Anna Hergert, Art & Design

Pillowcase Finish: A Tutorial

I recently taught my two-day workshop “Layers of Intrigue” and when it came to finishing participants were eager to try something new. Everyone looked at my samples and since most of these were completed with a pillowcase I demonstrated the individual steps. During that part of the workshop I came to the conclusion that a tutorial on this blog might be a good way to share the technique. Here is the step-by-step process in 38 images and concise text.c

001_Step 1: Complete quilt top (I used a panel for this tutorial).

002_Step 2: Select batting of choice

003_Step 3: Select backing fabric.

004_005_Step 4: Create the “quilt sandwich.”

006_007_008_Step 5: Trim excess fabric and batting. Ensure you are exact!

009_Step 6: Carefully “pull” the backing fabric out from the back.

010_011_Step 7: Place it “print side” down on the quilt top. The batting is now exposed on the back.

012_Step 8: Pin securely in each corner to prevent fabric from shifting.

013_Step 9: Place two pins at the bottom of the quilt sandwich to indicate an opening for turning the quilt inside out.

014_015_Step 10: With 1/4″ foot or walking foot stitch all around the quilt, leaving open the space between the two pins.

016_Step 11: Trim all four corners. Be careful not to cut too closely to the corner stitch to prevent unraveling when turning.

017_Step 12: Turn quilt over to face the batting.

018_019_Step 13: With small scissors carefully trim away all excess batting in the seam allowance.

020_Step 14: Turn quilt inside out.

021_Step 15: Coax corners out so they are pointed and crisp. I can usually do this with the help of my finger nails, sometimes I resort to a tool.

022_Step 16: Press quilt from the back. Note the lack of bulk along the edges. It makes for a sharp edge that does not bulge.

023_024_Step 17: Carefully press the opening edges to prepare them for closing.

025_Step 18: Thread needle and use ladder stitch to close the edge. I am using a colored thread to demonstrate how the ladder stitch will completely hide between the fabric and not distract once stitching is complete.

026_Step 19: The stitching is complete and no blue thread is showing.

027_Step 20: The quilt sandwich is now ready for embellishment and quilting.

The second option with the pillow case technique is shown below. Work through Steps 1 through 8.

028_Step 9a: Stitch all the way around the quilt sandwich, batting side down. Trim corners and excess batting from the seam allowance all around.

029_Step 10a: With the backing fabric facing you select an area to cut an opening. Be careful when first inserting the scissors to avoid cutting into the quilt top.

030_Step 11a: Create an opening large enough for turning the quilt.

031_Step 12a: Cut a strip of paper backed fusible (Steam-A-Seam or equivalent) just a bit larger than the opening cut. Carefully turn quilt inside out to avoid fraying at the edges. Press the quilt from the back as in Step 16 in the initial instructions.


Step 13a: Carefully insert the strip of fusible webbing with the glue side facing the batting.

035_Step 14a: Press the area with a hot iron. Let the fabric and fusible cool down for a few minutes to avoid frustration when removing the backing paper.

036_Step 15a: Remove the backing paper.

037_Step 16a: Place the fabric over the fusible ensuring the cutting lines are matched up closely. Pres with a hot iron.

038_Step 17a: Complete. I don’t use this method very often. The only time I choose to use fusible and cut the backing is when I have no plans for hand-embellishments. Then I ensure the cut is placed in such a manner that the hanging sleeve will cover the cut and fused area.

I hope this tutorial is helpful to quilters anywhere. Weigh in with comments and suggestions for improvements below. Thanks for your interest and support!

Looking for more tutorials without searching the list of past posts? There is good news: I have just created a brand new tab labeled Free Tutorials which can be found here.


This entry was published on August 21, 2014 at 12:54 pm. It’s filed under Creativity Update, Journaling, Special Project, Tutorial and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

17 thoughts on “Pillowcase Finish: A Tutorial

  1. Thank you for such a detailed blog describing the pillowcase finish method. Well done. I have searched for simple clear instructions and nobody seemed to get to the actual steps. This comes six years later after your post, but is still the most useful so far on this topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Inspiration Kantha is shipping! Bonus Tutorial for those who ordered the book: | Anna Hergert, Art & Design

  3. Cindy Neidt on said:

    Thanks for the tutorial. Looking forward to giving this a try later on this afternoon.


  4. Perhaps you could also use the method of slicing through the back when adding extra batting for a trapunto effect. However, I add 1-2 layers of polyester batting, cut to slightly wider than the shape I want to puff up, then baste it to the back of the completed top layer.


  5. Theresa Duncan on said:

    Thank you Anna; that was a great tutorial.


  6. Hermina Joldersma on said:

    When I discussed “the pillowcase method” with my YK friends, it was mentioned that often the back is just a slightly different size than the front (problem being different fabrics acting differently, I suppose, as well as the usual top/bottom differential feed even with a walking foot). I have noticed that in the past, too, and more recently with a double sided square table cloth – despite careful measuring and stitching, the two sides “acted” differently. Any thoughts on dealing with that (beyond the usual “pressing the heck out of it…”)?
    Good posting, Anna – great pictures!


    • Great question, Minnie! The possibility of the back being slightly larger always exists. Over the 10 + years I have used the pillow case method I found that if I match the weave of the fabric as closely as possible to the top (for example: batik with batik or Kona cotton with Kona or print from the same supplier) I greatly reduce the possibility of the backing fabric showing on the front. Careful trimming of all three layers at the same time also ensures that the layers are all the same size. Some students have reported that if they slice the backing fabric and stitch all around the backing does not show at the edges. I always press from the back and roll the quilt edge between my fingers to ensure that I get a knife edge with equal amounts of fabric on the front and back. The trimming of the batting is the key for me. Until I realized the importance of trimming before turning my problem was solved. I rarely have issues these days and the pillowcase method remains my favorite way to finish my quilts. Hope this helps. Let me know how you make out with your next project! Happy quilting!


  7. Carol Stadnyk on said:

    Thanks for the tutorial Anna. I do the method of fusing the strip to the wrong side of backing and cutting with a rotary cutter before I sew the backing on. I like that I have a neat seam all the way around. Then when I am satisfied that it has been turned properly I press the edges closed. Good idea to hide it under the hanging sleeve.


  8. Hello Anna, Just a few weeks ago one of my guild members gave us a tip to help folding the ‘pillowcase’ inside out. When you stitch all around the square start at the fabric edge and stitch to the planned seam (1/4″), then stitch all around like you described – but at the end again stitch out to the edge of the fabrics. This will bring in the edges of the
    seam of the turning space and will be quite even! I tried it and it works beautifully.


    • Thanks, Karen! Glad you shared this very useful tip! I always hesitate to add more stitching than necessary since I like to trim all excess batting. With additional stitching the batting is more difficult to trim.


  9. Judy Morningstar on said:

    For sharper corners, sew top and bottom edges first all the way across. Trim off batting from the seam allowances. Fold up the bottom and top seam allowances along both sides, with the fold falling exactly along the stitching line . Then sew the sides, ensuring the seams are still folded up. Leave a turning space somewhere in the middle of one side.. When you turn it right side out, the corners will be much sharper than when you turn your stitching on a right angle and sew all the way around.


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