Learning how to sew a zipper allows you to install strong and reliable closures on a range of sewing projects.
For new seamsters, learning how to sew a zipper can be intimidating, but it’s a must-know skill for many projects. Zippers are useful fasteners for a range of garments, including dresses, jackets, and pants, as well as non-clothing items like pillow covers and bags. Zippers tend to be stronger than buttons, ties, or snaps, and they also carry the potential to easily add a polished look to a variety of sewing projects. This guide will walk you through sewing a basic centered zipper into a seam using a sewing machine.
TOOLS & MATERIALS
- Sewing machine
- Steam iron
- Fabric marking pencil
- Sewing pins
- Sewing tape
- Seam ripper
- Zipper presser foot
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Depending on your project and preference, you can choose from metal or plastic zippers. Metal zippers tend to be sturdier, but they’re sold in limited hues. Plastic zippers are less tough but come in a range of fun colors. Regardless of which material you choose, start with a zipper that’s the right length for your project. If a plastic zipper is too long, shorten it by sewing a few stitches over the zipper where you want it to end and snipping the excess. For metal zippers, temporarily detach the bottom stop, remove extra teeth that extend beyond your desired length, reattach the bottom stop, and snip off the excess.
Before sewing, ensure a zipper presser foot is installed on your sewing machine. The zipper presser foot will allow the sewing machine to stitch right next to the zipper teeth, without the presser foot getting in the way. This attachment makes it easier to create a neat stitch line, and placing the stitches closer to the zipper teeth conceals the edges of the zipper tape.
STEP 1: Finish and sew the fabric’s edges.
First, finish the edges of the fabric where you plan to place the zipper with a serged or a zigzag seam. Make 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 one another, sew the two pieces of fabric together with a regular stitch—just 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 stitch the rest of the seam, stitching over the section that will open for the zipper. Since this stitch will be removed, there is no need to backstitch the end points. Basting the seam will hold it closed while you attach the zipper, and it also makes it easier to remove the stitches once the zipper is installed.
STEP 3: Place the zipper.
With the wrong side of the fabric facing up, lay the zipper face down along the basted section of the seam allowance. In most cases, you will start at the top end of the fabric, aligning the zipper’s top stop with the fabric’s top edge. Pay attention to your pattern and keep any other necessary seam allowances in mind when it comes to zipper placement—for example, the top edge of the zipper may call for a hem.
When you’ve settled on a zipper placement, you can mark the stitch 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 guide lines.
STEP 4: Pin the zipper.
Before sewing, affix 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. Ensure that the zipper is lined up from the top stop to the bottom stop. Check along the full length of the zipper’s teeth; just pinning the zipper’s top and bottom may not be enough to keep it perfectly aligned with the seam. Pin or tape the zipper as you go to hold it in place.
STEP 5: Stitch the zipper.
With the right side of the fabric facing up and starting at the top of the zipper, make your first stitch just past the zipper pull. You will need to avoid stitching too closely to the zipper pull to maintain straight stitching.
Continue stitching to the bottom of the zipper. Stop and turn the fabric 90 degrees to sew a few stitches along the bottom of the zipper. Turn the fabric again to stitch the other side of the zipper. Before you reach the zipper pull, backstitch to secure your stitch.
Slide the zipper pull down an inch or two into the section that has already been stitched. Stitch the remaining upper portion of the zipper to the fabric.
STEP 6: Rip out the basting stitches.
Your zipper is now attached! 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-concealed zipper perfect for several applications, including closing up skirts, dresses, jackets, and cushion covers.
Remove any stray basting threads for a clean, professional look. Test the zipper to ensure it opens and closes, then continue with the rest of your project.
Knowing how to attach a zipper is an invaluable sewing skill for finishing clothing, accessories, and home décor projects. When done right, zippers are a secure and attractive way to close all types of articles. Many sewists will reach a point in their sewing journey where they will want to learn how to install a zipper. With the guide above and a bit of practice, you should be able to sew in a zipper with confidence.