Tutorial: Lapped Zipper

I love a zippered opening on decorative pillows, don't you? It just makes the pillow look that much more professional. I am making some patchwork pillows for Quilt Market and wanted to put in a zippered opening for inserting the pillow form but didn't want to use a 1/2'' seam allowance around the outside edge of the pillow top because it would compromise my patchwork design. 

Patchwork pillow top made with Sketchbook fabrics and Pure Element solid from Art Gallery Fabrics

The solution to my dilemma is to make a pillow back with a lapped zipper.

My pillow will finish at 20'' square but these instructions can be resized to any size pillow. I apologize that the photos will be a bit confusing because I am using a printed denim for my pillow back but didn't want to printed side to be seen. Note that in this tutorial the print is the WRONG side and the plain denim is the RIGHT side. 

MATERIALS for a 20'' pillow:

20-1/2'' square quilted pillow top

(2) 11-1/2'' x 20-1/2'' rectangles

16'' zipper

Zipper foot attachment



1. On one of the rectangles, fold a long edge under 1'' to the wrong side, press.

2. Center the zipper along the fold line, right side up with fold against the teeth of zipper. Pin in place or I like to use Dritz Wash Away Wonder Tape to hold the zipper in place without the need for pins.

3. Using a zipper foot attachment on your machine and adjusting the foot attachment position for the proper side, stitch the zipper in place close to the fold.

4. Place the remaining rectangle right sides together with the zipper section. Match raw edge of the rectangle with the unsewn edge of the zipper. Remember, in my case the printed side is the wrong side (I want the plain side as the finished pillow back). Pin or use the Wonder Tape if desired to hold the rectangle and zipper together for sewing. Stitch close to zipper. Adjust zipper foot position if necessary.

Open and press rectangle away from zipper.

5. Working on the right side with the rectangle you had just sewn, fold the material over the exposed zipper so the fold overlaps the zipper open by about a 1/2''.

Pin in place by placing the pins parallel with the fold and very close to the folded edge.

6. Turn pillow back over and sew lapped edge from the wrong side following the stitch line. Don't worry about the pins, they will not be near the needle or get in your way. 

7. Remove the pins. Measure in 1'' on each long side of the back and stitch the loose ends on each side of the zipper closed. Backstitch at beginning and end. Open zipper.

8. Pin the pillow top and pillow back right sides together. Stitch around all sides with desired seam allowance. Clip corners if desired. Turn right side out and insert pillow form. Close zipper.