DIY Envelope Pillow Cover Tutorial – Old Shirt Repurpose Project

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Today I want to share a quick and easy DIY envelope pillow cover tutorial.  It’s a perfect sewing project for beginners as it only takes four seams.  It also uses an old button-down shirt or jacket you’re planning on getting rid of anyway.

While you can use regular fabric to sew an envelope throw pillow cover, I think it’s even easier to use an old shirt.  There are already seams in the fabric, and in the case of this tutorial, the buttons are already sewn on the shirt.  This will act as the envelope closure, so you won’t have to worry about sewing that part in yourself.

In the past, I’ve mentioned that my favorite type of sewing projects are upcycling, refashioning, and repurposing projects.  I love this type of project because it’s a great way of reusing clothing items I’d otherwise throw away or donate.  Also, it’s free fabric, so the pressure to not mess up with sewing or cutting is much less.

Shirt Refashion to Envelope Pillowcase

DIY Envelope Pillowcase Inspiration

When my husband and I bought our last comforter set, it came with probably 15+ pillows, no joke.  I have two kids and am a busy mom, so all 15 pillows never, ever get put on the bed.  Well, except for when my mother-in-law comes to visit.  Gotta keep up the appearances, you know?  Basically, all these free throw pillow forms were just sitting in the corner of our room, waiting to be repurposed.

Enter my Mom’s outdated lime green, button-down shirt that just so happened to be an EXACT match to the shade of my daughter’s room fabric and decorations. I snatched this thing from her donation pile knowing I could make great use of it!

pillow form and old shirt for upcycle

Why Upcycle An Old Shirt to A Pillow Cover?

The beauty of this envelope fold pillowcase project is that it’s so beginner-friendly.  You can use the buttons on the front of the shirt as the envelope where you insert the pillow form, and you don’t even have to worry about creating the opening on the back.

If you’re not sure what an envelope pillow cover is, here’s a picture of the back of another pillowcase I sewed for her room from her regular quilt fabric.  Notice there’s an opening on the back where you will squeeze in the pillow.  No zippers needed!

How to Make A DIY Envelope Pillow Cover

Follow this step-by-step tutorial to find out how I made this upcycled envelope closure pillowcase.  I was able to complete this project in less than 30 minutes, which is definitely a win!


  • Old shirt, washed and ironed, with buttons on the front
  • Pillow form or pillow insert, newly purchased, or an old pillow you want to reuse (My pillow measured 12″x20″ like this form.)
  • Sewing machine with coordinating thread and needle that correlates with fabric type
  • Scissors
  • Pins or Wonder Clips

Things To Consider When Selecting Materials

To make this project work, you will want to make sure that the shirt is wide enough for your pillow form and that it’s also tall enough.  You may have to select a few different shirts or pillows to get the right match.

Also, you may have more difficulty with this project if you’re using a thin, stretchy knit fabric that’s going to be hard to sew and will gap where the buttons are.

Lastly, make sure and set your pillow out on the shirt first to find out if the buttons or pockets on the front of the shirt will make sewing this pillow difficult as well.

Step-By-Step Pillow Cover Tutorial (With Pics!)

First, determine the amount of fabric that you’re going to need to fit the vertical length of the pillow.  I did this by measuring the length from the bottom of the pillow to the top of the pillow and adding about 1/4″ on each side to account for the seam.  You’ll want to play around with the pillow to make sure you’re not getting any buttons on the edges where you’ll need to sew horizontally.   I ended up taking off several inches at the bottom to get the two buttons aligned in the center of the pillow cover.

cutting the bottom off the shirt

Here’s the cut of fabric here.

fabric for the envelope pillow

The next thing you need to do is turn the shirt fabric inside out and pin or clip along the edges with 1/4″ seam allowance.  I LOVE using Clover Wonder Clips rather than pins.  I don’t stick myself, I don’t accidentally sew over them with my sewing machine, and I feel safer with them around my kids.  They also tell you the seam allowance measurements!

wonder clips holding the fabric together

After clipping or pinning, you’ll want to sew the top and bottom of the fabric together with the 1/4″ seam allowance.  Trim the seams. I could have finished my seams better but I won’t be seeing them inside the pillowcase, so I didn’t care too much.   Here’s what the pillowcase looks like at this point:

Fabric sewn together for envelope pillow

The next step is to fit the pillow cover to the width of the pillow.  I ended up needing to take off about 3/4″ at each side of the fabric.  Sew seams as needed on the right and left sides of the fabric and trim.  Again, you could use your Serger or finish the edges better, but it wasn’t a big deal for me.

Taking up the side seams of the envelope pillow

Finishing Up Your DIY Envelope Fold Pillowcase

Lastly, unbutton the buttons to allow you to turn the envelope pillow cover back right side out.  Then, slip in the pillow form.

Stuffing the pillow form into the upcycled shirt

Button the pillowcase back up on the front, and voila!  You’ve sewn your own DIY envelope pillowcase by repurposing an old shirt.  Here’s what the front of my throw pillowcase looks like with the cute buttons.

DIY envelope pillow from repurposed shirt

And here’s the back, where you’ll notice its smooth fabric finish.

Backside of an envelope pillow

I hope you enjoyed this DIY envelope pillow cover tutorial. Please let me know if you have any additional questions!

Old Shirt Refashion to DIY Envelope Pillow Cover

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