Monday, September 24, 2012

Sewing: Pillow Covers with Invisible Zippers (Tutorial)

I am not really sure about invisible zippers. The fact that they require so much instruction is a bit off-putting, don't you think?! Seems the invisible zipper foot may be the answer but I haven't tried that yet. But I did sew a bunch of pillow covers this past week using invisible zippers, completely ignoring all that stuff about ironing the coils (teeth), and they worked fabulously! I love how discreet they are while still allowing me the practicality of a cover I can pull off and wash.

The pillows were part of a list of things I tried to pull off last week. I created a deadline for myself to get a few things spiffed up in our family room by hosting a dinner party. I know the spiffing-up wasn't really necessary but having a deadline in mind works for me. I mean if I'm intending to do it anyway why not get it done by last Friday? Do you do that too?

Well, it worked for the most part! I'll share some of the room updates in a future post, but as for these pillows, they are 26"x26" floor pillows. Generously sized. I made two with some grey fabric that is a pretty boucle or maybe you'd call it chenille--lots of tiny loops--and then two with the medallion print that seems to be a nod to Ikat because of the jagged edges in the pattern but it is a heavy woven fabric. Both were found at local "to the public" designer textile shops.  These new covers are replacing some dingy off-white ones that have been around longer than we've been a Mr. and Mrs.. It was time!

If you'd like the tutorial for making some of these with invisible zippers click to read more. They are simple! Probably a 30 minute project...


You will need:
  • Pillow form (mine were 26"x26") in down or polyfill
  • Two pieces of fabric cut to fit the form. If you want a tight fit cut the fabric to the same dimension as the pillows (so I would cut mine to 26"x26"). If you want a bit of room you will need to add an extra inch to both dimensions to allow for .5" seam allowances. (So I would cut mine 27"x27") You can cut the two pieces from the same fabric for a "reversible" pillow, as I did with the grey pillow, or use a front piece and a different back piece as I did with the medallion print pillow backed with duck cloth.
  • Thread
  • Invisible zipper 2"-4" shorter that your finished pillow dimension. (I used a 22" zipper for my finished 26" pillow) (note that I didn't prep the zipper by ironing out the coils/teeth as directed)

Cut out your fabric tight (the same dimensions as the pillow form) or loose (with an extra 1" on either dimension so that you have enough for a .5" seam allowance on all sides).

If you are working with a pattern you will want to think about centering the pattern on the pillow. To do this, take a measuring tape and measure out half your fabric measurement from the center of the pattern, or whatever position on the fabric you wish to be in the center. So for my 27" cut of fabric placed the measuring tape in the center of the medallion and measured out 13.5" on all four sides.

Take one of your pieces of fabric (doesn't matter which one, even if you have a front and a back to yours) and pin the zipper face down along the edge that will be the bottom of the pillow cover. Center the zipper. So if you are using one that is two inches shorter than your fabric there should be one inch on either side of the zipper. The edge of the zipper should align with the raw edge of the fabric.

Now, using a zipper foot (just a regular zipper foot--no need for an invisible zipper foot) stitch the zipper in place by stitching as close to the coils as possible. With my zipper foot the edge of the foot aligns with the raw edge of the fabric and the edge of the zipper.

When you come to the zipper pull, back stitch, lift up your zipper foot and move to the front of the zipper...

...back stitch and then finish stitching.

Then open the zipper a few inches and stitch the section you skipped. This will result in a straight seam instead of some wonkiness around the zipper pull.


Now you will pin the other side of the zipper to the right side of your other piece of fabric. Do this as you did with the first piece, centering the zipper on the fabric (match the edges of the two pieces of fabric). It's a bit awkward to do this but not too bad if you are careful pinning. You don't want to pin together the two pieces of fabric.

Now stitch down this other side of the zipper to your second piece of fabric, just as you did with the first piece, keeping the stitching as close as possible to the zipper coils. Skip around the zipper pull  and go back and fill in the gap as you did with the first piece too.

Now you will have a zipper joining one edge of what will be your pillow cover.

Pin the two pieces of fabric on all sides, right sides together. Start and finish by pinning the inch or two of fabric on either side of your invisible zipper.

Now you will stitch all the way around the fabric to form your pillow cover. Start and finish where you left off by the zipper. Now here is the tricky part...

You will want to start and finish your stitching just a few hairs (about 1/8th inch) below the zipper stitching and with about .5" of overlap so that the ends of the zipper are inside the seam allowance a bit. This will ensure that the zipper ends are ticked in neatly and that the seam comes as close as possible to the head (pull) and tail of the zipper. (I'm showing this on my finished medallion pillow after clipping the corners because it's easier to see the contrasting thread but you won't have clipped your corners yet....)

Stitch and pivot at the corners using a .5" seam allowance all the way around (except for the margins on either side of the zipper where you will stitch with a slightly larger seam allowance as described above.)

BEFORE you finish your stitching on the other end of the zipper open the zipper a few inches to create an opening for turning (I forgot to do this the first time and it was very difficult to move the head/pull of the zipper from the wrong side!).

Finish stitching.

Clip your corners. (Finish all your raw edges with a zigzag stitch if you would like to cut down on the strings that may unravel when you take the cover on and off.)

Turn right side out.

And you have a pillow cover ready to stuff!

It looks so nice with that narrow little zipper. And I like the pull too.

Make a stack!


Amy @ OurScoop said...

Fun! I finally bit the bullet this summer and sewed a bunch (12 to be exact) of pillows with an invisible zipper. I was amazed at how easy it was! I was always so intimidated. It's so nice to know that I can now sew some pillows and no stress to change them out if needed. Great tutorial!! Love the fabric... did you get it at home fabrics?

free indeed said...

Ha! You've inspired me to cover two of my floor pillows that are old,off color, and seams popping. Now to find the perfect fabric! THanks for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Well done on such a detailed helpful tutorial on invisible zippers. i learnt how to install one from the 2 sentences on the back of the package and a LOT of unpicking as I couldn't find anything I could understand online. After learning without one I was recently gifted an invisible zipper foot for my Bernina and oh boy, everyone should have one. I kid you not , they are THE best invention. Try one if you ever get the chance, you will be making things just so you can install the invisible zips!!

Emily said...

Fun pillows!! I'm super excited to try installing another invisible zipper using your tutorial- I wasn't sure I could do it with a regular zipper foot .

Kathryn said...

Super useful sewing technique to do a tutorial on. Great clear photos as well.

Click here for inexpensive able Linens said...

What an accomplishment it is when you can create a wonderful thing like that.

Anonymous said...

Much appreciated - completed my first project ever on my sewing machine with this tutorial, thank you!

ForeverYoungof4 said...

Such a well made very glad I came upon your site...I'm sure I'll be visiting a lot :) !!! THANKS SO MUCH!!!

Kim Gaynor said...

Thanks for the detailed instructions! I am teaching myself how to sew again after 30+ years! I thought you might like to know that I pinned your blog post. You also might like to know about a vintage fabric giveaway I'm hosting on my blog:

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