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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Zippers in Pillows and Cushions

Yes. There is an easy way to do this. Trust me. This is simple. So simple that you may think that you are doing something wrong. But you can easily put a zipper in a pillow.

First, go to my Craftsy Pattern Store and download the free tutorial: How to Insert a Zipper in a Pillow.

Cut your two pieces of pillow fabric. To make a nice full pillow, I cut the fabric the same size as my pillow form. So if my pillow form is 18", I cut two pieces of fabric that are 18" square.

Flip the fabric to the wrong side. Along the right edge of the fabric, mark 1 1/2" from each end.

Mark at bottom end.

Take your other piece of pillow fabric and place them right sides together (RST) and head to your machine. Make sure the edges are lined up and the pieces are even and directly on top of each other.

Using a 1/2" seam allowance, sew from the end to your 1 1/2" mark. Stop and backstitch. LEAVE IN YOUR MACHINE...then

...change to a basting stitch and continue sewing to your next mark, then stop, backstitch, and switch back to a regular stitch length. Sew to the end (and backstitch).
The area between your marks should be a basting stitch. You are basting because this is where the zipper will go. You will be ripping out the basting stitches in the very last step!

Press seam open. Make sure that you can see you 1 1/2" marks. If you can't, remark. You'll need these for the next step.

Find your mark (you'll see mine in blue). Starting there, rip out about 2" of your basting stitches. This is where your zipper pull will go and doing this will help you work around your zipper pull.

Head to your machine. The bobbin thread will show on the outside of the pillow, so make sure it matches your fabric.

Put on your zipper foot.

My zipper is 24" (I got if from Zipperstop on eBay!). So it is too long. I usually use a zipper that's too long - I cut what's left over.

Place the zipper pull in the area you ripped out. You'll see that the top of the zipper pull is right at my blue 1 1/2" mark.

Go get some Scotch tape.

Center the zipper over the seam.
Tape the zipper down, just once, to hold it in place. You are going to start sewing at the other end; this stops it from moving.

And it was a very sunny day out! Highly unusual in New York in February! I did get outside for a walk later!

Starting at the other end, on your 1 1/2" mark, sew across your zipper. You can start just a tad bit before the teeth. And yes, sew right over it.

Don't backstitch - it looks ugly! This zipper doesn't take a lot of abuse, so it doesn't need to be super strong at the ends.

When you are just past the teeth, put your needle down, lift your foot, and pivot. I lined up the side of my foot with the edge of the zipper. My needle is all the way to the left.

You will have to play around and figure out what works for your particular foot.

You can now remove the tape.

Sew an inch or so, stop, check the zipper placement, and sew some more.

I just kept my zipper foot lined up with the edge of the zipper and used the pressure of my fingers to hold the zipper in place. Sew...and sew..

If you struggle with this, get out more tape. I've used 1/4" double sided Wonder Tape and taped it to the LEFT side of the zipper - that held it in place while I sewed the right side. I then removed it -- you can't sew over that tape!

You'll end up near the zipper pull. You'll want to stop when you are about 1" in front of it.

Put your needle down and lift your foot.

Poke the zipper pull through the area (basting stitches) that you ripped out.

Pull the zipper pull so it is behind the foot. Make sure your needle is down!!

Straighten the zipper, put your foot down, and continue sewing to your 1 1/2" mark.

When your needle is lined up with the 1 1/2" mark, stop, put your needle down and lift your foot.

Pivot and get ready to sew across your zipper.

Using your fingers, pinch the zipper together and sew across the zipper. No need to backstitch! You really want to limit your backstitching - it looks ugly!

And yes, taking that picture was tricky! I had to use the timer and put it on a fabric bowl to keep the camera from shifting!

When you are a stitch or so past the teeth, put the needle down, lift the foot and pivot.

Then continue sewing, until you are at the zipper pull. Stop and put the needle down.

From under the fabric, reach in and grab the zipper pull. Lift the foot and pull the zipper tab back behind the foot. The zipper should now be closed.

Put the foot down and continue sewing.

Here I am using my fingers to hold the zipper in place. No pins. I hate pins! Just go slowly. And yes, I do think about sewing my left fingers into my zipper. They do get close to the needle!

This side should be easier because it's held in place by your stitches.

When your needle touches your 1 1/2" mark, stop and put your needle down.

Lift your foot and pivot.

Sew across your zipper and STOP when you are just past the teeth and your needle is at the point where you pivoted (when you started).

You don't want to sew past your stitches - it starts to look ugly.

Take your fabric out of your machine and turn it over! YAY!

Take your seam ripper and carefully rip out your basting stitches.

Pick away at the ripped threads to reveal....

...your zipper!

To finish your pillow, cut your excess zipper off (leaving about 1/2") and OPEN your zipper about half way. You'll be mad if you don't!

Then sew around your pillow, using a 1/2" seam allowance. Make sure you backstitch at the corners. This seam will take some abuse, so you need to reinforce it.

Here's a picture from my blog entry about backstitching.

Clip your corners (this is why you backstitch).

Open your zipper all the way and pull your pillow through your zipper. Poke out your corners.

Carefully insert your pillow form.

Here's a cute pillow I made for Father's Day. The zipper is at the bottom. And that's some awesome hockey fabric! Can you tell that I'm from Michigan!? My dad used to take me to Port Huron Flags games when I was a kid.


  1. If a single lap zipper is wanted, then position the zipper to one side. When stitching, make sure the seam gets caught on the wider lap side. As for the pillow form size, choosing a pillow form that is 2" larger than the cover makes a fuller and firmer pillow, which I think looks better.

    1. Good suggestion! I agree with buying a bigger pillow form. Thanks for sharing!


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