Tutorial ~ Vintage Hand Embroidered Pillow Case = Cutest Bag

by Destri on May 19, 2010

I already told you about my addiction to vintage pillowcases, they have personal details that work great for all sorts of things – clothing, clutches, pillows, bags, aprons.  If you look through your local thrift store you’re bound to find some with hand embroidery for around a dollar.  At a vintage or antique store you will pay anywhere from $4 on up.  My last visit to my local DI (like a goodwill) I scored five of them, and this was one of them.

It was hanging there, feeling extremely unappreciated for it’s beauty.  It had never even been washed, or used.  I could tell because who ever made it left a raw edge on the seams that had only barely frayed.  My sister and I decided a grandma made it for her grandson for a wedding gift and the new bride folded it up, afraid to use it…and then 30 years later decided to donate it.  Sounds good right?

Well I’m not afraid to use it.  Nope, I will put it to use every day now, just as intended I would think.  It made the cutest tote, perfect for packing things to the beach (I wish) or the pool.

Turning a Pillow Case Into a Shoulder Bag Or Cross Body Tote

Supplies:

  • all your sewing stuff
  • pillow case, any will do, but I highly recommend saving one from a thrift store, oh the thrill of the hunt!
  • matching thread
  • interfacing for liner if you want, I used a lightweight one
  • material for straps, I used a basic crochet trim to match

Start by cutting the sides off the pillow case.  I wanted a larger bag so I only cut off a little, but this will work for a smaller bag too.  Just cut it down to the size you want.

Same goes for the length, cut it to the length you want.  I cut my pillow case in half, and that worked great.  I didn’t use my other half but you may decide to use it in the next step.

Now iron your interfacing to the wrong sides of both the front and back pieces.  I believe the one I used is SF 101, but please don’t quote me on that.  It feels just like a lightweight woven cotton so it works perfect for the lining in this project.  If you want you can use the other half of your pillow case for the lining, but with the scallop and trim on mine I decided to go this route.

Now center your pieces on a cutting board, or use a ruler, and with the right sides together.

Now this part doesn’t have to be exact, so don’t worry!  We just want to add a few pleats to round out the bottom of the bag.  I started at one end on the bottom of the bag, an inch from the side, making a ¼ inch pleat.  Then I added two more an inch apart as shown, and repeated on the other side.  Now flip them over and repeat the process on the back piece.

With the right sides still on the inside, pin the two pieces together at the corners and then again about three inches up from the bottom on both sides.  This will act as a guide when sewing the seam where.

Now with a straight stitch and starting at the top of one side, sew with a ½ inch seam down to the pin that is three inches from the bottom.  At this point start curving toward the first pleat, so that when you reach the third pleat you will be back to your ½ inch seam allowance, then just keep sewing along the bottom until you reach the third pleat on the other side then start curving toward the pin, then all the way to the top of that side.  Make sure you are back stitching!

Your corners should look like this.  Just a little curve.

Then you will want to cut off the corners.

Now sew a zigzag stitch along the entire seam, enclosing the raw edge.  Now turn inside out…you’re almost done!

Like your pleats?  They look nice huh.  They make for a nice little rounded bottoms.

Now we need to add the handles.  I tucked mine into the inside and included them with the top stitching I did around the top of the bag, which ensures the interfacing stays put.  At the points where the straps are sewn to the bag I made sure to do a couple rows of stitching for stability, just on the strap.

I did one large strap for a cross the body bag (my fave) with the length coming in at 45 inches, but you could do two straps for a shoulder bag if that is what you prefer.

Isn’t she cute?  And so easy!  All I had to do was a little cutting and sew a few lines, someone else did the hard work.

Have you found any great pieces where someone has put a lot of work into them, and you think they might be happy to see someone enjoying it?  Even if you did cut it up a bit?!

Print Friendly
  • Facebook
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer May 20, 2010 at 6:33 am

What a great idea…love it! I think I have a couple of pillow cases in my cedar chest…I’m going looking…

Reply

Sandi May 20, 2010 at 6:44 am

Just wonderful. You did a great job saving a beautiful piece of art.

Sandi

Reply

Ginger May 20, 2010 at 8:43 am

Those pillow cases also make precious sundresses for little toddler girls. Just cut out a neck and two arm holes. :) Thanks for sharing!

Reply

Destri May 25, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Oh yes, I have done a few of those too!

Reply

Jileen May 20, 2010 at 9:45 am

I have a few of those pillow cases with tatting on them. I like them but haven’t had the heart to actually use them as a pillowcase. Plus my husband probably doesn’t want an embroidered rose imprint on the side of his face :) . But this idea is perfect. I haven’t used my sewing machine in a while but I may have to for this one. They would make great gifts too!

Reply

Destri May 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm

DIG IT OUT ALREADY!! Jileen, have I not convinced you yet? It’s going to take some boy projects isn’t it. Okay then, you just wait ;)

Reply

Tina May 20, 2010 at 10:08 am

You rock Destri! That is so cute!
P.S. That one is for me, right? ;)
Best,
Tina

Reply

Destri May 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm

why, yes, of course, right when I am done with it that is :)

Reply

aubrey May 20, 2010 at 11:38 am

So cute Destri! I’m so impressed. I’m getting closer to using my sewing room…I bought a rotary cutter yesterday….but I still need a mat. :-)

Reply

Destri May 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Get a BIG one! it’s worth the money.

Reply

Suzanne May 20, 2010 at 3:03 pm

I’m going to have to try this one too, oh so many projects so little time! Turned out super cute btw.

Reply

Candace May 20, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Sigh…

I am entirely smitten with this little bag. I even happen to have several of those embroidered pillowcases lying around.

I’m not sure how you keep coming up with this stuff, but I’m so glad you do. You really get my creative juices flowing, and the way I’m rolling along these days, that’s quite a feat!

As a side note–I also wanted to tell you that I love you with all my heart! And I would like to thank you properly for your kind gesture/fabulous gift, by stealing you away for lunch/dinner (at the very least!) or something of the sort. That is.. of course.. if you will still have me for your friend;)

Would you please email me your digits? They were written on my old phone book, which went in the recycling bin after my new one came. Woopsie.

Reply

Destri May 25, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Dinner, lunch…serious?! Please!

Reply

Mod Podge Amy May 21, 2010 at 7:51 am

Hey Destri! This is awesome! Love it -

Reply

Destri May 25, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Thank you thank you Miss Amy!

Reply

Stepping On Cheerios May 21, 2010 at 8:45 am

wow, that is so cute! Love the rounded corners:)

Reply

Destri May 25, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Oh the rounded bottoms? Yes that is how we like our bottoms around this house…nice and rounded!

Reply

Emily May 21, 2010 at 9:12 am

This is lovely! I have a whole closet full of these pillowcases that were gifts from family friends, my grandma and my husband’s grandma. They are so detailed and lovely, I’ve been afraid to use them so i’ve “saved” them. Now, if I could get on good terms with my sewing machine maybe I could tackle this?

Reply

Destri May 25, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Oh just dig it out, give it a little tlc and go for it! I have a few more tutorials coming up for how to use them so stay tuned!

Reply

Laura Bray May 21, 2010 at 3:31 pm

I’m making one of these to hold my daughter’s ballet supplies! What a fantastic idea!

Reply

Destri May 25, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Oh it would be perfect for that, send me a picture!

Reply

hogsncats May 21, 2010 at 5:45 pm

I just love this idea. I have a pair of pillowcases that I never used because a good friend hand painted pigs on the hems and I didn’t want to ruin them by repeatedly washing. Now I can make totes from them and really enjoy them. Thank you ~Thank You ~ Thank You~
P.S. I collect pigs. LOL

Reply

Destri May 25, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I am giggling because at first I was like “pigs?” But if you collect them then hey, it makes sense! Send me a picture!

Reply

Amy May 22, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Love it! Sooo cute! And love those pillowcases, too! Don’t know if I can cut mine up, though!

Thanks, Destri

Reply

Destri May 25, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Oh you can do it, just close your eyes!
How are you Amy?

Reply

Tricia Jones May 24, 2010 at 9:19 pm

I love this idea, and very well executed might I add. I really appreciate the work that you put in to make a great tutorial for us to enjoy. I love the pleats for the rounded corners.

Reply

Destri May 25, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Thanks Tricia, I try :) , but I am no expert. Trust me.

Reply

Melissa Howard May 26, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I love your story – I feel the same way about the pillowcases (and doilies and hankies) I find at thrift stores…

Reply

Melissa Howard May 26, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I should say your made up story…

BTW your bag is lovely.

Reply

Destri May 27, 2010 at 7:33 am

Thanks Melissa, there was another version, but my sis helped me with my perspective!

Reply

Darla June 24, 2010 at 1:15 pm

This is beautiful! I just picked up a few embroidered pillow cases at a garage sale this past weekend and I’ve been wondering what to do with them since. I’ll have to keep this in mind. It’s a really great size for a bag; it looks like it’s even big enough for a notebook or two. It also looks like it would work really well with just about any pillow case; I can see myself hitting the thrift stores and garage sales and getting my kids some Dora and Spiderman pillowcases and making them bags, too. Thanks for the tutorial!

Reply

Rochelle May 13, 2011 at 5:16 am

Your ideas are so great! Thank you and the ease of the directions … thank you for showing up in my email. Yours is the first I open every day!

Reply

Rajika Roshani March 28, 2012 at 12:46 am

Wowww… Great work.. love to sewing that.. and more for my little.. put like this wonderfull tutorial for us..Thank you so mush.

Reply

Claudia January 20, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Just what I was looking for. Thank you!

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: