Throw Pillow Cover Sewing Tutorial (A How-to for Invisible Zipper & Piping)!

I've been collecting down-filled pillow forms over the last year and finally got around to finishing pillow covers for them!  I've found that with kids, it's a must to be able to take the covers off and wash them, but I don't like the envelope or button closures because they shift around too much on the pillow.  I use invisible zippers on mine.  I know the word "zipper" freaks some people out.. but trust me.. it's easier than you'd think (and that's why I'm showing you how)!  I also add a lining to my covers to keep those pesky feathers inside and give the cover a nicer feel.  ALSO, piping.. it adds the finishing touch and isn't too much more work.



Materials Needed:
Main Fabric
Lining Fabric
Invisible Zipper (a few inches longer than your pillow)
Pre-packaged Piping* (or make your own)
Pillow Form

*The pre-packaged piping is 2.5 yards long and will work for a pillow up to 20-inches

"Tools" Needed:
Sewing Machine
Serger (recommend - or use overcast stitch)
Zipper Foot - a MUST!
Tape Measure
Coordinating Thread
Scissors, Pins, Etc.

Cut your fabric:
First you need to measure the size of your pillow (if it doesn't already tell you on the tag) to know how big to cut your fabric.  Measure across the center of the pillow from seam to opposite seam.  Add 1-inch for seam allowances.

My pillow measured 19-inches from seam to seam; adding 1-inch = 20-inches.

Cut 2 squares each from your main fabric and lining fabric (mine where 20-inch squares).

With wrong sides together, pin a main fabric and lining square together.  Serge around each edge, trimming off 1/8 to 1/4" of fabric as you go.  If you don't have a serger, trim fabric first with your scissors and do an overcast (zigzag) stitch with your regular sewing machine.

Attach your zipper foot to your sewing machine and have your needle so it's all the way to the left (my needle went right to the edge of my zipper foot).  On the right side of one of your squares, center your piping over one edge with raw edges matching.  Leave the first 1-inch of your piping un-sewn and keep your presser foot right up against the piping.  Sew until you get 3 to 4" from the corner...
...then clip into your piping seam allowance (but not too far) every centimeter or so.  I did a about 3-inches worth of clips so my piping would follow the curve nicely.

Follow the curve slowly and you'll be fine!  Continue around doing the same thing to each corner.

When you get to the end, pull the un-sewn inch of piping off your pillow case and overlap it with the other end (no more than 1/4-inch) as you sew over it, also pulling the last end off.  Trim so piping is even with fabric edge.

Next is the zipper!  Are you ready!?  I like to sew my zipper on the same side where I overlapped the piping ends (so it can be down against my couch), but you can put it on any side you like.  You'll be sewing your zipper directly over your piping, making sure to get it as far over against it as possible.  Double check and make sure you're putting the RIGHT side of your zipper down against your piping (the right side is the side with the zipper tab).  Invisible zippers are only tricky because you need to unroll them as you sew.  Test it out by trying to unroll the zipper teeth part so it lays flat.  This allows you to sew in the area, so that once it's rolled back, your stitching will be inside the coil.  Ok, now have your zipper hanging off the edge about 1-inch and start sewing right at the edge where your fabric and zipper meet.  Uncoil your zipper as you sew along.  I do about 2-inches at a time.  Uncoil, sew, uncoil, sew, etc.  Just keep making sure you have your zipper as far to the piping as possible, and your zipper foot right against the edge of your zipper teeth (if you sew too far over you'll sew on the zipper teeth and your zipper won't zip/unzip).

 See how easy?

 Sew right to the end.

Now you're ready to sew the other side of your zipper to the other square.  Do this by zipping up your zipper a few inches and putting your main fabric pieces together with right-sides facing each other.  If your fabric has a pattern on it, make sure the pattern is the same on both pieces.  Line up the edges of your fabric where the closed end of your zipper is and put a pin holding the zipper against your square where you need to sew them together.

 Unzip your zipper so you'll be able to uncoil the teeth just like you did before.  On the first side, the zipper was off the edge of the fabric just slightly, so I made sure that on this side it hung off the same amount (about 1/8-inch but that will differ depending on the size of your piping & zipper seam allowances).  Sew from one end to the other; uncoil, sew, uncoil, sew.

 Test out your zipper and make sure it works and that everything looks beautiful!  If your zipper hangs off the edge don't trim it (even if it's 4-inches longer)!  I find it's best to leave it in-tact... that way if my cover gets too dirty from my kids I can pull out the zipper and make a new cover with it.

Pin around the edges of your cover with right-sides together (have the side with your piping against the table).  I first make sure to pin by the zipper to make sure everything lines up and then pin down from there.  If your other end/corners don't match up perfectly, that's ok, the most important area to match is by the zipper.  TIP: Before sewing, unzip your zipper at least 1/3 of the way so it's easy to unzip fully for turning right side out once you get to that point.

You'll start sewing over the closed end of your zipper, about 1-inch from where your corner/curve is on the piping.  You'll actually be sewing across the zipper seam allowance on an angle towards the curve (make sure to backstitch when you begin)!  Once you feel that you've crossed over your zipper, start following against the edge of your piping.

 It seems trickier than it is, just take your time and use your fingers to feel where your piping is to make sure you're sewing right up against it with your zipper foot.  I also pull my fabric over slightly towards my zipper foot to make sure it's riding right up along the piping underneath.

 Follow your corners, taking your time.  I tried to show you here how I'm using my fingers to feel for the piping as well as push it against my presser foot.  CAUTION: since your fingers are so close to your needle, please be careful!!

Once you follow around and get to the other end of your zipper, sew just how you did at the beginning by going around the corner against your piping, but then sew over your piping and across your zipper at an angle, making sure to backstitch REALLY well here because it will have a lot of tugging from putting pillow in/out.

 Turn your cover right-side out and stuff it with that pillow!

See how nice and seamless the zipper looks?  If you can do this, just imagine what else you can do! :)

If only my kids would keep them ON the couch and off the floor!


Woodshop Hutch Desk (Part 4) - Finale!

(Here's Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this build series)

I can not express the stress I've felt over this desk, especially the last month in finding the perfect stain for such a huge project that I've invested so much time & money into.  I prayed so much over this project... not just that I would be safe in the shop building but that I would be happy with the final product.  After all, this thing is going to be handed down from generation to generation (I hope)!

I asked my professor what stains he recommended and he basically said stay away from Minwax (which is the only thing I've used, ha!) because they have hardly any pigment in them.  He recommended "General Finishes" brand at our local Woodcraft store.  I wanted some sort of old-gray look which they definitely didn't have.  I picked 2 colors that I thought I could mix; Walnut & Whitewash.   I decided on their water-based stains (clean-up is a breeze and safest for a big pregnant lady to apply). 

 Here is my sample board (just one of many)!  I liked the one second from the left the best but thought it was still too dark and a bit too gray.

I headed back to Woodcraft and picked up this Antique Oak hoping it would add just a touch of brown.

 I also got this pre-stain to add to my mixture to make the color less dense.

My final mixture ended up being equal parts Walnut, Whitewash and Antique Oak with 1/2 part Pre-Stain.  I dumped everything into a large gallon paint can and was ready to go!

First things first; I rushed to Home Depot and picked up some lumber to make myself some sturdy sawhorses that would fold up for storage and some emergency tarps in case it rained.  After many hours of building in the sun I was finally ready to get some work done!

I attached my backs (I had to pre-drill holes for my small nails because the Ash is so hard it would bend my nails every time... UGH!), then I taped off where I didn't want the stain.  I was fretting over staining and wiping it all over on the inside corners and crevices and solved the problem by simply NOT doing it. 

Let me just tell you about my favorite "painters tape"... Frog Tape!  It was so easy to apply and didn't allow the stain to bleed under it.

 First coat of stain!  I applied it nice and thick so it wouldn't dry so fast (why water-based is so hard to work with).  I worked in sections, from the top-upward (if I dropped some stain on any lower part it wouldn't take hold so quickly and make a big spot).  I applied another coat of stain and then did a really quick 3rd coat wiping off right after I brushed it on.

 I took the tape off and lightly sanded with 220 grit paper and roughed up the edges a bit to look like it was worn.

 Nice, seamless line.. right!?  By the way I fell in love with General Finishes after seeing how it left my wood feel super smooth (even without sanding) and it didn't smell (Minwax smells for nearly a month after)!

Okay, now the clear-coat.  All I ever used was stuff I could buy at my local hardware store... Mostly Minwax Polyurethane.  WHY didn't I know about the good stuff before!?  Off course when I asked my professor what he recommended he said __________, but it costs about $100 for a gallon!  I was a little shocked but I thought.. Hey, I'm okay spending that because I want this desk to be awesome!

He recommended Ceramithane which I could buy at our local Andersen Paint Company.  Before buying it I made sure to read reviews and to know exactly how to apply it and the process of doing so.  I was so glad to read I would be able to use a sprayer... but of course I didn't have a sprayer and had never used one!  More stress!!  Anyways, I ended up buying the Ceramithane with a discount for about $83 and bought an HVLP sprayer from Harbor Freight.  I got the sprayer for under $100 with a 20% discount, and although it's not a "professional" sprayer it saved me so much time and headache!  It took about 15 minutes to spray my large top and bottom pieces, inside and out.  Hardly any runs I had to fix and if I did, I brushed them off and the Ceramithane leveled out beautifully.  Next, I sanded lightly with a 500 grit paper and did another coat.

Just waiting to cure more so I can take them inside!  Eek!

 I had to wait a WHOLE rainy weekend before I could pull out my drawers and doors to stain and finish.

See my nifty sprayer?  It's so easy to clean, too!  All I have to do is pull apart the nozzle area and clean everything with soap & water (since my finishes were water-based).  I will get so much use out of this thing.  Also, check out my sweet sawhorses (I think all my neighbors are jealous)!  Something else I'll used often!

I made holes in my bottom and hutch for domino's to keep everything secure but still super easy to take apart for moving.  Again, allowing for expansion, the domino holes in the hutch are more oblong in the middle and back areas of the hutch.


I'm glad the color turned out nice and I like the lighter/darker areas with the worn-edge look.  I've never worked with Ash before and I really like how the grain is exaggerated with the light.

Approximate Cost breakdown:
Wood $530
Hinges, Knobs, Bun Feet & Hardware $160
Stain & Pre-Conditioner $60
Ceramithine Protective Coat $100
HVLP Sprayer $95
Random Brushes, Rags, Tarps etc. $80
Total $1,025

Even though there were times I thought it wasn't worth building and I wish I had never started, I am thrilled it's done, that I was able to learn new things and that I was able to have an evening to myself each week (for 9-months) and do something I love.


Woodshop Hutch Desk (Part 3)

(Here's Part 1 and Part 2 of this build series)

Here we are, part 3!  This was my 3rd semester working on the desk and it was by far the most stressful.  I went into the semester about 10 weeks pregnant so that was a huge motivator to get finished quickly.  I always got to class a few minutes early with a plan in mind of what I was going to work on that day the the process to go about doing it.  I needed to stream-line everything for each 4-hour block class to get things finished, stay for every minute possible and talk as little as possible (hopefully I didn't seem rude to some of the students because I was so focused, ha)!

When the semester began, this is what I was starting with on the bottom:

Before I could work on the small drawers I needed to make a pocket on the side for a large board to pull-out that would hold the main drop-down door.  I intended to do chains to hold up the door like my original desk but after talking to my professor we came up with a better (more professional) idea.  Let me just tell you that this little "pocket" took about 8 full hours and this picture doesn't show all the other pieces involved such as little spacers, bottom rail, etc.

To start the small drawers I selected lumber with the widths I needed, rough cut them and ran them through the jointer and table saw to square up 3 edges so I could glue them up.

 Here's after they've been glued up and they're ready to run through the planer to get my desired thickness.

 Now that they're at the right thickness I get to glue them up AGAIN (the planer is too narrow to fit the full width).  Next I cut the boards to the size I need, sand and dovetail, glue up my drawers and sand some more until they fit perfectly in the opening of the carcass.

I made all the drawer faces and got them to fit perfectly (again, something I've never really experience and there is a lot of sanding and fitting involved)!

 Here I'm using a jig to drill holes for my shelf pins to get ready for the final glue-up of the top!  Something I didn't think about was how my panel would be too thin to drill the shelf pins through so i had to glue a strip of wood to get more thickness.

This picture is solely for memory sake to remember just how pregnant I was (and even more by time the class ended)!

 The top hutch is finally glued up!!... something I had been dreaming about for months (literally)!

 I wanted the back to be as pretty as possible so I screwed the top rail to the panels...

 ...made some plugs for the first time...

 ...glued em' in!...

 ...and cut the extra off (this Japanese handsaw was wonderful - I knew I'd need my own after this)!

Next I made a large panel for my top, cut it to size and sanded my life away until I could attach it to the hutch.  Because the panel will swell/shrink with season changes I made the front stationary and made the holes in the center and back more oval to give the boards room to expand.  I made sure to cut the plugs out of the extra wood from the top so the color/grain would match.

It was so rewarding to cut off those plugs and sand the top smooth!
Next I made up a large panel for the main drop-down door which consisted of several classes to get to the point where it was sanded, fit in my opening perfectly and had the right angle on the bottom edge for the hinge.  I assembled my panel by using dominos in the joints to add strength.  The Festool is really awesome.  It's KIND of like a biscuit cutter but not :) ... oh and they're expensive!
 Something else I needed after using are these self-centering drill bits (just like for the shelf pins).  I would not have been able to line up the millions of holes for my piano hinge without this bit!

 For my last class I finished routing out a groove in the back of the hutch and bottom for my backing panels to sit in.  The worse part was chiseling out all the corners to be square!  Lastly, I cut my backs to they were the perfect size!  I didn't attach my backs because I still had a ton of sanding to do once I took it home.

Pretty much finished!  Not only did I need to cut down the pull-out boards (by the small drawer) but I wasn't happy with the end grain showing.  Last minute I decided to glue another piece of wood to the end and I finished sanding it smooth just minutes before the last class of the semester ended!  WAHOO!
Ready for Part 4!?  I AM!