Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Helping Sick Kids Sleep Tight

My name is Brittany M. and I am working on my Silver Award project. When I prepared for it, I knew that I wanted to help little kids.  I noticed that whenever I travel, I always carry a pillow with me. It makes me feel safe and, because it’s in the shape of a heart, it reminds me of my home because my house is filled with love.  

Thanks to a migraine, I ended up in the emergency room last year.  I was pretty uptight and boy, did I miss my pillow!  My mom and I came up with the idea of sewing pillow cases to give the children whose families stay at the Ronald McDonald House so they would have a one of their very own.   I wanted to make sure that when kids have to come to the hospital for treatment, they can carry a little piece of “home” with them so they can sleep tight.  I also wanted to teach others to sew these pillowcases so that more people can donate them to their local Ronald McDonald House.  My mom helped me think through this project and helped me stay motivated when the timing was tight.   While my original goal was 25 pillowcases, I am excited to say I will be donated 52 pillowcases! 

If you want to do a similar project, contact the Ronald McDonald House nearest you (  You can connect with local sewing groups, quilting groups, or maybe even your local cloth/hobby store if they give sewing lessons to see if they will provide the sewing machines (as well as someone that knows the machine to help you since they are all different).  Make sure you plan far enough in advance so others can come and ask for material donations or look for material on clearance.

MATERIALS   NEEDED: (If connecting with a sewing group, they will likely have most of the items below except the material and thread.)
·         Material 45” x 36”
·         Thread
·         Pins
·         Sewing Machine
·         Measuring Tape
·         A pair of scissors
·         Seam Ripper (optional)
·         Seam Gauge (optional)

1.     Choose a material that is washable as well as soft if being used for a sleeping pillow (not just one for decoration). 

2.     Second, fold the material inside out in half hot dog style (length-wise), otherwise it might not turn into a pillow case; I am speaking from experience when I say that it will turn into a blob and you’ll have to unstitch it.

3.     Line up the edges and trim off the salvage (the part at the sides of the material that sometimes has little pin holes or white space with no pattern). Cut off any ragged edges, too.  It’s easier to sew if it is a straight seam and it looks nicer, too!

4.   Pin the short side, starting from the folded corner, and the long side putting pins in as shown below. Make sure to only pin one short side, otherwise there won’t be a hole to put the pillow in. You can put pins about 1-3 inches apart depending on how comfortable you are with keeping the material together.

5.     After you are done pinning both sides, you are now ready to start sewing. Make sure the color of thread you are using matches the material, including the thread in the bobbin (the round thing below is filled with white thread).  (To determine how to thread the sewing machine and load the bobbin, see the instructions for your specific sewing machine.)

6.   Like you did with the pinning, start sewing the end where the material is folded over, keep about  ¼-½  inch away from the edge and make sure to lower the foot (that flat silver thingy that holds down the material to keep it well…flat). Hold the thread while you sew the first few stitches (then you can let go.)  After you sew about 5-10 stitches you are going to do what is called a back stitch where you go backwards for a few stitches and then continue forwards.  This keeps the thread from pulling out.  (See video below for steps 6-8.)   TIP:  Keep your fingers out of the way!  The needle is really sharp and accidents can happen fast.  (Thankfully, I don’t speak from experience).

7.   Continue to sew a ¼ inch seam along the pinned edges only as seen in the video. When you get about an inch away from the end make sure to keep the needle down and lift up the foot. Once the foot is up you are going to turn the material to the long side.

8.   Put the foot down and you can begin to sew again. This time you can go all the way to the end of the material and just like you did in the beginning, you are going to back stitch at the end.

9.  After sewing both sides you are going to lift the needle and foot and carefully pull the threads out a few inches.  Cut the thread close to the cloth…just don’t cut the cloth!

10. To make the hem for the opening of the pillowcase, you are going to fold over the open end about 2 ½ inches all the way around, while it is still inside out.

11. Fold ½ inch of material under the top. This will give you a 2 inch hem.

12. To keep the hem neat, you can use a seam gauge (shown below) or a ruler to measure 2 inches.  Pin tucked material all the way around with the pin head sticking out, through the first and second fold so it doesn’t unfold.  Make sure not to pin through both the top and bottom parts of the pillowcase or you’ll get to put the seam ripper to use and take out what you sewed!

13. Then open up the pillowcase and sew the hem.  Don’t forget to hold the thread!  Put the foot down so you can sew ¼ inch away from the double folded edge and start sewing. Be sure to back stitch after about 5-10 stitches in and then continue on until you have gone all the way around.

14. When you come to the end you are going to overlap the stitches and back stitch again. After all the sewing is done, trim the loose threads and turn the pillow case right side out.  You can also get creative in adding trim or decorations to the pillowcase if you want to. Just remember to use things that would actually be comfortable to sleep on!

Wash your pillowcase and donate!  Happy sewing!

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