Monday, December 5, 2022

How to Make a Zippered Pillow Cover

On Saturday, I tried to get into a festive spirit by blasting Christmas music and sewing with Christmas fabric.  I pulled out a small scrap project and decided to turn it into a pillow to start adding a touch of Christmas color to my living room.

Pillow made with scraps from Winter Wonders collection from Island Batik

When I made a zippered pillow in October,  I had to figure out how to do it all over again, as the tutorial I had previously followed had disappeared and I couldn't find quite the right keywords to search with to find an alternative.  I had to figure it all out again when I made this Christmas pillow.  To avoid having to figure it out next time, I took pictures this time around.  I'm writing up the directions to go with the pictures so I'll have a tutorial to refer to in future.  I hope you find it useful as well.


  • Pillow form
  • Pillow top - can be one piece of fabric or a pieced top, sized to fit your pillow form.
  • Back panels - see below for how to calculate the size
  • Accent strip to hide zipper - 4" x width of backing panels
  • Binding - as much as you need to bind around the pillow (add up the lengths of the sides and add as many extra inches as you need for your preferred method of joining binding ends)
  • Zipper - choose one that is a longer than the width of the pillow, and that you can sew over and easily cut (no metal teeth!)


Determine measurements and cut pieces

The pillow back can be made of a single fabric, two panels of different fabrics, or even pieced panels.  I like to make the back a little larger than the top and trim away excess fabric on the sides at the end.

Option 1 - start with a single panel (single fabric or pieced)

  • panel width = width of pillow top plus 1"
  • panel height = height of pillow top plus 1 1/2"
Cut the panel into two pieces, cutting along the width. You can choose to cut into two equal halves, or make one piece larger than the other.  For the pillow in this tutorial, I pieced fabric strips into a single panel, then cut it in half.

Option 2 - start with two panels

  • panel width = width of pillow top plus 1"
  • panel heights - the two panels can be different heights.  Start with two heights that add up to the height of the pillow, and 3/4" to each one.

Insert zipper

1.  Layer lower panel (right side up) and zipper (wrong side up), matching edges of the zipper tape with the top edge of the panel.  Pin in place.

2.  Using a zipper foot, sew close to the zipper teeth.

3.  Press fabric away from the zipper and topstitch close to the folded edge.

4.  Press the accent strip in half lengthwise, right side out. (I used batiks, so the right side out part isn't obvious here, but you really want the right side of the fabric showing on the outside!)

5.  Matching the top edge of the panel with the raw edges of the accent strip and the edge of the zipper tape, layer the upper panel (right side up),  folded accent strip, and zipper (wrong side up). Pin layers.


6.  Using a zipper foot, sew close to the zipper teeth.

7.  Press backing panel away from the zipper and accent strip.  The accent strip will cover the zipper.

8.  Topstitch on the upper panel, close to the seam, to complete the back panel.


9.  Layer the pillow back (wrong side down) and pillow top (right side up), centering the top on the back.

10.  Pin top to back.  In particular, pin at the zipper tape on the end with the zipper pull, but take care not to pin through the accent strip layer. Orient the pins on each side of the zipper teeth so you can still slide the zipper open.

11.  Open the zipper partway so the zipper pull is inside the pillow area.  Note that the pins should hold the zipper tape in place so it doesn't shift when you open the zipper.

12.  Sew along all sides of the pillow top with a 1/4" seam allowance, then trim away excess back fabric.  Use scissors to cut through the excess zipper.  It's probably a good idea to not use your good fabric scissors for this part.

13.  Using your preferred binding method, bind the edges to finish the pillow cover.

14.  Insert the pillow form into the cover, zip the cover closed and enjoy your pillow.  

I'm really pleased with how the pieced back worked out.  I have previously used a single fabric, but I quite like the pieced look for this larger pillow.  I think this one is definitely reversible!

Pillow back made with scraps from Winter Wonders collection from Island Batik

I'm happy to report that working on this project nudged me into a Christmas frame of mind.  After tossing the pillow on the couch, I was in the mood to go buy my poinsettias, which in turn led to pulling out the Christmas d├ęcor.  The tree will wait until the weekend before Christmas when my 21 and 23 year-old kids will be around to help decorate (tree-trimming ia always a family affair), but there's now enough red and green in my house to make me smile through December.

What gets you in the holiday decorating mood?  Are you working on any holiday sewing projects?

Happy quilting,


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Simply Snow pattern progress

Here's one project in my current  pattern-writing queue.

Some things take time.  When I created my snowflake block patterns 8 years ago, I had vague plans to make a quilt with all 26 snowflakes.  It took me almost 5 years to get around to it, but I finally decided on a setting and made Simply Snow in 2019.

At that time the block patterns were only available as a PDF download.  I had grand plans to include them in a printed pattern for Simply Snow, but that didn't happen.  Why not?  The combination of snowflake templates and cutting charts and setting instructions for multiple size options ballooned to a ridiculous size.  It would have been more appropriate for a book than a stand-alone pattern.  I wasn't really excited to figure out book proposals or self-publishing and marketing.  The whole project was set aside "until later".

In fall 2021 I decided to publish the snowflake blocks on their own as a stand-alone printed pattern to make them available to shops.  The blocks can be used in any project that calls for 9" blocks.  I've used them in runners and bags.  I included photos and quilt mockups for snowflake project inspiration on my website.

Today, Simply Snow has perked back up to the top of my list of patterns to write.  It isn't pretty yet.  I think it's probably a good thing I put it on the back burner in 2019, because with a few more years of pattern writing experience, I think the pattern will be much more organized.  You can see above that I'm doing some heavy editing!  My process is very low-tech, making liberal use of pen and paper.  I'm happy to report I have made more progress since I took this photo a few weeks ago.  The pattern is looking much prettier now, and is about 95% ready.

How did I get around the ridiculous number of pages?  I didn't.  I'll keep selling the snowflake block pattern separately, and offer the setting instructions as a free download for now.  The free part may change eventually,  but it will at least start out that way.  

So, if you have the snowflake patterns and have been waiting to set them into a quilt, maybe this is what you've been needing.  I'll let you know how to access it when it's available.  Soon.  Very soon!

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Trimmed tips for the win

This little tool came packaged with a magazine years ago.  It sat in a drawer, unused and unappreciated, for years.  Now it's the tool I reach for most often after my rotary cutter and rulers.

It's a corner trimmer.  When it first arrived in the mail with that magazine, I thought it was only useful for trimming triangles to make HST the traditional way from two triangles.  Since I didn't much care for making  HST that way,  I tucked the tool away and forgot about it.  Years later I found it while reorganizing my stuff.  I paused to read the instruction booklet. Now the tool is never tucked away.

I still don't use it to make make HST, but I fully appreciate it to trim any other 45 degree point.  It takes all the guesswork out of lining up a triangle with another shape.  No more eyeballing if the pointy tip sticks out just enough past the other shape for the seam allowances to line up.  I took pictures today to show you.

I'm testing a new design idea that has lot of 45 degree points that meet wide 135 degree corners.

When sewing that seam, the points and corners need to be offset for everything to line up straight after the seam allowance eats into the fabric.  The trick is to have the points stick out the same amount on each side.  I can "eyeball" this and hope for the best, with my seam ripper on standby in case I didn't estimate quite right.

Or, I can use my corner trimmer to trim the points just right.

Now the blunt, trimmed points match up perfectly with the wide corners.  No guessing required.  

Sew with a 1/4" seam and ...

... tada!  Straight edges line up beautifully on the first try and my seam ripper gets the night off.

It takes a little extra time to trim points, but I save time in the long run by getting things lined up right the first time and avoiding seam ripping an resewing.  

I love my corner trimmer!  I also use it when:
  • joining binding strips to avoid marking the diagonal seams
  • joining the binding tails while binding a quilt (scroll down about 2/3 of the way down this post to see how)
  • adding setting triangles to an on-point setting (trimming points lets me position them precisely, so I can pin them in place and avoid any inadvertent stretching or distorting of the bias edges in the triangle)
  • sewing a triangles to a square or rectangle
So, it's a small but extremely useful tool.  I can't believe it was relegated to a junk drawer for so long.

Do you have a favourite tool to recommend for better piecing?  I'd love to hear about it.

Happy quilting,

PS: The Placemat Party 2022 is next weekend!  It's free and you can sew whatever you like but you need to sign up here for the Zoom meeting schedule and links if you want to participate that way, and/or join my Facebook group  to participate there.