Last of the Lounging: Make it Easy

I’ve been asked to show how I make my pillows.

It’s not the best or the only way, just the way I do it. And I’ve been very detailed because there’s nothing worse than a tutorial that makes assumptions about your skill level or knowledge.

Gather your supplies. You’ll need a 16½” square panel for the front and a 16½ x 20½” piece for the back of the cushion. You’ll need quilting safety pins. You also need an 18″ plastic zipper, an 18″ square of cotton batting and an 18″ square of scrap. For the sewing machine, you’ll need a regular foot, a walking foot for quilting, and if you have one, a zipper foot. Don’t worry too much about the last one, I don’t use one, it’s just too much faff to keep changing the foot! Finally, you’ll need a pillow pad which is slightly larger than the finished size of your pillow. If you’re going to use plain fabric for the front, or a piece of embroidery, knitting or crochet, I suggest you use spray adhesive to attach some batting to the reverse, just to give it some body.

Screen shot 2014-11-13 at 11.00.53 AM

This was how I quilted the first one, quite densely.

If you’re not quilting, ignore this next bit. Lay the scrap square out, and line up the batting on top. Centre the front panel on the square, with about an inch of spare all round. Smooth out well and pin through the three layers about a handswidth apart. I let the design of the front dictate the quilting pattern, but you could just as easily just do straight vertical or diagonal lines. Use the left or right hand edge of the walking foot as your guide and keep a consistent distance from either the previous line or a seam. Start somewhere, and quilt the front panel fully so that it’s firm and has body. About every 2″ would be the minimum, I do it closer. Once it’s all quilted, trim and square it up.

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Back, placket back panel. Front, lower back panel

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Inserting the zipper, lower back panel. See how having a too-long zip gets the runner thingy out of the way?

Screen shot 2014-11-13 at 10.17.30 AM

Use the edge of the foot against the zipper teeth as a guide. You can get closer with a zipper foot.

Screen shot 2014-11-13 at 10.18.02 AM

Pin the placket back panel on top, using your finger to feel where the zipper teeth are, and pinning out from that

Screen shot 2014-11-13 at 10.18.17 AM

Secure the end of the zipper with stitches, and cut off the excess. I don’t need to tell you to make sure the zipper’s done up, do I?

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Ensure the zipper is open before you stitch all the way round the outside, doing reinforcing stitches at each corner.

Screen shot 2014-11-13 at 10.19.39 AM

Snip off the corners, staying clear of the stitching.

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This is the poky thing I use for pushing out the corners. Don’t use anything much pointier.

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Press the edges flat. Using a plastic zipper helps to get that part flat as it will stay bent over after being heated by the iron.

Screen shot 2014-11-13 at 10.21.04 AM

Three is quite enough for anyone. Time to move onto something new.

Take the backing fabric and fold it in half. Press along the fold. Open out again, and cut 1½” from the fold line. This piece is the placket for the zipper.  Take the other piece and fold the edge over 1″. Press. This is the flat part that goes under the placket.

Open out the zipper all the way to the stop at the end.  Line up the top end of one side of the zipper under the flat edge, with top edge of zipper to edge of fabric. Pin the zipper in place, ensuring you give enough clearance to allow it to open and close without fouling the fabric.

You’ll see that the end of the zipper is well past the edge of the fabric. This is on purpose, and what makes the zipper a bit easier to put in!

If you have one, attach the zipper foot. Stitch along the zipper, using the edge of your presser foot against the zipper teeth as a guide. Close the zipper.

Place the placket piece over the zipper, so it hides it. Feel with your finger for the line of the zipper teeth, and pin about 3/8″ away from this. Turn over and check you’ve captured the edge of the zipper with your pin line. Ensure the left and right edges of the back pieces are aligned.

Open the zipper again, and stitch through the placket and zipper. There!  You’ve done the scary bit!

Close the zipper and stitch through zipper and fabric close to the edge to fix the zipper edges together. Clip off the excess zipper with a pair of scissors (not your good fabric ones!). Now you see why you bought one that was plastic and too long…

Open the zipper up, and pin at the other edge with the two top parts of the zipper close together. Stitch through to fix in place. Leave the zipper open.

Lay the back flat, right side up. Place the front on top, right side down. If there’s any excess, position the back so that the zipper placket is central, then trim off.

Pin all round and stitch, reinforcing the corners by double stitching a little. Trim off excess across the corners.

Turn the cover inside out, poke out the corners with a chopstick, large crochet hook or other blunt poky thing.

Press all round the edge. Insert your pillow pad or use polyester stuffing until it’s the right level of plumpness, pushing it well into the corners.

Place on sofa, stand back and admire your work!




10 thoughts on “Last of the Lounging: Make it Easy

  1. Gail says:

    Thanks, Kate, nice tutorial. I’m always terrified about inserting zips but you have me convinced now that it’s not as much of a sewing ogre as I assumed it to be.

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s always the bumpy bits at the beginning and end that scare people, and this method avoids bumps completely. Of course, you could use exactly the same method with Velcro, and avoid the issue….

  2. tialys says:

    When I’m feeling really lazy I like a nice envelope opening. I have to psych myself up for a zip insertion 😉

  3. Excellent tutorial and I especially liked the zip insertion – brilliant!

    • katechiconi says:

      Do it the lazy way if you possibly can! I worked this out one time when I didn’t have a zip the ‘proper’ length. At the end, the lightbulb went on, and I’ve done it this way ever since.

  4. Carole says:

    Thanks for the zip tutorial. I’ve done a couple so far but they still scare me. Your method looks much better.

  5. Kirsten says:

    I am always interested to see how people put zips in. I usually put them in seams or if I can’t, resort to buttons!

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