I hate sewing zippers. They are so finicky. You have to have the right zipper foot, the extra layers of fabric combined with pins can break your machine needle. It’s such a cluster fu*k. Going to the fashion district always gave me major anxiety because there were so many options and I’d always second guess my measurements and worry about picking the wrong zipper color because I’d always forget to bring my fabric swatch.
One morning I decided to finally try and figure it out. I wanted to make some pillows for the house and re-upholster cushions for a chair I’ve been putting off for about 5 years. Pillows for some reason are so expensive, even though they are just basic squares filled with stuff. Post Xmas season, I found Buffalo Snow on clearance for $1.00-$2.00. It’s the same filling as pillow stuffing, but marketed as snow (also who uses this stuff??). I bought a bunch on clearance and figured it’s time to conquer the zipper.
Here is an easy no frills zipper tutorial for pillows. You don’t even need a zipper foot for this!
- Measure / cut your fabric. Iron if necessary. I’m making a 20″ square pillow, with 1/2″ seam allowance (21″ squares).
- Pin your fabric right sides together. *Pin only 1 edge, the edge you’re putting the zipper in.
- Choose a contrasting thread color. This is super important since you will be taking this seam out later!
- Sew the edge with a ½” seam allowance or half the width of your zipper. My zipper was 1” so I needed a ½” seam allowance.
- Lay flat, open the seam you just sewed together, and iron it. I’m pretty lazy but ironing really helps keep this neat and sew faster.
- Center your zipper with the fabric. Make sure the zipper coils are on top of the seam. Pin the zipper on top of the fabric. I was pretty lazy about this, but you may want to pin more frequently.
- Switch out the thread to a matching color that works with your fabric.
- Sew, baby sew! My machine is an old Sears Kenmore. Built like a horse, however, I haven’t found the right zipper foot to fit. You can see here that the edge of the zipper foot runs smoothly along the zipper teeth, almost like a guide.
- Finish off the zipper by sewing the top & bottom of the zipper. This will secure the zipper ends nicely with your fabric.
- Turn the work around, with the right sides facing up. Remember that contrasting thread we used to sew this piece together? Start ripping it out. Using a bright colored thread helps make this a bit easier on the eyes. Your zipper will be poking out underneath.
- Once there is a large enough opening, you can carefully take scissors to rip open the seam. I like these Gingher thread clippers.
- Open the zipper up, turn the pillow inside out (right sides together) and sew the rest of the sides.
- Turn the pillow right sides out, stuff and zip up. Here is a detail of the finished zipper.
Final Project Time: 2 hours
Total Budget: $51.00 (The creme pillows)
Notions: (Zippers / Thread) $5.00
Fabric can be CRAZY expensive. For thicker wovens that are upholstery weight, you can be in the $36.00/yard price. That adds up. To be economical, consider an less expensive fabric for the back of the pillows. The multi tone can create visual contrast. In my case, we have a bolt of this grey fabric we need to use up! Also, my husband doesn’t like decorative throws or anything too feminine, so having a neutral gray gives him the option to flip it over.
Do you get anxiety when you walk into a fabric store? It’s a bit visually stimulating. Ask the staff to cut swatches of some of your favorite picks to take home with you.
The creme fabric used in the 21″ pillows sheds when cut. A serger would be used nicely here. I will have to finish the ends when I spring for a serger or come up with a better finishing zig zag stitch.