As I was going through my yarn stash, I found this plastic drawstring bag with plain white pillowcases in it, plus some mystery knitting all rolled up in the bottom. When I opened it up, I suddenly had a moment of revelation that I had somehow opened up a portal to the past.
Way back in October 2005, when I had only been knitting for real (rather than just making travesties that didn’t fit any humans) for about a year, I bought this lovely book, Weekend Knitting.
It’s full of good projects for beginners, but not boring enough that you wouldn’t return to it later in your knitting career. I saw this pattern, Lace-Edged Pillowcases by Alissa Baptista and figured that it was something I could definitely do that would increase my lace confidence, plus I needed something pretty for my first apartment in Colorado after fleeing New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina. I bought up a few balls of Omega Sinfonia Mercerized Cotton (available at certain big box craft stores) and a pair of size 3 needles (as I wasn’t yet a crazy needle-hoarder as I am now) and got started right away.
This was before Ravelry existed, so I even posted a little entry about it in my Stitch ‘n Bitch project journal. How cute was I?
I got all the way to the end of the knitting portion for both inserts, put my stitches on holders, bought some blank white pillowcases…and then promptly forgot about it for 15 years. When I found it again during this stupid, stupid year, it coordinated perfectly with Dan and I messing around with guest room stuff in our house, as well as with me finally taking the time to go through all of my grandmother’s amazing old sewing and quilting stuff in order to add it all to our new craft room. What better time than a continuing nightmare hellscape of pandemic + hurricanes to do a whole boatload of hand-sewing?
Before I could do that, I had to block the lace panels, as they had been rolled up and crumpled for so long, and mercerized cotton loves to look as angry as possible unless you treat it nicely. The panels got a soak in some wool wash and then threaded onto some blocking wires.
I stretched them out to the absolute limit, just to make sure that all of those lovely lace eyelets opened up fully and the fabric was more drapey, rather than stiff, another potential hazard of mercerized cotton.
This is the “love braid” lace option from the pattern, by the way, as the other was much more boring.
The original pattern just recommends cutting your pillowcase edge off and then putting in the lace panel, but with the length of the ones that I had, simply inserting the lace would have resulted in the lace just getting folded under the pillow on the bed and not really getting seen. That seemed very silly, so I cut a 3″ panel out instead (after washing and ironing the cases, of course), keeping the pillowcase roughly the same length after finishing.
The pattern stated to fold over a 1/4″ hem, but I am super inept at hand-sewing and did 1/2″ instead so that I wasn’t aiming for such a tiny target with my giant sausage fingers. Also, if raw edges still existing after sewing bother you, please close your eyes for a little while because I just couldn’t be bothered to care.
But please still keep reading. Somehow.
I did my running stitch to hem the sides about 1/8″ from the edge so that I had a straight line to aim for when stitching the knitting on, since it needed to line up straight and not have any fabric showing through the holes.
This means that you only have just 1 tiny edge stitch to work with on either side when you get sewing. I’m sure that people who sew a lot are wondering why that is such a big deal, but sewing of all kinds (except when it involves yarn) feels like such an unnatural action to me that every challenge feels so, so very big.
After the panels are pinned in place, lined up with the seam of the pillowcase, you have to unwind the excess knitting to get it to line up properly.
Such a fun mess.
Then, when the panel is the correct size to line up with the cast-on edge, you bind it off and sew them together.
The lace will not line up properly, but you are just going to have to let that shit go. It’s been 15 years already.
Then, the sewing!
I had no idea of the proper way to do this, but it seemed like the easiest way to make sure that the stitches were relatively invisible, but visible enough for my hesitant self to see what I was doing, was to whipstitch the panels in place.
This took seventy-billion years, so I needed some hand-stitching motivation in the form of a several-day Bernadette Banner deep dive. I am by no means a historical fashion wearer (or remotely good at sewing, as we can all see), but I find her videos completely fascinating and wonderful company for all types of project making. Do go check her out.
After all of that stitching was done, I pressed the seams down on the inside and then pressed the whole thing from the outside, just to make sure there were no residual fabric wrinkles, since there is no way to make the fabrics match up perfectly.
And then I danced around, whooping and fist-pumping because I finally finished my “weekend knitting” project.
Although it took me approximately 776 weekends instead.
I mean, look at those tiny stitches. Can you blame me?
I am beyond happy with how these came out. Our guests, if we ever have any again in the post-plague times, will lay their heads on these lovelies, and I will be so stoked.
Here’s a hint of the next post to come. Peg board and a mysterious sewing machine? Oooooooh.