how to sew a zipper closure on a box cushion

by | Aug 12, 2015 | All Things Home, Sewing, Tutorials | 14 comments

We’ve been chatting about sewing lately and I have something to confess.  Zippers terrified me for years.  Well, maybe not terrified, but I thought they were too complicated and I avoided and side-stepped them.  I just made envelope closures on the underside of cushions.  And they’re usually held together by safety pins.

Yeah.  If you flip over the cushions of my pretty French bergere chairs in the living room?

And I’m saying this in a whisper.  Maybe even just mouthing it…

…safety pins.  

The French wing chairs in the dining room?


As I’ve said before, I’m not about perfection.  I’m about getting something done.  If a chair needing a zipper is going to prevent me from getting something done, then I’ll figure out another way.

I did face my fear of zippers a few years ago and they were surprisingly simple.  Almost to the point of embarrassment.

It’s sort of like when you freak out over something you think is a spider, but it’s just a ball of lint.

Even after that victory, I usually go with an envelope closure simply because I don’t have a stock of zippers and I know it’ll work.

When it came time to make the cushion covers for the vintage iron deck chairs, though, I really needed to use zippers.  I decided to make a video of the process, for others with a zipper-phobia.  

 See?  That’s not so bad!

At the end, when we’re sewing on the fabric to the left and right of the zipper, ideally that would be one long piece that is fitted around the cushion.  I was running really shy on fabric, so I used two small pieces and then attached them to a longer piece that ran around the front of the cushion, if that makes sense.

So, have I tempted you to give zippers a try, now?

Tutorials on making custom piping and assembling the cushion cover are coming soon…

You can see how I made the chair cushion HERE.

PS – I know my head is cut off at the beginning of the video.  Jeff and the boys were at football practice and I was trying to get the video done alone, without a tripod.

Disclosure: The zipper and fabric for this project were provided by SailRite.


  1. Sarah

    I love this post. I’m learning so much! Can I just wind you back one step to your initial selection of the zipper. You can cut it to length?! I never knew this. I thought zippers just come in set lengths. When you buy a long length like that, do you buy the zipper slider piece separately? The zipper aisle at the fabric shop has always seemed a little intimidating. Perhaps if I spent more time there, I might already know this stuff!

    • marian

      There are some zippers that come sized, with a slider included, but I buy zippers by the foot with a separate slider, so I can make it the exact size I need for the project.

  2. Kate

    For years, I avoided doing buttonholes. I picked patterns based on whether they had buttons or not and if a dress pattern needed buttons, I altered the pattern so I could use a zipper (zippers were a cinch for me). Then I finally learned a way to do buttonholes easily and it set me free! I have a big stash of zippers which I’ve picked up a yard sales and thrift stores. And I always remove a zipper from an old cushion before tossing it.

    Sarah, you can cut a zipper to any length you want. You mark where you want the zipper to stop, whip stitch around the teeth at that point and then cut the zipper below your new stop. You do need to pick the right kind of zipper for the project. Some zippers are metal, some are plastic, some are “invisible.” some have larger teeth, some are more flexible, some have more fabric on either side of the teeth.

  3. Susan

    I was ready to try zippers until I saw how much they cost, so I just kept doing envelope enclosures. But a few weeks ago I got a box of free zippers of all different lengths at a garage sale, so now with your tutorial, I am ready to go! I can see all those zippers were not new–they were taken from discarded items that had zippers. So if you see any pillow forms or cushions at garage sales and don’t like the fabric, just get them for the zippers!

  4. Nancy

    Thank you so much Marian for sharing your knowledge! I no longer have to wish I can do these things but know I can do them (and way more crooked!)!!

  5. Dorene @ Seasonal Chapters

    I was (am) intimidated by zippers as well, but with your tutorial I might just finally give them a try. Your outdoor cushions look amazing. I am always inspired by and learn so much from your blog. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, creativity, and even your short cuts.

  6. Jinny

    Marion – Try inserting the pins “vertically” rather than along side the fabric or zipper to the bottom of the fabric. The foot will easily hop over them (or you can remove them as you go) and it will prevent the fabric from skidding or slipping as you get towards the bottom.

    • marian

      You know, I have always pinned the direction I’m sewing! It’s just how I do it. I think it started with pillows. I would pin where I wanted to sew and then would “sew along the pin line”, removing the pins as I go. It’s just what works for me. 🙂

  7. April

    Oh the timing! Thank you SO much. I kept debating on some living room chair cushions. Zipper vs envelope. I need a second side to flip to with all the boys around here so this is PERFECT!

  8. Rebecca

    Oh my! It’s like you knew this was my phobia! I am now going to have to give this a try! You made it so simple and easy to grasp. Many thanks for sharing your wisdom with us! You now have me upholstering chairs and soon they’ll have zippers!! ?

  9. Janice

    This is not the normal way of installing a zipper and there would be more accuracy if you started by using a more traditional method that starts with the seam machine basted together first.

    • marian

      As I said, this is just how I do it. The “Marian method”. 🙂

  10. Brick & Meadow

    Marian, love the video and the “Marian Method”! 🙂 Very, very helpful. I might even try zippers! Insisting there is a “proper” and “right” scares people off from even trying something new or different. Let’s appreciate the tiny steps of progress and creativity before trying to intimidate people into a masterpiece out of the gate.

    • Brick & Meadow

      “Proper” and “right” way that is… 🙂


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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