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Zippers are one of the trusty workhorses of the sewing world. They normally go about their jobs, opening and closing without much fanfare. But recently, it’s become quite trendy to let them out from between the seams to shine on their own. This fancy and fashionable pillow does just that, featuring zippers on both the front and back. The back zipper is the official opening to insert the pillow form. The front zipper is fully functioning, but is there as embellishment only; it opens onto an inset placket. You can show off the pillow from either side. Both zippers are highlighted with parallel strips of decorative stitching, and that eye-candy front zipper also has a long tassel for extra appeal. The pillow can even be displayed with the front zipper partially open to adjust the placement of the tassel.

We used an amazingly soft and plush Fairfield Home Elegance™ pillow form in a 20″ x 20″ size.

We can’t emphasize enough how important the inside of the pillow is to its finished look. The Home Elegance™ line is Fairfield’s most deluxe choice and an excellent, economical alternative to down. You get a 100% cotton, 300-thread count jacquard cover filled with a special 100% polyester gel fiber. The result is an exceptionally plush textured pillow with a designer look and feel. And, thanks to their super cushy inside, you can get that high-end, karate-choppable look.

We originally used Osaka in Tin from the World Tour Linen collection by David Butler for FreeSpirit Fabrics. This fabric came from our S4H Stash and is no longer readily available, but new options in linen and linen blends appear with each new season of fabric collections. A home décor weight fabric would also work well.

We love using our Janome studio machines for decorative stitching. Nearly every model has lovely options from which to choose, some have hundreds! We worked with a metallic thread for extra bling next to the metal zippers. Janome stitch precision means there’s never a problem working with specialty thread – no feeding issues, no breaks.

Our pillow finishes at approximately 20″ x 20″ with a slightly looser slouch to the cover.

Sewing Tools You Need

  • Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
  • Satin Stitch foot; optional, but it is helpful to have a transparent foot with a guide for the decorative stitching
  • Zipper foot; optional, we used our standard presser foot to install both zippers, but a Zipper foot is an option

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • ¾ yard of 45″+ wide medium weight decorator fabric in a strong print motif; from our stash, we originally used Osaka in Tin from the World Tour Linen collection by David Butler for FreeSpirit Fabrics; this fabric is no longer readily available – see above for some alternatives
  • ⅝ yard of 45″+ wide medium weight decorator fabric in a coordinating solid; we used Medium Weight 100% Linen in Black
  • One 20″ x 20″ pillow form
  • TWO 20″ heavyweight metal separating zippers; we used a 20″ Coats Heavy Jacket Zipper in Aluminum
  • ONE long, elegant tassel; we used a 4″ black tassel purchased locally
    NOTE: We also have a tutorial on how to make your own tassels from embroidery floss.
  • All purpose thread to match fabric; we used black
  • Decorative thread for the stitching accents along the zippers; we used silver
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors
  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. From the print fabric, fussy cut ONE 21″ x 21″ square. Your motif should be carefully centered both top to bottom and side to side.
  2. From the coordinating solid fabric, cut the following:
    ONE 21″ x 21″ square
    ONE 6″ x 21″ strip for the front zipper inset
    TWO 1¾” x 21″ strips for the back zipper trim

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Prepare the front and panel panels

  1. Place the pillow back (the solid square) right side up and flat on your work surface.
  2. Place the pillow front (the printed square) right side up on top of the pillow back. Align the two layers on all four sides.
  3. Using your motif as a guide for exact placement, select the position for the front zipper. For our sample, we sliced through one column of medallions. In general the cut should be approximately 6½” in from the left side of the pillow front.

    NOTE: A see-through ruler and rotary cutter is the best option for this step.
  4. Separate the layers of fabric. From the pillow front fabric ONLY, trim an additional ¼” from each cut edge. Do not trim anything extra from the back pieces.

Front zipper inset

  1. Find the 6″ x 21″ strip of solid fabric and one of the zippers. This inset requires very accurate measuring and straight zipper placement in order to achieve a professional finish. Use your seam gauge to make sure your folds are exact.
  2. Place the strip right side up on your ironing board.
  3. Fold in each long edge 1¾” and press to set a crease. Unfold so the strip is flat again and the crease lines are visible. Center the zipper, right side up, within the 2½” center section. Lightly pin the zipper in place or hand baste in place. It is very important that the zipper is straight.
  4. Along each long raw edge, make a small double fold hem. To do this, fold under the raw edge ¼”, then fold an additional ½”, concealing the raw edge within the double fold.
  5. Fold the side edges down over the zipper, following the original crease lines.
  6. Here’s a top view of the folds without the zipper in place.
  7. And here is everything in place and pinned.
  8. Stitch the zipper in place along each side of the zipper teeth through all the layers.
  9. Keep your stitching straight and as close to the zipper teeth as possible. As with all zippers, begin with the zipper open about half way. Stitch up to the pull, then stop with your needle in the down position. Lift up the presser foot and gently move the zipper pull down past the foot. Drop your foot, and continue stitching to the end of the zipper. Repeat on the second side.
  10. When the zipper is stitched into the inset, bring it over to a flat work surface.
  11. Slip the narrow and wide front panels into place between the outside folded edges along the sides of the inset. Make sure the panels, and therefore the motifs, are straight.
  12. Pin in place along each outer edge through all the layers.
  13. Edgestich in place along both outer folded edges through all the layers, staying close to the fold along each side.
  14. When done there should be four seams the length of the inset.

Back zipper

  1. Find the two pieces of the pillow back, the two 1¾” x 21″ strips, and the second zipper.
  2. Fold each strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, aligning the raw edges. Press well.
  3. Place the folded strip right sides together with one side of the zipper tape. Pin the strip to the zipper tape aligning the raw edges of the folded strip with the top edge of the zipper tape.
  4. Find the wide pillow back piece. Place it right side up on your work surface. Place the zipper/strip right side down along one 21″ raw edge, sandwiching the folded strip between the zipper and the wide fabric panel. Center the zipper/strip top to bottom on the panel. With all the edges aligned, re-pin through all the layers.
  5. Stitch through all the layers along the zipper, keeping your seam approximately ⅜” from the zipper teeth
  6. As you get close to the zipper pull, as above, stop with your needle in the down position and lift the presser foot. Gently reach under and unzip the zipper, moving the pull down and away from the foot. Drop your foot back into position and continue stitching to the top of the panel.
  7. Flip the zipper to the right side and press the fabric away from the zipper teeth.
  8. Edgestitch along the outer folded edge of the strip. You are actually stitching the folded edge down into place against the fabric panel.
  9. Repeat to attach the remaining folded strip and narrow back panel to the opposite side of the zipper.

Decorative stitching

  1. Re-thread the machine with decorative thread in the top and bobbin. Select a decorative stitch that compliments your motif.
  2. Center a line of decorative stitching along each of the accent strips on both the pillow front and pillow back – four lines of stitching total. We didn’t want too dense of a stitch that could overwhelm the motifs on our fabric and so slightly lengthened our stitch for a more “airy” look to the finished stitching.


  1. Un-zip the back zipper about half way.
  2. Place the finished front and back panels right sides together. The two zippers should be opposite one another.
  3. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch around all four sides. Remember to pivot at all the corners. Clip the corners.
  4. Turn right side out through the open back zipper.
  5. Using a long, blunt-end tool, gently push out the corners so they are nice and square. A chopstick, long knitting needle or point turner works well.
  6. Insert the pillow form and fluff it into the corners. Zip closed.
  7. Attach the tassel to the front zipper pull


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler

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Judy K
Judy K
3 years ago

It surprises me how many people don’t seem to know about the dog-eared points, and that designers prefer them not to be there. It’s actually a simple fix. Mark the corners at 1″ and taper the cut edge to about 1/3 of the pillow length. Use this line for cutting. That will get rid of the ugly dog-ears. You’ll never notice. Give it a try. I think you’ll like it better.

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy K

Hi Judy – We do use that option sometimes, and even have a full tutorial about it. But — other times, we still like the super scrunchie look. Thanks for the reminder about the option. Here’s our article on it:

Dinah Halopka
Dinah Halopka
6 years ago

Beautiful idea for exposed

Beautiful idea for exposed zipper.  I have a friend who did a ruched finish next to zippers on a pillow.  Very lovely and really dressed up the pillow!

Lijo Decor
Lijo Decor
6 years ago

I feel its simply superb!

I feel its simply superb! Thank You for sharing such a lovely idea! Will surely try it out on weekends! 

Diana Owensby
Diana Owensby
6 years ago

I’m very surprised you did

I’m very surprised you did not embroider on the strips first as this could make a mess if you make one mistake.  I will definitely embroider the design first as there is plenty of room left to sew on the strip afterwards~I LOVE THE DESIGNS.  Thanks so much for this since I think it’s crazy cool!!!

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