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New Year's Traditions: The New Pillowcase, With Free Patterns and Directions
Pillowcases on New Year's Day
When I was in elementary school, my father sewed new pillowcases on each New Year's Day in order to bring good fortune and positive events.
At the time, he related that his mother did this on every New Year's Day on the farm in eastern Ohio. He felt thaty it was a British Tradition from his father's side oif the family. I have found no writings about such a tradition anywhere yet; however, the paternal side of the family came from Englans and also lived in Ireland and Scotland as well. When they came to America, they went from Ireland to London in order to set sail.
My father did not know any of the symbolism behind the new pillow cases. It could have to do with having a fresh new place to dream on the first night of the year.
In Northern Ireland, children hung pillowcases on the railings or bed posts at the foot of their beds for Santa Claus to fill with presents late on Christmas Eve after midnight services at church and a special meal was enjoyed with family and friends.
More Irish Traditions
Read more about the traditions of Christmas and New Years in Northern Ireland from the 1930s through the 1960s as Patrick Taylor tells stories from his time as a young doctor in a small village. Make friends with the endearing characters of the stories.
On the other hand, perhaps the Christmas Dinner turkey and hog carcasses went out of the house in pillow cases, which then needed to be replaced. Washing would not clean out all the grease.
I don't know all the answers, but I watched my father sew these new pillow cases each January First for about 10 years. The he said the family had enough pillow cases! His mother had made pillowcases every New Year's Day for several years and she taught him to sew, using an old treadle machine that he kept until the 1980.
If the story behind the pillow cases had been passed down with the tradition of the sewing, perhaps it would have been more fun to have made them over a greater number of years.
As an adult, I made them once and could not grasp the meaning of the tradition, so I am still searching, but gaining a lot of information.
Needle Arts and Pillowcases
I learned to embroider pillowcases as a child and to crochet lace for the pillowcase edgings. That proved to be a lot more fun for me as I continued to do so for some years.
If anyone has the story behind making new pillowcases on New Year's Day, I would be glad to hear it and so would many readers. Please share any experiences you have in the Comments section below.
When choosing pillowcases, select thread counts of 200 to 400. Above 400, the main difference is usually found in higher price. Below 200 and the fabric sometimes shreds.
Natural fibers are often more comfortable than man-made products in pillowcases.
The New Year's Pillow Case
Free Embroidery DesignsClick thumbnail to view full-size
How to Sew A New Pillowcase for New Year's
Fabric will be 44/45" wide and you will need one yard of it for a standard bed pillow. Choose a natural fiber such as cotton or a cotton blend - or even bamboo. Natural fibers are more restful than artificial fibers.
Fabric will be cut across the grain.
First, wash the yard of fabric in warm water to make sure it is shrunk as much as it can be. Otherwise, it will not fit the pillow after its first washing!
Sew all seams a standard 1/4 inch wide. Many seams are 3/8" wide, but use 1/4 inch as your standard on a pillowcase to annoying reduce bulk. Next:
- Cut a single 28" by 44/45" strip for the pillowcase
- Cut a single 2 1/2" by 44/45" strip for a pillowcase trim piece by the opening.
- Cut a single 9 1/2" by 44/45" strip for a pillowcase border.
- Fold the trim piece and the border piece of the pillowcase in half lengthwise with the right sides outside.
- The trim will be 1 1/4" by 44/45" and the border will be 4 3/4" x 44/45" after folding.
- Iron the fold lightly with a warm iron.
- Put the folded trim piece on top of the folded border piece, being careful to have the raw edges of each piece lined up straight.
- Sew pieces together. Don't worry if the ends don't line up; you will trim them off later.
- With the trim piece side down, put the border & trim together on top of the right side of a 44/45" side edge of the large pillowcase fabric
- Be sure to line up the raw edges, and then sew together with a 1/4 inch seam. Using a serge or zig-zag stitch, finish the raw edges by sewing them together.
- Iron the seams flat toward the body of the pillowcase.
- Trim off selvages and excess fabric hanging over edges.
- Now, fold the pillowcase in half with right sides together, matching edge of border and seam between the pillowcase body and the trim/border piece.
- Pin pieces together and sew the side seam starting at the folded edge of the border.
- Finally, sew the seam across the end of the pillowcase. Be sure to back stitch these two seams to prevent unraveling of threads and finish off the seams with a serge or zig-zag method.
Turn your new pillowcase inside out (right side out) and enjoy a new First Night's sound sleep.
© 2007 Patty Inglish