How to Sew a Pillow with Piping and an Invisible Zipper


Part of getting settled into our new home has been sewing a seemingly endless parade of pillows. I’ve been keeping them pretty simple since a) I needed to make a ton of them and b) I can still go back and add fancy pillows later. However, I couldn’t quite content myself with just sewing squares, so my pillows all have piping around the edge and an invisible zipper so that the covers can easily be removed for washing. Since I instagrammed a finished pillow, folks asked how I sewed the piping, so here’s the answer!

cut fabric for pillows

Start by cutting squares of fabric for your pillows. I’m using a luscious cotton I bought in Thailand, but it’s a pretty loose weave so I serged the edges. If your fabric doesn’t ravel much, finishing the edges isn’t necessary since they will be well hidden inside the pillow. Tip: cut the fabric 1-2″ smaller than the size of your pillow form. This will make your pillow look well stuffed instead of slightly deflated.

sew piping on to edge of pillow

Sew piping all around the edges of one square. Since this is just a pillow, the seam allowance doesn’t need to be exact, so I just line the edge of the piping up with the edge of the fabric. Use your zipper foot to get your needle as close to the piping as possible. This example is with ready-made piping, but most of the pillows I sewed with my own piping. Since this piping isn’t easing around any curves, it doesn’t need to be cut on the bias so it’s super simple to make your own – just cut strips of fabric 1″ to 1 1/2″ wide and fold it in half with a piece of cording down the middle.

curve edges of pillow

Tip: Bring each corner in a bit. You can see the flat, it doesn’t make a perfect square to bring the corners in a little, but when you put the pillow form into the finished pillow case, it will make your pillow look square instead of ending up with corners that kinda poke out like ears.

overlap piping and notch curve

When you start and stop the piping, allow it to gently angle from the seam line to the edge of the fabric so that you get an overlap for a join that is minimally visible. Snip the fabric on the piping at the corners to allow it to relax.

sew invisible zipper

Use an invisible zipper that is the length of a side of your pillow. With the right sides facing together, sew the zipper to one side of the pillow.

sew second layer of stitching on piping

When I sew down the zipper, I usually make a first pass that just anchors the zipper in place and then a second pass that is close to the invisible zipper. (I know this isn’t the most elegant way to install an invisible zip, but it’s fast and easy and on a project like the bottom of a pillow where it’s hidden by piping, it does the trick just fine).

sew invisible zipper again

Sew the other side of the invisible zipper right sides together with the other square of fabric.

sew pillow right sides together

Lay the squares right sides together on top of each other and sew them together. You will need to use your zipper foot to sew right up against the piping. When you get to the start and stop of the zipper (shown on the right side of this picture), sew around the curve and down the side a half inch or so.

finished pillow with piping and invisible zipper

Turn the pillow case right side out and stuff in a pillow form. Voila!

Comments 21

  1. So glad I found this, I thought I had to do bias piping, now feeling more confident to give it a go! Made masses of fully-lined curtains, but never piped cushion covers. How difficult can it be? Famous last words…

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      In this specific example, the piping I used is pre-packaged Wrights bias tape piping where the cording is 1/8″ wide. You can easily create your own piping with other larger sizes of cording if you want a more dramatic piped edge. I wouldn’t recommend going any smaller than a 1/8″ wide cording – if you want the piped edge to be more subtle you can just omit the cording and use biased fabric alone for piping.

  2. Thanks for the input…I was thinking about doing 1/2 inch but I looking at yours I think no more than 1/4-3/8 of an inch. 1/2 inch might be a little too dramatic. Thanks for the help!

  3. A great tutorial! Thanks for sharing it!
    I was wondering if you have sewn a pom pom trim together with an invisible zipper into a cushion. I am thinking that it could be done in the same way as the piping in this cushion example. Please share your thoughts.

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  4. Thanks for this, I had searched several times for this, thanks to you I can see how easy it really is. I must have been over thinking it before!

  5. Thank you!!! I have not sewn much since middle school home ec about 20 years ago, but I really wanted to make some cool vintage inspired throw pillows for my 1970’s camper trailer. With your instructions (and possibly a little divine intervention) I made two awesome pillows with welting and a zipper! My fiance is quite impressed with my domestic skills. Thanks for helping me keep up the illusion! Now I want to reupholster the couch and dinette both in the trailer. Eeek!

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  6. Thank you so much for this!! I’m a poor graduate student and I’ve been scavenging fabric from old clothes at thrift stores to redo some old pillows I inherited from I’m not even sure where. I can’t wait to try this!

  7. Thank you for your instructions. Question: Why didn’t you use a cording foot to join the two sides of the pillow?

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  8. Very nicely done and good idea to use contrasting thread so we can see more clearly how you sewed it together.
    I also like the way you curved the cording around the corners so as to give the pillow a more subtle look and not so sharply pointed at the edges. Perfect! Thanks for sharing.

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  9. Hi I’ve used pom poms sew as you would piping but just be very careful when sewing the front n back together not to trap any of the pom poms

  10. Thank you! Because of your tutorial I gave made two pillows as a gift for my Mom in fabric she likes. I thought piping would be more difficult but your tutorial made it easy.

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  11. I’m glad you can do both piping and still use a zipper. I haven’t made a pillow in a long time and I never tried piping, but I did struggle in general with zippers. The way the invisible zipper foot works on my machine is not easy compared to being a breeze on an an industrial machine that a typical tailor has. I know because one showed me once how easy his zipper foot works compared to mine. Anyway, I’m guessing you are sewing the piping with a regular (all-purpose) zipper foot when you say just “zipper foot”? But you are sewing the invisible zipper with an invisible zipper foot? Clarification may help beginners. You usually have to buy an invisible zipper foot yourself while the machine will come with a standard/regular zipper foot.

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      I did all the sewing with a standard zipper foot. No invisible zipper foot necessary. In fact, you might find that an invisible zipper foot doesn’t fit nicely with the piping there.

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