2 Pillow Finishing Techniques You’ll Use Again and Again

Custom pillows and cushions are terrific quilting projects. Choose from available pillow patterns or use up extra quilt blocks you have on hand. To give a professional finish to your pillow cover, either create a simple back flap closure or install a zipper in the pillow back. Here’s a simple tutorial for both methods.

Various Patchwork Pillows

How to create a simple back flap pillow closure

 The back flap closure method allows a pillow form to be inserted into the opening between the two back flap pillow sections. The outer section will overlap the other piece.

Step 1:

Cut two pieces of fabric the same height as your pillow front and 2″ narrower. (For a 14” x 14”  pillow front, you’ll cut these pieces 14” x 12”.)

Fold in and press 1/4” along one side measuring the height of each pillow back section (for our example press 1/4″ of one 14” side of each section).

Step 2:

Fold over again, press and sew to create a finished edge for each pillow back section.

Step 3:

Place the two back units together, both right sides facing up, so that the sections overlap and measure the same as the pillow top. Baste the pillow back sections together along the top and bottom edges, creating a single unit, using a basting stitch.


Finished Pillow Back - Pillow Finishing Techniques on Craftsy
You now have a pillow back with a flap opening. You will be able to insert your pillow form through the opening between these two finished sections. Skip down to the “Finish the Pillow” section below to complete your pillow.

Close Up of Finished Zipper on Pillow

Create a pillow back with a zipper. The decorative flap section covers the zipper.

How to add a zipper to a pillow back

First, you’ll need to complete your pillow front so you have the exact measurements you need to get started on the pillow back. Add 1” to each side of your pillow top to get the measurement for your pillow back. (For a 14” x 14”  pillow front, you’ll need to make a finished pillow back that will measure 15” x 15”.) You will be creating an over-sized pillow back, which will be trimmed to fit — this ensures you don’t end up with a pillow back that is too small for your finished pillow front.

Supplies for Adding a Zipper to a Pillow, on Craftsy
Now that you have the measurements for your pillow front and back you can gather your supplies.

You will need:

  • One polyester zipper that measures at least the width of your pillow back. Using a longer zipper will make the zipper installation easier. The additional length of the zipper can be trimmed after you have sewn your pillow front and back together.
  • Two pieces of fabric for your pillow back. Divide your pillow back height by two and add 1/2”. Cut two pieces this measurement by the width of your pillow back. (For the pillow back in our example, you would cut two pieces 8” x 15”.) Your pillow back sections can be cut from the same fabric, or they can be cut from different fabrics — the choice is up to you.
  • One piece of fabric for the zipper flap. (The zipper flap is a piece of fabric that covers your zipper.) This piece of fabric should measure 5” by the width of your pillow back. (For our example, this piece will be cut 5” x 15”.) Press this fabric in half lengthwise, wrong sides together.

Step 1:

Layer one pillow back section, right side up, the zipper flap fabric (this fabric has been folded lengthwise and pressed with the raw edges matching the bottom of the pillow back section), and the zipper (teeth down and left side of zipper tape flush with the raw edges of the fabrics). Pin carefully and refer to the photo below for placement.

Pinning Zipper to Fabric - Pillow Finishing Techniques
Step 2:

Using a zipper foot, sew a 1/4” seam allowance.

Sewing Zipper onto Pillow
Step 3:

Press the zipper flap so that it covers the zipper and extends on the opposite side of the fabric.

Step 4:

You can topstitch the pillow back fabric, stitching 1/4” from the zipper flap fabric.

Zipper Sewn onto Pillow Fabric, on Craftsy

Step 5:

Now, place your zipper right sides up and fold the pillow back fabric and the flap you have just sewn to it up and out of the way as shown in the photo below.

Pinning Second Pillow Back Fabric Section

Step 6:

Pin and sew the other pillow back section to the other side of your zipper, with the right side of the pillow back fabric facing the right side of the zipper, again using a zipper foot and a 1/4” seam allowance. Press the seam away from the zipper. You can also topstitch this seam, sewing close to the folded fabric.

Finished Zipper Between Sections - Pillow Finishing on Craftsy
You have now successfully installed the zipper in between the two pillow back sections. The zipper flap should cover the zipper, giving a professional finish. Trim the edges of the zipper tape even with the edges of the pillow back.

Finished Pillows, on Craftsy

These zipper enclosure pillow backs were created using three coordinating prints.

Finish the pillow:

You are now ready to assemble your pillow.

You can finish the pillow using one of two methods:

  • For the easiest edge finish, place the pillow front and the pillow back right sides together (if you are using this method with a zipper closure, be sure to leave the zipper at least halfway open). Pin, then sew around the edges. After sewing, trim the pillow back even with the front. Turn the pillow right sides out through the opening. Press the edges. You are now ready to insert your pillow form into your finished pillow covering.
  • To finish your pillow edge with a binding, pin then sew the pillow front to the pillow back, wrong sides together, around all four edges of the pillow top. Again, be sure to leave the zipper halfway open for this step if you are finishing a pillow with a zipper closure. After the top and back are sewn together, trim the back so it’s even with the front. Finish the raw edges with binding just as you would finish the edges of a quilt

For even more ideas on pillow edge finishing, see also our post on pillow edgings.
Tomorrow on the Craftsy blog, we’ll share tips for quilting with minky fabric.

Both the back flap technique and a pillow back zipper offer professional ways to finish your quilted pillow. Which method do you prefer?

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