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« Whit's Knits: Simple Cotton Bath Mat | Main | Molly's Sketchbook: A Party Garland »

Molly's Sketchbook: Sampler Pillows


One of my all time favorite craft books is The Constance Howard Book of Stitches. I find it a never ending inspiration. All of the pictures in the book are in black and white but they show the most creative embroidery stitches and opened me up to the idea of two (or more) color embroidery, which is something I'd never really thought of before.

After experimenting with two color embroidery and finding my favorite stitches I wanted a project to show them off. I love my vintage embroidered pillow cases (you can see them in this picture of my Around the Wool Blanket ) so I decided to make a modern version of them on some earthy linen pillow cases. Instead of embroidering something traditional like flowers I just sewed many lines using different stitches. I  like to think of them as embroidery samplers in action!

If you'd like to learn some of these exciting new stitches check out my Two Color Embroidery Tutorial.

And if you'd like to make some Sampler Pillows using your new stitch skills just keep reading! -Molly 






First and most importantly, iron your pillow cases: Spray them with thoroughly water and then press them with a very very hot iron. Joelle calls this the "soak and fry" method. Since linen wrinkles so easily this is a crucial step.

Next, using your fabric maker or chalk, mark a line 2 inches in from the pillow opening along the whole length of the pillow case. Mark the next line 1 3/4" inches in from the first line. Mark your final line 1" from the second line.


The second pillow case is marked slightly differently:


Mark 1 1/2" in from the edge. Then mark 3/4" in from that line. Finally mark 2" from the second line.

(A 6.5"X 24.5" rotary ruler makes marking these pillow cases really easy!)



Embroider down the full length of the marked lines using a different stitch for each line from my Two Color Embroidery Tutorial.


The stitches pictured above are (from bottom to top):

Double Threaded Hourglass

Threaded Herringbone


Basic Weaving


Wrapped Ribs

When you're done make sure to spray away the marked lines and iron the pillow cases again.

Reader Comments (10)

Brilliant! Is linen pillowcase as comfortable compared to cotton? What kind of linen fabric did you use to sew the pillowcase?
August 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterValerie
Hi Valerie,
the pillowcases were pre made. They're from a shop called Muji, you can find it online here:

Linen is really nice to sleep on and it gets softer and softer everytime you wash it.
August 7, 2008 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thanks for the great tutorial! Will be putting it to use this month on one of my commutes to work.
August 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRitch in Love
I love these pillow cases! They're so simple, and so pretty!

Unfortunately, Muji doesn't sell online in the States. It's hard to come by nice linen pillow cases without a deep casing - these look perfect for extra embellishment.

This is wonderful tutorial, and the cases look fun to work! Neat stitches, nice colors!

August 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMary Corbet
Oh, I love these! I wish we had Muji here too, why did I not stock up while in London!
October 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBecka
What a cool idea! Thank you for sharing - these pillowcases are just gorgeous, very elegant!
October 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKerry
Would good cotton cases work just as well?
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSacha
Hi Sacha,
Yes, cotton cases will work. Cotton is great for embroidery, a blend of linen cotton would be nice too. Good luck!
January 6, 2009 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
This is one of my favorite Purl projects. I've completed one pillowcase, and I can't stop staring at it-- it's just exquisite. What an elegant way to add handmade beauty to a home. Beginning embroiderers should not be intimidated-- just take your time and follow the excellent tutorials provided by Purl. Thank you Molly!
September 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAudra
So lovely, and something I could actually do!
Love your designs and I am so happy to happen upon your site!
January 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersofie

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