Removable pillow sham with a zipper and piping
1 yard main fabric for pillow front and back
1/4 of a yard of fabric to cover the piping
24″ zipper in a plain or coordinating color
about 2 1/2 yards of piping (some call it cording or welting)
rotary cutter or scissors
ruler or straight edge
a pencil or chalk for marking
seam ripper tool
sewing machine with a zipper foot
The pillow I am covering is 22″ square. The pillow form is down and therefore not very firm, so I cut the pieces for both sides (we’ll call them A & B) of the pillows at 22″ square so with seam allowances, the finished size will be more like 21″ square but will be a tight fit. I would recommend erring on the too small side in the case of covering pillows, the pillow form will look better if it fits snugly, better than loose and baggy. Set these pieces aside.
Lay out the fabric you will be using to cover the piping. Use the whole width of the fabric, from selvage to selvage (I have it folded in half in the picture), most fabrics are about 45″ wide so you will need to cut 2 strips to make it all the way around the pillow.
Using a regular presser foot but moving your sewing machine needle all the way to the left, sew the piping inside it’s housing. Making sure the seam you just ironed is on the inside, begin sewing in about 1-2 inches from the end. Stay tightly against the cording as you sew. This is more of a basting stitch and won’t look or feel very snug, this is on purpose. Your final stitch will be sewn close and tightly against the piping, in a later step. Sew to within 3″ of the end, but leave the end open.
If your fabric is directional or has a specific pattern you’d like to match up on the front and back, like the fabric shown, it is a good idea to mark with pins, on both the front (A) and back (B) pieces, the bottom edge where the zipper will be sewn. That way you won’t forget the special circumstance as you sew and have one pattern going one way on one side and the pattern on the flip side going the other way.
Lay out the piping around side A of the pillow, make sure it’s long enough to make it all the way around. The piping and it’s casing will be sewn with the raw edges facing out, right on top and matching up to the raw edges of the pillow face.
Start with the end of the piping in the middle bottom edge of the pillow. It’s easier as you go to finish off the ends to be far away from the corners, the finished product will look better too- if you start in the middle.
Continue using the regular presser foot on your machine. Starting about 2″ in from the end of the piping, begin sewing the piping to the pillow. The raw edges of pillow and piping casing should match up as you sew.
As you are sewing but before you reach the corner snip out 3 notches (not too deep) in the raw edge of the casing fabric to ease it around the corner. Try and line up your notches with the corner and then on either side of the corner. This should make the piping neatly follow around the corner.
Their should be about an 1-2 inches of overlap when covering the piping (the picture shows not nearly enough overlap in the ends, it will pull apart to reveal the piping underneath when the fabric is moved, I had to fix it later). Leave a generous amount of at least 1-2″ of fabric overlap to work with on each side.
Lay one end of the fabric down, then with the other end, fold over the edge to make a nice, neat finished edge. Tuck this finished edge into place over the unfinished edge and sew in to place completing the attachment of the entire circle of piping and casing.
Get the zipper ready by first making sure that you are attaching it to what will be the bottom of the pillow, the same side you just finished sewing together the ends of the piping casing. Turn the zipper right side down against the right side of the fabric.
Now it’s time to switch to the zipper foot of your sewing machine, keep the needle in the far left position. I find it is easier during this step to keep the zipper in the unzipped position. Beginning by matching up the first teeth of the zipper and the previous stitched area of the piping/casing corner. You are going to sew the zipper as closely to the piping as you can.
Lay side B (no piping) down on top of side A (the side you just finished sewing the zipper to), right sides and patterns together. The side you previously marked with a pin should match up with the side you just sewed the zipper to- the bottom of the pillow.
Flip the project over and line up the stop end of the zipper, face down, to the right side of side B. It is easier to sew this way, zipper on top, with no zipper pull getting in the way. you Leaving the zipper closed helps side A & B to line up nicely, making a nice square pillow in the end.
Toward the end of the side, unzip the zipper a bit to allow for a nice straight seam and no bulge around the zipper pull. Stitch close to the zipper teeth, about 1/8 of an inch away from the edge of the teeth.
Tip: At this point, avoid using an iron next to the zipper, it could melt away all of your hard work.
Begin stitching the sides together at the end of the zipper. Continue to use the zipper foot on your machine because now is the time to sew as tightly against the piping as possible. Use your fingers to pinch the piping into the corner of it’s casing and smooth the fabrics for sewing.
Take your time. One common problem is having the feed dogs (under your fabric) moving the fabric through faster than what the presser foot (on top) is pushing. You get to the corner and the edges aren’t matching up. If you sew fairly slowly and watch to see if the fabrics being sewn together are staying properly matched up, you can save yourself a lot of trouble and headache in the end. I like to keep my seam ripper handy to use as a guide in easing the fabric through the needle area and around the corners too.
When you’ve made it all the way around, make a note of how the zipper ends naturally sit together. Then, unzip the zipper at least 4″ to get the bulky pull part out of the way and to allow an opening to pull the pillow right side out. Referring back to your mental note on zipper ends and where they naturally fit, place the two zipper sides next to each other and sew right up next to the top teeth finishing the sewing up of the three sides.
If you decide to snip the zipper off, keep two things in mind: if it’s a metal zipper it could do some damage to your scissors, be careful. And, plastic or metal, make sure you have sewn over the top of the zipper teeth to create a new stop for the end. Otherwise, when you unzip the pillow the pull will zip right off the edge with nothing to stop it.
Turn the pillow right side out and from the inside push the corners out with your fingers. You may have this problem (pictured above) where the stitching isn’t close enough to the piping, this is especially likely to happen near the corners.
To fix this, turn the pillow wrong side out again and sew even closer too the edge of the piping. It helps to maneuver the piping with your fingers, pushing it to the inside as much as possible. If you feel the final seam around the whole pillow isn’t tight enough up against the piping, simply resew around the whole thing focusing on staying as close to the piping as possible and knowing that you know the corners of side A & B already match up.