once you fluff up these letters, little imperfections are no longer visible.

When abutting two pieces, I position the next piece as close as possible to the seam of the piece I’ve already sewn in place.

You don’t want a gap.

You can sew two pieces together by overlapping them about 1/4″ and backstitching. Again, this piecing will not be apparent after fluffing.

Here is how it looks once all sewn.

Take a pair of tweezers and gently pull the strips of stabilizer from the backs of the letters.

You’ll have a little pile of white strips to throw away.

For this next step, you need a small brush with clean, firm bristles. I use a chenille brush designed for this purpose, but a clean nail brush would work too.

Spray the chenille with water or dip the brush in water and then rub the brush back and forth over the letters to make the chenille separate, fray and fluff. It takes a couple of minutes per letter.

Here’s a fluffing-in-progress view.

When finished, the letters look damp and fluffy and there will be some loose bits of chenille fluff drifting about.

Throw the pillowcase in the dryer to finish it up.

 Note: the manufacturer says there is a possibility of colorbleed with this product, but I have never had that happen. They recommend relaundering with Shout Color Catcher if it does occur.

If you’d like a PDF of this tutorial, you can find it here!

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