How to Easily Sew A Pillow Cover With A Zipper in 2021


finished pillow back

This is a quick and easy sewing project that really makes an impact by creating updated pillows for home decor! 

I am going to share how you easily sew a pillow cover over a few simple and easy to follow along steps. Start out by reading below!

Our family room pillows were really showing their age and it was time for them to be ‘outta here’.  old fleece pillows ready to have a facelift

Pretty sad looking pillows ready for a new fresh look.  Here is the after photo of all the pillows I whipped up.  What a difference!

seven pillows on a black couch
What an improvement! Love updated pillows!

Introduction

I made a quick trip to my local Walmart and found some great fabrics in the home decor section of the fabric department.  I spent a grand total of $26 for enough fabric for these seven pillow covers!  I used my old pillow forms, as this is a budget project and quality pillow forms are no joke in the big bucks arena.

If I were going to create expensive new pillows from scratch and I was using high quality home decor fabric, then it would make sense to spend the $35 per pillow form to get down or down substitute.  I’ll probably bite the bullet and do that someday, but for now, these pillows are going to get family wear and tear on a daily basis which means as you know, the kids will spill drinks on them, they will get used for fights when our backs are turned and the cat will barf up an unspeakable item on them when company is coming. So….yeah, I’m sewing on a budget and recycling the old pillow forms! That being the case, having a zipper on the back so that they can be removed and washed is an absolute must. However, it is face crunching to have an exposed zipper on a pillow.  I want it accessible, but fairly invisible and totally comfortable to lay on.

It’s not hard to do, so read on!

 

I started with a tropical print in green and added a corded binding for a professional look.

I measured my old pillow forms and added about four inches wiggle room  to each dimension to calculate the amount of fabric I needed for each pillow.  I also added an extra yard of fabric for the covered cording on the tropical print pillows.  Please read on for my faux pas with the cording fabric!

Tropical Print Corded Piping with Zipper Hiding Flap Instructions

For this example, I’ll create a removable pillow cover for a 2o inch pillow.  I used Berkshire Fabrics from Walmart in the upholstery and curtain fabric section.  It is a courser weave of fiber than quilt or garment fabric.  I prewashed and dried the fabric just to make sure it was preshrunk.  This is a budget project, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t get maximum use out of the fabric.  Preshrinking guarantees that it will be washable in the future.

Step One instructions for one pillow

Cut the front fabric piece 20.5 inches x 20.5 inches.  This will create a tightly fitted cover, but that’s ok, I like it snug.

Also cut a lower back piece 20.5 inches x 15  inches.

Cut an upper back piece 20.5 inches x 8 inches.

Step Two

On the lower back fabric, on the long edge,  make a 1 inch fold towards the wrong side of the fabric and iron it flat.

ironing down the one edge
Fold over one long edge approximately 1 inch and iron flat

Check out my Rowenta Iron!!! I’ve never gotten anything great at garage sales, but this little gem was Three DOLLARS!!  Score!   To see my reviews of best quilting irons, check out the article here.   It’s not as great as my wish list iron, but for the money, I’ll take it!

Step three

Now for my secret weapon: I keep a roll of this professional zipper roll in my sewing supplies.  It is great!   Who knew you could make your own custom zippers??   All you do is measure out how long you want your zipper to be, make sure you have zipped a zipper pull dead center, and put all the other zipper pulls to the right where you won’t need them, then cut your zipper to the exact length you wish.

You can stay stitch across the open ends of the zipper so that the pull doesn’t come off the zipper.  The Sullivan’s Make A Zipper is not found in the local fabric stores, but you can purchase it online.  For the cost of two store bought packaged zippers, you can create 12 of your own!!

Here’s the link.

here.

strethed out Make A Zipper tape
Very practical, handy and cost effective Make-A-Zipper Roll

 

Step four

Lay the folded edge right side up against one edge of the zipper tape, very close to the teeth of the zipper.  Using a zipper foot for your sewing maching, stitch in place close to the fold.

step three stitching down the first fold edge
Stitch down the folded edge close to the zipper teeth.

Step five

Turn the fabric over and align the other side of the zipper tape to raw edge of the upper back side piece (right sides together).  Stitch close to the teeth.

 

lining up the zipper tape side with a raw edge of fabric
Line up the raw edge of the fabric with the zipper tape, right sides together

 

Step six

Open the fabric out, right side up and press the fold flat.  Be swift with light pressure, so you don’t melt the zipper teeth!

 

Turned the stitched down zipper over
Press the fold down

Step seven

With the fabric right sides up, we’re going to create a small folding flap to lay over the zipper area.  Take a pinch of fabric and fold it over the zipper towards the right.  This step is alittle flexible: I don’t mark the fabric, I just lay the fold over the zipper teeth area and feel with my fingers if I have aligned it approximately the same width all down the zipper.  You can feel the teeth through the fabric.  Just make sure you haven’t grabbed an overly large or overly small flap.

You can double check by finger pressing the fold, opening it up and looking to see if it is uniform in size.  It’s easy to adjust.  A little more, or a little less.  A precise measurement is not critical here.

 

creating the fold on the hidden zipper flap
Take a pinch of the fabric and create a fold that will be large enough to cover the zipper teeth and stitching

Here is a short video demonstrating the idea:

 

 

 

step three in creating the fold
Finger press the fold in place, then iron flat

Once you are satisfied with the fold,  iron it down.

Step eight

Turn the fabric over and stitch down close to the teeth one more time.  You’ll need to secure the ends across the zipper as well, and I didn’t get a progress shot of that, (SORRY!!) but here is a close up of another pillow back where you can see the securing stitching if you look very hard on the right hand side.

Closeup of zipper flap with secure stitching

Now the back of the pillow is complete.  If you want to add cording, here’s what I did:

 

Covered cording

I used about 4 .5 yards of 3/8th inch polyester cording, which is enough for two pillows.  Here you can get it cut to the exact length you need:

>>Upholstery Cording Check Price on Amazon<<

Prepare the fabric for the cording

Step one

O.K., confession time.   I took the photos of making the fabric cover for the cording step by step, then mid-way I changed my mind about what fabric to use.  Which is fine for the finished pillow and not so fine for confusing you.  So……pretend this is the bamboo matt fabric for a few photos.  The process is the same!

I purchased 1.25 yds of fabric for the cording cover.

We’ll need to find the true bias of the fabric (bias is the diagonal of the weave, which will give a stretchy movement necessary for the cording to wrap around the corners of the pillow).  Take the selvage edges of the fabric and bring the corners straight up to the fold.   Now the heavy fold on the left is the bias diagonal of the fabric.  I’m going to slice this fold open and that will give me a bias edge.

folding up the fabric to find a true bias edge

Draw one corner of the selvage up to the fold line to create a true bias edge on the fold.  Cut the lower fabric off using the selvage (that wide white band on the fabric) as a guide.

I flipped this over because I’m right handed and it’s easier for me to manipulate my scissors this side.

cut fabric on the bias. cutting the fold
Cutting fabric on the bias is easy once you set it up correctly

 

Step two

O.K., here’s where I changed my mind about the fabric. ( I repeated step one on a bamboo looking print.  No worries, I can use that other fabric to make makeup bags or change purses later) Take the bias side and cut several strips 2.25 inches in width.  I used about nine pieces total for two pillows.

rotary cutter ready to cut bias strips
Using a rotary cutter to quickly cut bias strip pieces

Step three

Join the bias strips together into one continuous strip.  This is not precise, so bear with me.  I align two strips together, right sides together at 90 degress and using my typical unprecise methods, I shift the top piece around, pin it, then check the alignment by opening up the two pieces on the pin and see if the top and bottom edges align well.  If they don’t, I adjust the upper piece up or down and repeat the check.  When it looks aligned, I stitch along the pin line, iron open the seam and attach the next piece. I needed four joined pieces to make enough to go around each pillow.

Placing piping stips together to sew into one long strip
Sewing individual strips of piping fabric together to make on long strip.

 

Step four

Lay the cording into the wrong side of the center of the bias strips and fold  the top on over.  Stitch the sandwhich together, close to the cording lump.

Finish enough cording to go around your pillow with an extra four inches or so, just to make sure you’ve got enough.

Stitching the cording into the biased strips
Using a zipper foot, stitch close to the chording.

Step five

Prepare the meeting of the ends before you start sewing down the cording.  Expose the end of the bias tape on the end that you will begin stitching down by pulling apart the end a bit and trimming away about 1/2 inch of the cording.  Fold the fabric down wrong sides together to make a small tube ending that the last of the cording will eventually fit into as a closure.  I’ll explain further at the end. For now, just make sure you have a folded down edge of fabric exposed right above the cord inside.

With your pillow top right sides up, lay the finished cording raw edges together with the raw edge of the pillow.  Leave that folded exposed top unstitched for an inch or so.  Begin stitching the chording bias tape very close to the cording.

When you get close to a corner, clip the cording binding to the seam so it will splay open and have enough ‘give’ to amply go around the corner.  Stitch super close to the cording lump.

sewing the bias cording to the pillow front
Snip to the stitching line to create ease in turning the corner.

When you get to the end, clip the cording and bias so that the two raw ends will butt up against each other in a seamless manner.  Over lap the folded edge of the bias that you first started with and sew the last bit down, close to the cording lump.  There is no need to secure the fold ends with hand stitching as it is unlikely to come undone.

Step six

Lay front of pillow onto back of pillow right sides together.  Now is the time to trim the back piece to conform to the front piece.   (Before you pin, completely open up the zipper.  This is how you will be able to turn the pillow right side out, after it’s all stitched.  Don’t miss this step!).  Hand smooth the two pieces together, making sure you don’t have any folds or gaps where they two meet.   Pin raw edges together and stitch through all layers very close to the cording lump.

At this stage, take the pillow cover and turn it right sides out and check your stitching.  I’ve found that when I’ve predicted that I had stitched very close to the cording, it wasn’t even close, in reality.  No worries!  Just turn the pillow wrong side out again and restitch the areas you felt you missed the mark on again.  I had to do this several times before I was satisfied that I had gotten a good tight fit.

sewing the last step pillow
stitch front to back right sides together very very close to the cording

Clip the curves, reduce bulk on the seams where needed and stuff that pillow!

Conclusion

After making two tropical pillows, I opted to make three soft and furry white pillows for a different texture.  The Walmart fabric was like the uber expensive minkie type fabric, but at a very reasonable price.

I also made the PotteryBarn knock-off blue pillows and added bobble fringe to one and a flat flange to the other.  Super simple and fun!

I hope you are inspired to make your own designer pillow covers and give your home an easy updated look.  Happy sewing!

closeup of three pillow variations
Close up of pillow variations

Anita HC

I hope you are enjoying this article! I love helping creators learn. My goal is to help you find the knowledge and inspiration you need. Check out our library of articles and visit often...I'm adding articles every week! Thank you again for reading!

Recent Posts