Learn how to sew a zipper! Do you want to be able to master all the basics but find the last thing you feel confident to tackle is how to sew a zipper? Why does the thought of sewing in a zipper come last on your list of sewing skills? Get to know the zipper better and you will have a different outlook.
How to Sew a Zipper Tutorial
The zipper is a really valuable addition to the sewing world, and with a bit of practice and a few helpful tips, you should be able to tackle this technique with confidence. The method you use to sew a zipper will depend on the type of zipper you are using.
Types of Zipper
Start by knowing the different types of zippers and then the methods suggested. Before you know it, you will be ‘zipping’ along and sewing zippers into everything.
- Coil Zippers: Made of nylon, coil zippers are flat on one side and have teeth on the other. Each tooth is connected to the other to bind easily. They are light, heat resistant, and waterproof. Ideal for backpacks, sleeping bags, purses, and tote bags. These are the most common type of zippers found, and this is what we will be learning about today.
- Tooth Zippers: Made of metal or plastic, tooth zippers have teeth visible on both sides. Each tooth is separate, and these zippers are suited to jackets and camping gear.
- Invisible Zippers: These zippers are hidden in a seam with only the pull tab visible. Flexible and strong, they are ideal for dressmaking and soft furnishings such as cushions.
- Open-Ended Zipper: This zipper is a great innovation for the opening and closing of jackets and items to open out at the end. It has a slide mechanism that slips in before closing the zipper.
If you would like to learn more, see my article on types of zippers.
How to Sew a Zipper Video Tutorial
See how to sew a zipper in a cushion cover. My YouTube channel posts weekly sewing and craft tutorials, so make sure you subscribe.
How to Sew a Zipper in a Seam, Step by Step Tutorial
The most well-known method of sewing a zipper is the central seam method. These are the basic instructions to follow to insert this zipper.
Supplies to Sew a Zipper
To learn how to sew a zipper you need:
- ZIPPER - If your zipper is the wrong length for your project, then you can shorten it. (Read how to shorten a zipper). if you are a beginner sewer, use plastic zippers as these are easier to sew than metal ones.
- PRESSER FOOT - You will need a zipper foot. This allows you to stitch on one side.
- SEWING BASICS - Sewing machine, pins, sewer’s tape, or scotch tape, scissors, thread.
Most machines will come with a zipper foot, but if you have lost yours, then consider purchasing a set of presser feet from Amazon or eBay.
Step 1 - Finish Edges
Start with finishing the edges of the fabric to be closed with a zipper. I have used a serger, but if you just have a regular machine, then a simple zig-zag will work nicely. (Read seam finishes without a serger).
If you use a serger, then be careful you don't cut too much of the seam allowance off, as it will make the edges too short to insert your zipper.
Step 2 - Sew Edges
Sew the two pieces together with the right sides together up to where the zipper will be inserted. You will be using a regular length stitch and the seam allowance indicated in your pattern. This will usually be either ½ inch (12mm) or ⅝ inch (15mm).
Backstitch the end points.
Step 3 - Baste Gap
Use a long machine basting stitch length of 4.0-5.0 on the part that will be open for the zipper. See my red stitching. Don't bother backstitching the ends as this will be unpicked later.
Step 4 - Press Open
Turn to the wrong side and press open the seam allowance.
Step 5 - Place Zipper
On the wrong side, place the zipper tape face down along the basted seam (red stitching). Always start at the top, aligning the top of the zipper with the top raw edge. The zipper pull should be up.
The blue stitching is the end of my zipper, as I have shortened it. Your zipper stop will probably have a metal piece here.
Step 6 - Baste Zipper
Put temporary tape across the zipper at the back at intervals to keep it in place. You can use scotch tape or sewer’s tape to do the trick. I prefer tape to using pins as it tends to stay flatter this way.
Make sure you tape the ends so they stay relatively straight. They do always separate slightly due to the bulk of the zipper head. If you place your zipper head facing down, it will be slightly less bulky to sew over later.
Step 7 - Pin Bar
Turn the fabric over and put a pin across the end just after the metal retainer bar. This gives us a guide to sew over so you don't hit any metal with your needle.
Step 8 - Stitch Zipper
Now you are ready to sew – change to your zipper foot and check the settings of your needle so that the needle is on the correct side to sew in the zipper.
My zipper foot is to the right so I can start by sewing down the right side of the zipper.
How to Sew a Zipper? 2 Methods
There are two recommended ways to stitch the zipper:
- You can start on one side and stitch down the zip to the bottom, turn and then stitch a couple of rows over each other to secure the end. Make the stitches the width you require at the bottom before stitching up the other side to the top.
- The other method is to stitch the bottom in place at the width you require and then stitch one side to the top. Lift the foot and cut the threads before stitching the other side. It is a good idea to practice on a scrap until you find the method you like best.
Step 9 - Open the Seam
Now use your seam ripper to open the seam to the required length to be able to open and close the zip.
How to Sew a Zipper on a Side (Lapped)
Another method of sewing a zipper is to use the lapped method. This style of zipper opening has a flap on one side and is commonly found in skirts and clothing with a side zipper. See the full article on how to sew a lapped zipper.
How to Sew a Zipper FAQs
What is the seam allowance for a zipper?
In order to sew a zipper in the center seam, you will need a seam allowance of either ½ inch (12mm) or ⅝ inch (15mm). This will give you a wide enough seam to place the zipper underneath and stitch it in place with a zipper foot.
What stitch do you use to sew a zipper?
When sewing a zipper, you will always do so with a straight stitch. Zippers need to be sewn with a zipper foot, and this foot does not allow any side movement. Thus decorative stitches like the zig zag stitch are no good as the needle would break once it hits the zipper foot.
How to sew a zipper by hand?
You can use the above method for sewing a zipper by hand. For the seam, use a backstitch. This hand stitch is strong, particularly when done with a short stitch length. For the basting stitch, use a running stitch. This is an easy-to-remove hand stitch. And finally, for the outside stitching, repeat your backstitch.
Zippy Zipper Facts
The zipper is a very useful and professional way to bring closure to many articles you make. Sewing zippers are used to fasten all kinds of articles. Bags, purses, dresses, skirts, jackets, soft furnishings, camping, and sports gear, just to name a few.
- The zipper got its name from the noise it makes while being zipped up.
- Zippers became popular in the 1930s as a way to encourage children to be more independent in their dressing.
- Zippers come in a multitude of colors, widths, and lengths. The number in the zipper title, #3, for example, tells you the width of the chain mechanism. The #3 stands for 3 mm. You can see this code on the tag that is pulled up on some zippers. (Read types of zippers)
- If you are not happy with the length of the zipper you are going to insert and it is a plastic variety, you cut it. Hand stitch the bottom half an inch from the required length, and there you have the perfect length zipper for you. (Read how to shorten a zipper)
- Zippers are measured from metal to metal or from the stopper at the top to the retainer bar at the bottom. That is the actual open part of the finished zipper. (Read how to measure zippers)
- You need a zipper foot attachment for your machine to sew a zipper accurately.
- There are different methods used to sew in a zipper. The central method is sometimes called the railroad center zipper, the exposed zipper, and the invisible zipper method.
How to Sew a Zipper - In Conclusion
Learning how to sew a zipper gives sewers a real sense of achievement. Congratulations, and well-deserved applause!
There are two other sewing zipper techniques, and they are the exposed zipper and the invisible zipper. I will cover these in separate tutorials.
More Zipper Tutorials
- How to Shorten a Zipper
- Sewing a Zipper
- How to Sew a Zippered Cushion
- Types of Zipper
- How to Sew an Exposed Zipper
- How to Cover Zipper Ends
How to Sew a Zipper
- Sewing machine
- Zipper Foot
- Finish the edges of the fabric where the zipper will be inserted. Put the fabric right sides together and sew up to where the zipper will be inserted. Backstitch at the end.
- Use a long stitch length (4.0) the baste the seam where the zipper will be inserted. Do not backstitch the ends. This will be removed later.
- Press open the entire seam. On the wrong side, place the zipper face down along the basted seam (red stitching). Put temporary tape or pins across the zipper at the back at intervals to keep it in place.
- Turn the fabric over and put a pin across the end just after the metal retainer bar. Using a zipper foot sew down the right side of the zipper. Go across the bottom and then up the other side.
- Open the basted seam with a seam ripper.