Friday, January 14, 2011

the Invisible Zipper Tutorial

(which also happens to be the final step of the Love Pillow tutorial)

a cozy home for Love

Step 1: Believe

You can do this. It is NOT too hard. This is my second time putting an invisible zipper in a pillow and I have decided that it is actually faster than any other closure method I've tried. I learned how from my friend Katie's tutorial, but I've added lots of extra pics here that may help you avoid the twisted zipper scenario I experienced that first time around.

Step 2:  Prepare


You'll need two equally sized pillow fronts and backs. If you're following the Love Pillow tutorial, attach your finished patch to your pillow front with a simple machine stitch at 1/4" from the edge.  Check that your pillow front and back are square and equally sized before continuing.


Attach a zipper foot to your sewing machine.  Mine is a regular zipper foot, not a foot specially designed for the invisible zipper.  It works quite nicely, thank you. 


Gather a ruler, your pins and bust out your invisible zipper.  Prepare it for attachment by ironing the zipper coils flat.  Invisible zippers are "invisible" because the coils are designed to curl in towards the wrong side of the zipper.  The right side of the zipper is the one with the zipper pull showing.  So, open your zipper and iron those coils flat.  Use pressure!  Be careful not to melt the polyester coils.  Leave the zipper open.

Step 3:  Attach Zipper to Front


Lay your pillow front on your work surface with the right side up.  Place the zipper on the bottom edge with the right side down and the coils pointed towards the center of the pillow.  Space the bottom, open end of the zipper tape 1" from the side of your pillow.  Use your ruler to be precise.


Place a pin in the zipper to mark the spot at which the coils end.  The coils stop before the end of the zipper tape.  Find that spot and anchor the zipper with a pin, being sure that the end of the zipper tape is still 1" from the side of your pillow.

Now, pin along the entire length of the zipper, with pins going longways so that they won't be in the way.  Don't be stingy with the pins!


At the sewing machine, you'll start sewing at that first perpendicular pin, the one that marks where the coils stopped.  Your needle should be going along the left side of your zipper foot, with your pillow extending out to the left. 


Your zipper foot might have a tiny little ledge built in to serve as a coil guide, like mine does.  Make sure that the coil is snug against the guide.  If not, just use the edge of your foot as a guide.  Either way, before you sew check that the needle is positioned close to the coils, but not in them.  You want to get as close to the coils as possible.


Sew, backstitch and keep sewing until you can't go any farther because the zipper pull is in the way.  Backstitch.

Step 4:  Attach Zipper to Back


Lay your pillow back on your work surface, right side up.  Lay your pillow front on your pillow back with right sides together, aligning all edges and corners.  If your fabrics are directional, check that "up" is the same for pillow back and front.


Now, grab the side of your zipper that is NOT attached yet and place the right side of that zipper onto the right side of your pillow back.  I fold my pillow front out of the way a bit for easy access.

Measure in 1" from the side, as you did before, and pin the bottom of the zipper tape at that point.  Once again, the zipper coils should be facing in towards the center of the pillow.  As before, place a perpendicular pin at the point where the zipper coils end to mark where you should start sewing.  Pin along the length of the zipper with plenty of pins.


OK, now check that your zipper is not twisted.   Look at the part where the zipper pull is sitting.  Does it look  like it could be closed?  That's a good thing (wink).   


At the machine, you need to switch the zipper foot over to allow you to stitch on the right side of the zipper foot.  For my machine, I have to take it off and reattach it aligned to the new side.  Your pillow back will extend to the right side of the needle.  Get ready to start sewing at the perpendicular pin, there at the bottom of your zipper coils.  Make sure that your needle stitches quite close to the coils. 

Sew, backstitch and sew some more until you can't go any farther because the zipper pull is in the way. Backstitch.

Step 5:  Sew that Pillow Closed

We're almost there!


First, close your zipper (yeah!!!).  Now, lay out your pillow cover with right sides together.  Place pins on both sides of your zipper to stabilize it nice and flat.  When you place those pins, pull out the zipper tape ends and the zipper pull section - both parts of the zipper that did not get sewn down.  Keep these parts sticking out while you continue to pin and sew the pillow.

Next try to align all four corners of your pillow.  Hopefully, when you do so your zipper still looks nice and flat.  However, it's more important that your zipper lays flat than that your corners are perfectly aligned.  If necessary, leave your corners a bit "off".  The difference will be hidden in the inseam. Pin the corners


Reach in and open the zipper about most of the way open.  Then, and only then, finish pinning all the way around the pillow.


At the machine, switch your zipper foot for a regular foot, or even better - a walking foot!  Stitch the rest of the pillow together with a 1/2" seam, being sure to backstitch at the beginning and end.  Where to start stitching?  Get pretty close to the stitching line for the zipper, but don't try to get right, right above it.  Remember, you're stitching at 1/2" from the edge, while the zipper was attached closer.  Don't sweat it.

After stitching, clip the corners with pinking shears (or regular shears).  Turn the pillow cover right side out, by pulling it through the open zipper.  Poke the corners out.  Press and stuff it.

the Love Pilow

Congratulations, you made a very lovely pillow cover with a sassy hidden zipper!  It may have felt cumbersome the first time around, but give this skill another go and you'll find it goes much easier. It's definitely a skill worth learning!


This time around, I think I didn't sew quite close enough to the coils on one side.  So, my zipper may not be truly invisible, but I'm still smiling.


P.S.  If you made a Love Pillow, please do share your creation at the Stitched in Color photo pool.  I'd love to see it!  New readers can find the other Love Pillow steps here and here


  1. Thanks for the nice, clear tutorial. Love your photos. I have zipper-phobia, but am determined to try again using this as a guide!

  2. Thanks for this! I need to do a zipper next time rather than an envelope back. They turn out so clean and nice.

  3. Thanks for the invisible zipper info....I've been sewing forever and never put one of those in....I always thought you needed a special foot which I don't have.

  4. Brilliant tutorial, very well explained and I like that you show it without an invisible zipper foot but with a regular zip foot instead! Thanks!

  5. Great tutorial! The photos are really helpful. I might give this a try on a duvet cover.

  6. Yes, great tutorial! I too have a zipper phobia, I always finish my pillow covers with an envelope style back. Seeing this post was really helpful, I'm going to have to give it a try!

  7. Oh, yeah, I'm so glad this was helpful. Go forth and conquer the zipper!

  8. Great tutorial! I've found those stupid plastic invisible zipper feet don't work worth a darn, and I use my regular zipper foot too. My Pfaff allows me to move it side to side, so I can stitch right against the zipper. After I did my first invisible zipper there was no way I was going to do an envelope closure ever again! Go zippers!

  9. Hi Rachel,

    Just wanted to let you know I gave you a Stylish Blogger award today over at my blog! It is a pay-it-forward award, so come check out the details.

    Enjoy! And thanks for the inspiration :-)

  10. Hello Rachel,

    Great tutorial. Love the photos, which makes it easy for beginners (like me) to follow. Also wanted to say that I've added your blog to my feed list, as I love the colours, tutorials and it's "feel".

    Hope you're well and dandy.


  11. What a sweet comment! Thanks so much, Caroline.

  12. beautiful pillow! I need to figure out how to sew the zipper onto a crocheted pillow

  13. Did you see this?

  14. Great tutorial! Thank you for sharing! Zippers are not my best friends.... yet ( I will work more om this relation) Love your blog!

  15. do you have a resource list for invisible zippers? I can't seem to find the colors I need locally or a good shop online...

  16. I haven't seen them much online either. I buy mine locally at Hancocks.

  17. Zipit is starting to carry them on etsy. I have a question about prewashing. Have you prewashed so when you wash nothing shrinks? Or do you make it a smidge larger for washing the first time?

    1. Except now I don't! I don't prewash anymore and haven't regretted it =)

  18. Rachel, I am long overdue thanking you for this detailed tutorial. (I refer to yours and Katie's on a regular basis.) I just commented on another blog (quarterinchmark) to come to you two, so I figured better late than never to comment here. Pillow making has become enjoyable now...and my two nieces thank you for that too! --Becky C.

  19. Thank you for this tutorial, Rachel. I have a question, and I'm sorry if you've addressed this before! I am confused about zipper sizes...

    Say I am making a 16" pillow. Should I buy a 16" zipper? Or should i be buyinga smaller zipper? And if I can't find 16", can I buy larger and cut it down?

    I'm always confused on the sizing.

    1. You want a smaller zipper than the pillow. So, for a 16" finished pillow (which I would put on a 17-18" form to make it nice and firm) you would want a 14" or so zipper. Yes, it's fine to buy a bigger zipper and shorten it to the right size. All of the zipper packaging at big box stores shows you how!

  20. I followed your tutorial today and put in my first invisible zipper! I'm so glad that you showed that a special foot was not necessary. Thank you for the great pictures.

  21. I have successfully made it to the place where you say to close the zipper and pin each side of the zipper so it lies flat. I cannot visualize what you mean here. Should the zipper be flat, face down on the table? Or facing up at me? I am confused as to how it should look. Do both of the loose ends of the zipper get pulled out together, or one on each side of the zipper? Thanks so much. I will get this.

    1. Here's the confusion. Close the zipper. Now, forget about the zipper and look at your pillow front/back. You want the pillow front and back to lie flat (not the zipper). Then you pin around the pillow so that you are ready to sew the pillow pieces together. When you pin these fabric pieces, you pull the zipper ends out of the way so that they are on the outside of the pillow (in the seam allowance area). Hope that helps!


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