For new semesters, learning how to sew a zipper can be intimidating, but it’s a must-know for many projects. Zippers are useful fasteners for a variety of clothing, including dresses, jackets, and pants, as well as non-clothing items such as pillow covers and bags. Zippers are sturdier than buttons, ties, or snaps, and they also have the ability to easily add a polished look to a variety of sewing projects. This guide will walk you through sewing a basic center zipper into the seam using a sewing machine.
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Depending on your project and preference, you can choose between metal or plastic zippers. Metal zippers are stronger, but they are sold in limited colors. Plastic zippers are less rigid but come in a range of fun colors. Regardless of which material you choose, start with a zipper that is the right length for your project. If the plastic zipper is too long, shorten it by making a few stitches above the zipper where you want it to end and cut off the excess. For metal zippers, temporarily detach the bottom stop, remove any extra teeth that have grown beyond your desired length, reattach the bottom stop, and cut off the excess.
Before sewing, make sure the zipper presser foot is installed on your sewing machine. The zipper presser foot will allow the sewing machine to sew right next to the teeth of the zipper, without the presser foot getting in the way. This attachment makes it easy to create a clean stitch line, and keeping the stitches close to the zipper teeth hides the edges of the zipper tape.
Step 1: Finish and sew the edges of the fabric.
First, finish the edges of the fabric where you plan to place the zipper with serge or zigzag seam. Be sure to leave enough space on each side for your pattern’s recommended seam allowance (usually ½ inch or ⅝ inch).
With the right sides of the fabric facing each other, sew the two pieces of fabric together with a regular stitch — right up to where the zipper will be installed.
Step 2: Baste the zipper opening, and press the seam allowance.
Use a long basting stitch to sew the rest of the seam, sewing over the part that will open for the zipper. Since this stitch will be removed, there is no need to backstitch the endpoints. Basting the seam when you attach the zipper will keep it closed, and it also makes it easier to remove the stitches after the zipper is installed.
With the wrong side of the fabric facing out, open the seam allowance. If the seam allowance won’t lay flat, you can use an iron to flatten the seam allowance.
Step 3: Place the zipper.
With the wrong side of the fabric facing up, place the zipper down with the basted side of the seam allowance. In most cases, you’ll start at the top end of the fabric, aligning the top stop of the zipper with the top edge of the fabric. Pay attention to your pattern and keep other necessary seam allowances in mind when it comes to installing the zipper—for example, the top edge of the zipper may call for a hem.
Once you’ve determined the location of the zipper, you can mark the stitching lines on the right side of the fabric using chalk or a fabric marking pencil. This step can be skipped, however, if you feel comfortable sewing without a guideline.
Step 4: Pin the zipper.
Before sewing, pin the zipper in place using sewing pins or sewing tape.
Working on the wrong side of the fabric, align the center of the fully closed zipper with the center of the seam. Make sure the zipper lines up from the top stop to the bottom stop. Check along the entire length of the zipper teeth; Simply pinning the top and bottom of the zipper may not be enough to keep it perfectly aligned with the seam. Pin or tape it as you go to keep it in place.
Step 5: Sew the zipper.
With the right side of the fabric facing and starting at the top of the zipper, make your first stitch just behind the zipper pull. You’ll want to avoid sewing too close to the zipper pull to maintain a straight stitch.
Continue sewing to the bottom of the zipper. Stop and turn the fabric at 90 degrees to sew some stitches under the zipper. Turn the fabric again to sew the other side of the zipper. Before reaching the zipper pull, backstitch to secure your stitching.
Slide the zipper an inch or two down into the area that has already been sewn. Sew the rest of the top of the zipper to the fabric.
Step 6: Rip the basting stitches.
Your zip is now connected! Remove your project from the sewing machine, and cut the threads. Use a seam ripper from your sewing kit to remove the basting stitches covering the zipper. This process creates a neat and semi-hidden zipper that is perfect for many applications, including closing skirts, dresses, jackets, and cushion covers.
Remove any stray basting threads for a clean, professional look. Test the zip to see if it opens and closes, then continue with the rest of your project.
Knowing how to attach a zipper is an invaluable sewing skill for completing clothing, accessory, and home decor projects. When done correctly, zippers are a safe and attractive way to close all kinds of articles. Many sewists will reach a point in their sewing journey where they want to learn how to install a zipper. With the guide above and a little practice, you should be able to sew in a zipper with confidence.
How do the British say zipper?
The British word is zip.
What are the three types of zippers?
The three main types are Nylon Coil, Vislon (also known as Molded Tooth), and Metal zippers. On the back of each slider, there should be a couple of letters and numbers. For example, if your zipper says YKK 5CN, you have a YKK brand zipper in size 5 coil.