Monday, December 10, 2012

installing zipper closure in a pillow cover {tutorial}

It took a little longer than I thought, but I'm happy to say that I finally finished a tutorial showing you how I do zipper closures for my throw pillows.

 A little disclaimer here: this is just my own way of doing it, I'm definitely not claiming this to be the only, or the best way.

Let's start, shall we? All the instructions are for a 16" square pillow, but they could very easily be adjusted for any other size. I used this same method for my larger square as well as rectangular pillows with great success.

You will need: one fat quarter of fabric of your choice
one 16" or larger zipper (I prefer using an 18" zipper as having a longer zipper makes installing it easier)

From your fabric, cut 1 rectangle measuring 9" x 16", and 1 rectangle measuring 12" x 16".

 Take your 9" x 16" rectangle (top part of the backing), and mark a line 1" from the edge on the long (16") side.
 Place your fabric right side down on your ironing board, fold on the line drawn in a previous step, and iron in place.

 Fold the fabric over again, iron again. Now your rectangle measures 7" x 16".  Place aside.

This is what your rectangle will look like if opened after ironing.

Now let's do the same thing with the 12" x 16" rectangle (bottom part of the backing), only this time fold the fabric over 1/2", press, and another 1/2" again - this bottom rectangle now measures 11" x 16". The sides with no raw edges is where the zipper is going to be installed.
This is what your two parts of the backing will look like. Your 1" folded over edge will make a flap to hide the zipper. Your 1/2" folded over edge will be attached the the bottom part of the zipper, this way you'll have no raw edges around the zipper.

Place the bottom part of the backing along the zipper teeth, make sure not to cover those - 16" side of the fabric that you ironed under to get a nice finished edge is overlapping the zipper tape. Mark the points where the fabric backing starts and ends on the zipper (it will come in handy when attaching the top part of the backing).

Pin in place.

Top stitch the pinned area using the edge of your presser foot as a guide. As you can see, I use my regular presser foot, there's no need for zipper foot in this case. Yay for that, I really dislike changing feet on my machine. Just remember to stitch as close to your zipper teeth as possible since you want to make sure that your zipper tape gets attached properly.

This is what your zipper attached to the bottom part of the backing will look like.

Now take the top part of your backing, open up the 1" edge that we ironed under twice in the earlier step . Fold over just once and place on top of the zipper tape, as shown in the picture. Right sides of your pillow cover fabrics are touching.

Align the top edge of the zipper tape with the edge of the pillow top (folded down once by 1"). Pay attention to the marks on your zipper tape to keep both the top and bottom parts aligned. Pin.

Stitch in place, using about 1/8" seam allowance, taking the pins out as you go. Again, use the edge of your presser foot as a guide to get your stitching nice and straight.

This is what the pillow cover will look like after attaching the top part of the backing to your zipper.

Flip over the top part of the backing. See how the flap forms all by itself where you ironed the fabric before? Using your ruler, mark 1" line along the flap.

Pin to hold everything nicely in place, use lots of pins at this stage as things tend to get shifty here.  Stitch over the drawn line from the previous step.

Very important!!!!! Make sure to open your zipper at this point, as shown in the picture. 

Pin the edges where the top part overlaps the bottom one. Stitch over the sides to keep all the parts in place and properly aligned.

Snip off the excess parts of the zipper on both sides. This is where the stitches from the previous step come in handy as they hold both parts together securely.

Yay, congratulations!!! Your pillow back is now finished. Let's attach it to the pillow front now, shall we? As you will notice, I used a different back for the pillow in following pictures. Hope that's not too confusing.

Place the pillow back on the mat, wrong side up. Put a pillow front on top of it, wrong sides are touching. As you can see, the back part is a little larger than the pillow front. I do this on purpose to make sure that I can align both parts without any problems. 

Pin your pillow front and back together and cut off the extra fabric on the bottom.

Stitch about 1/8" around the perimeter of the pillow, making sure your pillow front and back are stitched together. It's a good idea to use a walking foot, if you have one, as it will keep everything in its place as you sew around. Press.

This is what the back of your pillow will look like. Now all you need to do it attach the binding. I do it the same way as I would for a quilt, I just cut it about 1/4" thinner.

And, you're done! Put the pillow form in the cover you just made, sit back, and admire.

I hope you find this tutorial useful and enjoyable. Any questions, let me know. I'd love to help.


  1. thank you so much! perfect photos & explanation. i've tried invisible zippers on the bottom seam & simple envelope closures on the back, but wasn't crazy about either one. THIS is fantastic! (and that bear truly couldn't be any cuter.)

  2. what a great tutorial!! Thank you! And, that little polar bear is adorable!

  3. Great tutorial, Svetlana! Your pillows always look so nicely stuffed - do you make your final measurements smaller than the pillow form?

  4. This is the best, most useful tutorial ever! Thank you!

  5. awesome tutorial, am so bookmarking this, could it be eany easier to make pillows? lol and that bear is super cute!

  6. Brilliant timing! I have a couple of cushion covers I need to make, and I've been worried about the zip part.

  7. Perfect! I was trying to dissect it from my pillow, so it is nice how you laid it all out he, lol!

  8. Great tutorial! I love th bear cushion, so cute!

  9. Great idea and I want that polar bear!

  10. Your zipper pillow backs look so nice & neat, but I didn't think I would be able to replicate it. Now with this tutorial, maybe I can work up my nerve to try it.

  11. I can't wait to use this tutorial, Svetlana! Thank you so much for sharing it!!

  12. Great tutorial! Printing it off and filing it to give it a shot! Gorgeous polar bear! Fi

  13. This is an excellent tutorial and this does not look hard at all. I will give it a try on my next pillow cover.

  14. That's great! Love your polar bear -- the hand quilting is so quiet but so nice!

  15. Thank you, I have either done an overlapping envelope fold or a zipper on the edge. I will have to try this next time.

  16. Nice tutorial! Thanks for sharing.

  17. This is such perfect timing! I have an 18" pillow that I'm just about ready to try this with. Just wondering if my math is correct: would you cut the pieces 10x18 and 13x18? Thank you so much for this tutorial!!

  18. Excellent tutorial, thanks for posting it!

  19. Thank you for this tutorial! I tried it out yesterday with excellent results. I linked to it in my blog post about the pillow I made. I'll never make another lazy envelope closure for a pillow again!

  20. Love the clean finish, and so much easier than fiddling with an invisible zipper. Thank you so much for this great tutorial.

  21. I can't believe I have avoided using zipper closures for my pillows all these years. Your tutorial is marvelous!

  22. Brilliant tutorial Svetlana! From this day forward, I will never do zippers any other way. Beautifully neat finish. Thank you so much for sharing your technique.

  23. Your tutorial was brilliant, just what I needed to get a neat finish on my cushion back. See what I made here:

  24. Fab tutorial, thx so much, I completed a cushion for my friends little boy today, and this totally took the stress out of making it! :o)

  25. Absolute genius!!! Thanks so much for sharing this, I could never figure out a simple way of doing a concealed zip.

  26. I finally sewed my first zipper closure on a cushion cover! I used your tutorial and it turned out great - I am so pleased! Thanks Svetlana.

  27. Great tutorial! I serged my seams and lowered the zipper to Two inches from the bottom. Keep the tutorials coming!


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