How To Make a Zippered Pillow Case – Sewing Tutorial

What better project to accompany our brand new made-from-scratch throw pillow than a removable, zippered pillow case?

I talked a little about fabric in the pillow tutorial, but I’ll reiterate here that almost any fabric can make a great pillow. There a lots of fancy-pants home dec fabrics like velvet and satin and silk. Or if you want something snuggly, there’s minky and fleece. If you want to get really crazy, you could make a pillow out of faux fur. You could also keep things simple and go with a cotton or canvas. Especially if you plan on embellishing the case with embroidery or applique or beadwork.

As usual, this tutorial is available in two formats: video and text!

Trouble with the video player? 
Click here to watch the video on Youtube.
Or continue reading for the text/photo version of the tutorial.

The materials for this tutorial are pretty simple. You really just need your pillow insert, fabric, and a zipper.


1. My pillow insert is 18″ x 18″. I want the case to be the same size, so after adding seam allowances, I need two 19″ squares of my fabric.

Your zipper should be about 3-5 inches shorter than the size of your square. In this case I’m using a 14″ zipper. When in doubt, get a longer zipper than you need, since you can always cut it shorter.


2. Before assembling the pillow, make note of whether or not your fabric has a tendency to fray like a mofo. Mine does, so I decided to stitch the edges to put a stop to that nonsense. You can do this by zigzagging along the raw edge, or you can use a serger. This is not an absolute necessity, but it will make the case more durable, especially when it comes to washing.


3. Behold, my two pillow squares aligned right sides together.

Pin along the bottom edge. My fabric design doesn’t necessarily have a “bottom,” so I just picked a side. But if your fabric print or pattern is directional, you’ll want to pay attention to that.


4. Baste the bottom edges of the two pillow pieces together, leaving 1/2″ at each corner unsewn. Backstitch at each end of the basting.

My fabric hides the stitching so here’s the same basting stitch on lighter colored fabric.

Tip: “Basting” means to use a longer stitch length than you usually would when sewing. Usually basting will be removed later, and the longer stitches are both easier to remove and put less holes in your fabric.

Press the seam open with an iron.


5. Pin or gluestick the right side of the zipper to the wrong side of the pressed seam.

Try to center the teeth of the zipper along the seam line as best you can.

If you’re using the gluestick method, press the zipper in place and then wait 10-20 minutes for the glue to dry before stitching.


6. Mark the ends of the zipper teeth. We’ll be stitching the zipper from the right side of our pillow, and marking the ends ensures we won’t inadvertently stitch through the teeth.


7. Transfer the pins to the right side of the fabric.


8. Using a zipper foot, top stitch around the entire perimeter of the zipper.


9. Here’s a photo of the zipper stitching form the wrong side. Looks pretty wonky, but that’s OK, because it looks great from the right side!


10. Use a seam ripper to remove the basting stitches inside the zipper top stitching.


11. Do not seam rip past the ends of the zipper top stitching.


12. After removing all the basting stitches, unzip the zipper.

This is actually a really important step. If you forget to unzip the zipper, you won’t be able to turn your pillow right sides out at the end! (Been there, done that.)


13. Align the pillow pieces right sides together again, and pin around the raw edges, including the open corners at the bottom.


14. Stitching around the perimeter of the pillow, beginning at one end of the zipper basting stitches and ending at the other.


15. Here’s a closer look illustrating how the stitching around the pillow should overlap the zipper basting stitches.


16. I didn’t clip my corners this time because of how much my fabric frays, so I’ll leave that as an optional step depending on your fabric. Turn the case right side out.


17. Use something pointy (like a chopstick) to gently turn out the corners.


18. Shove the pillow insert into the case.


19. Zip up the zipper.

Look at that fanciness!


20. VI-OLA! You’ve just made a pillow case, my friend!

Go forth and make another. And another. Fill a whole room with nothing but pillows! (Which was actually a life goal of mine as a teenager…)

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