Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Toddler Pillowcase

My two-year-old has a yucky stomach bug. Which led to him waking up covered in vomit several times during the night. Which led to using towels in his bed because I was all out of clean bedding. Which led to the thought that I really do not have enough spare pillowcases for him. Which led to me sitting down and whipping up a new one. (Which, okay, led to me writing this post, but you already knew that just by looking at the title).

My toddler does not use a regular adult-sized pillow. We inherited a cute little pillow complete with pillowcase from an older cousin who grew out of it. I don't know where they got it from or what the size measurements are, but I do know that it's the perfect size and thickness for my toddler's little head, and likewise for his little bed. Groan-worthy rhymes aside, I love that it isn't so soft as to give me suffocation phobia, but not so firm as to be uncomfortable. I do know that my toddler loves it, won't sleep without it, and I have never seen any pillowcases in stores that would fit this little pillow. But clearly, we needed another one. So while I was waiting for the rest of his soiled bedding and pjs to emerge from the wash, I whipped this up from an old shirt. It didn't come out perfect, but it does the job, the kid's happy, and I learned something for next time. Because surely there will be a next time. Because it just so happens that I was given some nice fabric that would be perfect for making him a new sheet and matching pillowcase set. And his old sheets are really washed out and getting holey, being hand-me-downs and all.

For now, though, my husband had an old white mesh polo shirt that was full of stains and holes, so I decided to upcycle it into my new pillowcase. Obviously, it would have been way cuter if I had used a striped or patterned shirt, but I had what I had and that was that. Of course, I cut carefully so as to avoid the stained/holey portions. Originally, I was concerned that the bumpy mesh texture wouldn't be all that comfortable to sleep on. I had visions of my kid waking up with the texture of the fabric imprinted on the face. I decided, therefore, to use the opposite side of the fabric for the outside, and keep the bumpy mesh on the inside. Unfortunately yet typically, when I was pinning my pieces together for sewing, I got mixed up (cuz I'm awesome like that) and ended up sewing it together with the mesh on the outside. But I realized (rationalized?) that the fabric is already so soft and worn from countless washings and wearings, that you really can't feel the bumps much at all. I pressed my face to it and it did feel totally comfortable, so I decided to just leave it as is. The kid was perfectly happy with it, so that's a win as far as I am concerned.

Now, there are instructions out there for how to do a project like this.

But I only discovered those after I had already done mine. Before I started, I didn't even bother looking, so sure was I that I could do it just fine all on my own, without any instructions. I should've checked first, maybe I would have done a better job. But that's water under the bridge now. I just made things up as I went along.

So here's the method I used. First, I opened the side seams of the shirt in order to be able to lay it flat with the front and back hems lined up. I wanted my pillow cover to be an envelope-style, because I hate when the pillow tries to escape from the case during the night. I prefer the style that has the opening at the center back, so the sides look nice and clean and closed, unlike some pillows which have the envelope opening at the side end. In order to do this, you need to have the back piece cut into two halves with some overlap between them. I wasn't sure how much the two pieces are supposed to overlap, so I just guessed five inches, a somewhat random number I pulled out of my imagination. It was actually way too much and it's pretty difficult to get the pillow in and out of the case. After the fact, research revealed that the normal amount would be four inches for an adult-sized pillow. For this one, two or three inches would have been great. So, I figured that each of the two pieces should measure the same height as the pillow by half the width of the whole pillow plus five extra inches each for the overlap. For clarity, when I say height I mean the smaller measurement, from top to bottom of the pillow, and width, obviously, is the wide measurement from side to side. So if you, unlike me, use a normal three-inch overlap for the envelope, for a pillow that is 6" tall by 12" wide (totally made up numbers), you would cut two pieces that are each six inches by nine inches - same height by half the width, which is 6", plus three, giving you nine inches for the width. I cut these two pieces so that the original hem of the polo shirt was one of the short ends. This way, no hemming is necessary - all the cut edges are positioned at seams that are being sewn together, and the hem of the original shirt serves as the finished edges at the opening of the two overlapping back pieces. I don't even know how to do hems. So, that's the back done.

For the front, I just cut out a piece that was the same size as the pillow. Now, here is one mistake I made. I wanted the case to fit snugly, not all loose and saggy, so I decided that since it is a knit, it would stretch and therefore I did not need to add any seam allowances to my measurements. This was a mistake because it turned out just a little bit too tight and difficult to put on the pillow, though it is usable with effort. I believe this is in part due to my inability to cut or sew in perfectly straight lines. I tend to have to trim fabrics a lot because the two halves that are to be sewn together are not actually lining up due to my poor cutting skills. Then, when I sew, I end up leaving a very large seam allowance, both to make up for the poor cutting and because I simply don't have good control of my fabrics as they move with the feed dogs when I'm sewing, leading me to sometimes sew off the edge and needing to correct with an oversize seam allowance. The other thing is that a pillow is not just flat pieces of fabric, it needs space to accommodate the stuffing. So, lesson learned: don't skip seam allowances when you're making pique/mesh knit pillowcases! At least when I'm the one doing the sewing, anyway.

Anyway, back to the process. So you have three pieces cut out, one for the front and two for the back. Place the the front piece right side up. Take one back piece, turn it right side down, and line up the cut edges with the cut edges on the front piece. The hem portion should NOT be lined up with a cut edge, it should run down somewhere between the center and one of the cut side edges of your front piece. Do the same with the other back piece, only the opposite way around. Meaning, place it face down and arrange so the cut ends line up with the uncovered cut edges of the front piece, the ones which the first back panel is not covering. The hemmed portion of this second back piece should be on the opposite side of the first hem part, which should now be covered by this second piece.

Pin together all the pieces, and sew carefully around all four sides of the pillow cover. I used a zigzag stitch because that is what I read you are supposed to do in order to keep seams of knit stretchy like the fabric. I have no idea if it actually works or not, or even if I did it correctly at all. There are three different buttons on my machine that have zigzaggy-looking things on them. I have no idea if the one I picked was actually the one I was supposed to use. And I know nothing about stitch length, stitch width, or tension, so I just go with random settings. Ask someone else if you need more detailed information than that. I also read that you are supposed to use a ball point needle when sewing knits, but I don't own one. Maybe I should get one. Maybe I will. Or maybe not. Who knows? Either way, you sew it all together, clip the corners, and turn right way out. Ta-da! It's a pillowcase!

My new pillowcase actually did not stay in use for long. My toddler anointed it with a vomit avalanche soon after going to bed. For the record, he did not wake up with an imprint of the fabric on his face - just vomit :(. But it was certainly very useful to have a backup pillowcase.

I would love to add some pictures to this post, but the pillowcase is still in the dryer at the moment. I do plan to add some later. Until then, here's hoping this stomach bug passes really quickly. My husband is afraid I might have to cut up another one of his polos.

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