diy décor: zippered pillow tutorial

I love a little DIY. It adds a custom element and a personal connection to your space. Pillows are an easy place to start. Since you can’t have enough there really isn’t the fear of your seating or bedding becoming cluttered! Try out our tutorial on how to make a DIY zippered pillow below.

where to start:

A trip to the local fabric store may seem old-fashioned, but there is great satisfaction in mixing your own fabrics. Have some fun with a bold and vibrant print. You can also keep it simple with a subtle color or go for a textured look. There is no limit to the selection of fabrics. Searching online can help narrow down your choices if staring at rows of bolts can be overwhelming. Try out the big box stores for great prices or look into artists who create small batches of unique. You can even have your own pattern custom printed!

I love choosing fabrics. There is so much power in being creative.

Once you’ve chosen your fabric, you need to decide how much you want. I prefer larger pillows in the 24×24 range, but you can really make them any size. Make sure you can find an insert that works or you can stuff them yourself. In order for an insert to fit and the pillow to look stuffed, you typically want an insert to be 2″ larger than your finished pillow size. I use 26″ inserts in my 24″ pillows, 22″ insert in my 20″ pillows and so on. This rule works for every pillow size whether floor cushions or bolster pillows.

math is fun. right?

When cutting your fabric, I cut it 1″ smaller than the insert to allow for a 1/2″ seam all the way around and a pillow cover that is 2″ smaller than the insert. I prefer zippers because I love to change up my décor. You can save some money by investing in some good inserts by just changing out the covers. Zippers are not daunting. Just ensure you have a zipper foot for your machine. I’d also recommend a hidden zipper to help even further disguise it.

I like to coordinate my thread and zippers with the fabric.

Very important: Ensure you wash and dry your fabric before cutting as it could shrink. There will be some thread loss with the salvage (cut) ends, so I make sure to wash the fabric separately or you may spend the next couple days pulling threads out of the socks and shirts! Cut out your fabric with either a rotary wheel or by marking it with a fabric marker and cutting it with a good scissors. Always measure and mark on the back of the fabric.

Measure, measure, measure. Cut.

and more math…

You can measure and cut out each one separately or use the first one as a template. You’ll need a front and a back. Another way to save a little is to splurge on a fun fabric for the front and use a neutral or coordinating solid color for the back. This works for every type, even pillows with piping. Fabric comes in different widths so make sure you check that before ordering the length. I try to use every piece of fabric for something, but you can only cut it once.

To make 24″ pillows with the same front and back I order 3 yards. That gives me enough for 4 pieces of 25″x25″ squares. It also gives me a 9’x11-17″ (depends on width) piece of fabric I can turn into a bed or table runner. There is also some fabric left over that I can use for piping or use the scraps for smaller projects. You will have more or less left over depending on your pillow size. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a paper or cardboard template and you can bring it with to the fabric store to measure out your sides.

Tip: You can also cut a rectangle that folds into a square to save on a seam!

the big zipper:

Once all your pieces are cut out, I like to start with the zipper because I feel I have more control. You can either purchase a zipper on a roll and cut to length or purchase already finished zippers. You don’t need an upholstery grade as this is not a seat cushion, but you do want one that will stand up to whatever wear and tear you plan on putting your pillows through. I like my zippers as close to the finish size of my pillow or longer. You can always cut them down. The smaller your zipper opening, the tougher it is to get an insert in. (Remember the insert is bigger than the pillow!)

Tip: Zippers can be a fun place to add some character. Even though no one but you sees it, I enjoy the touch of whimsy with a colored zipper. Either way have some fun!

sewing in a zipper:

Optional: Add a zipper bumper that will stop the zipper from getting stuck in the corner. Cut a scrap of fabric the width of the zipper and 3″ long. Fold in half and stitch it as close to the metal ends and fabric ends as possible. If you have an endless zipper, mark your pillow size and add your bumpers there. I do this on my machine but use my hand to control the needle. You can damage or break the needle if you hit the zipper teeth or metal ends. I also unzip the end with the zipper head and pin the ends together so that they are not splayed out.

They may seem fussy, but its a little detail that sets your custom pillow apart.

Fold back the bottom of your pillow pieces and iron a 1/2″ fold. Unfold the fabric. Place the unzipped zipper finish side down on the finished side of the fabric and pin the zipper teeth right at the end of the fold. Just do one side at a time and going slow, sew as close to the teeth as you can. As you come nearer to the zipper head, I ensure the needle is in the fabric so I can lift the foot without losing my straight line and move the zipper head up to be able to sew the last little bit. Ensure you sew over the bumpers if you put them in! Do the same on the other side, again watching for the zipper head and bumpers.

Tip: Go slow. It’s not worth damaging your machine.

making the pillow:

Line up your two sides with the finished sides touching. You will sew it inside out. It helps if the zipper is a little unzipped so you can turn it right side out after sewing it shut! Starting in one of the bottom corners, stich in a 1/2 inch from the sides. You can start in about a 1/2″ on the zipper to really make sure it’s hidden and secured. When you get to the corners, ensure the needle is in the fabric lift the foot and turn the fabric to line up the next edge. Release the foot and sew on! This gives you nice crisp corners. You can trim the corner fabric or cut a notch, especially if your fabric is thicker. Just be sure not to cut your seam!

sewing tip:

Make sure you back stitch every time you start and end a stitch or seam. It becomes habit once you do it a couple times, but it can be difficult or annoying to have to do it for every stitch. This keeps the seam from becoming undone which is quite important if you want a pillow after a couple uses or a wash!

admire and repeat!

Turn your pillow right side out and add your insert. Then become obsessed with fabric and do it all over again!

There are a number of insert options out there. Keep in mind that the inside as well as the outside should be chosen for you and your family’s lifestyle. Hypoallergenic inserts are a great alternative to down pillows.

Material List:

  • Fabric – I recommend cotton or a home décor rated one. The amount depends on the size of your pillow. Wash and dry first!
  • Zipper – Invisible is optional, but a fun color is a must!
  • Upholstery Grade Thread – Pull a color from your fabric
  • Scissors or Rotary Wheel
  • Fabric Marker or Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Sewing Machine

Not interested in making your own? Shop custom pillows here.

We would love to see your custom pillows. Share your designs with us by using #mygrayarea on Instagram.

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