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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]
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And they really can be pretty useful.

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

zipper for clothing, pillow openings, pouches, totes, etc.
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And besides, a cheery little zipper can always perk up a project.

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

 iron the two edges open flat
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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.
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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
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(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
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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.
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Now, switch your needle alignment all the way to the right.

switch your needle alignment all the way to the right
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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
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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
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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.
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Now, flip the fabric over and pull up the tape.

flip the fabric over and pull up the tape.
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Now unpick that center seam.

unpick that center seam
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And then pull on the zipper to be sure it works.

 then pull on the zipper
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Whew, it does!

completed zipper
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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.
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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.

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

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:

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Ashley Johnston

Administrator at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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