In my Absolute Beginners sewing class I teach students to set zippers using a simple zipper cushion-cover tutorial. The cushions are fun and easy to make and the students love them. I thought you might enjoy a tutorial, so you can make them yourself.
This method of setting a zip is a bit longer and more involved than some, but it yields a fool-proof result, which is important when you are first learning to sew. And even now, I’d rather use a technique that is always going to work perfectly than one that can go wrong!
For this tutorial you will need:
- One 35cm/14 ” zip
- 1/2 metre of mid/heavy weight fabric cut into 3 pieces: one square that is 49cm x 49cm (19.25″ x 19 1/4″”) (for your cushion front), and two rectangles (for your cushion back) that are each 49cm x 26cm ( 19 1/4″ x 10 1/4″”)
- One 18″ square cushion inner
Step 1: Sewing the zipper seam
- First, finish the two long inside edges of your rectangular back pieces with zig zag stitching
- Now, lay your zip down along one of the zig-zagged edges, centering it on the piece of fabric. Mark the top and bottom of the zip (the top and bottom of the part that actually zips – so the metal and and the top of the slider) with chalk.
- Place your two rectangular pieces right sides together, with the zig-zagged edges aligned. Using a 1.5cm (5/8″) seam allowance, stitch down the seam, using a regular (2.6ish) stitch length as you start, backstitching at the top, stitching down to the first chalk mark, backstitching again, and then switching your stitch length to a long basting length stitch (4) to sew the section between the chalk marks where your zip will go. When you get to the next chalk mark, switch your stitch length back to a regular (2.6ish) stitch length, sew three stitches past the chalk mark, backstitch to the chalk mark, and then sew to the end of the fabric, backstitching again at the end.
- Once your seam is sewn, press it open. Lay the zip along the seam, matching the top and bottom of the zip to your chalk marks, and carefully centering the coils of the zip exactly on your seamline. Pin the zip down.
- Once your zip is pinned down, hand baste the zip through all the layers of fabric along the outside of the zip. For ease of removal, use a contrasting thread, and stitches that are approximately 1cm long. Once you have basted the zip on you can remove all of the pins.
- In order to have a really easy guide line to follow, I like to mark my zips stitching line with chalk. Using a straight edge and a tailors chalk, mark a line on the right side of the fabric 1/4″ or 7mm from the centre seam line all along the zip. Mark off the top and bottom of the zip, just above the metal pull and below the bottom stay.
- Now you are ready to machine sew your zip on. Using a zipper foot and a regular stitch length (2.4-2.8), start at the top corner of your zip, backstitch, and slowly and carefully, sewing right on the chalk lines, sew down the zip to the bottom corner. At the bottom corner, sink your needle, lift your foot, turn the cushion 90 degrees, lower the foot again, and sew across the bottom of the zip to the next point. Sink your needle again, lift your foot, turn your fabric another 90 degrees, lower your foot, and sew back up the other long side of the zip. At the top, turn another 90 degrees, sew across the top of the zip to finish it off, and backstitch.
- Ta da! You’re zip is sewn on. Double check that your zip remained centred on the fabric, and is fully sewn on on all four sides, and remove the hand-sewn basting stitches.
- Now you can unpick the line of basting stitches covering your zip. Using an unpicker, carefully cut through the threads holding the seam closed.
- Finally, it’s putting the cushion-cover together time. With your zip partly open(that part is really important) place your cushion back (with the zip) over the square you cut for the cushion front, right sides together. Trim off any extra fabric, so that both sides are exactly the same. Pin your front and back together on all four sides.
- Using a 1.5cm seam allowance (5/8″) and a regular stitch length, start at one corner of the cushion, backstitch, and stitch down one side. When you get to the next corner stop 1.5cm from the edge, lower your needle, lift your foot, and turn your cushion 90 degrees so that you can stitch down the next side. Do this at all the corners, until you come back to where you started. Backstitch, making sure that your stitching exactly meets or overlaps with your start point, so there is no hole in the corner.
- Now for your last bit of sewing. Set your sewing machine to a zig zag stitch and zig zag all four edges, lifting and turning your foot at the corners. Backstitch at the end.
- Final step! Trim off all four corners so that the cushion will turn nicely, and turn it inside out. Press the seams, put your cushion inside, put the cushion cover in, and stand back and admire your handiwork.
I hope that was fun and helpful! Let me know if you have any questions