How to Sew a Piped Envelope Pillow Cover

A piped envelope pillow cover is a Grandmillennial classic. If you’re like me and you hoard all kinds of fabrics for projects you intend to someday make, I’ve got the perfect project that will keep you busy on a Saturday.

A piped pillow is one of my favorite decorative pillows, alongside ruffled and needlepoint. It is by far the easiest to make and requires less fabric than its ruffled counterpart.

If you’re interested in making your own or are wondering whether it’s the right project for you, keep reading. You will find all the info you need and many tips too.

Materials List

  • 1-2 Types of Fabric (I used a contrasting fabric for the piping and the back of the pillow)
  • Matching Thread
  • Pillow Insert or Stuffing
  • Cording for Piping OR Purchased Piping
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Sewing Machine

Optional Materials:

  • Inner fabric
  • Rotary Cutter
  • Piping Foot
  • Seam Ripper
  • Iron
  • Heavy Duty Needles (for thick layers of fabric and heavy fabrics)

What Types of Fabric is Best for a Piped Pillow Cover?

Necessary Materials for a Piped Pillow Cover

I find that the best types of fabrics for a piped pillowcase are medium-weight fabrics. 

These fabrics have more weight than light-weight fabrics and are less prone to rip in the washer. They are generally less expensive than heavy-weight fabrics and come in a variety of patterns and colors. This makes them great for a decorative touch.

Upholstery fabrics are often medium-weight fabrics. When you shop online, the product listing often gives you information about the fabric, including what it’s best used for.

For those who do not have access to extra information, one way to gauge the weight of your fabric is to put it up against a bright light source.

If lots of light shines through, you likely have a lightweight fabric.

If some large penetrates, then it is a medium-weight fabric.

And if little to no light comes through, then it is a heavy-weight fabric.

Some heavy fabrics like chenille can be appropriate for pillowcases as well. I used a chenille as a contrasting color on my pillows and I like the texture and softness it adds to the project.

Just keep in mind that stiff heavy-weight fabrics may not be the most comfortable to lay on, lean up against, etc.

What Size Piping is Best?

This will depend on the size of the pillow you are sewing and the kind of look you are going for. I’ve seen standard square pillows with subtle, small piping and the same-sized pillow with something wider for contrast.

For this tutorial, I used ⅜” cording to create the piping. Remember that you will sew very close to the cording, so a regular sewing machine may not be suitable for very wide cording.

Although you can definitely create piping without a piping foot, I’d suggest looking into buying a piping foot.

I’ve been sewing for many years and I was struggling to sew straight lines right up to the edge of the piping. Therefore, keep this in mind when deciding whether or not to buy a piping foot.

If you’d prefer to forgo sewing your own piping, you can readily buy it online or in-store.

How to Determine How Much Cord You Will Need for a Piped Pillow Cover

I like to make piped pillow covers because they don’t require you to do any complex math to figure out how much material you will need.

When determining how to calculate the amount of cording or store-bought piping you’ll need to sew a pillow, you will need to know the dimensions of your pillow insert. Alternatively, you need measurements of your finished pillow (for those who intend to stuff the cover later).

My pillow inserts are 19” x 19”. 

NOTE: When you go to cut your cording or piping, make sure to add a little extra for leeway and overlap.

Thus, my calculation would be: 19” + 19” + 19” + 19” = 76” (+) 1.5-2” = 77.5-78” length

If I had a rectangular insert that measured 30cm x 50cm, then my calculation would look like:

30cm + 50cm + 30cm + 50cm = 160cm (+) 4-6cm = 164-166cm length

These instructions work when making your own piping and when using pre-made piping.

Additional steps for those MAKING their piping:

The width of the strip you will need for your piping will depend on the width of your cord.

Use the equation: (Width of cording + your seam allowance) x 2

My width was: (⅜” + ½”) x 2 = 1¾”

Once you have your length and width measurements, cut out the fabric for your piping. If you cannot get a full-length piece out of your fabric, you can sew two pieces together.

If you do so, make sure to sew the pieces at an angle. This will disperse the bulkiness where the two fabric pieces meet.

How to Sew Your Own Piping

If you’ve never sewn piping before, I promise it isn’t difficult. If you use a piping foot, the foot does most of the work for you.

First, when making your own piping, sandwich your cord between your strip of fabric.

Insert your piping foot now if you have one. Next, align the cord inside of the piping to the inside channel of the foot. Then, sew a straight stitch all the way to the end of your cord.

There isn’t much necessity to backstitch the ends of the piping. If you do, don’t worry. You’ll be picking them out later.

How to Measure Fabric for a Piped Pillow Cover

How to Measure for the Front of the Pillow Cover

I like to make my pillow covers fit snugly in my inserts. For this reason, I cut my front pillow cover to the EXACT size of my insert.

So, for a 19” x 19” pillow, I will cut a 19” x 19” piece of fabric.

Later, you will sew a ½” seam allowance all the way around, making your completed cover 1” smaller than the insert. If you think you’ll need more seam allowance, adjust your measurements now.

How to Measure for the Backside of the Cover

(Image – width height of pillow)

These instructions are for creating an envelope backing to your pillow.

The width of your back panels will be the same width of the front cover – 19” in my scenario.

The back panels of the envelope will have to overlap. To calculate the height of these panels, multiply your pillow insert height by (.75 or ¾). Then add your desired hem allowance and seam allowance.

In my example, this looked like:

19” x .75 = 14.25” (or 14¼” )

I will now add my hem alliance (¾” – or ⅜” folded over twice) and my seam allowance (½”).

14¼” + ¾” + ½” = 15½”

This is the height of the back panel. Remember the width is the width of your insert.

The two back panels I will cut will be 15½” high by 19” wide.

Once cut, go ahead and hem both back panels. Sew with a straight stitch.

How to Sew a Piped Pillow Cover

How to Sew the Piping to the Front Pillow Cover

Place your piping to the front piece of your pillow cover, pattern side up. The piping will be placed with the finished edge pointing towards the center of the fabric.

If you are adding an inner fabric layer to your pillow cover, pin it to the back of your front cover. The layers should be inner fabric, front cover fabric pattern side up, and then the piping on top of that.


If your pattern has a direction, ensure that where your piping begins, and ends is in an inconspicuous spot. I like to place mine towards the bottom of the pillow cover.

Pin the piping in place. When you encounter corners, make sure to cut slits into the piping fabric where it curves. This will help the fabric lay flat.

Sew all the way around until the two ends are about 2 inches (5cm) from the meeting. Backstitch.

You will now rip the seam of the end of the piping a few inches, just enough for you to expose some of the cord and fold back the piping fabric.

You can now bring both cord ends together and cut away any excess of the CORD (not the fabric surrounding the cord).


You will then overlap the folded fabric end with the piping you’ve sewn down. Pin in place.

Sew the last bit of unsewn piping to the pillow cover. Remember to backstitch when you start and end your stitch.

Flip the edges of your piping towards the back of the pillow cover. If any areas don’t look right, fix them now. 

Once your stitches look good, go ahead and trim away any excess fabric and overlock the edges with an overlocker, zig-zag stitch, etc.

How to Sew All Pieces Together

You should now have three pieces to your piped pillow cover: the front with piping sewn to it and the two pieces of the backside.

With the pattern side of the cover facing you, ensure that it sits upright. If your pattern is directional, make sure it sits in the direction you’d like it to lay. 

Flip the piping towards the front side of the pillow. You can now lay the backsides horizontally on top of the front cover. The right sides of the front piece and the back pieces should be together, sandwiched in the middle.

Pin in place. If your layers of fabric are very thick, make sure to switch to an appropriate needle size. Sew all the way around, ensuring you are sewing along the edge of the piping.

Trim away excess threads. Flip inside out and you are done!

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