Easy Throw Pillow Zipper Enclosures

By Kate Riley January 20, 2014

It was as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes, as if the clouds parted and the sun shined down upon me . . .  that’s how I felt when I finally mastered how to sew a zipper enclosure for throw pillows.

In the past I’ve chosen the envelope pillow enclosure for its ease and because truth be told perfect zippers intimidated me, but now that I’ve learned how to do it, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back! Over the weekend I stitched up ten pillow covers and all of them with zippers, each one faster than the next. I figured out how to do it by studying pillow covers I’ve purchased from retailers, and in my excitement, I just had to share.

simple sew pillow cover

I use a zipper that is slightly smaller than my pillow cover. For example, I use a 18” zipper for a 20” pillow insert and a 22” zipper for a 24” pillow insert, etc. and I always sew my covers 1 inch smaller than the insert (the seams for a 20” pillow insert are actually 19” for the pillow cover) so a zipper that is two inches smaller than the size of the insert works best.

Here’s the easy peasy technique! Cut your two sides of fabric and pin the fabrics inside out like you would if you were sewing an envelope cover, with the right side of the fabrics facing each other. Pin the zipper to the edge of the fabric with the front of the zipper facing down allowing for ¾” inseam.

pin fabric together


Install your zipper foot if you have one and keep the fabric from the other side pulled back a few inches as you sew the zipper to the first piece of fabric. Stitch the upside down zipper to the edge of the first piece as it’s facing right side up and make sure you’re sewing on the right not left side of the zipper’s teeth, as shown.

zipper side one step one


Flip the inside out pillow cover over and flatten/smooth the fabric. Repeat the same step, this time attaching the upside down zipper to the second piece of fabric, sewing again along the right side of the zipper’s teeth.

zipper second side

Tip: once you get close to the head of the zipper, pause your machine and slide the zipper head down with your fingers so it’s below where you’ve already attached the zipper to the fabric – it’s easier to sew that end when the zipper head is out of the way.

Switch back to a standard foot and finish sewing together the remaining three sides of the inside out pillow cover. (Although later I got lazy and just used my zipper foot for the three remaining sides . . . )

change foot sew three sides


On the zipper side of the cover, position the foot to meet the seam where you’ve previously attached the zipper and sew the cover to meet up to that point.

meet zipper stitch


You’re done! Pull the zipper back and flip the fabric right side out then insert a pillow.

flip right side out


Hey look at that, a zipper enclosure !

zipper enclosure


You can press the fabric so that it hides the zipper a bit more, but when it’s facing down you can’t see it. I used a standard zipper in this example since I buy them in bulk but for less visibility use the same steps with an invisible zipper so that it really is that  – invisible!

 standard and invisible zippers

The bonus with using a zipper enclosure: you have two sides of fabric to display.

pillow cover with zipper enclosure


That fabric is one of my designs printed on silk, I’ll have more details on that pattern and several others tomorrow . . .



  1. This is perfect timing for me!! I have some pillow cases to sew, but I’m an “envelope-pillow case” kinda girl and the thought of sewing a zipper-enclosure pillow case kind of freaks me out. You made it sounds so easy……you’ve helped me get up the courage to try it out. Thanks so much!!

  2. Thanks for the nice photo tutorial. I will give this method a try. I usually machine baste the seam where the zipper will go, pin the zipper in place down the center and then stitch down one side of the zipper and back up the other before opening up the basted seam with my seam ripper and stitching the other 3 sides. I like the zippers by the yard in a 5 1/2 yard roll from Joann.
    And that fabric is absolutely delicious!

  3. I have an on-going battle with my sewing machine. I did just manage to recover 2 chairs and I want new covers on all my toss pillows for this spring, so I may tackle this if I get the courage up! Thanks for the tutorial!

  4. Zippers always seem so complicated to me, but I guess they’re not that bad after all! I’ve been doing the envelope closure for years, so perhaps it’s time to upgrade. Thanks for the tip!

  5. What great timing! Project of the day? Throw pillows. I had already decided to do zippered covers, and I had figured out HOW to do them, but it is definitely a confidence booster to see someone else doing them the exact same way as me. : )

  6. Once I learned how to sew zippers on my pillows, I never looked back!! So simple, but seems so intimidating.

  7. Thanks for sharing! I’ve always been intimidated by zippers and I’ve only stuck to envelope style pillow cases. I’ll have to try out a zipper pillow case here soon.

  8. Invisible zipper? Yes! Then, if your pillow print allows, you can also display the pillow upside down, or sideways. That keeps the insert from getting saggy.

  9. On New Year’s day a few years ago I attempted my first invisible zipper and made a leopard print pillow case from some beautiful cream, taupe and pale blue patterned fabric. I did the same thing, flipped a store-bought pillow cover inside out to study it and figure out what to do. I was so happy that I nailed it on the first try. The invisible zippers are the way to go. The pillow I studies from Target had one so it was a great guide. I will only make invisible covers now. Love that fabric you have there-gorgeous!

  10. Love the print! My mom is currently working on covering a seat cover for a chair we recently refinished. I really need to sit down with her soon so that she can teach me her amazing skills. She’s sewed all her life and I regret not sitting down with her when I was younger to learn.

  11. Your timing is perfect. I ordered some fabric that arrived over the weekend and I have been wanting to try this for some time now. I bought the zippers a while ago but keep making envelope pillows afraid to try this. You have made it look easy enough to try today. Thanks.

  12. I got a sewing machine for Christmas and I think this will be my first project! Thank you for such great instructions!

  13. Thank you so much!!! Such a wonderful coincidence- I had just decided this weekend that I needed to learn the whole zipper thing because I am starting to do window treatments and throw pillows for some neighbors. Since they will be paying me I realized I need to step up my game a little and give them a more polished look. Now I know how. Thank you again!!!

  14. This is awesome! I’ve always been intimidated by the thought of sewing zippers. So excited to try it! I also use to think only really experienced seamstresses would be able to do piping on pillow covers but I tried it for a Christmas pillow i did and It was SO easy. I love when I accomplish something I didn’t think was in my ability to do! Thanks for another great tutorial, Kate!

  15. I’ve made a few of the envelope style covers, like you I’ve been afraid of the zippers (it’s been years since I’ve sewn zippers in!). Having seen a couple posts on it in the last couple of days, I think I’m ready to jump in…especially since I have a new machine that has a zipper foot, along with all the other do-dads I have to figure out. Thanks for the inspiration!
    Debbie :)

  16. Kate, you might also want to consider approaching the zipper application the way one does when adding a zipper to a garment. The seam is closed with a basting stitch, and the zipper “topstitched” into place, then the basting stitches removed……Fast and great looking.

  17. this is a terrific tutorial. Love your fabric selection too. I prefer zipper closures for my pillow covers because it allows me to over stuff my pillows. Which I love ♥ I hope you will consider sharing this at the Thursday hop this week (you can link up starting Wednesday night). I know my readers would enjoy it. Hugs

  18. And you can take this method a step further for box cushions by inserting the zipper on one of the skinny strips on the side & then assemble as usual.

  19. I used this technique today. Holy cow, it really worked! I have worked with zippers before, but there is seam ripping, multiple changing out of of feet, etc. I will always use this from now on. Thanks so much!

  20. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I have been trying to learn how to sew a zipper into a pillow for quite some time. Your lesson made it easy.

  21. Hey there! I just wanted to say thanks for a great tutorial. I have tried MANY tutorials and they were all very confusing and difficult. Yours was easy to understand and simple. My many thanks to you :)

  22. I would strongly suggest when pinning the zipper or the fabric sides that you insert the pins perpendicular to the edge of the fabric. That way you can sew right over the pins which will help keep fabric or zipper from slipping. It is also easier for novice sewers because it’s one less thing to worry about while you are trying to keep stitching straight. The zipper foot is also a great suggestion.

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