DIY Envelope Pillow Cover Tutorial – Old Shirt Repurpose Project

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My favorite sewing projects are upcycling, refashioning, and repurposing because they’re eco-friendly, and the fabric is free–meaning the pressure not to mess up is less. 

One of my most recent upcycled projects involved using an old button-down shirt jacket to sew a quick and easy DIY envelope pillow cover. 

Since there were buttons on the shirt, they acted as the envelope closure, and this simple project took only four seams. 

Follow along for this beginner pillow cover tutorial using an old shirt!

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 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 throw pillow forms were just sitting in the corner of our room, waiting to be repurposed.

pillow form and old shirt for upcycle

Enter my Mom’s outdated lime green, button-down shirt that just so happened to be an EXACT match to the shade of my daughter’s room decor. 

Why An Old Shirt Beats Fabric for This Project

envelope pillow cover example

If you’re unsure what an envelope pillow cover is, above is a picture of the back of another pillowcase I sewed using regular woven cotton.

You should be able to see the opening on the back of the cover (the envelope) where the pillow squeezes in with no need for a zipper. 

While this type of pillow isn’t too hard to master, the beauty of creating an envelope-fold pillowcase from an old shirt rather than fabric is that the process is even more beginner-friendly. 

Since you can use the buttons on the front of the shirt as the envelope portion, you don’t have to worry about creating the opening on the back or finishing any fabric edges!

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 completed this project in less than 15 minutes, which was refreshing to finish something fast for once. 


  • Old shirt, washed and ironed, with buttons on the front
  • Pillow form or pillow insert (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

First, to make this project work, check that the shirt is wide and tall enough for your pillow form to allow at least a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Then, set your pillow out on the shirt to ensure the button and pocket locations on the front won’t make creating seams impossible. 

I recommend a stable woven shirt. You will have more difficulty with this project if using a thin, stretchy knit fabric that will gap where the buttons are. Knits are also trickier to sew with a sewing machine. 

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

First, determine the amount of fabric you 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 1/2″ on each side to account for the seam allowance. 

I also had to play around where the pillow cover fabric cutting area to avoid sewing over buttons–I took off several inches at the bottom to get the two buttons aligned in the center of the pillow cover.

fabric for the envelope pillow

Next, cut out the roughly measured piece of fabric. 

wonder clips holding the fabric together

Then, turn the shirt fabric inside out and pin or clip along the edges with 1/2″ (or your preferred) seam allowance. 

I LOVE using Clover Wonder Clips. 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.

I used them for years before realizing they also tell you seam allowance measurements on them. 

Fabric sewn together for envelope pillow

After clipping, sew the top and bottom of the fabric together with the 1/2″ seam allowance.

I then trimmed my seams fairly messily rather than finishing them with my serger or a zigzag stitch. No one will see inside the pillowcase, and this fabric wasn’t going to fray much.

Taking up the side seams of the envelope pillow

Next, fit the pillow cover to the width of the pillow. I needed to take off about 3/4″ at each side of the fabric to get the right width. 

Then, sew these seams on the right and left sides of the fabric and trim. Again, you could use your serger or finish the edges, but it wasn’t a big deal for me.

Finishing Up Your DIY Envelope Fold Pillowcase

Last, unbutton the buttons to allow you to turn the envelope pillow cover back right side out. 

Stuffing the pillow form into the upcycled shirt

Then, slip in the pillow form.

DIY envelope pillow from repurposed shirt

Button the pillowcase back up on the front, and voila!

You’ve sewn your own DIY envelope pillowcase by repurposing an old shirt. 

Backside of an envelope pillow

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

Old Shirt Refashion to DIY Envelope Pillow Cover

And that’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed this DIY envelope pillow cover tutorial.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions!

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