How to Make a Zippered Pillow Cover (a tutorial for the total beginner)

I used to be afraid of my sewing machine.

In fact right now, as we speak, the first pillows I ever made are sitting on the sofa in my front room with the bottom seams completely undone.  In an effort to avoid installing a zipper, I used hem tape, which didn’t last and now they are bulging open.  I have to place them strategically so you can’t tell. I don’t want to live like this anymore, and I don’t want you to either!

So I set out to learn how to make a zippered pillow cover and am proud to say, I did it, it wasn’t scary, and haven’t bought a throw pillow since!

So, today my friends, it is time!  Time to get over the fright and get a zippered pillow cover made once and for all!  There really is nothing to be afraid of.  Trust me.

zippered pillow cover tutorial for beginners

Ready?  Gather your supplies!

how to make a zippered pillow cover

To make a zippered pillow cover you will need…

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  • fabric  (You can buy amazing fabric online.  Here are my 5 favorite online fabric sources.) By the way, a yard of fabric will get you 3 normal sized pillow covers.  Of course you will want to measure your pillows first to be sure you get enough fabric.
  • a zipper that is about 3-4 inches shorter than the bottom edge of your pillow. This is where I buy my zippers.
  • pins, thread, scissors, an iron, and a sewing machine with both a regular foot and a zipper foot.
  • a pillow insert or an old pillow that you want to recover.

Want to add piping to your pillow cover?

Start with the steps in this post first.

Step 1: Cut your fabric

Cut 2 pieces of fabric, one for the front of the pillow and one for the back.

I like to cut my fabric to the exact dimensions of my pillow insert.  This way when I have a 1/2 seam allowance, it fits the pillow form nice an snug.  I’ve also found that the best way to get really clean edges is to use a rotary cutter and cutting mat.  If you don’t have one, just mark your line with a pen and use scissors, but once you get addicted to making pillows, you will want to invest in a rotary cutter for sure!

Step 2: Place your zipper

Once your fabric is cut, lay your fabric out, finished sides facing in, and decide which edge will be your bottom edge.  STOP!  Is your pattern going the direction you want it to on both pieces?

Lay your zipper along the bottom and mark where the zipper starts and stops by placing pins in the fabric.  Don’t pin your zipper in place.

how to install a zipper on a pillow cover

Step 3: Sew your bottom edge

Now you are ready to sew your bottom edge.  Here is the trick to getting a straight zipper.  With a 1/2 inch seam allowance, you will sew a regular straight stitch from the edge to the pin, back stitching to start and stop your stitch.  Do this on both sides.  Then, between the pins, you will do the widest stitch possible with your machine.  For me this is the zig-zag stitch.  Do not back stitch for this portion.  You are going to take this stitch out once your zipper is in place, so you want it to be easy to remove.

easy zippered pillow cover tutorial

Step 4: Get ready to add the zipper

Iron the seam you just made open and place your zipper on the seam face down. (Yes there is one pillow in my house that has a backward zipper and it is a really big pain to open. Live and learn right?)

Pin the zipper in place with a few pins and head over to your machine.  Don’t be scared.  You will be fine. 🙂

how to make a zippered throw pillow

Step 5: Sew your zipper in place!!!

Ok.  Deep breath.  You can do this!

The first thing you need to do is to put your zipper foot on.  Hold your zipper foot in your hand.  Do you see how it almost looks like 1/2 of a regular foot?  When you attach it to your machine, you will want the “missing side” closest to the zipper and sew down that side, then you will switch it and do the other side.

Ok.  Ready.  Be sure you are back to a regular straight stitch and start at the end of the zipper sewing just like you would any other straight line, but keep as close to the zipper teeth as possible.

When you get to the zipper pull you won’t be able to keep going so stop just a little bit from it keeping your needle down in the fabric.  Lift your foot and carefully unzip the zipper past the foot, lower your foot and continue to the end of the zipper. Backstitch to end your stitch.

Now for the other side. Move your zipper back to the end, switch your zipper foot to the other side so that the “missing side” is closest to the zipper again, and follow the same steps again.

You did it!  You just installed a zipper!  Go YOU!

Now let’s finish up this bad boy so your husband has a nice new place to drool when he falls asleep on the couch!  (Which never happens around here.)  🙂

how to make a pillow with a zipper

Step 6: Undo your stitch

With a seam ripper, carefully undo that long stitch that you made along the zipper.

Step 7: Sew the remaining sides of your pillow cover.

Lay your pillow cover out again, good sides facing in, line up the remaining edges, and pin in place.

Go back to your machine, put your regular foot back on and sew the remaining edges with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, cutting across diagonally at the corners. (See the photo below)  To do this, stop with your needle in your fabric, lift your foot, turn your fabric, lower your foot, and continue.  This is the best way to ever turn a corner of any kind when sewing.

how to make a pillow cover

When you are done, cut off the corners about a 1/2 inch from the stitch you made.  This will allow your pillows to have nice corners.

throw pillow cover tutorial

Final Step: Serge the edges (you don’t need a serger for this)

The whole point of having zippered pillow covers is that it makes it really easy to take them off and wash them.  So if you plan to wash them, you will want to take the extra couple of minutes to finish the edges so that they last.

To do this you are going to serge the edges.  I don’t have a serger, so I simply use the zig-zag stitch and run my edges through my machine so that the needle goes through the fabric on one side and just barely misses the fabric on the outside.  (See the photo above.) This will give your edges a finished look and keep them from fraying.

Want to add piping to your pillow cover?

Start with the steps in this post first.

make a zippered pillow cover

Alright!  Now turn your zippered pillow cover right side out and get a pillow in there!

Wasn’t as scary as you thought now was it?


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About Corey

Corey is the creative behind Hey There, Home (formerly TinySidkeick,) where she shares easy-to-follow and beautiful home decor and entertaining ideas. Her mission? To make home decor accessible to everyone, even if you don't consider yourself crafty, and to empower people to decorate their homes in a way that they can actually be lived in, not just looked at.

92 thoughts on “How to Make a Zippered Pillow Cover (a tutorial for the total beginner)

  1. Annette says:

    Haha, I had to laugh at your one sentence – STOP: make sure your motives are the right side up. I have one pillow with standing flamingos on one side, and dead flamingos on the other side…This was attempted before I saw your tutorial!

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Oh my LOL. I’ve certainly had my share of bloopers, Annette! Thanks for sharing and happy sewing 🙂

  2. Awesome tutorial! I’ve been wanting to make zippered pillow covers for a while now, but have been scared :). Your instructions have given me a boost of courage to tackle the dreaded hidden zipper. Thanks for the tutorial!

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