DIY Home: Pillowcases

This week, I sewed my first pillowcases. I was a bit intimidated at first, but thought, “How difficult can it be? It’s just a rectangle.” And if I can figure it out, ANYONE can figure it out. Here’s how to make your own pillowcases.

I had some 100% cotton fabric leftover from when I made valances for my son’s bedroom and playroom. He loves Richard Scarry characters (Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm, Hilda Hippo, etc.), and I was actually able to find fabrics featuring those characters. I had enough fabric to make two pillowcases: one with dark blue as the main fabric with an accent of light blue, and the other vice versa.

I began by searching online to find standard sizes for pillowcases. Here’s what I came up with. Standard: 20″ × 26″, Queen: 20″ × 30″, King: 20″ × 36″. Then, I realized that I just could have gone into my son’s room and taken his current pillowcases off and measured them. (Duh!) That’s probably a better way to do it, because if your current pillowcases are a bit too small or too large for your particular pillow, you can tweak the measurements.

Basically, for each pillowcase, we’re going to sew a big rectangle and a small rectangle together to make one huge rectangle, twice. Then, we’re going to set those two huge rectangles together, flip it right side out, and we’re done! Easy peasey. This is even easier if you have fabric that’s uniform (without a pattern running in one direction)–mine was not uniform, so it was a little more difficult, but it’s doable. These instructions assume a queen pillowcase and 1/2″ seam allowance, but you can adjust for whichever size you have.


  1. Cut two rectangles for your main fabric, 21″ x 26″. If your fabric has a pattern, make sure it’s running wide across the cut. Cut two more rectangles for your accent fabric, 21″ x 8″. Make sure your fabric is running properly, up or down before you cut.
  2. Iron all individual pieces. Pin one large and one small rectangle together along one of the 21″ sides, right sides together. Sew together, making sure to reverse stitch at the ends to secure everything.
  3. Repeat Step 2 with your other rectangles.
  4. Now we’ll put a hem on the accent fabric. I used a 2.5″ hem. Fold the accent fabric back 2.5″ and iron a crease. Sew your hem into place. I like to sew with the wrong side of the fabric facing up so that I can see the hemline I’m trying to follow.
  5. You should now have a rectangle that’s 21″ x 30.5″.
  6. I recommend re-ironing everything at this point. I also like to open the seam between the main and accent fabric and iron flat while I’m ironing the rest of the fabric. I don’t think this step is necessary, but it makes the fabric lay flatter. If you’re feeling really industrious, you can actually sew again along each side of the seam you just ironed flat, which would make your seam very strong.
  7. Now pin your huge rectangles, right sides together, accent fabric along the same side, and sew around three sides, making sure to back stitch at the beginning and the end. Leave the short side with the hem open for inserting the pillow.
  8. Trim loose thread, flip pillowcase inside out, and iron. You’re done with one pillowcase!
  9. If you’re making another and your fabric has a uniform pattern, you can just repeat the above instructions. If you’re fabric runs a particular way, here’s my warning (and I messed this up during my trial run). Remember that you’ll probably put the pillows on the bed with both open ends facing either out or in. That means you can’t repeat exactly what you did before. You’ll need to attach your accent fabric to your main fabric on the main fabric’s opposite 21″ side as your first pillowcase so that everything is facing the right way. Fortunately, I caught my error in the pinning stage rather than after I’d sewed something together.

Good luck! I’d love to see some pictures if you try this idea. Please email to


DIY Home: Kitchen Towels

For those who don’t know, I began sewing a couple years ago (for the first time in my life). I taught myself on my mom’s Kenmore sewing machine that was older than I am, literally. It basically had two stitches: forward and reverse. So when I got my fancy brand new machine for Christmas last year, boy was I excited! Since then, I’ve been trying to broaden my portfolio of sewing projects. I made all the valances for my house and I recently made my first tote bag.

And now, these adorable kitchen towels! I used THIS TUTORIAL. If you read closely, depending on your fabric, you may be able to make 4 towels from the fabric supply list. That’s what I did. I purchased 4 sets of fabric (main + accent) and was able to make 16 towels from that. I did need to order extra twill tape, per the instructions. (Note: Don’t do what I did and forget to purchase matching thread. Fortunately, I found what I needed buried in my sewing bin, but that was a total oversight on my part.)

Once you get the pattern down once, you can move quickly. I never have enough time, so I’m not above taking a shortcut or two. My shortcut for this project was that I chose fabrics that could all be sewn with the same color thread. That way, I didn’t need to spend time rethreading my machine and making bobbins. That worked for all but the black breakfast sandwich fabric. I made that the last one I worked on for the same reason.

So, two towels from each fabric set are Christmas gifts for my mom, my mother-in-law, my brother (the breakfast sandwiches, of course), and my son’s babysitter. The other pairs from each fabric set are going up for sale in the carolyncrowndesigns ONLINE STORE.

They really are cute and useful and would make a great holiday gift for anyone! Happy sewing!

DIY Home: Adventures in Tote Bags

First, allow me to give credit where credit is due. Here are the instructions and pattern that I used: HOW TO MAKE A SIMPLE REVERSIBLE TOTEBAG. There were lots of photos in the instructions, which helped me a lot. I’m a visual learner.

I had recently purchased a particular fabric for making Christmas presents but then decided wasn’t a good fit for its original purpose. But, I still loved the fabric and thought that using it to sew a tote bag (a Christmas gift for the woman who takes care of my son while I’m working) would be perfect! This tote bag is actually reversible, so (1) it’s stronger than a single layer and (2) if the outside ever gets stained, you can just flip it inside out and you have a new bag!

For those who don’t know, I have a disorder: I can never just take a pattern as it is. I always need to change something. In this case, I changed the size of the bag, remove the gusset corners, and, for reasons I still can’t explain, decided to use one strap (attached diagonally) instead of the standard two. But since this was my first time ever making a tote bag, I couldn’t wrap my head around how to get the diagonal strap affixed correctly between the outer and inner lining fabrics when the bag was inside out. To make a long story short, I decided to do two shorter straps, as I know the person I’m making it for will use it as a tote bag rather than put it on her shoulder.

So there you have it. Now that I’ve made a bag one time, I think I could figure out the diagonal strap. Maybe next time…what do you think?

DIY Home: Simple Window Valance

When my family and I recently moved into our new home, we quickly realized two things: many of our windows are not a common size and we have a LOT of windows.

Unable to purchase pre-made valances, I decided to take things into my own hands and sew my own (the sample is one of the 4 valances in my office). I’d recently learned to sew and had even more recently received a beautiful new sewing machine for Christmas…and so began my adventure. Slowly at first, but once I developed a process, things moved quickly. I was able to make 20 valances in under a week, sewing only in the evening.

Below are my instructions, including one amazing time-saving tip (I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with that one!). You can also download the template and instructions HERE.

In this example, let’s assume you want your finished valance to be 24” wide and 12” tall and that you are using a 1” curtain rod. These initial measurements will vary based on your window and rod size.

  1. I recommend hanging your curtain rods first. Once they’re up, measure the distance between the brackets so you know exactly how wide you need your valance to be. This is especially important because we’re making a flat, tailored valance, not one that’s oversized and bunches up, allowing more room for error. In our example, we want the finished width to be 24”.
  2. Cut your fabric (I used medium-weight home decór fabric) 2” wider and 3” taller than what you want your finished valance to be. In our example, we’d cut a piece of fabric that’s 26” wide by 15” tall.
  3. Flip the fabric over so you’re looking at the wrong side. We need to create a 1” hem on the left, bottom, and right sides, and a 2” hem across the top, which will become the pocket for the rod.
  4. I use tailor’s chalk, but you could even use pen or pencil if you’d like, provided the mark won’t show through to the front of your fabric. Here’s the tip that will save you a lot of time: Draw a line 2” in on the left, bottom, and right of your fabric. Draw a line 4” down from the top. Then, fold your fabric to meet your chalk lines rather than pinning and measuring over and over again. Do the left, bottom, and right hems first. Fold your fabric in to your chalk lines. The chalk lines are 2” in from the edge, so when you fold in, you’re creating a 1” hem. Pin in place and iron creases.
  5. Sew left, right, and bottom hems in one pass.
  6. Remove from sewing machine and fold top down to meet the appropriate chalk line. Pin in place but do NOT iron to crease. Stitch across the bottom edge of the fabric you just folded down, close to the 4” chalk line. You’ve just formed the rod pocket!
  7. If necessary, feel free to line your curtains. I didn’t in my house because a) I didn’t have time and b) I didn’t think it was necessary. I was only going for looks, not actually trying to block out light.

If you try this out, please email a photo of your finished valance to I’d love to see!