How to Sew a Zipper into a Pillow, the Easiest Way Ever!

Yes, there are many tutorials online that teach how to put a zipper in a pillow.

But this method is Different. Easier. 

As I stitched up some pillows recently, I wondered if there was already a post out there with these instructions. To my amazement, there weren’t any. So I thought I’d share that with you today, along with some helpful tips that will save you time and trouble.

First, choose your fabric. Buy enough fabric to cover the front and back of each pillow you are making.

Buy a zipper (regular or invisible). I buy a zipper at least two inches shorter than one side of the square of fabric.

For example, if I’m making a 16″ pillow, I use a 14″ zipper. You’ll see why later.

If you have to cut your zipper down, do. Just make sure you stitch across the zipper teeth several times at the correct length so that your zipper tab doesn’t fall off while you’re constructing the pillow!

I am using a regular zipper in this tutorial.This is so that if you don’t have an invisible zipper foot, you can see how to insert the zipper.

Buy a pillow form for each pillow, make your own, or use one from a previously used pillow that’s still in good shape.

Measure the pillow form.

Most tutorials will tell you to cut the fabric one inch larger (all the way around) than your pillow form.

I’m here to tell you that you’ll be sorry if you do.

The finished pillow will look too baggy.

Cut the fabric one inch smaller than the form. You read that right… smaller!

For example, if your pillow form is 20″square, cut the fabric 19″ square.

I usually like to finish the edges with a serger, but you can use a zig zag stitch if you don’t have a serger.

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Next, place your zipper (invisible zipper or regular zipper) face down (right side of zipper to right side of pillow fabric), centering it on one side of the fabric square.

Using a zipper foot, stitch 1/4″ away from the zipper teeth all along the  zipper.

Make sure your needle is on the correct side of the zipper foot so that you don’t run over the zipper tab when you get to it.

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Turn the zipper so it is facing up and away from the pillow fabric as shown:

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Now, lay the other pillow fabric square on top of this one, right sides together, matching the edges. Pin. See photo below:

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Stitch 1/4″ away from the teeth, on the unsewn side.

Be sure to take out pins before you sew over them.

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Now, unzip the zipper part way. If you don’t, you’ll stitch the zipper inside and it will be tough to get it unzipped to turn the pillow right side out.

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Next, match the three remaining sides of the pillow squares, so that the edges line up.

Now, line up the zipper edges.

Start sewing on the zipper edge of the pillow about 1/2″ away from the zipper stitching toward the inside of the pillow.

Stitch around the 3 non-zipper sides and stop as indicated in the photo below:

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I know it seems strange that your stitching doesn’t match up with where you stitched the zipper on, but this is why this method is so awesome…you don’t have to line up your stitching and you don’t have to worry about the zipper teeth or the tail of the zipper showing!!!

Now, reach in and turn the pillow right side out and look at the zipper!

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Here is the view with the zipper closed:

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I made three of these pillows recently, and it took no time at all.

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See how nice and full they look?

And you don’t see the zippers on the bottom.

Bam! Done!

 

How To Add Lining and Hem Your Drapes or Curtains

Finding drapes in the color, length and fabric you need is not an easy task, unless you get them custom made. But that is expensive.

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I found a set of drapes in the color and style I wanted, but the length was too long. Also, when I stood on the curb outside, they didn’t look good because the window in the bedroom next to this one had white lined drapes. Maybe you aren’t concerned with that type of thing, but it stuck out like a sore thumb to me.

Back inside the house, I decided to hem them and line them in white to match the other window, Because it’s the guest room, I thought it might be nice to line them with “block out” or “black out” fabric so that whoever is sleeping there, wouldn’t be blinded by the early morning sun.

You can use most any type of fabric for lining. JoAnn’s sells a brand called Roc Lon. It is Dry Clean only. So, if you can wash your drapes, choose a lining fabric that is washable. Cottons are the most common. Check with your local fabric store for ideas.

I found some decent block out fabric by the yard and on the roll at Joann Fabrics. I chose it partly because it was a little wider than the width of each drapery panel, which would mean I could figure out the yardage easily. I only needed to measure the length of the drape panels, add those measurements together and add enough for hems (at the top of the drapes and on the bottom).

My drapery rods were hung at a strange height by the previous owners. They were hung at 90″ above the ground and store bought drapes are 84″ and 95″ in length, so I either had to move the rods or buy longer panels and shorten them. On this window, I decided to shorten the drapes. I didn’t want to rehang rods, patch holes and paint.

Let’s start with the hem and proceed to the lining after that.

My drapes have metal grommets. Other drapes have pleats or gathers.

First, I measured from the top of the grommet hole to the hem. If your drapes have gathers, measure from the top of the casing opening where your rod fits in. If your drapes have pleats, measure from where the hook goes into the hole along the rod.

Don’t measure from the top of the drape!

Do you see why?

The drape hangs from the rod, so the top of the drape doesn’t matter in this case. Measure from where the drape hangs from the rod.

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To begin, I took out the original hem with a seam ripper.

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Then, I folded and pinned up the hem at the length I needed.

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The original hem was 3 inches and had another 1/2″ turned over to hide the raw edge.

So, I measured up 3 1/2″ from the hem edge and cut the excess off.

Be careful not to cut the drape underneath!

Since you are smarter than me, you will probably choose to unfold the hem and cut it so there’s no chance of accidentally cutting the drape, but I guess I like to live on the wild side. Ha!

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Press that folded edge. That will be your new hemline.

Remove the pins as you press, of course!

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Next, fold down 1/2″ from the cut edge and press it. This may seem a little backwards, but I like to make sure my hemline is straight. If the cut edge isn’t straight, the hemline won’t be either. Does that make sense?

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Now, just turn up your hem on the fold line and topstitch along the edge of that fold on the back of the drape, using the folded edge as your guide. You can topstitch from the front of the drape, if you can see the folded edge as you sew. I usually stitch from the front, but stitching from the backside of the drape makes it easier for you to see in the photo below.

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Ok, now you are ready to add the lining.

On a flat surface, lay out your lining fabric.

This is my “block out” lining fabric.

Cut the lining fabric at least 2 inches larger all the way around than the finished size of your drape. If you can make it larger, that’s fine. This drape was 54″ wide and my blockout fabric was 60″, so it was 3″ wider on each side of the drape, which was perfect!

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Once you cut it out, lay the top edge of the lining to the top edge of the drape like this photo below:

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It looks like its upside down, but this is what you want. You are going to be sewing at that fold just under the grommets all across the width of the drape. So, lay the right side of the lining to the wrong side of the drape and it’s upside down! Study the photo above until it makes sense to you.

Keep reading and I think you’ll see how it works.

In the photo below, can you see how there is a fold (bump) to the left of the presser foot? I am stitching barely to the right of that fold (bump). You can see the wrong side of the drape off to the right in the photo:

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Once you stitch across the width of the drape, along that fold or bump, pull the lining down to cover the entire wrong side of the drape (in the photo below) and the raw edge will be hidden under the fold. You don’t have to finish the raw edge of the block out fabric because it doesn’t ravel.

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Now, you’re going to work on the hem of the lining.

As long as your lining covers the folded hemline that you topstitched earlier and as long as the lining hem is not longer than the drape, you are good. Any length in between those areas is fine. Unless your drapes are see through. Then, I would have your lining end just under the topstitched line on the drape.

Here I folded up the lining so that it was 1″ above the bottom edge of the drape:

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Pin only the lining fabric. You don’t want to set an iron on block out fabric because it will melt. It is a man made material.

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I added a half inch to the length of my lining fabric and cut the excess off.

Now my lining is 1 1/2″ above the bottom edge of the drape:

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Next, I stitched along the folded edge of the hem of the lining fabric:

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Next, measure the “side” hems of the drapes. They run along the vertical edges of the drapes. In this case, they are about one inch:

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So, I folded under the sides so that they were 1 ” from the edge of the sides and pinned it all the way down (just like I did for the hem of the lining at the bottom):

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This time, I pinned the lining to the drape along the sides:

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Next, I stitched along the edge of the lining. If you have light colored drapes and the stitching is going to show, then stitch from the right side of the drape and use the original stitching line as your guide. Stitch right over the top of it being as exact as you can be. With my drapes, it didn’t show at all.

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This is what the inside should look like, except that the bottom edge of the lining will have already been stitched:

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Here’s the length before I started:

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Here’s the length after:

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I know there are other ways to line and hem drapes, but this one works the fastest for me.

Enjoy your project!

Thank You!

The WordPress annual report just showed up in my inbox.

I am speechless.

There were over 290,000 visits to this blog in 2013!

That’s about 800 per day….incredible!

And you are reading this blog from 179 countries all over the world…

(from some countries I have never heard of)…..even more incredible!

Thank you to each and every one of you for making my “job” so much fun!

Sewfordough will be five years old this coming April.

If you’d like to know how this all started, read this post.

And if you’d like to know how I learned to sew, read here.

It is inspiring to see which posts you look at each day.

And I love getting your emails, questions and comments.

Keep them coming!

Oh, and before I close out the year, I just want to let you all know that my husband and I are going to be grandparents, for the first time, this coming June!

We’re so excited!!!

So, any tips you have on sewing for grandkids or how to be a good grandma, will be totally appreciated!!!

I hope you and your family have a very blessed New Year filled with God’s richest blessings!

Should You Charge A Minimum Fee For Alterations?

I get asked this question alot.

So, let’s take an example.

This morning, I found a bag on my front porch.

Inside was a pair of workout pants:

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The customer said there was a hole in the seam at the knee and would I stitch it up?

Certainly!

Here is a photo of the small hole:

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Here’s what it looked like on the inside:

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So, I switched the thread to black and put in a stretch needle and sewed it up:

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When I have a small job like this, I like to see if there’s anything else that needs stitching up or reinforcing..

I noticed that the other knee seam was coming apart too:

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So, I stitched it up as well.

That way, the customer is happy you went the extra mile for them.

Did I charge this customer?

Actually, no.

This customer is my niece!

Personally, I don’t charge my family members.

And there are others I don’t charge.

Sometimes, I just want to bless them.

I may not want to charge a person for a small item if they are a first time customer.

They always come back with more alterations the next time.

So, when do you charge a minimum fee?

The bottom line is, you have to figure this one out for yourself.

You have to do what seems right and best for you.

I ask myself…”Do I feel comfortable charging for this?”

If the answer is “yes”, then I charge.

If it is “no”, then I don’t.

Now you’re wondering what amount to charge, right?

Ask yourself these questions…

What would you want to be charged for such an alteration?”

“What is your time worth?”

“How much work was it to get the job done?”

Answering these questions, and any others that pop into your head, should give you a pretty good idea on whether or not to charge a minimum fee.

Sewing With Treadle Machines in Africa

My family and I just returned from an amazing, life changing trip to Zambia, Africa!

It is a trip we will never forget.

Our daughter, Michelle, works for an orphan ministry called Every Orphans Hope.

We wanted to go and see her working first hand and help where we could.

There are 11 orphan homes consisting of one mama and eight children.

The mamas are hoping to learn to sew so that they can run a business and make some money.

My part was to teach the mamas how to sew.

Last year, we raised money to buy each mama a machine:

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We had heard that some of the machines were not working correctly.

After looking at several of the machines, we realized that report was accurate.

Each one had different problems.

So, because of this, some were being used as a table:

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Kristin, a teammate of mine, learned how to use a treadle machine before we got to Africa.

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I watched Kristin use the fly wheel and her feet simultaneously.

As she explained, it’s sort of like working the clutch on a car…there’s a point when you know when to start with the feet.

(I watched a You Tube video before I left and thought it looked easy, but it was something I never got the hang of.)

The machine Kristin learned on here in the states was a SInger and she was taught to turn the fly wheel away from you as you start.

We finally figured out that, with these machines, you need to turn the fly wheel toward you as you start.

There were many dissimilarities like this that we needed to work through.

After about three days of trying to get them to work, we realized we needed to visit the sewing machine dealer where they were purchased last year.

The owner assured us that he would fix them all.

What a relief!

He also let us know that these machines can be altered from treadle to hand crank.

Hand crank machines means you crank an added piece on the fly wheel while you sew with your left hand.

The mama in the middle, uses her own hand crank machine:

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She made this bag on my shoulder last year and my daughter bought it as a gift for me!

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The owner at the sewing machine shop also explained that we could buy a kit that would convert the treadle machines to electric for about $15 US dollars!

This would be great for the mamas that live in the city, who have some electric power daily.

At the Every Orphan’s Hope office, we worked with a Zambian volunteer, Agatha, to show her how to make a simple tote bag.

Agatha is a tailor in Zambia, but I’m not sure if she had made a bag before.

Here is the finished product:

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We saw Agatha at one of the homes the next day.

She was hemming a chitenge, which is a 2 yard piece of fabric that the women of Zambia drape around themselves as a skirt.

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As you can see, she is using an electric machine.

It amazed me that these women can sew without a table and while sitting on the floor!

As soon as we left, we saw the mamas moving into this house ready to take a lesson on making tote bags.

What joy to see the ladies taking something they learned and teaching those around them.

It is our hope that they will be able to practice and soon start their own businesses.

The mama who made the tote bag for me is already selling her bags.

You can find them on this page of the Every Orphan website.

Check them out.

You could start your Christmas shopping early and help a mama in Zambia at the same time!

How to Choose Boning for Your Dress

Each day, I receive many emails with great questions and today I thought I’d post one I received yesterday as well as the answer to it.

Here’s the question:

Hi Linda,  I am making my daughter’s strapless wedding dress.  I used the fabric store feather weight boning for the muslin corset .  We got it fitted very well but I am wondering when the weight of the dress gets connected if this is the best boning choice.  I have been researching the topic but am still undecided.  Can you tell me what would be the best choice so she isn’t always pulling it up.  We will be using a waistline stay but I want to do it right the first time!  Ha!  Thanks!  Love your website.  It is so helpful and very interesting.  Mom with Question

First of all, kudos to this mom for making her daughter’s wedding dress! What a cherished memory for you both.

There are a couple of things I wanted to address in this question.

First, lets talk about the strapless dress in general and then we’ll address the boning issue.

Brides and their mothers often hope to find the perfect strapless dress that will not need to be “hiked up” at the bodice. Unfortunately, that is a rare find because gravity will always win in the end. Because the bust area is larger in circumference than the waist, it will always travel the road of least resistance and want to gravitate down towards the waist.  There are some dresses that need tugging less often, and that has to do with the design of the dress and how it fits the bride. First, those dresses are designed with a high bodice. In other words, the dress sits high above the largest part of the bust (think: no cleavage and sitting closer to the collar bone than not. Certainly, it is not up to the collar bone, but it sits higher above the bust than most dresses) and second, that high bust area should fit snugly around the chest and underarm area. When altering the dress you have, just make it fit as snugly as possible, without being uncomfortable, and go with that. The bride will still have to tug, but not as often. She can experiment using double stick tape to hold the dress to the skin and see if that will help the problem. To eliminate the tugging problem altogether, you’ll need to add straps to the dress, but many brides don’t like that look. That’s why they bought strapless to begin with.

Now let’s talk about boning. This mom asked about whether her featherweight boning would  be appropriate in her daughter’s gown. That depends. I would buy boning based on the weight of the fabric you are using. If you are using a heavy satin, you’d want a heavier boning. If you have a lightweight chiffon, a featherweight boning would be appropriate. The reason here is that you want it to function as much like the fashion fabric as possible.

But let’s look at another facet of the answer.

First, boning is inserted in a dress to give it rigidity through the vertical portion of the bodice. Without boning, the dress would have little support, much like a house needs walls to give it structure. However, thinking about the law of gravity again, boning only helps with the structure or the rigidity of the dress. It doesn’t keep the dress from falling down. With boning inserted, it just means that the dress moves with gravity all at the same time. It doesn’t slump down in one area and leave the rest smooth. Does that make sense?

Here is a link to my post on Fixing Boning Issues. It will give you a little more insight into some boning issues you might come across. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Thanks to all of you who have written in asking questions or leaving comments. I appreciate all your sweet words and I thank the Lord that this blog is such a wonderful resource to you!

How To Replace a Zipper in a Jacket or Coat

If you read my last post on How Much To Charge To Replace a Zipper, I promised I’d be back to show you how to put in a new zipper.

Here’s the jacket with the broken zipper:

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The zipper teeth didn’t hold together when the jacket was zipped:

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Before you begin, be sure and choose a zipper that is long enough for the jacket opening.

Try to buy a zipper that is the same length as the current zipper.

If that is not possible, get one that is longer.

You can always shorten the top of the zipper.

Here are two different types of jacket zippers:

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The zipper on the left is a heavy duty silver metal zipper.

The one on the right is made of durable nylon.

For this jacket, the metal zipper was chosen.

Before you buy the zipper, zip it up and down several times to make sure it doesn’t stick and that it actually works.

You’d hate to sew it in and find out it was defective.

You’d only do that once!

If your zipper tape is wrinkled, you could iron it, but be careful that you don’t hit the teeth on the nylon zippers with the hot iron.

I don’t usually have that problem with jacket zippers.

But occasionally, a dress or pant zipper is wrinkled.

Let’s begin.

I start by grabbing my seam ripper and pulling out the stitches just below the zipper:

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Pull out all of the stitches on both sides of the jacket.

As you can see, there is another row of stitching right next to the zipper tape.

It needs to come out too:

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Here is what this jacket looks like as the zipper is being taken out.

I think it’s funny that the manufacturer used pink thread:

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Here’s another look… near a snap:

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I’ll show you how to deal with the snap in a moment.

Before I take the zipper out of the top edge of the jacket, I pay attention to any detail I need to, so that I can put the new zipper back in the same way, if possible.

The zipper tape at the top is usually folded back inside the jacket so it doesn’t show from the outside.

You can’t see that on this jacket, but just take mental notes as you disassemble the area:

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Once you take out the entire zipper, be sure to take out all the loose little threads.

Sometimes, a lint roller is very helpful with this stage:

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I insert the zipper making sure the correct side of the zipper is on the corresponding correct side of the jacket and pin it every couple of inches:

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I like to pin because it anchors the zipper down enough so it doesn’t move as I sew.

If you are uncomfortable doing this, you can always hand baste the zipper in place.

Be sure to pin or baste the zipper so that the teeth won’t get caught in the fold of the fabric edge when you zip it.

I don’t measure this. I just eyeball it and give it about an eighth of an inch clearance.

Make sure that the lining of the jacket is lined up correctly to before you pin or baste.

You don’t want that bunched up at all.

Now, let’s talk about the snaps, if you have them.

When you get to a snap, you may notice that the zipper tape doesn’t fit down into the “hole” too well.

The snap is in the way.

Do you see how the zipper tape rises too high because of the snap?

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I place a pin right next to the snap on the zipper tape (see photo below).

It doesn’t have to be perfect placement as you’ll see in a moment.

You just want a visual marker:

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Next, with a pair of scissors, notch out a little semi circle on the zipper tape just below your pin, like this:

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That semi circle is going to fit over the top of the snap.

Now, remove that pin.

It has done its job.

Place the zipper tape back in the hole and continue pinning:

See how slick that looks?

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Your zipper will not pull out because you have that notch.

Trust me on this!

Once the entire zipper is pinned in, put your zipper foot onto your sewing machine.

I also use a denim weight needle.

They are better suited to a jacket than an all purpose needle.

Begin stitching.

Stitch on the stitching line where the original zipper was, being careful not to run over your pins.

Take them out just before you get to them:

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When you get to a snap, just stay on course.

You shouldn’t have any trouble staying on the original stitching line.

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You might think from the photo above that there would be a small pucker.

To avoid that, I just make sure to hold it tightly as I sew.

Let’s look at how that stitching line looks near the snap:

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When you reach the bottom of the zipper, you’ll notice that the zipper tape has a thick, stiff area about one inch long.

I go slowly over this area.

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Sometimes, I may even “walk” my needle over the stiff area so that I don’t break my needle.

You may have noticed that the original zipper ended a few inches above the bottom edge of the jacket:

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The new zipper was longer and it fit perfectly into the bottom of the jacket:

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If your zipper is too long, just fold the excess under at the top.

If it is several inches too long, leave about an inch or more so you can fold it under at the top.

Some people don’t like any bulk from the zipper, so they cut it off.

If you do that, just make sure you have some extra so you don’t have a raw edge at the top.

You may need to whip stitch the top zipper teeth so that the zipper slide (or pull) doesn’t come off.

You don’t need to worry about that second line of stitching that was next to the zipper tape.

This one row will hold your zipper in tightly.

Here is the finished zipper:

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I know you’ll have great success too!

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