Batsheva Makes a Top (or a Dress!) From a Pillowcase


The Designer D.I.Y. series returns with a sleeveless look for the last stretches of summer, from the pioneer woman of modern prairie dresses.

By Jessica Testa

Illustrations by Samantha Hahn

Batsheva Hay has kept busy these last six months, creating quarantine-friendly fashion via face masks and house dresses in her signature ironic Amish patterns. At some point, she also acquired a collection of old patterned pillowcases from her mother, and they reminded Ms. Hay of one of the first garments she learned to make.

“My mother used to make these when she was a kid, and she showed me and my brother how to make them when we were kids,” Ms. Hay said.

When the pillowcases got a hole or two in them, the siblings would tear them up, turning them into costumes for plays they would act out at home. But as an adult — and as the designer who almost single-handedly made prairie dresses cool — Ms. Hay saw the vintage Laura Ashley and Ralph Lauren pillowcases in a new, though equally playful, light.

“Now that she gave me her old stash, I realize the patterns are so amazing and that they could be put together for adults using just some strategic holes and embellishments like safety pins,” Ms. Hay said.

Your tool kit

One pillowcase

A pair of scissors

Optional: A needle and thread

Optional: A second pillowcase and a package of safety pins (to make a dress instead)


Pick your pillowcase

The pillowcase must have a large enough circumference to fit around your chest and hips. Most standard pillowcases have a circumference of 40 inches; to create a larger size, sew together two pillowcases — each sliced along one of the side seams — to your desired fit.

Lay the pillowcase on a flat surface, lengthwise, with the closed end on top.


Start cutting

With the scissors, cut a neckline at the center of the closed end that’s large enough to fit your head through.

Cut lines at the top of the left and right sides of the pillowcase — large enough for your arms.


Customize (if you want)

The top is basically finished! But Ms. Hay says you don’t have to stop here. You could sew the neck and arm holes neatly with a needle and thread or leave them raw, because that looks good, too. You could also add embellishments, like buttons or trim.


Or turn it into an avant-garde shift

Grab a second pillowcase and repeat Step 1. Then cut it open along the closed end. This will be the skirt of your dress.

Step into the pillowcase and pull it up to where you would like it to rest, near your waist. (Ms. Hay likes the skirt positioned a bit askew.)

Using several safety pins, attach the two pillowcases together at the waist, adding a safety pin every inch or so, pinning all the way around.

Photo credit: Getty Images (Batsheva Hay)

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