Alison is retired from a career in sales and marketing. She now works as a freelance writer and researcher on health, pets, home and family.
Easily Update Your Pillows With an Envelope Cushion Cover!
Even if you have never sewn anything before, my video, clear instructions, and pictures will help you create a perfect pillow cover. Here in the UK, we call cushion covers what Americans typically call pillow covers. This is what we'll be tackling on our sewing machines today!
I've also supplied a chart that will help you check what size fabric to cut for your covers. Let's get started!
This photo above shows the reverse side of a cover I made from a spare curtain. I had enough to make a set of four 16" cushions for my sitting room. As you might notice, the pattern does not quite match on the back where I have the envelope opening. However, it really does not matter because they look great from the front and cost me next to nothing to make!
1. Choose the Fabric for Your Pillow Covers
Choosing the fabric for your covers is fun! You might be able to do as I did and use fabric you already have. If not, you will need to consider where and how your cushions are going to be used.
- If they are likely to get grubby (in the children's playroom, for example), you should choose a good quality fabric that is washable. Make sure you wash the fabric before cutting your cushion cover pieces because cotton shrinks about ten percent the first time you launder it.
- For other areas of the home, you will want to choose a fabric that matches your decor. Consider your level of sewing skill here—even though these covers are simple to make, shiny fabrics, silky fabrics, or fabrics that fray badly are much harder to work with.
- If it's really important to you that the back is as perfect at the front and you are worried about pattern-matching, choose a plain fabric or one with a ditsy, random print to disguise the lines.
Fabric Cutting Guide for Your Pillow Form Size
|Cushion Pad Size (Pillow Form Size)||Fabric Dimensions for Front||Fabric Dimensions for Back|
13" x 13"
13" x 17"
15" x 15"
15" x 20"
17" x 17"
17" x 23"
19" x 19"
19" x 25"
2. Cut the Cushion Cover Fabric
- If you chose a plain fabric, then cutting your two pieces and choosing the correct dimensions from the table above will be a little easier.
- If you chose a fabric with a directional pattern (i.e. flowers, people, houses, or anything that has a correct orientation), you should always cut your pieces parallel to the edge of the fabric to avoid problems with your cushion cover going out of shape.
- If you are using fabric with a definite pattern, then do the following:
- Use picture 1. (below) as a guide if you want your opening to be horizontal (straight across) the back of your pillow cover.
- Use picture 2. (below) as a guide if you if you want your opening to be vertical (straight down) the back of your cushion cover.
3. Sew Your Pillow Cover
If you have cut out your pieces accurately and your fabric is easy to work with, you might find it is sufficient just to pin the seams. However, I always like to tack my hems and remove this temporary stitching afterward.
Prepare the Cover
1. For the opening, you will definitely get a better result if you fold over the edge carefully, tack it, and press it firmly before stitching.
- The amount you fold over is not critical in this case. It could be anything from 1/4" to 5/8". When you have machine stitched it, remove your tacking stitches before folding the hem you made over itself so that the cut edge is now safely inside the new hem you made. Again, tack this and press it before machining neatly next to the inner edge. Remove your tacking stitches and press again. This extra bit of care makes all the difference to the finished result.
2. Repeat the procedure with the other half of the back.
- The edges you want to be folding over and sewing are the edges you made when you cut the piece in half—in other words, the center of the back piece. You can double check that you have done it correctly by ensuring that the pattern looks right when you place both pieces on the table with the folded over edges meeting together in the middle (watch the video below if you are still not sure!).
Assemble the Pieces to Sew
- Place the front of the cushion cover right side up on the table in front of you.
- Place the first piece of the back on top of the front. making sure you have the wrong side facing you, the opening in the center, and the pattern running in the same direction as the front cover piece,
- Repeat the procedure with the other piece of the back, overlapping it with the other back piece already in place.
- Pin or tack all around the cushion cover before machining round all four sides using a 1/2" seam allowance.
- Press your seams open for a really professional finish.
- Clip the corners to remove excess material (see the section below on avoiding 'rabbit's ear' corners).
- Turn the pillow cover right-side out through the opening you have left. Press it neatly, making sure all your corners are square.
- Insert the cushion pad or pillow form through the opening,
- Stand back and admire your work. Congratulations, you have learned how to sew a simple envelope cushion cover!
How to Make Neat Square Corners on Pillow Covers
Looking at the table above, you may be wondering why I only showed dimensions one inch bigger than the size of the cushion pad or pillow form for the front cover piece.
This is because, from my personal experience of making cushions, it gives a better result and a 'plumper' cushion. There is no extra material which would enable the pad to move around inside the cover, creating a result like having a duvet cover too big for the duvet—no duvet at the edges, just the duvet cover material.
If you have not made cushions for yourself before, you may not have come across what I call 'rabbit's ears corners'—I illustrated this in the drawing above. This normally happens when using lighter weight material, like the washable cottons you might use in a pillow for children. It is caused when the cushion pad inside does not get right down into the corners.
Clip the Corners to Make the Pad Fit Snugly in the Cover
This can be avoided by making the cushion pad fit snugly inside the cover. To make really good corners, do the following:
- Clip the corners when you finish stitching your pillow cover to take out excess material.
- Push the tips of blunt scissors gently into these corner points from the inside once you have turned the cover the right way out. Then, you can push them gently into a right angle to make neat, square corners.
Additional Decorating Ideas
An envelope pillow cover can also be 'jazzed up' a little. You might want to have the opening at the front and add a decorative feature like the button fastening shown above.
- If you are not confident about making buttonholes, cheat! There is no need to fasten the pillow closed because you have allowed a generous overlap that will keep the pillow form safely in place, so just stitch on some buttons as a decorative feature down the line of the opening.
- If you want it to look 'fastened,' a popper or press-fastener stitched in place beneath each button will close the opening just as effectively.
- Alternatively, add some pretty ribbon or lace ties to your cushion.
An envelope cushion cover might be simple to make, but it looks both stylish and professional. Following my step-by-step guide will ensure success. Please leave your comments below and let me know how your sewing project turned out!
How to Make an Envelope Cushion Cover
More Simple Sewing Projects
Now that you have learned how to sew this simple cushion cover with the envelope style, you will probably be all fired up to make more pretty things for your home.
There are lots of things you can make that add that extra personal touch to your furnishings and home decor.
- Simple things you could try would be adding a pretty fabric border to bed linen sheets and pillowcases. You can also do this with face flannels and bathroom towels. These make pretty gifts too.
- Simple, reusable bags for storing vegetables, clothes pegs, plastic carrier bags, or tote bags for carrying purchased goods can also be easily made.
- Thrify sewers can stitch together fabric remnants, leftover material, or the 'good' parts of clothing and home furnishings that are no longer needed. Use this technique to make a patchwork effect before cutting out the pieces you require to assemble your new project.
If you want to check out a book for ideas to try out, I recommend Sew Everything Workshop. This inspirational book covers all the basics and is ideal for a beginner. It also has great photographs to illustrate the 25 projects that you could soon be making for yourself!
Alison Graham (author) from UK on February 12, 2013:
Thanks KawikaChann, what you say about accent is very interesting, I thought very hard about whether to put voiceover on or not or whether to just have the script slides there. Initially I thought some people might not have sound so the words on screen might be more helpful. Then I thought that it would be more interesting with sound so should I have my voice or music? Music needs to be bought though so the narration won (this time).
Kawika Chann from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on February 12, 2013:
Nice job Allison - the accent threw me, silly me... lol. One day I'll let you hear mine, that will really throw you... I loved the video, I've played with a lot of video/sound mixing programs but was always too impatient to progress past the first segment or so. sigh. Keep up the great hubs! Voted up/interesting. Peace. Kawi.
Alison Graham (author) from UK on January 23, 2013:
Thanks prokidwriter, I really appreciate your comment. Glad you enjoyed the article.
KA Hanna from America's Finest City on January 22, 2013:
Really excellent hub! Enjoyed it thoroughly!
Alison Graham (author) from UK on January 21, 2013:
Thanks so much Paul, this is my first ever 'video hub' and I really enjoyed making it. It is great that my first comment on my instructions for sewing an envelope cushion cover is so positive! Thanks for the encouragement.
Paul Maplesden from Asheville, NC on January 21, 2013:
What a superb hub - Detailed, thorough and thoughfu instructions, illustrated perfectly throughout with great content and step-by-step guides. Excellent and upvoted.