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Adding a Zipper to a Quilted Pillow Sham // Technique Tutorial Tuesdays

This post is part of the Technique Tutorial Tuesdays Series. Click here to see all of the posts and learn more about the series.

I recently participated in the Pillow Talk Handmade Swap. This is a group of over 100 extremely talented sewists. This is a surprise swap. You’re assigned a partner which you must secretly research in order to find out what they like. My partner for this round really loves turquoise, aqua, white, and stars. So I decided to make a large version of the english paper pieced Star Blossom with a patchwork zipper closed back. I used a mix of fabrics including Camille Roskelley Houndstooth, Pat Bravo Summers Love, and some Amy Butler.

Zippered Pillow Tutorial

Today I would like to teach you all how to add a zipper and zipper flap to quilted pillow shams…

The Tutorial

Zippered Pillow Tutorial

This pillow sham was made to fit an 18-20″ pillow form, but you could use these instructions to make any size pillow when adjusting the math.

Material List

  • 20″+ basic zipper (I used a 30″ robe zipper and cut it down)
  • 21″ x 6″  piece of fabric or patchwork for the top half of pillow back
  • 21″ x 15″ piece of fabric or patchwork for bottom half of pillow back
  • 20″ x 4″ piece of fabric for zipper flap
  • 24″ x 8″ piece of batting
  • 24″ x 17″ piece of batting
  • basting pins or basting spray
  • zipper foot for your sewing machine

Lets Begin

Important Note: If you would like to make a patchwork version, cut 3.5″ squares and piece them together in a 2 x 7 block piece for the top and a 5 x 7 block piece for the bottom half.

Zippered Pillow Tutorial

  • Step 1: Start by laying out your patchwork pieces (or single fabric) with the smaller piece on top and larger piece below it.
  • Step 2: Cut out the 20″ x 4″ piece of fabric for the zipper flap.
  • Step 3: Fold the 20″ x 4″ piece in half lengthwise and press. The piece should now be 20″ x 2″.
  • Step 4: Lay the patchwork pieces (or single fabric) out on top of your batting pieces and baste with basting pins or basting spray.
  • Step 5: Machine or Hand quilt as desired. I quilted outline quilting with a 12wt Aurifil thread, ¼″ to the left and right of each seam.
  • Step 6: Take out your basting pins and trim off any excess batting.

Zippered Pillow Tutorial

  • Step 7: Both patchwork pieces should now be about 21″ wide, trim ½″ from each side (left and right) to make each piece exactly 20″ wide.
  • Step 8: The seams between the top patchwork piece and bottom patchwork piece should line up nicely when laid out.
  • Step 9: Lay the zipper out across the width of the patchwork pieces. With a pair of craft scissors trim the zipper to size (approx. 20″). Caution: DO NOT unzip the entire zipper yet! Since the zipper was cut, it will not have a little “stopper” at the end to avoid the zipper being completely unzipped. So wait just a little bit longer to go zipper crazy.
  • Step 10: Lay the folded zipper flap on the top patchwork piece with the raw edge on bottom and folded edge on top.
  • Step 11: Pin the zipper flap in place, pinning close to the folded edge leaving room for the zipper along the bottom raw edge.
  • Step 12: Lay your zipper face down onto your zipper flap. Line up the bottom edge of the zipper with the bottom edge of the patchwork piece. Be sure both ends of the zipper line up with the outer left and right edges of your patchwork piece. Pin the top half of your zipper in place.

Zippered Pillow Tutorial

  • Step 13: Once your zipper is pinned in place, set up your machine with a zipper foot. Stitch your zipper in place (refer to the black line on the photo).
  • Step 14: Take all your pins out and press the seam you have just sewn upward to keep the zipper flat. Lay the other unstitched side of your zipper face down on your bottom patchwork piece lining the edge of the zipper with the top edge of your patchwork piece. The zipper flap should be out of the way! *NOTE if you are using patchwork now is a good time to make sure your seams match up between the top and bottom pieces!
  • Step 15: Pin the zipper in place and then stitch it down using your zipper foot (refer to the black line on the photo).
  • Step 16: The zipper should be completely stitched and the zipper flap should be flipped upward.
  • Step 17: On the backside of your patchwork you will be left with the flaps of seam allowance. We don’t want this to get in the way when zipping so we will top stitch it down.
  • Step 18: Set your machine to a stitch length of 3. Using  matching thread, on the front (right) side of the patchwork top stitch ¼” from the zipper on both sides of the zipper. Doing so will tack down each seam allowance flap.

Zippered Pillow Tutorial

  • Step 19: Press the zipper flap downward with a hot dry iron.
  • Step 20: Unzip the zipper halfway, NO further.
  • Step 21: Lay the zipper flap back down.
  • Step 22: Lay the 20″ x 20″ pillow front down face up (in my case the star blossom). Then lay the pillow backing (patchwork) face down on top of the front (right sides together). Make sure your zipper flap is still downward. Line up the two pieces and pin them together. Return your stitch length back to 2 or 2.5 and sew around all sides of the pillow with a ½″ seam allowance. Back stitch when sewing over the ends of the zippers to make sure they are extra secure (only when using nylon zipper).
  • Step 23: Snip off the corners of your pillow, being careful not to cut too close to the stitching. Flip your pillow right side out and poke out the corners.
  • Step 24: Stuff a pillow insert inside the sham and you now have a finished zippered pillow!
I hope this tutorial helps you with your next zipper or pillow project. I would really love it if you would share your projects at the Pile O’ Fabric Flickr group!


Alyssa Williams

Alyssa Williams

Creator of Pile O' Fabric

Alyssa Lichner is a graphic designer turned avid sewist. She writes modern quilting tutorials and shares techniques and inspiration on her blog, Pile O’ Fabric. Alyssa has a passion for exploring different techniques and applying them to modern designs. She is thankful to have the opportunity to share these techniques, through her tutorials, patterns, and classes with quilters around the world. She always encourages her readers and students to challenge themselves to try new things and to approach quilting with a fearless attitude.