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!
56 thoughts on “Make a Quilted Zipper Pillow: Photo Tutorial”
I was so excited to see this post come up!! I’ve been wanting to try something like this for a while, and I LOVE the idea of adding a zipper! This is such a great way to have fun with new quilt blocks without committing to a full quilt.
Exactly! Thanks, Rhyomi!
Wowie wow wow wow! I never saw a zipper put in like that before!! I too have zipper phobia. I can’t wait to try this!!! Thanks Suzy!
How can we quilters not have zipper phobia when we’re used to only working with soft, cushy things like batting? 😉 I hope this tutorial helps you on your exciting journey into zippers.
Great tutorial! Great pictures of each step. Makes me less fearful of the dreaded zipper and the many projects I want to
make with a ZIPPER!! Yippie!
Hooray for zippers! haha!
I love that you used linen for this pillow. It adds so much yet is quietly understated and timeless. Pairing it with a modern pattern is pure art. I can’t wait to see your Fan pattern. I think I see an update in my living room just in time for Fall. I have many students/customers who limit their creativity just because a zipper is involved. Thanks for removing the mystery. Have a great day!
What a sweet comment, Janine! As one who had zipper phobia for at least a decade, I understand. The fear is real!
This is a great tutorial and your pillow is gorgeous!
Can I ask where you got your rug? I love it, and the colors in it are my favorites!
Thanks, Cathy! I got it at this huge and crazy warehouse in the suburbs of Chicago, called The Dump. Despite its name, it’s really not a dump. Haha! This one is vintage and (they told me) one of a kind from Turkey. I’m sure you can find one similar online, though. 😉
It is very difficult to print ur patterns that r available for download is there something that I’m missing?
All of the Suzy Quilts patterns for purchase are PDFs. You should be able to view them on any device, print them on your home printer or send them to a Kinkos or local printer to have them printed.
Terrific. I’ve never thought to put the zipper in first. So much easier.
This tutorial is exactly what I needed 😍 as my experience with sewing is 110% limited to quilting, I have such a phobia of zippers!! Any chance you’ll turn this tutorial into a Facebook or Instagram live video?? I’m defiantly wanting to try some quilted pillows now!!
I can definitely do that!
Just put in my first zipper. Amazing instructions! Thank you for sharing.
This is the most thorough zipper tutorial I’ve seen! I used to say I had “ZA”
Thank you! Well if you have ZA, I think we should form a group – ZAA. Zipper Anxiety Anonymous. Our community needs us. lol!
I am trying to work up the courage to quilt my own work (instead of sending it to a quilter) and I have tried, without success, to put in a zipper before. This seems to be the perfect project for both! Thank you for the excellent instructions and detailed pictures.
The size is very approachable and great practice for quilting an entire quilt. Good luck!
Thank you! I to have been wanting to make a zippered pillow cover this tutorial is great & very timely.
Not afraid of zipppers, am afraid of linen lol. Love this beautiful pillow though makes me want to whip one up!
Me too👆🏻! 🤷🏻♀️
I like the pillow and the tutorial. I have a question though on the pillow insert. How thick is the pillow insert? The finished pillow looks on the thin side. I am wondering if there would need to be any adjustments if I used a thicker pillow form.
It’s an average size feather down pillow insert. I actually got it at West Elm if you’d like to looks at the exact one.
A great trick we use at our interior design studio is to make covers one inch smaller on each side than the inserts. If you have a decent insert, that will really help fill it out. For example, if you have an 18″x18″ pillow insert, make the final dimensions of your pillow cover 17×17. (I know this comment is very old, but in case someone else is scrolling through like me, 5 years later!)
This is a great tutorial and pictures! I’m afraid of zippers and I’ll have to try this soon! Thanks so much!
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! And kisses to Scrappy😉
So very awesome!!! Great tutorial, I can’t wait to make pillows with zippered covers!!! And besides that, you show the best quilting porn around……… cross-hatch deliciousness!!!! I seriously think I need to get some wool batting!
hahaha! Just call me Suzy Quilt Porn! lolol!
Gorgeous pillow, Suzy! That linen and cross-hatch quilting combo is yummalicious 🙂
Putting this to the “test” today!!! Thank you!!!
I’ve read this twice…but I don’t see where you used the muslin. Am I just nuts?
The muslin is the backing piece of fabric used in Step 1 – quilting the pillow top. This piece of fabric won’t be seen since it will be the interior of the pillow.
Ok, just completed my first pillow ever! Was debating on the envelope back, or zipper. I went with zipper and GLAD I DID! Great instructions and my pillow turned out AMAZING!!! Thank you!
Would you think it beneficial to apply iron on interfacing to the back fabric of the pillow, (not the backing of the pillow top), if using quilting fabric and not a decorator fabric, in order to supply more strength?
That’s a great option! You could also opt for a sturdier fabric if you find quilting cotton to be too flimsy.
I’ve made umpteen pillow tops, all rectangular, and all without a pattern…. just winged it!!! ..and used velcro as the closer. In each case, I made one quilt sandwich slightly wider than pillow form, and long enough to wrap around the whole thing, with overlap of course. I did a wide hem on each end, then with the right side in, I wrapped it around the pillow for measurement, and pinned it with my 2 end hemmed seams overlapping in the middle of the back side. I zipped a seam down each side, trimmed the seams, and then flipped it right side out. Then attached a few lengths of velcro, and voila… done!! (I hope that makes sense…. its a little hard to describe
I think it makes sense, but I’d need to see a picture to make sure. Sounds like a great way to finish a pillow!
So grateful, Suzy. Your pics are worth a thousand words but your careful, precise words accompanying the great pics really make everything doable. You’re so kind to share so freely.
This pillow is so beautiful. Any chance you can reveal the colors & fabrics used to make this?
Thank you! Aside from the striped mariner cloth from Andover Fabrics, these pretty fabrics are Mineral Linen from https://www.purlsoho.com/mineral-linen.html
This is one of the best instructional tutorials I’ve ever seen. Thank you.
A lot of the images seem to broken or missing in this tutorial. I’m excited to try this, but am definitely a visual learner! Also, do you use a backing piece when quilting, but then another backing piece to piece together the pillow? Just want to make sure I understand. Thanks!
The images seem to be working on my end. Can you try opening the tutorial on a different device or in a different browser? Hopefully that will fix the problem. And yes, I use a backing piece when quilting and also as the back of the pillow. I do that so I have a fully lined pillowcase that will stay strong even after being tossed in the washing machine.
Thanks Suzy!!! It works in Firefox (had issue in Chrome). And thanks for confirming the backing situation. That makes perfect sense. Thanks for such an awesome tutorial!!!
Yay! So glad we figured it out. 🙂
Hi! Thanks for the great patterns and tutorials! I’m really excited to make these as Christmas presents. My question is should the fabric on the back be the same size as the front or slightly larger? I want to be sure before I cut the fabric too small. Thank you!
The fabric on the back should be the exact same size as the pillow top (or fabric on the front).
Love this! The close up photos are SO helpful.
Awesome tutorial. I have some appliqué practice and leftover fabric I think would make cute additions to my baby quilts. Can’t wait to try it. Thank you!
Thank you! I actually put a zipper in a pillow yesterday – I’m so proud of myself. You make everything so easy to learn! I appreciate your tutorials so much.
Hi Suzy! i stumbled on your youtube videos a few weeks ago and LOVE you and your patterns!
That said, i’ve now made TWO pillows but i’m not happy with the batting choice or the way the zipper turned out.( i also used the Sugar Pop pillow pattern)
three major concerns: first pillow i think the batting was too thick and my seem was too small (could NOT get zipper to lay properly)
second pillow seem allowance better but on both pillows i still had some that wasn’t sewn underneath leaving it looking unfinished.
for both: i had a terrible time getting my stitches not to skip when sewing it in, in particular around the starting piece of metal and in the middle
any advice is greatly appreciate! the second pillow i gave up my zipper foot (pfaff) altogether and just used a 1/2” foot and it did better but i still had the skipping.
Thanks! i’ll post pics on your IG later! (working on 2nd quilt pattern of yours now! in addition to the pillows)
Is the pillow insert also 18” x 18”?
Hi Denise! Yep, under “Supplies” you can see a note that says the tutorial uses an 18″ square pillow insert and links to an insert you can buy if you don’t have one already! Enjoy making your pillow 🙂
I am making this quilt for my daughter and her husband. I have purchased some fabric and I am getting the technique of curved piecing using scraps before I cut pieces. I, too, love trying new quilt blocks and making a pillow or small quilt to see how I like it. I like using an envelope backing for my pillows and I make a French seam to keep the inside seams strong and nicer looking.
Wish me luck as I proceed with the quilt top and I will share photos later.