Zipper Series: Part 2 – Covered zip for a cushion

I love this simple method for creating a covered zipper for a cushion or pillow. It looks neat, a little bit chic and rather sophisticated, but is so straightforward to do – if you are used to putting zippers in pouches, then this will seem like a doddle, but even if you haven’t, it’s so easy, your zipper confidence will increase by 100%, guaranteed!

covered zip tutorial header

Some preliminaries about zips:

You think you know all about zips (how hard can it be?!), but I realised, when starting this series, that I have no idea what the different parts of a zip are called – so here’s a a labelled diagram. I’ll be using the proper names in the tutorial – so maybe keep the page open so that you can refer to it whilst you work your way through the steps. Another thing to remember is that the official zip length given when you are buying is just the length of the teeth/coils section, so for example, a 12in zip will measure more like 14in if you measure from either end of the zipper tape.

Pattern notes:

The method below is for a 15 in cushion cover (that is the finished size – suitable for a 16 inch cushion pad), but is easily adaptable for other sizes of cushion –  there’s a note at the end of the tutorial describing how to do it. As you work your way through the tutorial, if any of the photos aren’t clear enough for you, you can click on them for a bigger version.

You will need:

  • A cushion top measuring 15.5in square (wadded & quilted or interfaced according to your project requirements – for this simple cushion cover I interfaced my outer cushion pieces with fusible fleece – Vilene H640)
  • Lining fabric for the cushion top measuring 15.5in square
  • 2 outer back pieces measuring 8in by 15.5in (wadded & quilted or interfaced according to your project requirements)
  • 2 lining back pieces measuring 8in by 15.5in
  • 2 pieces of fabric measuring 1in by 4in for zip end tabs (these will be partly visible on the back of the cushion when complete – so you can use the same as the backing fabric, or a contrast/coordinate as appropriate for your project)
  • 1 piece of fabric measuring 2in by 15.5in for the zip cover (again, you can use the same as the backing fabric, or a contrast/coordinate as appropriate for your project)
  • A zip measuring 15 inches or more
  • A 16in cushion pad
  • A washable glue pen (such as a Pritt stick or Sewline glue pen is invaluable for any zip project).

Step 1-5 Preparing the zip
Trim the top tape extension on the zip to exactly 0.75in past the top stop. Once you have done this, measure from the trimmed edge exactly 15in, and cut off the excess teeth and tape. Don’t use your best scissors or rotary cutter!! And don’t worry that you are cutting off the bottom stop, this actually makes dealing with the zipper easier because you wont have to worry about accidentally sewing over it (not a good experience believe me). Put the zip to one side whilst you prepare the tab ends.

Covered zip pic 1

Take one of the 1in by 4in pieces fold in half widthways and make a crease. Measure 1.25in from the fold and mark a line, then repeat on the other side – as shown in Step 1.

Covered zip pic 2

Fold the fabric on the marked lines and press, as shown in Step 2. It’s important that those two bits of unfolded fabric on either side of the central crease measure a pretty accurate 0.25in, so adjust if necessary.

Covered zip pic 3

Place the bottom end of the zip on the folded in edge of the tab (Step 3), and then fold on the central crease to enclose the zip end. Glue (a washable glue pen is really useful here) or pin the zip end tab into place. Repeat at the the top top end of the zip, making sure that the top stop itself is positioned just outside the fold of the fabric (Step 4).

Covered zip pic 4

Stitch the zip end tabs in place – I make two rows of stitching for extra strength (Step 5)

Covered zip pic 5Inserting the zip: Steps 6-13

A nice easy bit – fold the 2in by 15.5in piece of fabric in half lengthways to create the zip cover (Step 6). If you like, you can top stitch close to the folded edge of the zip cover – I think this gives a neater finish – as you will see from later photos I decided to do it at a later stage, but it makes much better sense to do it now!Covered zip pic 6

Align the raw edges of the zip cover with one of the tape edges of the zip (it doesn’t matter which side) – pin or glue in place on the raw edge side, so that the folded edge of the zip cover is free (Step 7).

Covered zip pic 7

Stitch the zip cover to the zip, a very scant 0.25in away from the raw edges of the cover (Step 8).

Covered zip pic 8

Put one of the 8in by 15.5in back outer pieces right side up on your work surface, and put the prepared zip aligned with the 15.5in edge (Step 9), wrong side down. My picture in step 9 is a little bit misleading – please pull the zip about 5in open at this stage.

Covered zip pic 9

Place one of the 8in by 15.5in lining pieces on top, right side side down, so that the zip and the raw edges of the zip cover are sandwiched between the edges of the outer and lining (Step 10), and the outer and lining are right sides together.

Covered zip pic 10

Change the foot on your sewing machine to a zipper foot, and stitch the lining, zip and cushion outer section together, keeping one edge of the zipper foot closely aligned to the teeth of the zip (you will be able to feel them through the fabric), and the other side of the foot aligned with the raw edges of the 3 layers. As you approach the zip pull, lift up the presser foot (leaving the needle down) and pull the zip pull out of the way, back in the direction that you’ve already sewn. Then put the presser foot back down again and finish the seam. You should end up with something that looks like the picture in Step 11. Covered zip pic 11

Pull the lining round into position, then fold back the zip cover and pin it out of the way (Step 12) whilst you sew the other side of the cushion back to the other side of the zip.

Covered zip pic 12

Put the other 8in by 15.5in back outer piece right side up on your work surface, and line up the other side of the zip (right side down) with one of the long edges – once again, make sure the zip is unzipped at least 5in. Put the remaining lining piece on top (right side down), and pin, or glue, all 3 layers together.   Stitch the 3 layers together, as in Step 11. Once you have finished the stitching, you should end up with something that looks like this:

Covered zip pic 13

Steps 14-15: The finishing touches:

Now press the zip seams very thoroughly, making sure that you are pressing the lining and outer fabric away from the zip teeth as much as you can. If you don’t do this really well, you will find you have fabric too close to the zip, and it will be annoyingly easy to catch the fabric in the teeth of the zip for ever after. Once you are satisfied that you can iron no more, working on the right side of the cushion, top stitch the zip seam close to the edge of the zip cover – still using your zipper foot.

Covered zip pic 14

Finally, fold and pin the zip cover out of the way and top stitch the other side of the zip (Step 15).

Covered zip pic 15

And that’s it – you’re done. You might need to trim a little excess from the cushion back to match the front, then you can put the back and front of your cushion right sides together and stitch all round the edge with a generous 0.25in seam. Don’t forget to have your zip open about half way or you will have a permanently inside-out cushion on your hands. Finally, zig-zag the seam edge to prevent fraying. Here’s how the finished back should look:

covered zip finished 1

And, irrelevant to this post, but here’s the front too:

Finished cushion

The amazing fabric is by Hokkoh of Japan.

To convert this tutorial for use with other cushion sizes:

  1. Decide on your finished cover size. The cushion front outer and lining pieces will need to measure this size plus 0.5in (to allow for a 0.25in seam allowance). E.g. for a cushion cover measuring 16in, cut a square measuring a generous 16.5in.
  2. The back pieces and back lining pieces need to measure the same width as the cushion top. To calculate the length measurement, add 0.5in to the width measurement and then divide by 2. E.g. for a finished cushion cover measuring 16in, the back pieces need to measure 16.5in by 8.5in (that is (16.5in +0.5in) ÷ 2)long.
  3. The trimmed zip length (from end to end – not just the teeth, see Step 1 for instructions ) needs to be the same as the finished size of the cushion cover. So if you want to make a 16in cover (final measurement) then the zip needs to be trimmed to 16in – buy a 16in zip so that you have plenty to play with.

And finally – if you are now feeling excited about zips – why not check out the first part of my zip series – making a zipped pocket in a bag.

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