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How to Sew a Zippered Pillow Cover – a video tutorial

How to Add a Zipper to a Pillow Back - a video tutorial from Shiny Happy World

I’m pretty picky about pillow covers.

I don’t like the envelope backs. They’re easy to sew, but they don’t cover the pillow as snugly as I like.

I like zippered covers, so they cover tightly and can be removed for washing – but I don’t like when the zipper is in one of the side seams. They never “sit” the same way as the other seams, so the finished pillow shape is always a little distorted.

I like the zipper to be somewhere in the pillow back (it doesn’t have to be the exact center) but I don’t like it to extend all the way to the edges, because the stiffness of the zipper again can distort the overall look of the pillow.

So here’s how I sew a pillow with a zipper in the back.

  1. I make the cover a little small. If the pillow is 18 inches square, I cut my fabric 18 inches square. When I sew the front to the back using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, the pillow cover ends up 17 inches square – perfect for the nice snug fit I like.
  2. I make the zipper a little short. Specifically – two inches shorter than the cut fabric. So for an 18 inch pillow, I buy a 16 inch zipper.

Here’s how I assemble the zipper back.

See how easy that is?

(Do you like that super fun, slightly wobbly gingham print? It’s part of the Gingham Play collection from Michael Miller Fabrics and I have fat quarter bundles in a rainbow of pretty colors.)

I make a LOT of these pillow covers.

My daughter doesn’t like using regular rectangular bed pillows. Instead she has an enormous pile of square pillows – mostly with quilted and applique designs on them. πŸ™‚ She doesn’t like the inexpensive “hard” pillow forms. She likes these Fairfield brand Home Elegance pillows. They feel like down pillows, but they’re a LOT less expensive and they’re machine washable. Win!

You can use any quilt block pattern to make a pillow cover.

How to Turn Any Quilt Block into a PIllow

There are basic instructions here, and the Think BIG class has instructions for making giant floor pillows!

Happy sewing!



  1. mary sanderson SAYS...

    Thank you Wendi – a very clear explanation for an elegant alternative to the usual envelope closure. You are a Star.

  2. Thank you for showing us this lovely zipper technique.

  3. Mona SAYS...

    Thank you for this tutorial, just what I needed a well explained zipper install. Wow…You are providing me with infinite ideas on how to use your fun Hollywood designs!

    • Mona SAYS...

      That was supposed to be “happy world” computer changed to Hollywood, sorry 😞

  4. That was a really useful tutorial thank you I love your site

  5. Josefina SAYS...

    Thank you for the tutorial, Wendi. I just finished making a quilt top and I have one orphan block that I can use to make a pillow cover with a zipper on the back.

  6. Mariette Forget SAYS...

    Hi and thank you very much Wendi! 😎🌸

  7. Melissa SAYS...

    You make it look so easy! Thank you. I’ve always been afraid to try to put a zipper into my pillow backs, but with your complete and easily understood instructions I feel I can conquer this problem with little effort. Can’t wait to try it on my next pillow project!

  8. Lori M. SAYS...

    Thank you Wendy for the great close up tutorial for the zippered pillow back…and may I share a tip I use when sewing zippers into totes?…I have a handy paper clip at my machine and use it to lift the pull and then slide it into the end and use to pull the zip out of the way…

  9. I’ll have to give this a shot! I’ve been using a similar method, zipper near the middle of the back and stopping short of the edges, but I’ve been using a flap of fabric to hide the zipper instead of an invisible zipper. Your way looks a bit more streamlined and uses less fabric than the way I’ve been doing it.

    • Oh, wow, I just had time to watch the video and realized it’s a regular zipper, not an invisible one? It completely disappears with that method! This is awesome. I need to make some new pillows to try this!

  10. Anonymous SAYS...

    Thank you Wendi.Excellent tutorial.

  11. Birgit SAYS...

    your video is THE best sewing tutorial (and not just for zippers) that I have ever come across. Your video is incredible well narrated and explained.
    Thank you!

  12. Bette SAYS...

    Super video. Very detailed and easy to follow.
    Thank you!!!

  13. G.G SAYS...

    Hands down the best zipper instruction video I have ever seen.

    Thank you for taking the time to put this together for us.

  14. Gina SAYS...

    I teach sewing and have all my students use your video to train on how to install a zipper.

    Hands down this is the best zipper tutorial I’ve ever seen.

    take a second to pat yourself on the back because we here in Florida appreciate you.

  15. Cathy Camp SAYS...

    I love your tutorials. I have stayed away from zippers for a long time. But now, I feel like a PRO!
    Thanks, I am so glad I discovered your website

  16. Suzanne SAYS...

    This was a great way to add a zipper! It looks so professional. I think I made a mistake though somewhere: After adding in the zipper, the front and back of the pillow pieces are no longer the same size (the back where I added in the zipper is shorter now than the front piece). So should I have cut the back bigger than the front piece to account for the zipper or do you cut it after the zipper is in or did something go wrong in the way I sewed it? I do love your method and would like to use it again but want to figure out where I went wrong! Thanks so much!

    • The zipper itself shouldn’t really shorten the piece – but the seam allowance where you joined the two pieces together before adding the zipper will. You need to take that into account when cutting the pieces.

  17. Carol Ackland SAYS...

    This was the best tutorial I have found to put a zipper in .
    Thank you

  18. Rachel Rose SAYS...

    The video for assembling the zipper back seems to have been replaced by sewing face masks. I love your tutorials. Thank you.

  19. Barbara SAYS...

    Wendy, thank you so much, you make it look amazingly easy. I usually do an envelope backing on a pillow, but this will be my next way to back a pillow.

  20. Barbara SAYS...

    This is just what I was looking for. I am making memory pillows for family and will attach a personalized zipper pull with initials. I think it will hang out nicely and work perfectly with this type of zipper installation!

  21. Kathy SAYS...

    Hi Wendy, to follow up on Suzanne’s question concerning the size of the piece of fabric that we use for the back of the pillow, it seems like I need to cut the back 1 and 1/4 inches longer because you suggest leaving 5/8 inch seam allowance on both sides of the zipper. Do I have this correct? I’m excited about using your zipper method on 8 reading pillows for my grandchildren. Thanks so much!

    • Honestly – I usually give myself a little extra and then cut the back to match the front after I get the zipper in. πŸ™‚ That way if I wasn’t super exact on my seam allowance I “correct” it when I cut the finished back piece. πŸ™‚