How to Make a Silk-Screened Pillowcase

Learn how to put your own designer touch on a pillow.


A silk screen is simply a sophisticated stencil that can be used repeatedly and quickly. There are four steps to making a silk screen: cutting the pattern, stretching the silk, adhering the pattern and taping the edge. In this project, you'll be attaching a silk-screen image to a pillowcase.

Materials and Tools:

4 pieces of wood for frame
10x or 12x polyester silk, about 20 by 26 inches
staple gun
¼-inch staples
vinyl-based silk-screen gel
craft knife
lacquer thinner
disposable plastic gloves
paper towels
duct tape
pre-washed 100 percent cotton fabric
silk-screen printing ink
long-handled spoon
silk screen
rotary cutter
cutting mat
6-by-24-inch transparent ruler with grids
10½-inch-square piece of Plexiglas
sewing machine
about 20 strips of 7-by-22-inch colored fabric
20-by-20-inch pre-washed 100% cotton batting with muslin on the back
4 strips of 1½-by-15-inch black fabric with small designs
2 pieces of 20-by-12½-inch fabric for the back




1. Cut a piece of gel bigger than the image you're using. Tape the image to a piece of cardboard, and tape the gel on top of it. With a craft knife, carefully cut away everything that will be printed, in small pieces at a time. Note: There's a plastic layer behind the gel that should not be cut.

2. Cut a piece of silk bigger than the frame. Beginning in the center of one of the long sides, secure it to the frame with the staple gun, stretching as you go, stapling about every half-inch. Repeat the process on the other side, always starting in the center. Stretch and adhere the third and then the fourth sides, pulling out any wrinkles in the surface. Trim the edges.

3. Put down a pad of newspaper. Trim the gel with the cut image to a size that will comfortably fit into the prepared frame. Place the cut image on the paper pad, gel side up and plastic side down. Put the frame with the stretched silk on top of the gel.

4. Put on a pair of plastic gloves. With a small amount of lacquer thinner on a paper towel, gently rub the surface of the gel through the silk. It will turn darker green.

5. With a dry paper towel, take away the thinner. The thinner is melting the gel, allowing it to seep into the silk. The dry towel takes away the thinner before it dissolves the gel completely. Repeat until the gel is entirely attached to the surface of the silk. Set aside the box for a few minutes so that the gel can harden. Carefully peel the plastic from the back of the gel in a well-ventilated area or outside.

6. Flip the box over so that the gel side is up. Check for pinholes or any tears in the gel, and patch with nail polish if necessary. Tape all sides of the bottom of the box with duct tape.

7. Place some newspapers on the table to make a pad. Put the fabric on the paper. Put the silk screen on the fabric. Spoon out a line of ink onto the screen. Use the squeegee to pull the ink across the surface of the screen.

8. Lift the screen to reveal the printed fabric. Set the box aside, and hang the fabric to dry.

9. The fabric can be heat-set in one of two ways: ironed by hand for two minutes or dried in a hot dryer for 24 minutes. This setting process will make it permanent so that it can be machine-washed when necessary.

10. Press the 20 pieces of fabric. Stack them up in groups of five or so. Place a group on the cutting mat with the transparent ruler on top and trim the long edge with the rotary cutter. Flip them around and cut all pieces again into 2-inch strips. Repeat this process for all the fabric.

11. Pair the fabric strips, right sides together, in contrasting pairs. Place them on a piece of cardboard in an "X" shape, alternating pairs-first one side and then the other. Repeat this process until most of the pieces are paired.

12. Sew all the pairs together using a quarter-inch seam. Press the pairs open.

13. Pair them again so that you're making sets of four. Sew all the pairs. Press these open. Now you have sets of four.

14. Take out every third pair. Pair the remaining sets to make sets of eight. Sew these together.

15. Add one strip to the end of the remaining sets of four to make a few sets of five. Sew these. Press everything.

16. Lay all the strips on the cutting mat horizontally. Place the ruler at right angles to the strips and cut them into 4-inch lengths. Put aside sets of eight (the long ones) together and sets of five (the short ones) together.

17. Place the printed fabric on the cutting mat. Put the Plexiglas piece on top of the fabric. Center the image and cut the extra fabric off with the rotary cutter.
18. Place the batting, muslin side down, on the table beside the sewing machine. By eye, center the square with the image on the batting, and pin together.

19. Place one of the black strips on one edge of the center square, right sides together. Sew it along the edge of the center square from top to bottom through the batting. Flip the black strip back and secure with pins. Turn the batting, go to the adjacent edge of the center square, and repeat the step with another black strip. Open this strip out and pin back. Repeat this step on the last two sides so that strips of black fabric surround the central image. This creates a frame for the center and visually separates the middle from the edge.

20. Choose a pair of eight and a pair of five strips. Sew them together to make a strip of 13 pieces. Press the seam. Repeat the step so that you have two identical sets of 13 pieces that are 4 inches high. Place these strips right sides together along the top of the black frame, making sure it's roughly centered. Pin it down.

21. Go to the bottom of the center and flip the strip around so that it's a mirror image of the color arrangement at the top. Roughly center this strip along the bottom edge of the black frame, right sides together, and pin.

22. Sew the top and bottom strips through the batting from one end to the other. Unpin, turn back the strips, and pin to the batting. Turn the center and repeat this entire process, making a second identical pair of 13 strips (not necessarily identical to the first set but identical to each other).

23. Center the set of 13 to one of the remaining edges. Pin down. Repeat the centering and pinning on the last side. This time the sides will be sewn from the outside edge of the black frame to the outside edge of the black frame along the long seam. Do this a second time. Unpin the strip, turn back and miter the corner by folding the leftover strip back under itself. This forms a 45-degree corner. Pin this corner and repeat the folding and pinning step three more times. Topstitch this diagonal seam with thread of a coordinating color.

24. Take out the pins and trim the edges with the transparent ruler and the rotary cutter.

25. Press the two 20-by-12½-inch pieces and press one long edge back on each piece a quarter-inch with a hot iron. Change the thread so that the top and bobbin threads match the backing fabric. Fold the long edge again and sew along one edge of each piece. At this point, you can tuck a tag with washing instructions into one of the long seams.

26. Place the piece that has this tag, right sides together, with the unseamed long edge at the bottom of the pillow. Secure with pins. Place the second backing piece, right sides together, with the unseamed long edge at the top of the pillow. Secure with pins. Flip the piece over.

27. With a plastic jar lid, draw a curve on the back of the batting in each corner. Sew the back and the front pieces together with quarter-inch seams, double-stitching the tops of each back piece as you sew across them.

28. Take out the pins. Trim the extra backing on the side with the rotary cutter. Turn the piece inside out. Insert a commercially made 18-by-18-inch pillow form into the completed pillow cover.

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