ready to sew up your own pillowcase bag?

okay, here we go...

start with 2 pillowcases. coordinating is good, but the "super-funky-clashy" vibe works well too. your choice. a note on vintage linens--sometimes they stink. this stink might = dark, damp old lady closet or it might = decades upon decades of fabric softener usage. either way, a soak in 50/50 vinegar/water and a line dry usually cures the problem. in the case of the two, fabric softener is usually the harder smell to get rid of.
are your pillowcases the same size? if not, even them up. if you're having to even them up width-wise, make sure that you are leaving yourself enough seam allowance so that the two cases will be the same width once the one you cut is sewn back up. for instance, (and this is in the case of width only--length doesn't matter) if your cases are off by an inch, and you plan on sewing with a 3/4 inch seam allowance, then you only need to trim off 1/4 inch. make sense? if not, sorry. math is not my strong suit.

as you can see below, my 2 cases were the same width but a different length. so i just trimmed the larger case to make them even.

now it's time to make the straps. making straps is no fun, but it must be done. onward, people!

working from the bottom of your pillowcases (they are on top of each other), cut a 5" section across the entire width of the bags.

from the cut, upward = the body of the bag. from the cut, down = fabric for the straps.
now cut your 5" inch strap section into half widthwise--parallel to the cut you made when you chopped the pillowcase in two. you now have what would make two very short straps--we're going to open them up to make them longer. cut one of the seams (from the original side seam of the pillowcase) on each strap section so that it opens up into a piece that is double the length of the original pillowcase. on the strap that was formerly the bottom of the bag, you'll have to also cut that original bottom seam.

clear as mud? sorry 'bout that. in the end, you'll have 4 strap sections (2 of each print). each should be double the length of the pillowcase body. take one of each, face them right sides together and sew down one long end, across one short end and back up the other long end. repeat with other strap. clip seams and turn both right side out (if you are fancy you'll iron the seams before turning).

topstitch each strap. you don't have to worry about getting the corners perfect or closing up that opening, because this part of the strap will be hidden inside the bag.
hey! your straps are done!

now, move onto the body of the bag. with right sides facing, sew along the raw edge (or edges if you trimmed one of your cases width-wise) with a 3/4" seam. clip corners. repeat with the second pillowcase.
now it's time to assemble. this can get tricky if you're like me and can't anticipate what will happen when something is turned right side out. okay. decide which print you want to be the outer of the bag (though in actuality it's totally reversible). turn bag outer inside out. leave bag inner right side out and slip it inside bag outer so that "good" sides are touching. line them up, make sure that they're exactly the same width. pin together at side seams.

decide if you want your bag outer and straps to be the same fabric, or if you want them mismatched. for this tutorial, i chose to be wacky and have them not match. oh, who am i kidding--it was a mistake. i told you i can't anticipate. anyhow. if you want your prints to match, lay your strap on the bag with same fabrics touching. if not, lay them in the reverse (so, in this case, i laid the yellow side of the strap face down on the floral fabric).
lay out your straps so that there are no twists in it--otherwise your handle will be twisted when you turn your bag right side out. positioning--i place the straps about 1 inch in from the side of the bag, but really placement is up to you. just make sure you do it the same across the board.

without twisting, nestle your strap in between the first two layers of fabric--the bag inner, and the bag outer where the good sides of the fabric are touching. pin with about 1/2" of strap poking out. pin other strap, then flip bag and repeat.
once you're all pinned up, you're ready to start sewing. start at the midpoint between two straps.
stitch with a 3/4" seam, backstitching over the straps to make them secure. sew all the way around, stopping about 2-3 inches from where you started.

turn bag right side out, get it situated, and then topstitch the entire bag, making sure to close up your turning opening.
congrats! you're finished! take your bag and head out shopping--for more pillowcases, what else?


Lisa said...

Thank you! You've inspired me to go thrifting this weekend and see if I can come across any linens that strike my fancy. =)

kristen f said...


It's taking me about an hour a bag... is this what you've experienced or am I super slow?

I've volunteered to make these bags for a friend's beach wedding as party favors but this could be a larger project than I anticipated.

erin said...

@ kristen:

i think it's about right, an hour a bag. if you could find a faster way to do the straps, it would certainly take some time off. otherwise, i'd just do it assembly line style--it's always a bit faster that way than doing 1 by 1, for some reason.

how many are you making?!

kristen f said...

Thanks Erin. I agree with the assembly line method, much faster. I suppose I could use something else for the straps, like a thick ribbon. I did just one fabric for the strap and it cut off a small amount of time.

There are about 50 people going to this destination wedding. I'm thinking beach bags for the girls only (so around 25 bags), in the wedding colors. The bags will be my gift.

Jen said...

I received the bag you sent today! It's gorgeous! Thanks so much. :)

Ruthie's Greetings (Handmade Cards) said...

Cute bag!