I had one priority this last week: to finish sewing together the 6 pillows I’ve had cut and on my sewing table since October. Yep – you read that right. I brainstormed, measured and cut out these pillows over 4 months ago but never actually took the time to sew them together. Why? Because I really wanted to figure how to properly sew in an invisible zipper, yet I had somehow convinced myself the task would be harder and more work than it turned out to be! In fact, after arming myself with the proper machine foot (more on that in a minute!), I discovered that adding an invisible zipper to a standard pillow cover couldn’t be easier and actually saves time in the long run (not to mention, they look so much better!) Today, I want to show you how to sew a pillow with an invisible zipper so you too can start whipping together snazzy looking pillows for your own home!
Our playroom has been thiiiiiis close to being done for months now…I just needed to sew together the final detail: new pillow covers. Sure, I could have more simply sauntered off to HomeGoods or Target to find some finished pillows for the space, but I actually prefer to make pillow covers rather than buy them because it saves space and money! How? By keeping a set number of (different-sized) feather inserts on hand and making new covers to fit them when needed, I reduce the amount of pillows (aka: bulk) we have sitting/stored around the house. Second, I find that buying fabric to make covers is much cheaper than buying brand new pillows. And third…fabric options are so much more extensive than pillow options, making it easier to find something just right for your space!
Making pillow covers is not difficult or even that time consuming. Once you understand how they come together, you can actually make them, start-to-finish, pretty quickly…meaning you can refresh your space in a flash! I’ve been using this method for years now but only recently figured out how to properly put in an invisible zipper. I’m going to break it down step-by-step so you feel confident doing it too!
To make a pillow cover with an invisible zipper, you will need:
- Fabric – enough to cover the front and back of your pillow form + a few extra inches
- Coordinating thread
- Invisible zipper – ideally, the length of your pillow’s bottom edge – (minus) 3-6″
- Standard sewing machine foot
- Invisible zipper foot – more on this below
- Regular zipper foot
- Sewing tools: sewing machine | pins | scissors | iron | ironing board | seam gauge
All About the Invisible Zipper Foot
As mentioned above, you will need three different feet for your sewing machine to complete this project: a regular foot and a regular zipper foot (both of which probably came with your machine), as well as an invisible zipper foot. Whoa!
I’ve been sewing pillows together for many years using the method I will share today, but my invisible zippers were always…um…showing! Confident in my technique, I set out to figure out what was going wrong (keep in mind, I’m 100% self taught!). Lo and behold, my process was spot on, but my equipment wasn’t. I always used a regular zipper foot to insert my invisible zippers, not even realizing there were feet designed specifically for invisible zippers. Check out the difference below:
Invisible zippers were sewn into both of the pillows above; but it’s clearly evident that in order to make your zipper truly invisible, you need to use an invisible zipper foot!
Although invisible zipper feet may vary a bit based on what kind of machine you have, my guess is that most will feature this double groove along the bottom. It’s into these grooves that the coils of the invisible zipper will slide.
As you sew with this foot, the coils of the invisible zipper are actually rolled back, so your line of stitching goes right underneath them.
This means that when you zip your invisible zipper together, those coils roll back inward, bringing the seam of your fabric with it and thereby making your zipper disappear!
So…do you need to hunt down an invisible zipper foot for your machine? Yes. Yes, you do 🙂
Prepping Your Pillow Cover
With your fabric, notions and tools assembled, let’s get started!
First, cut out your pillow cover fabric. I like my pillow covers to fit snug so the pillows look nice and full. As such, I always cut my fabric to the exact same dimensions as my insert. If my pillow insert measures 18×18″, I cut my fabric 18×18″. If my pillow insert is 12×20″, I cut my fabric 12×20″. If you like some extra wiggle room, add 1″ in both directions. A rotary cutter and ruler make getting accurate measurements easy; and don’t forget, you need to cut two squares/rectangles for every pillow you make (one for the front, one for the back!).
NOTE: I cut down both my squares together, so in the photo below, 2 squares are stacked on top of each other.
NOTE: This next ironing step is optional, and I tend to skip it #lazy. But if you’re just getting started, it really does help to get everything laid out and lined up just right!
Next, place the RIGHT side of your fabric DOWN onto an iron-safe surface. Fold over one edge 1/2″ toward the WRONG side of the fabric and iron in place. Repeat with both of your fabric squares. Once cool, open the folds; your goal here is simply to create crease lines to help you place your zipper.
Installing the Invisible Zipper
TIP! The only tricky thing about this zipper installation is figuring out which way to face the fabric and zipper so that it closes up properly. I find it helpful to keep repeating “RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER” loud and often so that I am constantly double-checking that everything is facing the right way!
Next, orient yourself with your invisible zipper. The side with no coils and the pull (below left), is the RIGHT side of the zipper, and the side with coils and no pull (below right) is the WRONG side of the zipper.
Next, you will find the center both covers and the zipper. I find it easiest to fold the fabric/zipper in half and mark the fold with a pin, as shown below. Once you open the fabric/zipper back up, the pin will be right in the center!
Go ahead and mark the center of both pillow covers (just one edge on each fabric square) and both sides of the zipper before moving on.
Place your first pillow cover RIGHT side UP on your work surface; if you haven’t yet, unfold that 1/2″ fold so that the entire square is laying flat. Next, turn the invisible zipper over so that the coils are facing you (WRONG side UP). Unzip the zipper as far as you can.
Remember, keep checking: RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER!
Take the right-hand side of the zipper and place it along the edge of your first pillow cover. Line up the center pin on the cover with the center pin on the zipper (this will ensure your zipper is centered on the pillow’s edge), and then line up the coils with your ironed crease line.
Pin the zipper in place all the way down the length of the zipper, ensuring the coils stay along that crease line.
Place your invisible zipper foot onto your machine, and then place the coils under the LEFT-SIDE groove.
With a normal stitch length, stitch down the length of your zipper. Notice that the invisible zipper foot will pull the coils open (slightly) and the stitch line will go just to the right of the coils!
Keep stitching until you reach the zipper pull at the bottom. Backstitch a few times in place and then remove your project from your machine.
Once you remove your pins, you should now have the first side of your zipper sewn to one side of your pillow cover.
NOTE: In the image below, the RIGHT side of my fabric is facing up.
Now, repeat the exact same steps on the other half of your pillow cover.
Remember, keep saying to yourself: RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER!
To do the second side, start by placing your second pillow cover RIGHT side DOWN onto the RIGHT side of the first pillow cover. Pull back the top of the pillow cover to reveal your creased edge and center pin. Line up the center pin with the zipper pin, and again, line up the zipper coils along the ironed crease line.
Pin the left side of the zipper in place.
NOTE: The picture below can be a little tricky to sort out visually. My RIGHT sides are together and the zipper is pinned to the inside edge of each pillow cover. The top layer (left side of the zipper) is pulled back/open along that ironed crease.
This time, place the coils under the RIGHT side of the zipper foot and sew down the length of the zipper.
Again…stop at the pull and backstitch at the bottom of the zipper.
Now…when you lay your two pillow covers side by side RIGHT sides UP and the zipper between them…
…you will be able to pull the zipper closed to join the two sides together and conceal the zipper!
Finishing Off the Zipper Side
Although the zipper is sewn to both sides of the pillow cover, you’ll likely notice in the photo above (and on your own project) that the far left and far right sides aren’t sewn shut (above and below the zipper). We will need to close those two sides up to finish off the zipper installation!
With the zipper closed up, place your two pillow covers RIGHT sides together, lining up the corners. The zipper should theoretically fold in half between the two layers. You are essentially going to sew from the edge of the pillow cover to just about where the zipper stitching starts…along that original crease line! Note the stitch line on the image below:
In order to get this stitch line nice and straight and to line up with the invisible zipper’s stitch line already in place, you will need to use a regular zipper foot on your machine with your needle moved all the way over to the right. Start at the edge of the pillow covers and sew until you just pass the start of the invisible zipper stitch line.
After you repeat this quick step on the other side/corner, you will now have one solid edge of your pillow cover sewn, edge-to-edge, with an invisible zipper neatly inserted in the middle!
Finishing the Pillow Cover
Alright! The tricky part is behind you (and really, it wasn’t that tricky, was it?!?!) and now you have to sew three straight lines to finish your pillow!
Start by opening the zipper. Seriously. Don’t skip this part.
Place your RIGHT sides back together one last time, and sew the remaining three edges together with a 1/2″ seam allowance, as shown below. These are plain, straight-line stitches done with your regular ol’ machine foot!
Your pillow is now fully sewn shut on all sides. Before flipping it right-side-out, snip each corner as shown below. (This will reduce bulk and bunching at your corners.)
Then reach into the open zipper (see, I told you you wanted it open!) and turn your pillow right-side out!
This time, you can say “Taaaa Daaaa!”
The final step couldn’t be any easier: stuff your pillow inside, zip it shut, and add it to your space!
I realize there are A LOT of steps in this post, but if you settle in and follow along, you will see that these pillow covers really do come together quickly. And once you get the hang of pinning the right edges of the zippers to the right edges of the pillow covers, you’ll be churning these out assembly-line style! Admittedly, mine were pre-cut when I sat down to sew, but all 6 pillows took me about 90 minutes total (and that was with a 2-year-old underfoot!) I PROMISE this is something you can do, and before long, you’ll be swapping your pillows out with the seasons!
Home Decor Sewing School
I learned long ago that many home sewing projects are not complicated…most of them require basic measuring, ironing and sewing straight lines! And once you know basic techniques and how key items come together, the sky is the limit for decorating and customizing your home using fabric and your sewing machine! It is my hope with this series that you feel empowered to try these simple sewing projects and create a home you love too! Be sure to check out the other tutorials in this series by clicking on the picture below!
With the completion of this pillow project, I can now say that not just one but two rooms are DONE! I’ll be back with that full playroom reveal next week, and then I’ll have our family room reveal for you next month or so! Have a great weekend, my friends!
Posted In 2 - Sewing & Craft, California '16, DIY Decor, Home Decor Sewing School Series