Thursday, February 15, 2018

Piping on a Pillow with a Zipper Closure

I have been getting requests for a long time to do a tutorial for piped or corded pillows. Every time I post a new photo of a piped pillow the requests come in, so here ya go. Piping on a Pillow AND a closure with a hidden lapped zipper. This is not a beginning tutorial--especially the piping. The zipper is easy and straightforward, but not so much the piping. Nevertheless, any beginner can try, who am I to hold ya back.

To make an 18"x18" square pillow you will need:

1. Fabric for the front. (I used this bleached 100% linen from here, I prewash and starch heavily.
2. A different (or same) fabric for the back (I used this natural linen, prewashed and ironed)
3. Fabric to cover the cording
4. 75 inches of skinny cotton or polyester cording
5. A 20" zipper, doesn't need to match pillow colors at all. In fact 20" is variable, it can be anywhere from 18" on up. Use what you have on hand, just cut off the excess
6. A zipper foot for your sewing machine,
7. A cording foot (optional but recommended).
8. Clear ruler with 45-degree angle marked on it, plus a cutting mat and rotary cutter.

If you are going to embroider your pillow, now is the time to do it. I love my modern Cross stitch monograms. You can purchase these designs on my website. I used the Jumbo size capital letter W, it is about 10" tall. Took about 20 minutes to embroider in turquoise.

After you embroider the fabric is when you want to cut the front piece down to size, 18.5"x 18.5".

Optional, but now is the time to serge the edges.

Now we are going to make the piping. I prefer to cut my 2" strips on the bias, meaning a 45 degree angle but I have also cut strips on the straight grain. Bias cording will co around the corners of the pillow a bit easier but it is wasteful to cut on the bias. I do think you can tell though. The pillow on the left was made with 2" fabric strips cut on the straight grain. It is totally fine but seems a little 'bunchy' around the corners. The top pillow was cut on the bias but I didn't stretch the bias as I made the piping so it's a little baggy around the cording. The bottom one was cut on the bias and I stretched the bias strips as I sewed the cording. More details later.

So now you will need to cut about 80" inches of 2" fabric strips to wrap the cording. Since our pillow is 18" square you will need 18x4=72" inches to go around the perimeter, plus a few extra inches to sew the pieces together and to overlap on the pillow. 

fabric cut on 45-degree angle
Two-inch fabric strips cut on 45-degree angle 
Sew your fabric strips together on a 45-degree angle.

Sew all your fabric strips together and then switch to your zipper foot. Wrap the fabric around the cording and sew with matching thread as shown below, with the needle all the way to the left and a longer stitch length, around 4mm. As you sew, gently stretch the bias strips (not the cording, it won't stretch anyway) as you feed the fabric through the machine. This prevents the piping from getting a baggy look. I explained this above with an accompanying photo. Use matching thread because it's not uncommon when you are new to see this stitching on the finished pillow, so have it match. I also use a longer stitch length because it you do see it on the finished pillow, and it bugs you, you can easily use a seam ripper to remove it. Just some options.

finished piping
Now we will attach the piping to the pillow front. As shown in below photo, start on the bottom of your pillow where the final seam will be hidden (where I have the yellow pin), and sew a few inches down from the top of the piping, with all raw edges pointing outward. You want some excess piping to overlap at the end. The raw edges of the piping should be outward, meeting the raw/serged edge of the pillow front. Don't pin the piping around the entire pillow front. It is much easier to sew around the corners without anything pinned down .
Sew with your needle all the way to the left again, with the same matching turquoise thread. 

This is the hardest part coming up. I am sorry there isn't a better way to explain this, but going around the corners is hard. Go slowly. You will have to round the corners (not square them) as best as possible. It helps to notch the fabric a few times (as seen above) as you approach the corners of the pillow front. That will help the fabric lie flat.
Unpick the piping at the beginning of where you started sewing and cut off about 2" inches of white cording.
When you get to the end of the pillow, about 6" before the end actually, lower your needle into your fabric. You will want to unpick some of the piping with a seam ripper, and cut off the last few inches of white cording. You do not want the bulky white cording to overlap within the turquoise fabric strips! You want there to be just the exact amount of white cording to go around the entire pillow, no more, no less. However you do want the turquoise piping to overlap by a few inches so that you can tuck in the raw edges as you finish sewing to the beginning strip. I know that's confusing word wise. Please zoom in on photos to see what I mean.

You can see in the above photo I have taken the raw edges of the beginning of the turquoise piping and folded them in half, toward the inside, then tucked in the raw edges of the end of the turquoise piping. Then finish sewing. Below is what it should look like. I know my wording isn't perfect here, so hard to explain the process!
see how the corners are 'rounded' with the piping and not sharply squared?

Above is what your pillow front should look like now. Kind of a mess actually. It will all work out! Set this aside while we work on the back pieces.

For the back you will cut two pieces 12"x20" and 10"x20". Serge or zig-zag the inside edges, as seen below. (Don 't bother serging the outside edges as we will be cutting them off at the very end.)
 As shown below, take the 10" piece and fold and iron about 1/2" inch.  Take the 12" piece and fold and iron about 1.5" inches.
 Take your back piece folded just 1/2" and place it along the edge of the left side of the zipper as seen below.
 With the zipper foot, and  needle all the way to the right, stitch closely to the zipper teeth, as seen with turquoise stitching line below.
 Overlap zippered pieced under the other back piece. You will need to overlap about an inch. Basically you'll be sewing through the serged edge (or just to the left of it) and through the right side of the zipper tape.
 If you want, you can mark with chalk or water soluble pen, about aninch, all the way down (I don't because I am lazy) so I just pin.
 It's nice to pin to see how everything will line up (above photo) but you'll just end up removing the pins when you sew (as seen below) because it's nice to fold back the fabric and see exactly where you are sewing. I switched to a matching thread color for the linen fabric since this seam will be seen. I chose off white.

This is when it would be nice to have marked with a pen, i don't because i have done this a million times so I do it by feel of the zipper.

Here's how it looks now unzipped from the front, and zipped up from the back. Yay! Almost there.

Place the top of the pillow face down on the pillow back. (Right sides together.) The back will be much bigger than the front, that's fine. It's easier to trim off excess than to not have had enough for the back. Pin all around, making sure the piping in out of the way.

Make sure you have unzipped the zipper at least part way before you sew! You need to be able to turn it right side out and you want the sewing machine to stay clear of the zipper pull.

Switch to your cording foot if you have one. This allows you to get even closer to the piping than a zipper foot can.  If you don't have one, it's ok, but the finished piping may not be as tight. I think Bernina foot #12 was less than $25 and I use is a lot, but I also sew a lot. Your choice.

You will actually sew with the groove of the foot running over the piping, with the needle to the right. (Zoom in more if you need to see more details.) If you'll notice below, the turquoise stitching line is where the piping is attached, and now you'll be stitching even tighter, a little further to the left of that turquoise stitching line with your cording foot. If sewing with a zipper foot, you may not be able to get any closer to the piping.

Go slowly around the corners. Really use your fingers and feel that piping. You'll have to stop and pivot quite a bit as you go around corners. I never get it completely right the first time, it's ok, we can fix later.

When you are done, stick your hand in the pillow and unzip all the way. Turn right side out and examine your corners. 

Mine weren't perfect and I noticed where I needed to get even closer so I turned just that one corner wrong side out and stitched that corner again.
Not bad but I chose to sew even closer. Dang corners!

Looks good now!

Turn wrong side out and trim back to be same size as front. Be careful trimming off excess zipper! Use cheap scissors if possible. You don't want to hit that metal part with good scissors. I don't even like cutting the plastic-y part with good scissors so I have crappy ones just to cut zippers.

I filled mine with a 20x20 down pillow form from Ikea. They are too under stuffed to fill any respectable 20" pillow but they're perfect for 18" pillows. Tip of the day folks.

Look how good it looks! And no one will ever see that silly green zipper.

stacks of piped pillows with lapped zippers

Oh and if you like that big floral print behind it you can buy that fabric (my design!) over at Spoonflower. You only need a fat quarter to make an 18" square pillow. It's my Dahlia embroidery design turned into screen printed fabric. I'll be adding even more fabric designs soon.

If you want to make an easier pillow, like the knife-edge pillows above, I have a tutorial for a very simple invisible zipper tutorial. Waaaaayyyy easier than this piping/lapped zipper tutorial. 

Happy sewing friends!


Cheryle said...

Always love your color combinations! Thanks for the tutorial.

Cynthia said...

You are welcome Cheryle, happy sewing!


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