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,

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