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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tutorial: How to Make Envelope Pillow Shams with Piping

by Tonya

At our house, we often sit on the floor to read books before naptime and bedtime. In my daughter's room, we had been stacking up bed pillows and pillow pets to lean against, but we so needed something more stylish to snuggle into, something without hard plastic eyes poking us in the back. I decided to make some large, cute pillows. The shams had to be removable so I could wash them, so I made envelope pillow shams. I added piping to make them look more finished and sophisticated (because my toddler is very sophisticated). 

I bought pillow forms that are 24" x 24" and four different patterns of cotton or cotton-linen fabric for the fronts. I used flannel and soft, finewale corduroy for the backs. Here's how to make some for your cuddling/reading area:

1. Fabric care. Wash and dry all your fabric so it won't shrink later when you wash it. Anything little kids will be sitting on or playing with might someday need washing. Iron it all so it lays flat when you are measuring, cutting, and sewing. This will make it a lot easier to be accurate and make straight seams. 

2. Front fabric. Cut the front fabric so that you have 1/2" seam allowance on each side. I cut mine in a 25" square. 

3. Back fabric. To make an envelope sham, you want the fabric to overlap about 3" (24 + 3 = 27). Add 1/2" seam allowance on each side for the outer edges plus 1/2" on each side to hem the center edges that will overlap (27 + 2 = 29). My back fabric was cut 25" high by 29" across. Then I cut the back piece in half, so I had two pieces that measured 25" x 14.5".

4. Piping. Next, prepare the piping. Open up the fabric that covers the piping about 2" on one end. You will need to tuck the other end inside of the open fabric. Leave the piping a few inches longer than you need to so you have a little extra to play with if you need it. My 24" pillow needs 8 feet of piping, so I cut it about 8 feet, 3 inches.  

5. Sew on the Piping. Line up the piping on the front fabric, with piping on top of the fabric's right side and with raw edges together. Sew with your needle in the middle position, and the presser foot right up next to the filled part of the piping. 

Go slowly around the corners to make sure your presser foot stays right up against the filled part of the piping. If you like, you can clip the piping at the corners so it will curve more easily and be less bulky. My piping was flexible enough that I didn't feel like I had to clip it. 

When you get near the end of the piping, stop sewing and lower your needle into the fabric. It will hold the fabric and thread still so you can arrange your piping. Trim the piping filler in the open end so that you can tuck the other end inside the piping fabric. Trim so that the filler ends match up perfectly. 

I didn't get an action shot while sewing, so here's a photo of loose piping overlapping. 

Fold the piping fabric under 1/4th inch so it will look neat on the finished product. Finish sewing the piping to the front fabric, making the overlapped piping as neat as possible. 

6. Back Fabric Prep Press and hem one long edge of each piece of back fabric. I folded the edge over 1/4 ", pressed it, folded it again, pressed, and sewed it. One of these edges will be visible on the finished pillow case. 

7. Sew on the Back Fabric Pin one of the back pieces to the front piece, right sides together and with the piping in the middle. (Make sure the hemmed edge is in the middle of the pillow case, not on the outer edge.) Move your needle to the left position, so the stitching will be as close to the filled part of the piping as possible. You don't want to see your previous stitching, so make sure you sew close as possible. Sew on the back piece. Turn the sham right side out and make sure it looks good. I had to go back and re-sew a little closer on one of my corners.

Pin the other back piece on to the sham, right sides together, overlapping the two back pieces. Sew as close as you can to the piping. Again, turn the sham right side out and make sure it looks great. 

8. Final Trimming After you are satisfied with your sewing, turn it inside out once more and trim the corners a bit if they seem bulky with extra fabric. Trim all your thread ends. Turn it right side out and try it on your pillow form. 

9. Finished! Throw it on the floor and see if your kid wants to snuggle up and read a book with you. 


  1. Good job, Tonya! These look fantastic!!

  2. Thanks, Stef! Now to make a bunch of throw pillows for the couches.