“Pillow Talk” about Refashioning


My pillowcase collection yet to be re-fashioned.

Sometimes there is amazing potential in the most commonplace things of life. Pillow cases are no exception, but rather the ultimate medium for being re-invented. A simple Google search for “pillow case projects” yield me a plethora of ideas: everything from sleeping bags, to garments like dresses, skirts, tops, and shorts, to accessories like aprons, belts, and tote bags completing the round up. (My favorite idea page is here on Pinterest.) With not too much or not too little amount of fabric, a pillow case is an easily available re-fashion canvas, especially when it comes to starting with the vintage pillowcases found second-hand…then they can be really inexpensive and cute, too!

In this post, I’ve come up with my own idea for wearing a pillowcase as a halter top in vintage inspired summer style. Later, I’ll also show you my favorite pillow case tote bag re-fashion.

100_3657-compFirst, let’s look at the inspiration behind my top. I love the easy, relaxed, and beach-worthy Pyjamas-St-MaximeMcCalls-Magazine-c.-1934fashions of the decade of the 1930’s. After looking at 1930’s era photos, postcards, and ads, the tops that are worn then seemed to be short and coverage, skimpy in fabric, and simple to contrive on my own. So, not wanting to start from scratch, I used a border print pillow case to make my own version of a pleated, high neck halter top similar to the tops the 1930’s women wore with beach pyjamas. I hate to say it, but depending on what I wear it with, my top sometimes looks like something from 1970’s instead. Oh, well – I like it, it’s comfy, and it fits me…this is what’s important!

100_3660a-compIt’s going to be hard to technically explain how I made my halter top because I just went with my intuition, as happens for many of my re-fashion projects. The border print was along the open edge (where you normally slide in the pillow), so think of the pillowcase being re-fashioned with this open border edge (the width) up by my neck parallel with my shoulders. As the bordered edge was very wide, I cut off the hem to shorten the design, hoping to use this leftover strip as a belt or something later. Next, I folded the length (the long seamed edges which go down the pillowcase) in half with the seams together in the center of the width and the center front and center back folded. I chose one side as the front, and started cutting out the shape of a half ‘U’, leaving a several inch edge for the front neck halter panel. To shape and add interest to the front neckline rather than just gathering, I pleated it in four sections, directing in towards the center. Then the edges were folded under to make a casing. As for the bottom of the pillowcase that will be at my hips/waist, I had to cut the fold and cut a few inches up, as well, to give my hips room. With basic shape in place, I finished off the bottom hem and the halter edge with navy hem tape.

The wide hem of the open border-printed edge which I cut off at the outset of my re-fashion now came in handy. It was so wide I cut it in half along the length and was able to fold the edges in to make two skinny strips. I used one half for the neck strap and the other half for a belt, after all. The halter neck strap had been first worn by just being run through and tie at the back of my neck, but I just wanted something more interesting and less predictable. The idea hit me to stitch on snap closures to the two raw ends of the tie, and double up the straps through the casing. This way the neck ties snap closed around a loop and make for a simple, sturdy fastening which doesn’t catch my hair.

100_3688-compI suppose this idea of a re-fashion is a bit limiting when it comes to size because a pillow case is only so wide when the long length is used for the body, but I can envision other creative ideas by simply turning the pillow case sideways with the long edges horizontal, giving more room to those larger than me. Perhaps the top and bottom edges can be made into a casing to form a vintage-style bra tube top like Simplicity 1426, view D. Or, maybe, the pillowcase can be dress/peplum top with the lower panel gathered and a contrast fabric (or second pillow case) can be added on the make a halter scarf panel covering for the bust, something like Vogue 7375. If you take me up on these ideas, please let me know and show me the results!

100_3658-compIn these photos, I am wearing my top with a store bought skirt which has been a staple in my closet for many years. The skirt is linen in content and definitely has very 1930’s era styling, with its curved bias hip panels and flared silhouette. I’m so glad to have bought from stores vintage-inspired items like this skirt…this way I don’t have to make literally everything to have an outfit. See how simple pieces in classic styling and basic colors never go out of style? Most importantly, such items can be worn in many ways for many years and always look good.

Speaking of looking good, here’s a pillowcase re-fashion that will always be spiffy and practical. There are many other tote bag pillow case re-fashion tutorial out there on the internet, but this one from “spider woman knits” is my favorite. There is minimal cutting, minimal sewing, not much time demanded, plenty of room for storing and carrying stuff, and loads of room for personalization. If you use her tutorial, you can also join her Flickr sharing group like me and show off your own bag, too! 100_5931a-comp

This was project is an oldie but goodie project for me – I made this bag re-fashion several years back right after hubby and I were married and I was busy and just getting back into full-time sewing. I personalized mine with a strip of large rick-rack across the top, with a sculpted flower button on one side. My dad cut a rectangle of 1/8 inch plastic sheeting to place in the bottom of my tote bag to give it some body. 100_5930-comp

Just like a basic skirt, or a basic home item like pillowcases, simplicity and utility opens up a door for making an item extremely useful and available for your personal creativity. What overlooked item do you see possessing great potential?


FABRIC:  The pillow case for my top was a poly-cotton blend, and the pillow case for my tote bag was older than the other, soft in all-cotton.

NOTIONS:  The hem tape, bias tape, the thread, the snaps, the button, and the rick-rack were all from on hand.

PATTERN:  None for the top; and the tutorial from “spider woman knits” was used for the tote bag.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The bag re-fashion took maybe 2 hours in June 2011. The top took 100_5933a-compa an hour or two on May 18 of the year 2013, but I didn’t like the work I did, so I unpicked some of it, spent another hour or two, and finished it as you see it on June 9, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  The pillow case seams are self-covered and the pillow case top seams are covered by hem and bias tapes.

TOTAL COST:  The pillow cases were bought at a charity/thrift/op shop for $1.00 for four. I bought 4, and bragged to my mom about my purchase, so she gave me three or four more pillow cases. I can’t remember any more from which group my pillow cases came from – the one’s I picked out or the one’s my mom gave me. Either way, the projects in this post were so cheap they were as good as free, since all the notions were here, too.


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