I'll admit, I used to be afraid of my sewing machine.
In fact, in an effort to avoid sewing a zipper in a pillow , I used hem tape on the first pillows I ever made, which didn't last and they sat on my sofa with a bulging seam for way too long. - Not a good look.
But since I'm a huge fan of mixing fabric patterns and toss pillows are a great way to do that, I had to figure out how to make a pillow cover to allow me to use my favorite fabrics and save the ol' budget.
First I figured out how to make an envelope pillow cover, but I soon realized that pillow covers with zippers look better because they hold their shape and are actually just as easy so I set out to make zippered pillow covers next.
I'll show you how to sew in a zipper to take your DIY toss pillows to new levels. Trust me. It's easier than you think.
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To learn how to make zippered pillow covers you can scroll down to follow the step-by-step tutorial with photos below or scroll down to watch the video tutorial.
Easy Steps To Make A Pillow Covering With A Zipper
If you plan to have a pillow with piping, you'll want to look at this tutorial for making a pillow cover with piping before you get started.
Step 1: Cut the fabric for your toss pillow cover
- Cut two pieces of fabric, one for the front of the zippered pillow case 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 ½ seam allowance, it fits the pillow's form nice and snug.
Tip: 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!
- Once your fabric is cut, lay your fabric out, pretty 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? Check this before you cut to avoid disaster!
Step 2: Place and mark your pillow zipper
How to sew a zipper in the middle of fabric
- Lay your pillow 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 yet. We just want to mark where we want to leave an opening for the zipper to go in our zippered pillow case later.
Step 3: Sew the bottom edge of your pillow cover
Now you're ready to sew your bottom edge. Here's the trick to getting a straight zipper.
- With a ½ inch seam allowance, you'll 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'll do the widest stitch possible with your machine. For me this is the zig-zag stitch. Do not back stitch for this portion. You're going to take this stitch out once your zipper is in place, so you want it to be easy to remove.
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's 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'll be fine.
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 ½ of a regular foot? When you attach it to your machine, you'll want the "missing side" closest to the zipper and sew down that side, then you'll switch it and do the other side.
- Be sure you are back to a regular straight stitch and start at the end of the zipper farthest away from the zipper handle, 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 (if possible.) 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 of your zippered pillow cover
- 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!
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 but zippered pillow covers make all the difference in cleaning ease.
Step 6: Undo your temporary stitch
- With a seam ripper, carefully undo that long stitch that you made along the zipper.
- Unzip your zipper at least half way before moving to the next step.
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. (Make sure the zipper is unzipped at least half way.)
- Go back to your machine, put your regular foot back on and sew the remaining edges with a ½ 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.
- When you're done, cut off the corners about a ½ inch from the stitch you made. This will allow your pillows to have nice corners.
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. Line up the edge of the fabric with the middle of your foot so that your needle lands on and then off the fabric with each zig-zag stitch. (See the photo below.)
This will give your edges a finished look and keep them from fraying.
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?
Video Tutorial: How to Sew In A Zipper In A Pillow
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