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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:



Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner 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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  1. Timbo says:

    Sew the centre seam and then unpick! Even with my hatred of unpicking, this is a clever idea.

  2. Bumbling Panda says:

    Thanks for this! I’m making a zippered chiffon skirt over the weekend and really needed some helpful tips. You’re awesome!

  3. Chicagoshar says:

    been teaching sewing for over 30 years and while I’m no longer intimidated by putting in a zipper, I love the idea of finishing the back seams first and sewing the zipper into a finished seam! brilliant! thank you so much

  4. Happy Chi says:

    To add another tip to your helpful tutorial… You can buy sewing or fusible tape to tape down the center of the zipper on the outside. Then just use tape edges as a guide to sew straight lines along both sides of the tape (and zipper). The sewing tape pulls out easily.

  5. Kay says:

    My granddaughter’s dress has been on my sewing table for 2 weeks waiting for me to get up the nerve to add the zipper. I’ve always had trouble sewing zippers. Googled for easy instructions and found you. Thank you so much (and my granddaughter thanks you because she gets her dress in time for Easter!)

  6. Tere Cantu says:

    Gracias,excelente tutorías.,thank you!

  7. maria says:

    wow this was so good. everything makes so much more sense!

  8. Мария says:

    Спасибо!!! Для меня всегда была проблема вшить красиво молнию. Благодаря вашему совету научилась делать это аккуратно!

  9. miranda says:

    i’ve seen this a time or 2 but just can’t seem to do it! but mostly because of that annoying bulky zipper head. i’ll give it a go again! guess it just takes a little practice.

  10. Emily says:

    Thanks so so so much!!!

  11. Lori says:

    Thank you. Awesome tutorial. A few more zippers and I’ll forget they ever had me paralyzed. No more zipperphobia.

  12. Shirley S. Jackson says:

    Thanks a lot..You did a great job in showing this tutorial. I learned a lot from it. ..<3

  13. Wasabi Parfait says:

    Thank you very much for this tutorial! I had an idea how to use zippers before but I needed an expert’s guidance~
    This is a very simple and comprehensive guide! Thanks for sharing! :D

  14. Juliana says:

    I have just sewn my first zipper with this! GENIUS!

  15. SUE says:


  16. Sam says:

    Thanks so much for this! I was making a dress for a Halloween costume and it needed a zipper and everyone was telling me they are super hard but this helped me and I did it!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Is it possible to use side zip in full hand blose

  18. Emily says:

    Thank you ever SO much for this!! I am a self-taught sewing Mumma (my daughter is 18m) and have always tried to avoid zips (using buttons instead) because I could never get them neat enough, or hidden enough, so this has been brilliant! I have done my first proper zip and am so very proud of it :-)!! Thank you for taking the time to explain it and the photos help enormously!! Fab xxx

  19. Kim says:

    I’m that girl…adding buttons and Velcro, but this time I NEED a zipper. Thanks for making it look less scary! Off to give it a go! :)

  20. Nessa Jay says:

    A great tutorial, thank you for sharing. I’ve done a little bit of sewing here and there these past few years but I’ve never attempted adding zippers. I might just try it now. :D

  21. Bettie Rage says:

    Thank you for this tutorial! I stopped using patterns long ago and now design my own clothes, and I use a lot of knits that don’t really require fasteners. A friend gave me some gorgeous purple fabric, which is turning into a lovely dress, but I haven’t installed a zipper in a good five years. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to just sew the pieces together then rip the stitch. You’ve saved me a huge headache!

  22. Trazy says:

    I just did my first zipper, thanks to you! It turned out perfect!

  23. Michelle B. says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  24. Merollet says:

    Just wondering, when sewing the zipper with the tape, does the tape get stitched with the zipper?

    1. Emily says:

      Yes it does but it doesn’t matter, it still seems to peel off easily once you’re done, just leaving the stitches behind. Try it, honestly the best tutorial I have tried

  25. makalove says:

    Oh my goodness!! My mom tried to teach me to sew when I was a kid but I never paid much attention. I didn’t really start sewing until I was in my 30s. I have avoided zippers almost entirely!! I came here on a Google search for clear zipper installation instructions because I’m making a set of meditation cushions with removable covers and a zipper seemed nicest. You made it so easy, I’ve decided to make some more to sell!

  26. Ruby says:

    Thanks…. Just did my first zipper since 8th grade… Hint… a very long time ago, when the girls took home economics and the boys took shop… and it went very smoothly.

    Extremely clear instructions and photos!

  27. MelissaJo says:

    Oh thank you thank you! I am right in the middle of a skirt for my daughter and usually opt for buttons or hooks, but now that I know I can do zippers much easier than usual, well, this girl is puttin’ in a zipper on this skirt! My daughter will love it! Thanks again, for the tutorial. Oh, you’re just awesome for sharing the know how.

  28. Reb says:

    Thank-you sooooo much for making these extremely easy to follow instructions, I would never attempted a zipper if you hadn’t made it look so easy!
    Thanks a bunch.

  29. kamarlowete says:

    I did it! You were right, it’s simple. Oh my stars! I didn’t argue with my beloved machine at all!

  30. eryena says:

    THank youuuuuuu

  31. yalla says:

    thanks this worked heaps good with the tape

  32. Elisabeth says:

    Fantastic tutorial…can you do buttonholes next? :)

  33. liz bryenton says:

    Good afternoon – I came across your EXTREMELY HELPFUL hints and tutorial for inserting a zip. I have not sewn a garment for almost 37yrs and, I confess, in the past I had to literally psyche myself up to inserting a zip – it either went in first go or took several goes – and not a few deleted expletives! I have just followed your method and am a very happy stitcher – thank you. Now, if I can find the same idea for inserting sleeves (which, in the past followed the same vein as my zips), I will be even happier. In this my 68th year I hope to get back to making my own clothes which stand some chance of fitting. Thank you once again – Regards – LIZ

  34. Mae says:

    Thanks so much for this tutorial! I have never sewed a zipper on before, and though the stitching lines ended up a bit crooked and I didn’t have a zipper foot the result is still really good! Can’t even tell it’s my first zipper ;)

  35. Meari says:

    I learned how to do zippers the same way in high school sewing classes. Great job on the tutorial. And thanks for the tape tip. I may have to try that one.

  36. B(r)ouillon says:

    thanks! this is exactly what I was looking for!

  37. Anonymous says:

    omg i have to do gcse design technology and you have just saved my life!!! i might even get an A. Thank you soo much :) xxxx

  38. Celia says:

    Thank you so much. That is a beautiful tutorial.

  39. Narinder kaur sohi says:

    I like your method of sewing

  40. Icecreamforpudding says:

    Thanks, your photos help to make it really clear. I have a question though. My zip doesn’t have an end or a top, if you know what I mean. I can just sew over the bottom, to close it off, but what do I do at the top, to stop the zipper head disappearing off the end?


  41. Melzeem says:

    Being a new sew-er, can I do the “pre-stitch” on satin without leaving holes? I’m making a pillow cover and I’m still wary, even after reading your tutorial.

  42. Joanna says:

    Thank you thank you thank you. I just sewed my first zip. It was a success!!!! I’m changing a fabulous maxi dress into a maxi skirt as The dress is too big for me now. All I have to do now is some darts…

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

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