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!

  28. Thanks for this great tutorial! I was worried about putting in the zipper, but this made it easy and perfect!

  29. Well it only took 2 and a half years for me to try this, but it worked PERFECTLY. Thank you!!!!!

  30. I'm with Jamie Lee above, but worse! Put me in the "took me 3 years and two weeks" to get around to trying it -- it worked beautifully, thanks Svetlana!! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  31. I just made 11 pillows using mostly Sew Fresh Quilt patterns for animals. She linked your tutorial on her blog so I took a peek and thought, hey, that wouldn't be too difficult. After 11 pillows, I have it down to a science LOL. Thanks so much for the clear instructions. They are very good and the pillows all turned out great for my grandkids. Just working on a blog post about them and will link your lovely tutorial in it as well. Happy New Year!

  32. Should I comment on this every time I use it? I can almost do it by heart now. I just like to double check.

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  34. This is a great tutorial--thank you so much! I'm definitely going to try this with the next pillow I make!

  35. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I just followed your tutorial to install my first zipper in a pillow.

  36. Thanks for giving this tutorial. Please share to make the bed linen tutorial.

  37. If my pillow top measures 16 inches what size pillow form do you use...16 inch or 18 inch? Thanks! I want to attempt a has been 30 years or more since I did and that was in clothing. ~S.

  38. Great job! Fantastic tutorial! Thank you so much!

  39. Great job! Fantastic tutorial! Thank you so much!

  40. Wow! I've been wanting to learn how to make a zip this way, so thanks for sharing! I love the fabric, too! :)

  41. Thank you, very pleased with my first effort!

  42. Very nice clear tutorial, and great photos! Thank you! I'm wondering why you don't include a seam allowance. Does the pillow look plumper if the cover is a little smaller than the pillow? I was afraid it wouldn't fit, so I added material for a 1/2" seam allowance.

  43. wow! This looks like a great method. I can't wait to try it out on my next pillow project. Thank you for sharing it.

  44. I used this tutorial to sew 6 cushions, and it worked like a charm. Created such a professional finish. Now I'm about to sew 5 more cushions for outdoors. Very clear and easy to follow. Thank you

  45. This is an excellent tutorial. I’ve referred to it several times. Thank you Sew much. I suggest that if someone has pieced a pillow top, and it measures 16.5”, to be sure to cut the pieces 16.5” wide, not 16”.

  46. Great instructions and pics. I searched through a lot of sites to find these instructions Exactly what I wanted.

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  48. Absolutely LOVE this tutorial, thank you so much!!

  49. Wow!! This is exactly what I was looking for: using a longer zipper and cutting back, lapped insert not set on seam, binding!! Thank you so much for sharing this.

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  53. Great tutorial,have been looking for this method (with the zipper at the back) a while now. Thank you!

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  57. Great site you have here but I was curious if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics discussed here? I'd really love to be a part of group where I can get feed-back from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks a lot!
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  58. Your instructions are for a pillow cover that has regular seams and turned inside out, but your photos all show pillows that are bound like a quilt. Do you do anything differently when binding the cover vs a regular seam? I'm wondering about the bulk in the seam allowance of the extended zipper - how does the binding work over that zipper end?


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