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How to choose silk for a cosmetic pillow

Silk pillowcases are having a moment, and it’s no wonder. Not only are they a dream to sleep on, they keep your skin hydrated and even prevent bedhead. We’ll look at what the fuss is all about and help you choose the right fabric to make your own. Find out what silk can do for your beauty sleep.

Why sleep on a silk pillowcase

Silk is good for your complexion

The popularity of silk pillowcases lies in their effect on your skin and hair. People who use them rave about their great benefits. The smooth, silky surface reduces friction between the pillow and your face lessening the potential for wrinkle creation as you sleep. Because silk is hygienic – it breathes, so bacteria and fungus cannot thrive – it is recommended for those who suffer from eczema and acne. Though you cannot expect a miraculous, overnight cure, a silk pillowcase won’t further aggravate your skin and its cooling effect can calm irritated areas. Silk’s smooth surface won’t draw moisture away from your face, so that you will wake up with a better hydrated complexion.

Silk smooths and hydrates hair

The smooth surface of a silk pillowcase is good for your hair too. As we all know well from hair conditioner commercials, hair is covered with microscopic scales that, in ideal conditions, should be smoothed down for shiny, healthy-looking hair. You can smooth them down with conditioner or you can do it mechanically by brushing out your locks or by sleeping on a silk pillowcase. If you wake up every morning with your hair in knots, switching to a silk pillowcase really can help you tame your bedhead.

Avoid pillowcases made of synthetic satin though – they tend to dehydrate your hair and add static electricity. Ouch!

Silk helps you sleep deeper

The consensus here at Sartor is that the real secret behind “beauty sleep” lies in hitting the sack early and getting a good night’s rest. There’s really no substitute. So why not make climbing into bed an irresistible proposition? You’re sure to look forward to laying your head on a lush silk pillow. There’s certainly nothing smoother and gentler against bare skin than silk and that is a surefire recipe for sweet dreams.

Silk pillowcases, by the way, are especially beneficial for those who suffer from allergies – silk inhibits the spread of bacteria and fungus that can irritate light sleepers.

Investing in your beauty sleep pays off

Sleeping like royalty doesn’t have to cost a king’s ransom. If you want to try the benefits of silk for yourself, why not start with a pillowcase? If you like the results, you can invest later in bigger things – like a silk duvet cover for a full-body experience. On the other hand, if you don’t become a convert, an investment in a couple of yards of silk is an expense that most budgets can bear and, at the very least, you’ll have a beautiful accessory.

Why choose natural silk for a silk pillowcase

In order to have any effect, a silk pillowcase must be made of natural silk. Look for natural or mulberry silk – the terms are very nearly interchangeable, the difference being that there are some types of natural silk (wild silk, for example) that come from other silkworms.

Do not, however, mistake “silky” synthetic fabrics for real silk. They may look like silk, but they lack the crucial properties that make a natural silk pillowcase so valuable. (Many jurisdictions forbid the labelling of synthetics as “silk” but you still may run into this practice with some merchants.)

Here are Sartor we carefully label every fabric with its precise textile content, so that you always know what kind of silk you are purchasing. Both types of natural silk – mulberry silk and wild silk – are good for making a cosmetic pillowcase.

The structure of the fabric also plays an important role. Fabric for a silk pillowcase should be smooth, without a prominent surface texture or slubs. A tight weave and sturdy hand can also be a plus.

Silk satin

Although silk satin is not at the top of our list for making full duvet sets, for pillowcases it’s a stellar choice. Silky, glossy, and smooth, it’s everything a silk pillowcase should be. Keep an eye on the fabric weight when you make your selection and opt for one that’s at least 22 mommes (108 g/m2). Heavier satins are likely to last longer.

Silk duchesse satin

Duchesse is a very sturdy, tightly woven satin with a gorgeous, pearly sheen. Used most often for formal gowns, it is a truly deluxe material, finer and smoother than all other silk satins. It is not quite as cool as ordinary satin and is sturdier and lasts longer. Duchesse holds its shape and withstands wrinkles quite well.

Fine dupioni and shantung silk

Dupioni or shantung silk (the terms are practically interchangeable today) is a smooth, fairly sturdy material that comes in a palette of gorgeous colors and is usually available in shimmering two-tone effects. It can be machine washed, which has the added benefit of beautifully softening this otherwise papery fabric.

When selecting fabric for a pillowcase, reach for a fine dupioni, one that doesn’t have a pronounced rib or slubs. You don’t want to wake up with a woven pattern imprinted on your face.

Silk jersey

Silk jersey is a fine, soft knit material. Its natural elasticity allows you to make a close-fitting pillowcase that stretches over your pillow without a single fold. This makes it a great choice if you are making a case to fit an anatomically shaped pillow.

Plain woven silks

Any densely woven silk or silk blend in a plain weave (silk modal blends, silk rayon blends, wild silk, matka silk) can be used for a silk pillowcase. These fabrics have a soft, smooth surface that feels warmer against the skin than satin or dupioni.

Silk habotai, pongee, crêpe de Chine

Crêpe de Chine may belong to a different category of fabric than habotai and pongee, but they all have one thing in common – they’re lightweight fabrics with a smooth, silky sheen. Too light for making duvet covers, they are a good choice for a cosmetic pillowcase, especially if you want to test the waters with silk bedding before committing to a full duvet set. Since these fabrics are all rather thin, it’s a good idea use an ordinary pillowcase under them and just pull them over the top.

How much fabric do you need for a silk pillowcase?

If you’re planning on sewing your own silk pillowcase, how much fabric you will need depends on the size of your pillow. Measure the one you plan to use.

Standard sizes vary depending on what part of the world you live in. While a standard pillow in the US or UK measures 20 by 26 inches (roughly 50 x 66 cm), the most common size in Germany is 80 x 80 cm and a Czech pillow comes in at 70 x 90 cm. See the chart below for some common sizes. (We’ve included Czech pillow sizes here because, come on, we’re based in Prague ;-)

Our silks come in various bolt widths, most of which should fit a standard pillowcase pattern. As a rule of thumb, your finished pillowcase should be the size of your pillow so that it fits like a glove. Don’t forget to include a seam allowance of at least a half inch (1–1.5 cm). If you are making an open-ended pillow case, don’t forget to figure in the additional length at the end including a generous border (the width is up to you). If you are making a closeable pillowcase that fastens shut with buttons on one end, figure about  1½ inches (4 cm) for button holes and 2½ inches (6 cm) for the button panel. A zip closure will require an extra 1½ inches on both sides of the zipper. Cutting a pattern for an anatomically shaped pillow may require tracing the original pillowcase that came with it.

20 x 26 in20 x 30 in20 x 36 in26 x 26 in32 x 32 in28 x 36 in
50 x 66 cm50 x 75 cm50 x 90 cm66 x 66 cm80 x 80 cm70 x 90 cm

Some common bed pillow sizes

What about shrinkage?

When you sew with linen or cotton you always have to pre-shrink your fabric before you measure and cut. With silk that step may not be necessary. Some silk fabrics shrink when washed and some don’t (shrinkage is noted on the product page). In general, loosely woven fabrics tend to shrink more. If in doubt, just ask us to send you a free fabric swatch to test before ordering. For silk fabrics that do experience shrinkage, figure in a loss of about a half inch per yard (1–2 cm per meter).


Want to go big?

Take the next step and make your own duvet set.

povlečení hedvábný povlak na polštář kosmetický polštář

Getting your fabric ready

To prepare your fabric for sewing, wash it according to the guidelines given in the product detail. For most silks, wash cool (30°C) in a special detergent formulated for wool or silk. You can wash by hand or use your machine’s delicate cycle. Don’t underestimate the importance of your detergent – ordinary household laundry detergent is alkaline and can damage silk! After washing, shake out the fabric gently, smooth it and hang it to dry in a shady spot. Iron it at a low temperature (silk setting).

Caring for your silk pillowcase

Assuming that you have chosen a washable silk, simply turn your pillowcase inside out before washing. Wash in cool water (30°C). Set your spin cycle to low. Do not tumble dry, but hang it or spread it out in a shady spot – not only to avoid fading, but also to protect your silk from the negative effects of UV rays on the filament. Silk has to be handled with greater care than linen or cotton, and poor handling can cause it to pucker. Before drying, always shake the item out gently and smooth it with your hands to reduce wrinkling and make ironing easier.

Iron at a low temperature (silk setting).

If you used silk that is not washable, take your pillowcase to a reliable dry cleaner for care. Choose your cleaner well and make sure that they know how to work with silk. We highly recommend affixing a content label to anything you make, especially if you will be taking it to the cleaners. This simple precaution can save you a world of headache (not to mention irreversible damage to your silk items).

Because silk does not attract moths and is not prone to mildew, it is exceedingly easy to store. We recommend storing your silk pillowcase rolled rather than folded to prevent damage done over time by creasing. Of course, if you change bedding often and your pillowcase is never in the linen closet for long, this may not be an issue for you.

What is your experience with silk pillowcases?

Share your insights in the comments below.


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