This is Part 1 of a two part series. In this post, I’ll teach you how to make a pillow case with a zipper.. If you’re looking for the post that teaches you how to cut and adhere the iron-on vinyl, please see Part 2 of this series.
I love cute little throw pillows. I just never really use them… they generally cost more than I’m willing to spend. (Remember, I’m working on finally decorating my house. We’ve ONLY lived in this one for 13 years, I guess it’s time!)
I can sew, though and I found out how simple cute pillows are this past boutique season as I made some for others to buy.
This adorable pillow is perfect for all year, as well as Valentine’s Day, or a bridal shower or wedding gift.
- 1/2 yard fabric
- 12″ zipper (or larger for bigger pillows)
- scotch tape
- cutting mat (optional)
- rotary cutter (optional)
- marker or disappearing ink pen
- thin towel
- sewing machine
- seam ripper
- Silhouette or other cutting machine (for part 2 of the tutorial)
- 12″ iron on (fabric safe) vinyl, also known as heat transfer vinyl (for part 2 of the tutorial)
Choose your fabric. I like to pick one that is a little thicker than typical cotton, but it is really up to you.
Choose your vinyl color. I bought mine at JSI signs and fell in love with their particle glitter vinyl. It’s very thick and quite glittery. I have used red, gold and silver and love them all.
After you have chosen your fabric and vinyl, it’s time to get to work!
Cut your fabric. The finished size of my pillow is 12″ square, but you can make any size that you have a form for. Just adjust the fabric size. I would make the cut 1″ larger than the finished length and 1″ larger than the finished width. For example, if I make a pillow case for a 12″ x 12″ pillow form, I would cut my fabric 13″ square; for an 11″ x 16″ pillow, cut your fabric 12″ x 17″, and so on.
The next thing you’ll do is attach the zipper. I found a great zipper tutorial by Ashley from Make It & Love It. I follow the tutorial pretty closely except for two major exceptions. My zipper does not go to the edge of my fabric. It’s centered. I needed to go completely around the zipper so it stays anchored to the fabric correctly when opening and closing. The other exception is that I’m sewing on the back side of the fabric, with the zipper facing up. So I will show you how I attach zippers when I make pillows.
For this step only, you will sew each piece of fabric separately. Serge or zigzag each piece of fabric down the side the zipper will be attached to.
Centering the zipper, place it on your fabric. Mark the pillow 1/4″ above zipper pull. Mark 1/4″ above the metal stop at the bottom of the zipper. Then, mark corresponding marks on the front side of the fabric. You will use these lines for zipper placement and as a stitch guide. *I like to use a disappearing ink pen for this step. It stays on long enough for me to sew and after a day or so it disappears on its own.
Place right sides of the fabric together, lining up the surged or zigzag edges. Sew on the wrong side of the fabric using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Starting at one end, stitch to the mark you just made. Then back-stitch. Leave the fabric right where it is. Now you’re going to change the stitch length.
Change your machine stitch to a long or basting stitch.My normal stitch length is 2.2. For a basting stitch, I set it to 4.5, the longest stitch my machine will make. Stitch to the other line you drew earlier and stop. Change your stitch length back to your normal setting. Stitch two or three times, then back-stitch and finish off the seam.
Iron the seam allowances open.
Place your zipper face down across the center seam. Line up the marks you made earlier so that you are 1/4″ away from the metal on both sides. Remember, you want the top of the zipper to go beneath the top line. The zipper stop at the bottom should be 1/4″ below the mark. Make sure the teeth of the zipper lay directly over the top of the center seam. Then, secure your zipper with scotch tape. (Secure at the top, bottom and sides). Some people prefer pins, but I have really enjoyed using the tape as it makes the zipper lay so flat and you don’t have to worry about taking it off before you sew.
Replace your normal sewing foot with a zipper foot. The zipper foot has a notch cut out of each side, allowing the needle to go through the fabric very close to the zipper. You will use both sides of the zipper foot. My foot clicks on to the machine where the bar is just above the letter “E”. Some machines will require you to unscrew the current foot and screw in the zipper foot, some snap in.
Be sure the foot is placed so the needle opening is on the left side of the foot. Start sewing a little behind the zipper pull so you don’t run it over. (left arrow) I also butt up the zipper edge to the foot edge to get a nice straight seam. (right arrow)
Start sewing down the right side of the zipper.
When you get to the end of the zipper, stop just above the metal part.
Place the needle down into the fabric. Lift the zipper foot and pivot. Now you will sew across the zipper. Go slow (maybe even turn the wheel by hand) to be sure you don’t run over the metal. Running over metal will break your needle and cause lots of frustration. (I’m speaking from experience here. It’s much better to go slow.) Once you go across the zipper, back-stitch and then go forward over it again.
With the needle down, lift up your presser foot and pivot the fabric. Sew down the side making sure the zipper is against the edge of the foot.
When you get to the the same place you started stitching on the left side, back-stitch once. Lift the foot remove the fabric from the machine, and clip the threads, .
This is what the zipper should look like now.
The front should look something like this.
Use a seam ripper to unpick the stitches in the center seam. Start where the handle of the zipper pull is. Do not remove the stitches above the zipper pull. Remove the stitches all the way to the stitching across the zipper placket.
You’ll probably get some funky looking threads peeking out. Mine looks very hairy! Now is a good time to pull those little threads out. Pick those out with your hand and open the zipper all the way so that the zipper pull is not in the way of your work area.
You may think the next part is tricky. But, it’s almost just the same as what you already did. This is a map, if you will of the directions your next stitches will go.
Starting where you finished off on the left side of the zipper, line up the needle with your previous stitches. Lower the needle into the fabric, stitch two or three times, then back-stitch.
Sew down the side of the zipper until you get just past the metal stops. Remember to NOT run the metal over. It should be to the left of your needle.
Lower the needle, lift the foot and pivot the fabric. See a pattern here?
Sew across the zipper tape then back-stitch, and forward again. Lower the needle, pivot the fabric, and sew down to your previous stitching and back-stitch.
Once again lower the needle, lift the foot and pivot the fabric.
Stitch down the edge of the fabric. Make sure to go slow so you can match up the current stitches with the ones you already made. When you reach the old stitches, back-stitch. Raise the needle, lift the presser foot and remove the fabric. Trim your threads.
What you just sewed should look something like this.
Whew! You’re done sewing the zipper in!!! Good job!
Now flip your fabric over and pull the tape off of the back. Then trim all of the threads.
Place right sides of fabric together again. Be sure you unzip the zipper before you sew the rest of the pillow. (Otherwise, opening your pillow will take forever and be very difficult… once again, I’m speaking from experience).
Start at the intersection of the zipper seam and use 1/2″ seam allowance. Stitch two or three times, then back-stitch. Sew down the edge of the fabric, and stop 1/2″ away from the corner.
Lower your needle, lift the presser foot, pivot and sew down the next side, stopping 1/2″ away from the corner.
Lower your needle, lift the presser foot, pivot and sew down the side until you come to the intersection of the seam for the zipper. Back-stitch. Lift presser foot and remove your fabric from the machine. Trim your threads.
Clip your corners. This allows your corners to completely turn out nice and square.
Turn your pillow right side out. I like to use a chop stick to fully turn out my corners. Press your new pillow.
Celebrate the fact that you are done sewing!
Now… on to the fun design. To see Part 2 of this series, click here. That’s where you’ll find the freebie cut file and learn how to use adorable Glitter Heat Transfer (iron-on) vinyl. I love this stuff, it’s so fun! Check it out, I think you’ll love it too!
If you are skipping the vinyl lettering and love your pillow the way it is, just stuff it with your pillow form and you’re good to go.