A tutorial for a handmade DIY personalized applique pillowcase

Personalized Pillowcase DIY

Full disclosure. I actually started this personalized pillowcase DIY project years ago for a sweet young family member. But life was super busy, working full time, taking care of family, and raising a teenager.

Maybe you can relate? I ended up tucking it away. Now, this sweet young girl is a middle schooler and she’s not so young anymore! I hope she still likes this because this time I am finishing it!😁

Customize with Names, Monogram, or Initials 

It’s fun to personalize a pillow for your own home. This would also make a meaningful gift. Create a custom message, choose a favorite word, a first or last name, initials, hometown, lake name, zip code, or song lyric. You get the idea.😃 

Below is a list of the supplies you will need for the project. I have also listed a few buying sources.

DIY Pillow Supply List

Straight Pins
Pressing cloth
Fabric for appliqué letters
Fusible Web Adhesive HERE affiliate link
Fabric for pillow
Paper Scissors
Sewing Scissors HERE affiliate link
Straight Edge
Appliqué Letter Template SUBSCRIBE to download
Stabilizer not pictured, optional HERE affiliate link
Pillow Insert
Fabric Ties
Sewing Machine
not pictured

How to Make and Apply Appliqués

Below is a step by step guide for creating appliqués. I will also walk you through a technique for sewing the appliqué onto a piece of fabric using a regular sewing machine.

Preparing the Appliqué 

1 Trace your appliqué pieces onto the paper side of the fusible web adhesive. Leave approximately a 1/2 inch between the appliqué pieces.

I am using HeatnBond Lite (affiliate link). It’s easy to use and works great! HeatnBond comes in many varieties.

Be sure to buy the “fusible web adhesive”, read the package closely, and choose the right type for your fabric.

Important Before you trace, letters, need to be reversed or mirrored so it reads correctly in the final position. Art and drawings typically work in either direction so it’s usually not a big deal if they are backward.

If you would like the letter template I used, just SUBSCRIBE to get access to my download library.

After you subscribe, you will be sent a welcome e-mail with a password to log in and get access. A PDF of the alphabet that I used is there to download. The letters are already reversed.

2 Cut out each letter or piece of your artwork. Leave a 1/4 – 1/2 inch margin of web paper around your tracing outlines.

3 Place the fusible web pieces on the wrong side of your fabric. Follow the instructions on the fusible web adhesive package to fuse. Typically you use a dry iron (no steam) to fuse the web paper and fabric together. It only takes a few seconds.

4 Next, cut out each applique piece carefully using the tracing lines.

Applying the Appliqué

5 Gently peel apart the fabric from the paper backing.

6 Position all appliqué pieces onto the pillow with the adhesive side down. Read the directions on the package before you begin.

When you are satisfied with the layout, place a pressing cloth over the letters and fuse with a dry iron. The cloth will help prevent burning the applique or the fabric. Fusing time will vary depending on the fabric and fusible web you are using.

Detailing the Appliqué Letters

It’s nice to add a little extra detail to your appliqué letters. One way is to stitch around the edges with a tight zigzag stitch.

Using Stabilizer

If you decide to add stitching around the letters or appliqué art, you will definitely want to add stability behind the fabric to add integrity.

For this, you need to purchase a stabilizer. (affiliate link) The Sulky brand makes many good ones. 

Stabilizers are used to hold fabric flat and inflexible so it is more easily stitched. Cut-away stabilizers are used for permanent support. They are best used on knits and loosely woven fabrics.

They are available in several weights and are not removed from under the stitching, but you can cut the excess stabilizer away from around the letter if desired.

To use a stabilizer, cut out a piece for each letter or cut one piece for the entire design. The stabilizer should be about an inch or so larger than the appliqué art. Position the stabilizer directly behind the letter on the wrong side of your fabric, underneath the applique.

Stitching Around the Appliqué Letters

To stitch around each letter, you don’t need a special machine. Any sewing machine that can do a zigzag stitch will work!

You can use standard polyester thread for the zig-zag stitch. You can also use “bobbin fill thread” in your bobbin. It is a fine, shiny, lightweight, strong polyester thread.

Consider changing the color of your thread to match or contrast your appliqué pieces.

Use a clear presser foot so you can see everything as you stitch. Stitch around the edge of each letter using a tight zigzag stitch. Experiment on your machine to find the right width and stitch length for your project.

Be sure to practice on fabric scraps to test the stitch and the tension until you get it just right.

The upper thread should be flat on the right side of your fabric, but the bobbin thread should not show. You might need to adjust the bobbin tension a bit to get it just right.

When sewing around the curves and corners, set your needle down into the fabric on the opposite side of the stitch to the way that you want to turn. Lift the presser foot and rotate the fabric as you go.

Making a Pillow Cover

Next, we’ll make a simple pillowcase to incorporate your beautiful appliques.

Cut the fabric out for a Pillow

To create a pillow, first cut 2 pieces the same size out of your preferred fabric for the top, and bottom of your pillow.

Creating a cut-out window

To use the cut-out window method that I used in my project, cut a window opening in the top fabric piece. Next, snip each corner on a diagonal approximately 1/4 inch. Turn each side of the window to the back and press with a steam iron.

After your window is complete, lay the top fabric with the window over the appliquéd fabric and when you are happy with the placement, topstitch around the perimeter of the frame.

Finishing the Pillow

With right sides together, stitch the top and bottom of the pillow together on all 3 sides leaving one end open.

On the open end of the pillow, fold the edges towards the inside of the pillow twice to enclose the raw fabric edges. First press well, then pin.

If you are making ties, follow this easy Fabric Tie Tutorial, click HERE.

Tuck the end of each finished tie under the hem. Stitch all the way around the end of the pillow, catching the ties within the stitch. Fold each tie back on itself so it is extending outward from the pillow. Stitch again to secure it. Press well.

Voila … Finished!

I hope you try making your own appliqué project! Take your time and enjoy the process. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thanks for stopping by!

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  • Sue Astley
    Posted at 15:25h, 18 December Reply

    This is a great idea for grandgirlies! Would you share the cutting measurements and the pillow form size?
    I can’t wait to make

    • cindy
      Posted at 17:08h, 18 December Reply

      Hi Sue, Yes they would love it! My pillow form was approximately 12 x 22 inches but you can use any rectangular size pillow form. Check Amazon, Joann Fabrics, Calico Corners, or Pottery Barn? Then use the actual pillow form size as your cut fabric size if you want it snug. (for example, 12 x 22 in.) If you want it a little baggier, add approx. 1 inch (or more?) to the pillow form size in both directions. (for example, 13 x 23 in.) Hope that makes sense. I gave Kaitlyn the pillow, so I cannot measure it.

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