Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Burrito-style holiday pillowcases

by Linda Theil

I had fun making fourteen pillowcases for Christmas presents this year. I used my stash of holiday fabrics for the one-yard cuts I needed for the body of the cases, and ordered basic solids to use for the pillowcase cuffs in Christmas red, Christmas green, gold, ivory, and white to coordinate with my stash prints. You can cut three to four cuffs from each yard of coordinating cuff fabric, depending on how wide you want your cuff to be. I cut mine at 10-inches across the width of the fabric (around 42-inches),  making a finished 4.5-inch-wide cuff on each pillowcase. Each pillowcase takes about 60-90 minutes to make.

There are lots of videos on the Internet showing how to make a pillowcase using the "burrito"-style construction method. I have listed a few resources at the end of this post. I particularly like Jean Trulove's videos, including the one linked at the end of this post showing how to make a pillowcase using a directional print. I used mostly non-directional prints, but a couple of my fabrics were directional and required an alternate cutting layout. The red, white, and blue stylized Santa print at the front of the photo above was one such directional print; the 42-inch measurement had to be cut along the length of the fabric instead of across the grain from selvedge to selvedge as cut for non-directional prints. 

Here is an example of a pillowcase made from a directional print that required an alternate cutting layout.

Here is an example of a pillowcase made from a non-directional print that may be cut from selvedge to selvedge across the width of the fabric.

Holiday pillowcase made using the "burrito"-style
method of construction

  • 3/4 yard body fabric (This measurement is for non-directional prints; if your fabric is directional, you will need 1.25 yards of fabric)
  • 1/4 yard contrasting decorative fabric (Note: The standard measurement is 10 inches, but if you are purchasing fabric, 9.5-inches -- or 1/4-yard -- is sufficient. You may increase the contrast band to as much as 12-inches of fabric, if desired.)
  • 2.5 x 41/42-inches (one jelly-roll strip) accent fabric, folded in half longways and pressed or 41/42-inches of decorative trim) NOTE: I have used the figure 41/42 to indicate you may use either width depending on the width of your fabric once the selvedges have been trimmed off.
  • Plus: one standard/queen pillow and one zippered pillow-protector for pillow

Note: For king sized pillows, you will need one yard of fabric to cut 33-inches by width of fabric for pillow body. All other measurements are the same. You will still need extra fabric (or 1.25 yards) for directional prints.

Definition: What do we mean by "directional" prints? If your fabric is a solid or all-over pattern, this fabric is "non-directional" and may be cut across the grain -- selvedge to selvedge -- to make your pillow "body". If your fabric has a pattern that reads only one-way (or directionally), you will have to cut your pillow body 41/42-inches along the selvedge instead of across the grain, thus needing 1.25 yards of body fabric instead of 3/4-yards of body fabric. This will make your pillow "read" horizontally when placed at the head of a bed. IOW, it will look nicer.


Lay 10 x 41/42-inch piece decorative/contrasting header fabric right-side-up, with 41/42-inch length horizontally on flat surface

Place folded, accent strip on top with raw edges even with the top of the decorative header fabric.

Place body/main fabric, right-side-down, with raw edges even along the top of all fabrics. Pin to hold in place while you roll the body fabric up towards the top.

Beginning at bottom of main/body fabric, roll fabric and continue rolling until the main/body fabric is rolled to the middle of the decorative header fabric. (Note: This illustration is different fabric than rest of illustrations. The decorative header is green in this photo and the body fabric is large holly print.)

Leave roll in place, and lift decorative fabric up and over the roll, lining-up the bottom edge of the decorative header fabric with the raw edges at the top of the other fabrics, encasing the roll inside -- making the "burrito".

Pin all layers together. Being careful not to catch rolled fabric, stitch all layers together using 1/2-inch seam.

Note: the prepared "burrito" in the following photos is green (instead of red "burrito" in previous shots) and body fabric is Scotty dog print (instead of small holly print).

Stitched "burrito"

Note: Make sure all pins are removed before turning as described next.

Pulling the main fabric through the tube of decorative fabric, turn the "burrito" right side out.


Topstitch along seam, if desired.

Trim width to 41/42-inches.

With wrong-sides-together, fold the pillowcase in half, with decorative cuff along the top of the pillowcase.
Stitch along side and bottom, using scant 1/4-inch seam

Clip corners.

Turn wrong side out, with right-sides together.

Enclosing initial seams, stitch 3/8-inch along side and bottom.


and push out corners


Trim any loose threads.

Insert pillow into case.

An array of pillowcases for 2018 holiday season. Plaid is "Through the Woods" by Kris Lammers for Maywood Studio. Large holly print is "Winter Wonderland" by Jason Yenter for In The Beginning.

Set of three matching Christmas plaid pillowcases with red cuff and white decorative flange.


I had a hard time remembering the trick to layering this "burrito"-style pillowcase, so I came up with this mnemonic to guide me as I work. For this mnemonic, I must call my pillowcase cuff (or contrasting 10 x-41/42-inch piece of fabric) the "gay" fabric -- meaning pretty or decorative. Perhaps this is not ideal as a descriptor, but the mnemonic has proven useful to me, and perhaps will help you, too:

G -- place decorative or gay fabric, right-side 
U -- up on flat surface. Place 
M -- main, or pillow-body fabric, right-side
D -- down, on top of decorative fabric.
R -- roll the main/body fabric toward the top of the decorative fabric.
O -- overlay the decorative fabric, bringing the decorative fabric up to the top of the pile, encasing the rolled body fabric inside the decorative fabric -- creating the "burrito"
P -- pin all layers together
S -- stitch, using 1/2-inch seam 

This mnemonic does not include the insertion of a trim or accent piece. If you choose to use an accent piece, you have to remember to insert the accent piece on top of the decorative piece, raw edges together, before placing the main/body fabric on top of both pieces.

Note: The video from Missouri Star demonstrates layering all fabrics right side up with the decorative flange on top and this came out correctly in their video, so I guess there are several ways to make this "burrito" method work -- I only tried the one I demonstrated in this post.

The simplicity of this project may lead to complacency, but precision in cutting and stitching will be all the more evident in your final product.

Missouri Star video
Jean Trulove video,

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Notes on Purl Soho Cross-back Apron pattern

Purl Soho Cross-back Apron, regular sized,
 front view

Purl Soho Cross-back Apron, regular sized,
  back view

by Linda Theil

This is the Purl Soho Cross-back Apron featured on their website at

Their page includes complete directions for making this one-size-fits-most apron with large, side-pockets and cross-back straps. This retro apron is so nicely made and looks so much like the apron my grandma wore in the Nineteen-fifties that I had to make one for my friend who appreciates the nostalgia and the beauty of this design.

Although this apron pattern, as published, can adjust to several sizes from 2-10; I also made a larger option, adjusting the width of the pattern pieces to accommodate up to size 16 and up. Size adjustment may also be made by varying the length of the straps.

These notes are a record of my experience with the pattern, and should only be viewed as commentary; your results may vary.

For both layouts, I used cotton fabric with an all over pattern -- meaning there is no up or down, left or right, direction of the fabric.

Standard, basic-sized Purl Soho Cross-back Apron

For the standard size, I used the pattern pieces as indicated on the Purl Soho site. I cut six 8.5-inch cuts the width of the fabric from selvedge to selvedge and one 13-inch cut the width of the fabric selvedge to selvedge. 

This layout takes a little less than 1-7/8 yards of fabric. Cutting across the grain is not standard procedure for clothing layout, but I thought the ease of cutting made this choice an acceptable option for me — especially since the drape and fit of the apron was not a major consideration for me.

To cut the pattern pieces, I used two of the 8.5-inch cuts for the straps, and I used the other four 8.5-inch cuts to lay out the pocket/sides and back using the diagram on the pattern that indicates the measurements of each pattern piece. I cut the front piece to the length indicated in the cutting diagram on the Purl Soho site.

For the straps, the standard pattern uses two 8-inch wide pieces cut from selvedge to selvedge across the width of the fabric, or about 42-inches long. The instructions indicate that the apron should be tried on and straps fitted to the wearer, varying the length of the straps as appropriate. In general, they cut the strap to a finished length of 28.5-inches, plus adding about 3.5-inches for the insertion method they use for a total of about 32-inch long straps. They indicated in the comment section of the post that sewists could add about one-half inch to strap length for each size up from this basic length for a size 2-4. If possible, the straps should be fitted to size the apron, but it may be useful to sewists to have a general idea of the standard strap length, especially since those 42-inch-long straps seem mighty long at first glance.

A note on the pockets

These pockets are cute, but are a little tricky to assemble -- mostly because you are making seams but really can't picture what you are sewing. I've made this pattern twice, and both times have made errors in the pocket construction and had to rip out a seam. You have to be vigilant! 

Rule number one is you must label the pocket pieces. I safety-pinned a piece of paper with the letter name on each piece as I cut it. The Purl Soho pattern shows how each set of pieces: A, B, and C, should look before you assemble them. The angles are mirror images of each other, so you need to assemble the proper set of pieces to complete each side pocket properly. 

That is one of the things I like about this apron: it looks so pure and simple; yet the design is full of intrigue and complexity. Like those crazy wide straps! Who needs two-inch-wide straps! Yet their width is necessary to their function; and the look is so iconic. And don't get me started on all those wonderful flat-felled seams!

If you want to do some fancy color blocking, or work with panel prints, it is helpful to know that pocket-pattern-piece C is the side panel of the apron that lies closest to the body. Piece B is the inside of the pocket. And piece A is the outside of the pocket that shows on the outside of the apron.

Layout for large-sized pattern

Purl Soho Cross-back Apron large sized,
front view

Purl Soho Cross-back Apron, large sized,
back view

Since I wanted a larger apron, and several people on the Purl Soho site asked about a larger-sized apron, I created a layout for an apron the should fit up to size 16 comfortably. This layout takes 2-1/8 yards of fabric.

Layout for Purl Soho Cross-back Apron, LARGE size
I cut the straps to the standard 8-inches wide across the width of my fabric. The fabric I used is "Sugar Rush" by Dan Morris for RJR Fabrics in 2012.

I also cut four 10.5-inch widths for the back and pocket pieces, and one 15-inch width for the apron front -- as shown in the diagram above. 

I then followed the Purl Soho instructions exactly as published, using a 29-inch finished length for my straps.

This went together fine and kept the proportions of the apron as created for the original pattern. It also fit just fine.

This proportion apron fits a pretty wide range of larger sized cooks!

UPDATE Jan. 6, 2019

Purl Soho Cross-back Apron in white cotton with border print: "In the Garden" Double Border #7148 designed by Carol for Daisy Kingdom, Inc. Printed with Pride in the USA in 1994.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Simple shopper tote bag

by Linda Theil
June 2, 2018

This is a simple, shopper tote bag modeled on the inexpensive fabric totes available at grocery stores. You can make this bag with, roughly: a yard of fabric, two yards of iron-on interfacing, and four feet of woven belting -- or less if you like shorter handles on your tote. The print fabric I used is from the "Thicket" line by Gingiber Zest for your Nest for Moda in 2016. The yellow is probably a Moda Bella Cotton Solid.


  • bag: cut 14-inch x 42-inch bag piece of cotton fabric 
  • bag: cut 14 x 38-inch piece of lightweight, iron-on interfacing to line bag piece
  • gussets: cut two 8 x 15.5-inch gussets from coordinating fabric
  • gussets: cut two 8 x 13.5-inch pieces of lightweight, iron-on interfacing to line gusset pieces
  • pocket: cut one pocket from feature fabric 14 x 14-inch square
  • pocket: cut 14 x 14-inch pocket lining from same or coordinating fabric
  • pocket: cut 14 x 14-inch pocket interfacing from lightweight, or medium weight iron-on interfacing
  • handles: four feet of woven belting in a coordinating color to use for two handles on tote. Cut into two two-foot-long pieces
  • 2.5 yards of binding to coordinate or contrast with your main fabric. To make binding, you will need to piece two-inch wide strips to make 90-inches of binding before folding and pressing.

Prepare bag.

Cut iron-on interfacing to fit bag body, leaving two inches at top and bottom for hems. Iron interfacing to wrong side of bag fabric.

Fold top and bottom hems over one inch and press, then fold again one-inch and topstitch the hem. Finished hems shown.


Complete pocket.

Iron interfacing to wrong side of pocket fabric.

With right-sides-together, place pocket lining on top of pocket, and stitch along top and bottom of pocket.

Turn tube of pocket and lining right-side-out, and press. Set completed pocket aside.

Fold bag.

With right-sides together, fold interlined bag piece in half and press, marking the center of the bag with a crease.

Measure four inches on either side of the central crease. Fold with wrong-sides-together and press, marking both of the the four-inch lines with a crease, as shown.

 Your bag is now shaped with a front, folded-bottom, and back of the familiar grocery market bag.

Attach pocket.

Unfold bag and position completed pocket on front of bag.

Stitch securely across the bottom of the pocket, attaching pocket to bag, leaving the sides and top open. Or, if you like, you may baste the sides in place, but leave the top of the pocket open.

Prepare bag sides.

Cut two bag sides of contrasting fabric.
 Press lightweight, iron-on interfacing to wrong side of side pieces, leaving two inches un-lined at one end of each side piece.
Fold unlined, fabric down one inch and press.
 Fold over one-inch, again, and stitch down to create top hem of side-piece. Repeat for both side-pieces. Set both aside.

Attach handles.

Cut handles into two 24-inch lengths (or whatever length you desire -- no shorter than 12-inches long).

Position one handle on the back of the bag with handle ends on the inside of the bag three inches from each side. Repeat for front of the bag.

Clip handles in place.

Stitch handle-end to top of bag using a zig-zag stitch. Stitch in a square to secure. Repeat with all four handle ends.
Note: it is easier to stitch the handles on before adding the sides of the bag because the tops of the bag are free, and easier to work with.

Attach sides to bag.

With hemmed tops even, clip one bag side to sides and bottom of bag.

At bottom corners, ease the bag piece by clipping about 1/4-inch into the seam allowance. This will make it easier to fit the side into the bag piece, but some easing will be required to fit the side in place.

Baste in place, then machine stitch side to bag. Repeat on other side.

 Attach binding.

Fold-over short end of binding, and with right-sides-together, apply finished end to top of bag. Cut end of binding about one-half-inch longer than side, and turn the extra length under to form finished edge on end of binding. 

Stitch binding to both bag and bag-side.

 Repeat on other side of bag.
Fold binding over seam, and clip in place.

Miter binding at corners of bag bottom.

 Repeat for other side of bag.
 Both sides of bag with binding clipped, and ready for hand-finishing.

Close-up of binding.

Hand-stitch binding to bag front and back. Repeat on both sides of bag.

Completed market tote bag