If you learned how to sew through quilting, as I did, those extra baubles, buttons, and beads some sewists use can look intimidating. For the longest time I actually had a very acute fear of zippers. They looked positively dangerous! I mean...they have teeth! Anyway, over the years, I’m proud to say that I have conquered my fear of zippers and actually have an exciting tutorial to prove it – The Quilted Zipper Pillow! Ta Daaaa!
If you have ever had a fear of zippers, I want you to know that you’re in good company. I am your people. Now. Enough fretting. Take my hand and let’s sew some dang zippers together.
- Quilt pattern - the Modern Fans pattern, available Aug. 30, is used in this sample project. See below for more great quilt pattern options.
- Pillow insert (this tutorial will use an 18” square pillow insert)
- Fabric - enough to make both the pieced pillow top and 1 piece large enough to cover the back of the pillow form. My pillow backing piece is 19” square.
- Batting - at least 2” larger than the unfinished quilt top. (My batting is about 21” square and is Quilters Dream wool.)
- Muslin - any fabric will do, just keep in mind that it won’t be seen. This will be the inside of the pillow form and it should be about the same size as the batting.
- Coordinating thread for quilting and piecing
- Straight pins
- Safety pins
- Seam ripper
- Basic Quilting Supplies
- Zipper - at least 2” shorter than the size of your finished pillow. Mine is 14” (the length of the zipper is measured from the pull to the metal end)
- Zipper foot - comes standard with most machines. Scroll down for a pic of mine.
- Walking foot - makes machine quilting much easier
Quilted Pillow Pattern Options
- Modern Fans Quilt Pattern: The pattern used in this tutorial.
- Maypole Pillow Extension Pattern: Includes instructions for an 18" square pillow.
- Sugar POP Quilt Pattern: Includes instructions for an 18" square pillow.
- Reflections Wall Hanging & Pillow Extension Pattern: Includes instructions for a 30" square wall hanging and 18" square pillow.
- Bohemian Garden: This is the perfect design for a pillow because it can easily be made in any size.
- Kris Kross: Made from 6" quilt blocks, this pattern is stunning on a smaller scale, such as a pillow.
- Stars Hollow: Add border strips to the sides of a single Stars Hollow block to make a bold, pinwheel star pillow.
- Sew Mojo Minis: Use the improv techniques and designs from the 4-part Sew Mojo series to make an array of wonderfully unique pillows!
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Make a Quilted Zipper Pillow: The Quilted Part
As the title of this blog post has given away, this is not just a zipper pillow tutorial, but a quilted zipper pillow tutorial. So, let’s start with the quilted part.
Have you ever seen a beautiful quilt pattern, but just knew in your creative little heart that you couldn’t squeeze it into your schedule? Seriously, what quilter hasn’t thought this?
Here’s a solution – turn that striking quilt pattern into a pillow! Simply take a block or two...or four, and make a delightful quilted zipper pillow. The design seen here uses 4 blocks from the Modern Fans pattern.
A touch of math...just a touch...
Sewing this pillow top together I used the typical ¼" quilters seam allowance. However, when it came time to sewing the actual pillow, I wanted a ½" seam allowance around the perimeter (For a really nice, sturdy seam). That means that for a finished 18" square pillow, my unfinished pillow top will measure 19" square. Make sense?
Step 1: Quilt your quilt sandwich
Phew. You already know how to do that! Lay the backing piece on a table and place your piece of batting on top. Smooooth it out. Then lay your pillow top on the batting. If you need to draw any guidemarks, do that before basting.
I use a hera marker to draw my diagonal guides and then baste with safety pins. Ready to quilt! With my walking foot safely strapped on, I slowly quilt – starting in the middle and stopping at the end of each line so that I can quilt one whole side in the same direction. Once that side is finished, I flip and quilt the other side.
I used a lot of safety pins because this pillow top is made with 100% linen – which has a tendency to shift around while I machine quilt.
Doesn't this Quitlers Dream wool batting create such a puffy elegant texture?
Step 2: Trim your quilt sandwich
Like I mentioned before, my pillow insert is 18” square, so I want my unfinished pillow top to be 19” square (to leave a ½” seam allowance on all sides).
Make a Quilted Zipper Pillow: The Zipper Part
Step 3: Arrange your zipper on the pillow
- Lay out the piece of fabric you’re using for the pillow back right side up on a table.
- Directly on top of that piece of fabric, place the quilted pillow top right side down – lining up the edges.
- Lay your zipper in the center of one edge and place pins in the pillow to show where the zipper starts and stops. Set the zipper aside.
Step 4: Sew 1 seam 2 ways
- On both sides, from the pin to the corner, sew a ½” seam, back stitching at the beginning and end.
- That leaves a big hole in the middle where the zipper will go. In that spot, we will sew a temporary seam. Change your stitch length to something big, like 5. Without backstitching, sew between the two areas previously stitched.
Step 5: Iron
Iron the seam open.
Step 6: Pin the zipper in place
- Place the zipper, right side down and line it up with the seam just sewn.
- Pin the zipper in place on the ends.
Step 7: Attach the zipper foot to your sewing machine
Since the zipper foot is designed to allow you to sew very closely to the zipper, you will most likely need to manually move your sewing machine needle over to the side closest to the zipper.
Step 8: Sew on one side of the zipper
The moment we’ve all been waiting for! Deep breaths…
- Starting at the bottom of the zipper, sew about an ⅛" away from the edge of the zipper’s teeth, backstitching at the beginning.
- Before sewing all the way to the zipper pull STOP.
- Keep your needle down and lift up your foot.
- Unzip the zipper past the foot.
- Now keep sewing to the end of the teeth, backstitching before you finish.
Step 9: Sew on the other side of the zipper
We’re almost there! Now it’s time to do what we just did again.
- Starting at the bottom again, but on the opposite side, sew up the zipper’s teeth. Oh, and don’t forget to backstitch in the beginning.
- About 2" away from the zipper pull STOP. Keep your needle down. Lift up the foot, and push the zipper pull through the teeth until it’s behind the foot.
- Keep sewing to the end and don’t forget to backstitch before snipping the threads.
Step 10: Rip out the temporary seam
The zipper is sewn and now it’s time for the big reveal! Flip everything over and with a seam ripper, rip out the temporary seam over the zipper. Ta da!! You did it! The hard part is finished!
Step 11: Unzip the zipper half way (sounds weird, but just do it.)
Step 12: Pin and sew the other 3 edges of the quilted zipper pillow
- Keep right sides together and pin along the perimeter.
- Sew a ½" seam around the final 3 edges, backstitching at the beginning and end and pivoting at the corners. Tip! To prevent super pointing corners, curve your seam in a little wide at the corners.
Step 13: Snip the excess fabric at the corners
I used pinking shears, but you can use regular scissors too.
Step 14: Poke out corners
Stick your hand into that half open zipper and turn the pillow inside out, using your finger to push out the corners.
Step 15: Cram your pillow insert inside and you're FINISHED!
Do you have any zipper tips? Or maybe buttons or flaps is your preferred pillow finishing method. Let us know in the comments!