Envelope Back Pillowcase with Piping

This is a great project for updating a room–with a small amount of fabric you can easily update old throw pillows.  Or, you can make new throw pillows by buying (or, even better, sewing!) pillow forms.  To make this a true beginner project, skip the piping and simply sew the three pieces together as shown.  However, I challenge all new and returning sewers to try adding the piping.  With the correct tools (you’ll need your zipper foot), you’ll be surprised how much a little piping adds to your projects!

This really is a great project for beginning sewing, which is why it pops up in my Sew Easy class again and again.  The skills you will develop by sewing pillowcases are:

  • continuing to develop cutting and straight-line sewing skills
  • pivoting
  • constructing an envelope back
  • sewing a double-fold hem
  • sewing close to an edge/sewing with a narrow seam allowance
  • optional: adding piping and sewing with a zipper foot

Supplies needed:

  • your basic sewing supplies
  • zipper foot
  • Fabric (3/4 yard or several fat quarters)
  • 10-16″ pillow form
  • packaged piping
  • disappearing ink pen, chalk or dull pencil
  • optional: straight edge, self-healing mat and rotary cutter

Ideas for future:

This same concept can be applies to covering square pieces of foam (as in a bench set) by adding 2” more fabric and creating a boxed corner

This same idea can be applied to make sweet little tissue covers

You don’t have to use the same fabric!  Since there are three pieces, feel free to mix and match

If you are redoing a bedroom, consider buying an extra flat sheet.  You can use this as fabric for your own pillows, valences, etc.

Use the concept of piping on hems, valences, pillow cases (i.e.. between the header and body of the pillowcase you made in Sew Easy), around handbags

Step 1: Cutting the Pieces

Using the method that suits you best for cutting straight edges, use the following guidelines to make your pillow.  For a square pillow the rule is to measure 1 inch square more than the form size for the front and 3 inches smaller (side to side) to create two rectangles for the back (see measurements below for further explanation):

10″ Pillow Form

Cut one 11″ by 11″ square

Cut two 11″ by 8″ rectangles

12″ Pillow Form

Cut one 13″ by 13″ square

Cut two 13″ by 10″ rectangles

14″ Pillow

Cut one 15″ by 15″ square

Cut two 15″ by 12″ rectangles

16″ Pillow

Cut one 17″ by 17″ square

Cut two 17″ by 14″ rectangles

Step 2:  Prepare the Back

Set iron for your type of fabric.  For each of the rectangular pieces, start with right side(patterned-side) facing down and press down a 1/2” hem on the long side of the rectangle.

Open hem and press raw edge in to meet the fold.  This is sometimes referred to as “turning and pressing.”

Can you see the frayed bits close to the crease? Just tuck that raw edge right into the crease!

Then fold again and press closed.  (Of course you may press a 1/4” hem and then fold and press another 1/4” hem, but many people find this difficult when working with such a narrow hem.)

Pin hem and sew hem in a place that is comfortable for you.  (I like to get close to where the folded fabric meets the single layer.)

I often press the hem again, just to have a nice, crisp edge.  Set aside.  Don’t forget to do this for both of the back pieces.

Step 3: Add Piping

(This is the most tedious part of the project.  Not doing piping?  Skip to Step 4B.)

Take the square piece of fabric and your piping.  (Make sure this piece of fabric is wrinkle-free!) Place your fabric pattern-side up.  Starting somewhere in the middle (NOT THE CORNER) of one side, pin your piping to the edge of the fabric.  The raw edge of the fabric should match the taped edge of the piping.

Continue doing this around the entire square.  When you get to a corner, clip the piping tape a bit to form the right angle.  Do not clip through the stitches of the piping, though!

To join the corded (piped) ends, bring each end in toward the raw edge a bit and criss-cross.  Pin.

Feel free to let these tails hang off even more making a total X. It’s better to have more piping that find out you are short at the last seconds of sewing. You will snip off any excess when you are finished.

Attach zipper foot.  Sew around the entire square as closely to the piping as you can.  Pivot at corners and be mindful of the pins!  (Ouch!)

You caught me! I’m using a 1/4″ foot here because I left my zipper foot in class the night before I wrote this tutorial. This is a placeholder until I take a new photo.


Step 4A:  Attaching Front to Back (piping)

With the piped side up, place the two back panels on top with the right side (pattern-side) facing down.  Make sure front and back match the way you want them too!!!  (i.e. prevent upside down prints!) Match up the raw edges.  The back panels will overlap.

Pin into place in a few spots.  Then, flip over the pillowcase and pin around all edges trying to go in on one side of the piping, under the piping and then come out on the opposite side.  When you are finished pinning, remove the few pins you used as placeholders on the opposite side.  Now you are ready to sew with the front panel up (so you can see the stitches you made when adding the piping).

Follow those stitches around the entire square.  Clip corners.  If you desire, you can trim and serge or overcast raw seam.


Step 4B:  Attaching Front to Back (no piping)

Place the square right side up.  Place the two back panels on top with the right sides facing down.  Make sure front and back match the way you want them too!!!  (i.e. prevent upside down prints!) Match up the raw edges.  The back panels will overlap.

Follow those stitches around the entire square.  Clip corners.  If you desire, you can trim and serge or overcast raw seam.


Step 5:  Completing the Pillow

Turn right-side out.  Check for any skipped stitches in seams.  Stuff with pillow form.  Trim any loose strings that have appeared.  Congrats–you’re done!


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