Did you know that you can sew an invisible zipper with a standard zipper foot? Today I’m going to be showing you how you can easily make custom cushions or pillows for your sofa and how to sew an invisible zipper even if you don’t have an invisible zipper foot for your sewing machine. I’ll also be showing you two ways to finish the seams of your fabric if you don’t have a serger or overlocking machine.
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Buying fabric for invisible zipper pillows
Sustainable Fabric Manufacture
I would like to point out here, that this post is not sponsored by Spoonflower or Etsy.
I bought my fabric at the lovely Spoonflower shop on Etsy. If you’ve never heard of Spoonflower, they are an online fabric store whose print-on-demand process is designed to minimize fabric and ink waste. Their holistic approach addresses three key issues:
- Reducing the use of materials, energy and water by choosing a pigment printing process instead of reactive dye
- Minimizing fabric waste by only printing what is needed, plus recycling and transforming any fabric waste
- Ethically sourcing materials from a small group of trusted vendors
Plus, Spoonflower supports independent designers from around the world who earn a commission on every item we purchase.
In short, within the textile printing industry (which is one of the largest polluters of fresh water in the world), Spoonflower is an eco-friendly solution for us.
Low waste fabric for your pillows
I bought one metre of fabric which was enough to make two throw pillows. The fabric I chose was 106cm x 100cms so I knew I would have just enough to make my pillows without any wastage.
Step by step invisible zipper tutorial
If you’re interested in making some throw pillows with an invisible zipper but you only have a regular zipper foot, I’ve put together a step by step tutorial, showing you how I did it. You’ll also learn the number one tip which will make all the difference in making your zipper invisible even when you’re using the regular zipper foot which came with your sewing machine.
How to sew an invisible zipper with a standard zipper foot
What does an invisible zipper foot do?
An invisible zipper is different from a regular zipper in that it has a rolled edge and you don’t see the teeth at all when it’s unzipped. Normally, a special ‘invisible zipper’ foot is needed which rolls back the edge of the zipper whilst sewing as close to the zipper edge as possible. You can achieve a similar effect without an invisible zipper foot, by following the method below.
What to do if you only have a standard zipper foot
Preparing the invisible zipper
If as I did, you only have the standard zipper foot which came with your sewing machine, it’s still possible to create the invisible zipper look. The difference is, that you will need to prepare your invisible zipper by using an iron on a gentle heat to roll back the edge before sewing. This will mean that you will be able to sew much closer to the edge of the zipper teeth with your standard zipper foot.
Materials needed for making pillows with invisible zippers
Fabric of choice (I bought mine on Etsy)
Cotton thread to match your fabric
Pinking shears (If using this method to trim seams)
Time needed: 1 hour.
How make a pillow with an invisible zipper
- Cut the fabric to size
Cut the fabric the same size as your pillow. I’m cutting the fabric the same size as the pillow insert because I want my pillow to be full and plump and I don’t want what I call, ‘saggy corners’ where the pillow is not quite filled out by the pillow. If you can’t find the pillow size on the pillow tag, just use a measuring tape to measure seam to seam.
- Check your pattern
If your fabric has a pattern, decide how you want the pillow to look once it is finished and place a pin or marker on the bottom edge (where you want to insert the invisible zipper.)
- Right sides together
Place the fabric right sides together. Centre the invisible zipper onto the edge where you inserted the pins or markers and make a small snip with the scissors directly at each end of the zipper.
- Prepare the invisible zipper.
Use an iron to press the rolled edge flat.
- Pin the zip to your fabric
Fold back the top layer of fabric. Unzip the zipper and lay it with the zipper pull, face down onto the edge of the fabric and pin in place. In other words, pin the right side of the zipper to the right (patterned) side of the fabric.
- Sew the zipper to the fabric
Sew the first side of the invisible zipper to the fabric, removing the pins as you go. If your standard zipper foot allows, move the needle to the left to make it easier to sew really close to the rolled edge of the zipper. You will need to go wide around the metal part of the zip pull but don’t worry, you will go back and close the zip later and sew that part again. Once you reach the end of the zip, backstitch a few stitches with your sewing machine and then cut your thread.
- Pin the second side of the zip in place
Pin the right side of the second side of the invisible zipper to the right side of your fabric. If you want to make sure that you have done this right, you can open up the fabric after pinning, to see how it looks.
- Sew the zip in place
Sew the second side of the invisible zipper to the second side of the fabric.
- Close the zipper
Close the zipper a little and go back and sew as tight to the teeth as you can in the spot where the zipper pull had been in step six.
- Sew the pillow seams
Sew the pillow seams together. At this point, you can change over to the standard straight stitch sewing machine foot if you want. I continued to sew my seams with my standard zipper foot. First, pin the fabric together around the edges to avoid the fabric slipping or moving whilst you are sewing the seams together. Start sewing at the bottom of the zip, backstitch a few stitches and then continue to sew to the end of the fabric leaving about a quarter of an inch for the seam allowance. Leaving the needle in the lowest position (in the fabric), lift the foot and pivot the fabric around so that you are ready to sew along the next seam. Lower the foot and continue sewing along the seam of the second edge. Continue to do this until you arrive at about two-thirds of the way down the fourth side. Backstitch, then cut your thread.
- Open the zip
You should have enough of a gap in the seam to be able to put your hand inside the pillow and pull the zip open a little. This is important because you need to be able to turn your pillow cover right side out once you have finished sewing up the seams. Once you have opened the zip, go back and finish sewing the rest of the seam until you arrive back at the zip.
- Finish the corners
Now it’s time to finish up the corners. Before turning the pillow right side out, cut the excess fabric across the corner edges. By doing this, you will avoid having a bulky mass of fabric in the corners when you turn the pillow out and the corners will be nice and crisp. Cut as close as you can without cutting through your seam stitching.
- Finishing the raw edges using pinking shears.
It’s important to finish the raw edges of your seams to avoid the fabric ends from fraying when the pillow cover goes in the washing machine. If you don’t have an overlocking or serging machine you can finish up the raw edges by simply using pinking shears. Pinking shears are scissors with a serrated edge and you just need to cut the edge of the fabric all the way around. This method is alright if your pillow is not going to get much wear and tear and will not need to be washed very often. I’m not sure how effective this would be in the long term and it also looks quite messy. If you can manage it, I recommend the method in step fourteen below.
- Finishing the raw edges using an overlocking or zig-zag stitch.
In my opinion, a much better and long term option. First, you will need to change over to the overlocking foot. I have a Singer sewing machine (see the link in the materials list above) and the overlocking foot comes with that machine as part of the standard tools. Once you have the overlocking foot installed, you will need to select a zig-zag or overlocking stitch on your sewing machine and simply sew around the edges of your seams so that the stitch reaches just over the end of your fabric.
- Turn out the pillow cover.
Push your fingers into the corners to push out the fabric and make a crisp clean corner.
- Insert the pillow into the cover
To make it easier to insert the pillow, fold it in half first and push it into the middle of the pillow. Then it’s just a matter of forming the pillow insert and pushing it into the corners.
- Close the zipper
Close the zip and plump up your pillow – Finished.
How to sew a pillow with an invisible zipper
Below, you can see a photo of two pillows side by side.
The pillow on the left shows how the pillow will look if the invisible zipper is not ironed before it is sewn.
The pillow on the right shows how you can almost create the same invisible zipper look with a standard zipper foot by pressing back the rolls of the zip with an iron before sewing.
This method of sewing an invisible zipper with a standard presser foot is a great compromise if you take the time to prepare the invisible zipper by ironing it beforehand. I think I could have achieved an even better result by leaving the iron in position longer thereby further flattening the rolls of the zip.
If you need to have a completely invisible zip, the best way to achieve it would be to buy an invisible zipper foot for your sewing machine.
For making a one-off pillow or cushion, I don’t think an invisible zipper foot is necessary. However, if, as I do, you plan on making more throw pillows in future, it would be worth investing in the right tools to achieve a more professional looking finish.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and would love it if you’d let me know what you think of it. Do you like how my cushion turned out? Do you think you will attempt this project? Do you have any other tips for making pillows with an invisible zipper? If so, please share them with our community by leaving a message in the comments below.
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