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Sewing Tips: Installing a Basic Zipper

Sewing Tips: Installing a Basic Zipper

I know…..zippers can seem scary. 

Have you been avoiding them? 

And substituting buttons, snaps, hook/eye, or velcro?

If so, you just need to show those little boogers that you’re the boss.

Seriously, they’re not terribly hard…….they just take a little practice.

How to Sew a Zipper [Easy Installation]

And they really can be pretty useful.

Variety of Zippers

You can use the basic zipper for clothing, pillow openings, pouches, totes, etc.

zipper for clothing, pillow openings, pouches, totes, etc.

And besides, a cheery little zipper can always perk up a project.

cheery little zippers

Also, if you only have a super long zipper on hand that’s just too long for your project…….don’t run to the store.  Use what you have.

super long zipper

Want to learn a bit more about  basic zippers?

First of all, zippers at the store can sometimes be pricey.  Check out some of these very inexpensive zippers I found online…..with FREE shipping!

Now, to begin attaching your zippers, you will mostly likely need a zipper foot to sew in a zipper.  They are narrow in size and have a notch on the left for the needle and a notch on the right.  This is so that the presser foot can butt up right next to the zipper, making a seam really close to that zipper.

how to begin attaching your zippers

Now, depending on you project, this construction of how you attach your zipper may be a bit different.  But here’s the basic idea.

Here are the two pieces of fabric that I am wanting to zip together.

two pieces of fabric that I am wanting to zip together

First, I finished off the two edges that I wanted to zip together with a serged seam (zig-zag works too) and then sewed those two sides together (with right sides together), using a 5/8 inch seam allowance……and a long stitch length (basting stitch).

(Use whatever seam allowance you were given or that you allowed yourself if you made your own pattern.)

sewing zippers in

Then, turn to the ‘wrong’ side and iron the two edges open flat.

 iron the two edges open flat

Now, you will most likely have a starting and stopping point for your zipper on the fabric.  It may be the top edge of the fabric or a 1/2 inch down, etc.  Wherever it is, place the end where it needs to begin and place your zipper face down.  Then line up the center of the zipper teeth along the center of that open seam.  Place some scotch tape along the back of the zipper and as you center your zipper, lay it down and secure with the tape.

*You can use pins to hold your zipper in place as well.  I just like tape because it’s less bulky.  Give it a try if you never have before.  :)

Place some scotch tape along the back of the zipper, lay it down and secure with the tape.

Gradually make your way all the way down the zipper, checking to be sure the zipper it is centered right along the seam…..and continue placing pieces of tape.

center zipper right along the seam

(And for using my technique [in the next few steps] don’t place a piece of tape right where the actual zipper pull is and about 2 inches below that either.  You’ll understand in the steps ahead. )

Then flip the fabric over and place a pin right above where the bottom of the zipper is.  This will just show you where the end is because you don’t want to sew over the metal (or thick plastic) piece at the end of the zipper.

flip the fabric over and place a pin right above where the bottom of the zipper is

I always start at the bottom of the zipper and work my way towards the top.

So first, position your needle all the way over to the left (so you don’t break your needle) and now you’re ready to begin sewing along the right side of the seam.  Slide your fabric (right side up) underneath the presser foot and find the pin you used to mark the bottom of the zipper.  Now, every zipper teeth width is different……so feel how far out your zipper teeth come and sew just to the right of them, not on them.  Whatever distance away from the teeth you use, just make it consistent as you sew along the zipper.  Back stitch a time or two and then start sewing.

 Back stitch a time or two and then start sewing.

Keep sewing all the way down the zipper until you are about 2 inches from the end.

Keep sewing all the way down the zipper until you are about 2 inches from the end

Now, keep your needle down in the fabric and then lift the presser foot and lift up the fabric.

keep your needle down in the fabric

And un-zip the zipper until it’s just behind the needle and out of the way.  (This is why you didn’t use tape on the back right here where the zipper pull was.) Unzipping will get that chunky zipper pull out of the way while sewing.  It just bugs me when sewing…..but some people just sew around it.  Do what you like best.

un-zip the zipper

Now, re-align the center seam of the fabric so that it’s slightly more to the left.  Then continue sewing and backstitch at the end.

**I do this to give more fabric to cover the zipper pull after it’s all zipped up.  Again, this is just preference.  If you don’t mind, just keep the seam aligned down the center of the zipper and sew to the end.

continue sewing and backstitch at the end

Now, switch your needle alignment all the way to the right.

switch your needle alignment all the way to the right

Turn your fabric a quarter turn so that you can sew along the bottom of the zipper.  Sew back and forth a few times, to secure the end of the zipper section on the fabric.

Sew back and forth a few times, to secure the end of the zipper section on the fabric

Then turn the fabric again so that you can start sewing along the other side of the zipper.  Sew right along the left side of the zipper, just like you did along the right……making sure you sew the same distance from that center seam.  Stop again, 2 inches from the end, leaving your needle down in the fabric.  Then unpick that center seam until just beyond the back of the zipper foot.

unpick that center seam until just beyond the back of the zipper foot

Unzip the zipper so that it’s out of the way and just behind the zipper foot…….and then move the edge of the fabric just over to the right a bit, to give extra room for the zipper head on this side too.  Continue sewing to the very end and backstitch.

Continue sewing to the very end and backstitch.

Now, flip the fabric over and pull up the tape.

flip the fabric over and pull up the tape.

Now unpick that center seam.

unpick that center seam

And then pull on the zipper to be sure it works.

 then pull on the zipper

Whew, it does!

completed zipper

Now, fold under the top edge and sew in place, add a band to cover the top raw edge (like shown above), or follow whatever directions you’re using.

Now, fold under the top edge and sew in place, add a band to cover the top raw edge (like shown above), or follow whatever directions you're using.

One last tip:

Are you working on a project and need an 8 inch zipper……but only have a 22 inch zipper??

No worries…….just slide that zipper under your regular zipper foot right at the length that you need the zipper to be and use your widest zig-zag stitch (with your stitch length set to ‘0’) and sew several stitches right there at that spot.  This will clamp the zipper shut right at this spot.

8 inch zipper

And now you can cut your zipper off, right below those stitches.

cut zipper

Now that you’re a zipper pro, you need ZIPPERS!!!!  Check out these affordable zippers, with FREE shipping!  Such a great deal :)

. . . . .

Still itching to learn some basic sewing tips?

Try your hand at these tutorials:

French Seams

Attaching buttons with a sewing machine

sewing tips basic stitches

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Comments

  1. jen says:

    Wow- what a great tutorial. I have never come across one that is so great! I don’t think I will be afraid of zippers any longer! Thanks Again,
    Jen

  2. Danae says:

    I sew a fair bit, but zippers always scare me. (Also, button holes– you want to do a tutorial about those? Ugh.) I do a lot to avoid them (including making a skirt for myself 3 sizes too big so I could just use elastic and slide it over my hips– which works, but then it’s all gappy around my waist. I should have just put in the zipper the pattern called for.) My seams always get all wiggly and crooked, and I usually get fabric caught somewhere it doesn’t belong. Your way looks a lot easier, and the tape idea is genius. I may be brave enough to give zippers another try! Thanks!

  3. Suzeane Stuart says:

    Helllow!!!!!

    thank you! thank you !! thank you!!

    As vezes na correria do dia – a – dia, a gente não lembra como deve costurar um zíper, mas, com esse DYI, está perfeito!

    Thanks!!

    Susie

  4. aimee says:

    Thank you so much! I do zippers so infrequently that I always forget how to do them – this is getting bookmarked for sure!

  5. Whitney@somethingbroughtyouhere says:

    Thank you for this… It is true… I am a little terrifed of zippers.

  6. Ione says:

    Thank you!!!!!!
    Ione

  7. Melissa says:

    Zippers are my achilles heel… I will have to give this a try and see if it’s any better! Thank you!

  8. Jess says:

    Thank you, this was super helpful!

  9. Sarah Moeri says:

    !!!! This is so exciting to me! I have attempted to put a zipper in on a couple of occasions and, being a novice sewer, I never got it right. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve tried (due to a fear of failure ;0). I love these tips! The tape! “Sew” smart! And even following direction from a pattern, I didn’t get the memo on sewing the fabric together only to pick it out later! Super helpful, thank you!

  10. Tish says:

    O-M-G, you must be a mind reader or something! I just put a refashion project back in the To Do Pile because it needs a zipper and I don’t know how to do one and just commented to a non-sewing friend yesterday that I REEEEAAALLLY need to learn how to sew a zipper! Thank you soooo much!

  11. Oksana says:

    Thank you! It is great!
    What kind of tape do you use? I am afraid the needle will stick in the tape glue, no?

  12. Jen says:

    Great tutorial! Never knew this. Now…I was given a hood with a broken zipper and I want to fix it. How do I install that type?

  13. vIO says:

    MERCIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!

  14. Kristina Noall says:

    Haha. I saw the title of this one and thought, “I already know how to do that.” And then I learned a lot about how to do it BETTER and easier. :) Great tutorial, as usual!

  15. Pam says:

    Nice tutorial. I like the tape trick and can’t wait to try that one. My zipper foot is chunky and I really don’t like it. I like the narrow ones much better. I am sure there must be a trick I haven’t worked out yet with this chunky foot.

    1. Shannon says:

      I hate my chunky zipper foot too!

  16. Teresa says:

    Thank-you very much!

  17. Jackie says:

    I have a project I want to do and it requies installing a zipper. I have never inserted a zipper before so thanks for the information. It will definitely come in very handy.

  18. Wendy says:

    Scotch Tape! Who knew!!! I’ve been sewing for, um, a while and never thought to use tape. Pins just get in the way and knock my careful placement out of whack. Thanks for a great tip!!!

  19. Michelle says:

    I love the tape idea! Pins just don’t work right for zippers.

  20. Emily says:

    This is very helpful but I can only find tips for this kind of zipper, would it work about the same for a seperating zipper? I slapped one into my daughter’s Halloween costume all willynilly! It looks bad but it works and will be hidden by her cape and only used a couple times but I’d like to know how to do it in the future. Any suggestions oh Sewing Idol?

  21. Kris says:

    Wow, that looks really doable! Normally if I need a zipper on something I go with an invisible zipper because I know how to put those in but regular zippers, especially where it’s neat and covered like your tutorial, have been a real mystery for me.

  22. Jamie says:

    I just wanted to post and tell you how AMAZING you are!!!!!!
    Im new to the sewing club and I came across your blog by a link of another link and I honestly visit your blog everyday! My mother was an awesome sewer herself when i was growing up and after the birth of my first…. I decided to buy a sewing machine, and of course she wouldn’t let me get just any ol’ machine it had to be a very high qualitly one. Anyhow just about everything Ive made sofar, I’ve used your advice!!! THANK YOU!!!!

  23. Wani says:

    Woww!Its genius! Thank you so much. I’ve always got problem with zippers.Not anymore.. hopefully :)

  24. Erika R. says:

    THANK YOU for this tutorial!!! I am totally intimidated by zippers but want to conquer them! I’m on it!

  25. Amy W. says:

    Zippers, be not proud. I’ve got this….Thanks!

  26. anilegra says:

    que gran idea ,te enlazaré la próxima vez que ponga algo que requiera cremallera

  27. Monica says:

    thank you very much for this little great tip… I´m also a self – taught sewer and I often use zippers in bags and totes, but I never dared to sew a zipper with coverage…
    tape is such a great idea!!!
    I love your blog and your tips, thanks again!!

  28. Melanie says:

    You know, I learned how to sew a zipper from the zipper package… but I’ve been thinking recently that a zipper with coverage on both teeth sides should be how they show it. After I pull dresses from the wash, the fabric coverage has always gone funky and I can see the zipper plain as day and have to iron it. I liked your tip of sewing the pieces together and unpicking, I usually just pin.

  29. Sona Jacob says:

    Wow! That’s neat!

  30. Andrea says:

    You rock my socks off… I was totally thinking the other day that I wish you would do a tutorial on zippers because you always make everything so much easier… I have totally been avoiding zippers but I’m all in now! Thanks so much!

  31. Nicki says:

    Any good ideas on where to find super long zippers? Like, at least a yard? I want to put one on the opening of my son’s teepee, but haven’t been able to find a good source.

    1. Jamie says:

      You could check with one of the YKK authorized sellers on etsy. Maybe they can get one for your from their supplier. Or, you could upcycle one from a thrift store sleeping bag or tent?
      Good luck!
      Jamie

    2. Wendy says:

      Your local fabric store should be able to get you one, too. I used one once to make a sleeping bag out of my husband’s camo poncho liner back in the day. Still works!

    3. Michele N says:

      Check the upholstery section of your local fabric store. I recently found a long section at JoAnn’s that had multiple zipper heads on it that you can cut to length. I used it for 2 chair cushions and still have some left.

    4. Stephanie says:

      Sullivans sells a ‘Make-A-Zipper’ in 5.5 yd Reels at amazon.com and costs around $16. The zipper comes on a roll 5.5 yards long and has 12 zipper pulls attached. If you want to cut a zipper 1 yard long, you make sure that one zipper pull is attached to the first yard of zipper and all others are pushed away. Cut the zipper where desired and reinforce each cut end so the zipper pulls don’t fall off. The instructions on the roll explain how to do this easily.

      However, I don’t recommend inserting the zipper horizontally and zig-zagging across the cut end (as illustrated on the roll). Your needle could insert itself into the zipper, pulling it apart. Instead, follow Ashley’s instructions above for reinforcing the end of the zipper. Adjust your zig zag position to be as wide as possible and your stitch length to be near zero. This way, your needle goes across each side of the zipper and not through it and ensures your zipper pull ain’t goin’ nowhere!

    5. Dolores Kern says:

      I found out that at an “uphoistery shop”, you can get some zipper stops made of metal. Very easy to use. The one I went to gave me several at no cost. He said he gets them from a wholesaler for his business. It looks a little like a staple with two pointed parts on either side. You push into the zipper tape and fabric where you need and than bend the pointed prongs tightly. Works like a charm. I keep the extras that I was given in a med. bottle.

    6. Kitkat says:

      I buy duvet cover zippers at my local fabric store.

    7. Steph says:

      American Science and Surplus had long zippers for about $0.75 last time we visited!

    8. Shelly says:

      Stan’s Sewing (www.stanssewingsupplies.com) has a huge variety of zippers at great prices, including zippers by the inch.

    9. Katherine says:

      Hobby Lobby sells a zipper that you can cut to any length. They also have the slider so that you can finish making the zipper. I hope you have a Hobby Lobby close to you.

    10. Maggie says:

      Along with the other suggestions … you can find zippers at outdoors-gear sewing places such as Seattle Fabrics and Rainshed (they both have websites – just use their name with (dot)com after it.) Happy Sewing, Maggie

    11. Carol K. says:

      I bought a 36″ zipper from a seller on e-Bay. Needed it to “try” and repair my hubby’s drum case. Price was reasonable.

  32. Rachel says:

    I needed this tutorial a few weeks ago! I installed my first zipper, and let’s just say there were tears, throwing things, and lots and lots of unpicking. Now I have a great tutorial for next time! :)

  33. Tara says:

    This is perfect timing, I’m sewing my daughter’s Halloween costume and have everything done but the zipper. I’ve been too intimidated up til now, so thank you so much for this!

  34. Amie {Kitty Cats and Airplanes} says:

    I’ve never seen it done this way! I am scared of zippers but this seems doable.

  35. Blanca says:

    Thank You so much for the tutorial!! I’ve sewed 2 zippers so far and both I had to re-due multiple times because I did them wrong. Your way seems so much easier and definitely less intimidating. Thank You.

  36. Annastacia says:

    I love this so much I want to go find an excuse to put a zipper on something! Once again great tutorial. Thank you.

  37. Kimberly G says:

    The tape is GENIUS!! That is going to save me so much time and frustration in sewing zippers! You rock.

  38. Ashley says:

    I have not read this yet, but i just wanted to say – THANK YOU SO MUCH for choosing to do this one, i have been avoiding it like the plague.

    1. Sophia says:

      Hi Ashley,

      I love you clear instructions and easy way to sew in a zip. After you have sewing in the zip do you remove the tape that hold the zipper into place or do you leave it on. If you remove the tape what is the best way to do this. I am not very good at sewing in zips but thanks to your clear instructions I am sure I can achieve this goal. Thank you

    2. Sophia says:

      Are there different ways to sew in zippers and which is the easiest way.

  39. Kate C says:

    Great, I just figured out how to sew a zipper for the first time last week…before you wrote this post. :( I would have loved to get the gist of it from your pictures because just seeing how to position it would have helped. However, I did learn to baste the zipper to the seam allowance before sewing on the right side of the fabric, and I think it produces a better product in the end…but I also understand that this is the “basic tutorial”. And it helped me with me with just that, the basics.

  40. Taylor says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial!!! It is a blessing to have things explained in such a clear way.

    In Christ Alone…

  41. Kathy Patterson says:

    This is great! I’m one who is afraid of zippers – but I’m going to give it a try! Thanks for all you do.

    1. danielle says:

      ha ha!!!! ive had a fear of zippers forever too!!!! glad to know im not alone!

  42. dannyscotland says:

    I’ve sewn zippers before but I have not been doing it correctly because I never had anyone teach me; I’m a sort of self-taught sewer-girl. This is so much better than how I’ve been doing it! Thank you! I am so glad I found your blog. I have learned SO much!

    1. MelissaJo says:

      I too am a self taught do it all and am also glad I found this. What a simpler way to go than what I’ve been doing. I wouldn’t say I’ve been sewing zippers wrong, just not the easiest way. This is awesome and so much quicker.

    2. katie.r says:

      this makes sewing zips easier, and quicker

  43. Addie says:

    I would like to know how to install a hidden zipper. Do you know how?

    1. Dolores Kern says:

      I have used hidden zippers that come with instructions. They take a special foot that usually are available at the same store. So very easy even I can use them.

  44. Kira says:

    I just finished my daughters Strawberry Shortcake costume for Halloween. I used your tutorial on adding a pleated skirt to a t-shirt and appliqued a stawrberry on it. Now on to the leggins with the ruffle fabric from a tutorial i saw somewhere. Oh ya, from you! You rock!

  45. Sunni @ Love Affair with my Brother says:

    I love the tape trick. That is awesome! I usually use a Sewline pen and do it exactly as you described!

  46. Lynette says:

    I learned this trick in a bernina class, but it’s great to see it in pictures so I can remember! Thanks!

  47. Christy says:

    Thank You for giving us such an easy tutorial. I sew just about everything BUT zippers and really wanted some help. THANK YOU!!

  48. Melissa says:

    Tape! GENIUS. I’ve been sewing zippers for years trying to compensate for how the pins can off-center it.

    1. Sheryll Seidel says:

      This is an excellent tutorial. My mother taught me to sew a zipper in a way similar to this. She taught me to sew with the zipper face up. This way I can pick somewhere on the zipper and use that as a guide to sew straight. However, either method is wonderful.

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