Quilting and Inserting a Zipper

Hello all!

In the first two installments of this series, we learned how to make half-square triangle blocks and how to assemble them into a quilt top. It’s time to finish it up! Today we are going to assemble our quilt sandwich and quilt it, and then insert a zipper before finishing our pillow cover. I’m going to show you a great trick for inserting a centered zipper without having to maneuver around the pull.

Tools and Materials


Making the Quilt Sandwich

Lay your backing (not the back of your pillow, the piece that will cover the batting on the inside of the pillow) wrong side up on a hard surface and smooth it out carefully. Center the batting on top, then the quilt top right side up.

quilt sandwich

Baste all three layers together using your preferred method (I used spray basting).

For a detailed tutorial on making and basting the quilt sandwich, you can refer to this blog post.


Now that your quilt is basted, we need to decide on a quilting design. It helps to take a picture of your quilt and print it a few times so that you can draw a few different options.

A nice and easy option is to echo the lines of the design that you settled on, or to quilt just the negative space (or viceversa).

The blog has several posts with details on how to do different quilting styles: Caroled used decorative stitches here, or you can try stipple quilting; Cecilia used simple squares to great effect here, and stitch-in-the-ditch quilting here; and I went rogue with free motion here. There are also tutorials on how to use the open-toe walking foot here and here.

A small piece like this gives you a good opportunity to try out some dense quilting without the pressure to execute it over a large area. I settled on some simple straight line quilting, so I am going to use the open-toe walking foot.

Squaring Up the Top

Now it’s time to cut away the excess batting and backing and straighten the edges in preparation for finishing the pillow cover. I like to give the top another quick press with lots of steam before cutting.

Using your 6x24 ruler, align the edge with one edge of your pillow, ensuring that the ¼” marking falls just on the tips of your triangles. This will ensure that the design will not be cut off when you assemble the pillow cover. Use your rotary cutter to cut off the excess fabric.

square up the top

Repeat with the remaining three sides.

Set aside the quilt top while we prepare the back.

Preparing for Zipper Insertion

We are going to install the zipper in the back of the pillow, so grab your coordinating 18x18” square and cut it in half horizontally.

Now finish the two edges you just cut with a zig-zag or see An’s great tutorial on using the overcast foot (#28).

zipper insertion

Set your machine to a long stitch (I like a 4) and lower your tension to baste a ½” seam. Press open.

Now lay your fabric with the wrong side up and lay your closed zipper centered over the seam, matching the bottom of the zipper with the bottom of your seam (the end with the pull will be off the fabric). Use several pieces of clear tape to secure the zipper to the fabric.

Use ¼” tape on both sides of the seam to use as a stitching guide.

Use ¼” tape

(You can also simply use a gel pen to draw a line ¼” away from the seam on both sides, but do it before basting the zipper).

Sewing the Zipper

Place the piece with the tape basted zipper right side up under the foot, and loosen the orange screw on the back. Slide the fabric so that the seam line (either drawn, or the edge of the tape) is under the needle. Bring the needle down.

sew the zipper

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Slide the zipper foot so that it almost rests against the needle.

Tighten the orange screw to secure it in place.

Stitch just past the zipper stop. Pivot and sew a few stitches across the zipper, stopping with the needle on the edge of the tape or line.

pivot and sew

Pivot again and sew the other side.

Preparing for Sewing

Remove the tape from the front and the back of the piece.

Carefully rip out the basted stitches.

Open the zipper so that the pull is within the fabric, and-sew a few stitches to secure the zipper coils right at the edge of the fabric.


If desired, finish the edges on both the quilted piece and the back (make sure the zipper pull is not in the way).

Place both pieces with right sides together. With the zipper slightly open (so that you can turn the pillow cover inside out), sew a ¼” seam around the whole cover.

And that’s all there is to it! Turn it inside out, stuff it and admire your work.

I think you are now equipped with quite a few new quilting skills to try out new things.

This was the final part of this Quilted Pillow Series

Let us know what you make in our Facebook group or on Instagram using #madamsew!

Happy Quilting!


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