The best embroidered pillow case for you may vary based on your individual needs. Generally, it will be made from a smooth, comfortable cotton fabric, with a pleasing image or design. The case should be well constructed and show no signs of shoddy workmanship. The embroidery should be intact, with a neat reverse side, and be stitched using quality threads that won't bleed when laundered. An embroidered pillow case can be stitched by hand or machine.
The age and type of embroidery don't affect the quality of an embroidered pillow case, though you may have a personal preference for one type over another. Fine linen shops, individual artists, and antique stores are all good sources for embroidered pillow cases. Depending on the design and the look you want, you can even stitch your own embroidered pillow case from a pattern or kit.
The fabric used plays a big role in the overall quality of the finished item. The best pillow cases are often made from 100% cotton fabric with a high thread count. Most pillow cases with a high thread count are machine monogrammed or embroidered and sold singly or in pairs. Turning the pillow case inside out to inspect the seams and construction can also help you determine if you are purchasing a well-made item. All seams should be professionally finished, and the embroidery should look almost as good on the back as it does on the front.
Machine or hand-stitched embroidery should be cleanly finished and be free of loose or unraveling threads; all threads should be secured on the back of the piece, with no loose ends showing. The fabric around the embroidery should be flat and smooth, without puckering. The design should be one that matches the color scheme or theme of the room the embroidered pillow case will be used in. If the embroidered pillow case is part of a set, the pair should match or mirror one another. Consider purchasing a spare pillow case if the set you are buying is a custom pattern; you will have an on-hand replacement if one case is damaged.
A vintage embroidered pillow case should be inspected for quality prior to purchase. Holding the pillow case up to a light source will allow you to identify any flaws in the fabric; light-colored or white fabrics may have damage from repeated bleaching. Vintage embroidered pillow case sets are often starched before they are put up for sale; looking for thin areas of fabric can help you identify damage that you may otherwise miss.