I'm going to show you how to make a smart and fabulous pillow cover with a truly invisible zipper!
Few things bring me more satisfaction than a well done invisible zipper. I see lots of tutorials for pillows with zippers and some call them "hidden zippers" but it drives me crazy because the zippers are behind the obvious fabric folds and there are seams showing the whole length on each side of the zipper (just a pet peeve of mine). It doesn't have to be that way! Installing an invisible zipper is no more difficult than sewing regular zippers (I think it's easier actually).
Here are the two pillows I've made recently. The top one is awesome. The bottom one has a poorly installed invisible zipper. The two big differences were 1. ironing the zipper coils first and 2. getting my sewing machine needle as close to the coil as possible while sewing. I'm going to take you through those steps as well as others to get a great finish!
First, let's talk about invisible zippers. Invisible zippers are actually labeled "Invisible Zipper" (it's not just the outcome of the process, it's the actual name). On the left is a regular zipper which has exposed teeth and a square-ish zipper pull. On the right is an invisible zipper and you can't see the teeth at all plus the pull is long and tapered. Invisible zippers cost a little bit more but the great outcome makes up for the small price difference.
Now let's talk about zipper feet. Your sewing machine probably came with a zipper foot like the one on the left. This one will do the trick if your machine has the ability to shift the needle over to the side. The notched areas underneath each side enable you to get your zipper closer to the needle (but not all the way which is why you need to shift your needle over).
The foot on the right is a foot specifically for sewing invisible zippers (this one is from my Juki so it's got a higher shank but the grooves will be the same on a lower shank foot). If your needle can't be adjusted to the side you need something like this because it allows you to set the zipper right under and next to the needle without having to move the needle.
If you don't want to invest in an invisible zipper foot quite yet you can get this plastic one, pictured below, made by Coats. They're a lot flimsier than the metal ones of course, but for 2.50-ish it's a great way to see if you like the grooved foot before buying a metal one.
Besides a suitable zipper foot, you'll need the supplies below:
1. Two fabric squares cut the same dimensions as your pillow form. My pillow form is 18 x 18 and I cut the fabric squares 18 x 18 so I get a finished cover of approximately 17 x 17 inches.
2. One invisible zipper at least 4 inches longer than your fabric pieces (my zipper is around 22-24 inches long).
3. One Elmers-type glue stick. I use the stuff that is purple before it dries.
Your first step is to unzip your zipper and iron the coils so they lay as flat as possible (this will enable you to really get your needle up next to it).
Here's a picture of one side of a zipper before and after ironing. I really applied a lot of heat and took my time to really get it to "uncurl" and lay flat.
Lay your zipper on one side of the fabric and mark both sides of the zipper about 1.5" from the end of your fabric. The zipper pull is face down when you mark it (more detailed picture next).
Here's an example of how your zipper will lie when you start gluing it in place (yes glue!). I've zipped this one up partly so you can see that the zipper pull is face down. You'll need to unzip it completely for the next few stages.
Glue along the whole edge where your zipper will be sewn. Place a piece of paper under it so you don't get glue on your ironing surface. The glue dries pretty quickly so have everything ready when you get started.
Once you have the zipper pressed in place along the edge you want to heat set the glue with your iron. Just set it on top of the zipper and press and it will dry the glue enough to hold it while you work with it. I've used glue for a long time but it was my friend Cristy Fincher who showed me you need to heat set it with your iron (it changed everything for the better!). If the glue is drying before you can get to this part then do this process in two parts (glue half way up, set your zipper, heat press and then glue the rest of the way to the end and repeat the process).
This glue seriously holds! So much more accurate and reliable than straight pins.
Now flip your glued part over on top of the other fabric piece (like the picture below) and repeat the glueing process on the edge of this piece.
Make sure your edges and the marked lines match up.
Here's what it all looks like when the zipper is glued and heat set in place. You're ready to sew!
Place your zipper under the zipper foot and adjust your needle so it's right next to the coil. Don't start stitching at the very end of the pillow piece but start about 1/4" before the mark you made. Backstitch and start sewing the length of the zipper.
Stop stitching just 1/4" past the other side of the mark you made at the other end. Backstitch.
Now repeat that process on the other piece of fabric.
Place your fabric pieces right sides together and pull your zipper in so it's no longer hanging off the end of the pillow pieces. Don't pull it all the way shut. Now you're going to finish stitching the length of the zipper side. Pull your zipper "tail" up and out of the way.
Now dab some glue on the un-sewn corners.
Here are both ends (folded so you can see both). They are glued shut at the corners and the zipper "tails" are out of the way.
Now use your marker to make the sewing line on each end. Draw a straight line from the end and go past the end of the zipper stitch by 1/2".
Move your zipper foot over to the other side, adjust your needle over so it's on your line, and stitch along your line past your zipper stitch. Backstitch.
Now cut the zipper tails off (use cruddy scissors for this).
Cut both ends of the zipper off.
Open your pillow and press your seam. Isn't this lovely?? Once you've pressed this seam you'll need to unzip your zipper about halfway down the length of the pillow (or you won't be about to get your hand inside your pillow to turn it right side out once you've finished stitching all the way around it).
Did you remember to unzip your zipper? Good. Now fold your pillow back together (right sides together). Glue and heat set the edges of the pillow pieces all the way around the perimeter. Keep your edges even and lined up neatly.
Now use a 1/2" seam allowance and stitch all the way around starting at the zipper edge.
Rather than pivoting at the corner, just stitch all the way off the edge (but backstitch at the spot where you would've pivoted). Then start sewing again on the next side (again backstitch at the spot where the two stitches intersect).
Once you're done sewing snip your corners off.
On the corners near the zipper you'll want to trim off a little of the seam allowance on the side too (this will give you sharper corners here).
Start turning it right side out and poke your corners out (you can use a chopstick point or something similar to get a good corner).
Lay your pillow cover flat and press your seams open as much as you can.
Here it is, nice and finished and ready to be stuffed. Nice clean lines, a discreet zipper, and you didn't use one pin the whole time.
Squish your pillow form up and stuff it into your new, beautiful cover. Take care to stuff it into the corners too. Now zip it up. Isn't it pretty? Pat yourself on the back now. Do it.
Now you can enjoy them forever.
Let me know how it works for you!