You can learn how to sew an exposed zipper and become a real ‘fashionista’ with these trendy techniques. The simple zipper has become a fashion statement and so everyone wants to know how to sew an exposed zipper in clever and creative ways. Use it as a decorative insert or add another dimension to a simple garment.
Types of Exposed Zipper
You will notice that in the majority of handbags and fashion garments, exposed zippers predominantly have metal teeth to add shine and interest. But the great news is that these methods will work equally as well with either metal or plastic zippers. Save yourself a trip to the shops and just use what you have in your stash!
How to sew an exposed zipper 2 ways
- You can insert a zipper into part of a garment that does not have an opening or seam. In this instance, you will have to create the opening like the red zipper below - OR
- You can insert an exposed zipper into a seam. If you are inserting the zipper in a seam you can choose to have the zipper tape on top of the garment (blue zipper example) or underneath the seam (green zipper example).
Like most things in sewing there are always multiple ways to achieve a similar objective but it is my mission to always give you the simplest and most straight forward methods suitable for beginners.
Here are the simple instructions to follow with helpful ‘Zip Tips’.
How to Sew an Exposed Zipper - Without a Seam
When you plan to insert a zipper underneath the fabric, you have to create the opening before you start.
Cutting the stay (facing)
You will need to insert a piece of facing or ‘stay’ into the area to be prepared for the zipper. This ‘stay’ can be fabric or fusible facing. I generally use a pretty contrast piece of fabric as it looks nice on the inside. It creates added weight to the area to be cut as an opening for the zipper.
Cut the piece 3 inches (7.5cm) wide and 2 ½ inches (6.5cm) longer than the zipper opening (Don't forget - the opening is measured along the teeth and not the tape).
You can serger or zigzag the sides and bottom edges of the stay if it is a fabric that frays. I normally do this when I'm sewing exposed zippers as it looks much nicer, but I forgot in this tutorial.
Marking the zipper opening
On the wrong side of the stay, use a marker pen or pencil to mark the position of the zipper. The size of this opening will determine how much of the zipper will show. Don't forget to add at least ¼ inch seam allowance to the sides.
My zipper tape width was 1 inch (2.5cm) so I marked ¾ inch (2cm across). For the length, I marked from the top of the zipper tape to just below the metal bar.
(*Zip tip….buy a zipper that is big enough to allow you to put your head through the opening created if this is on a neckline)
Putting in the stay
With right sides together, place your stay on top of the fabric where you want your opening to be, and stitch along your markings.
Cutting the opening
Cut down the center of the area to about ½ an inch (12mm) before the end and then cut into the corners diagonally. Be careful you don't cut across the stitching.
Turning in the stay
The next step is to turn the stay to the inside (wrong side of the garment) and press it down. Allow the stay to roll inside the opening slightly so the seam will not be visible on the outside.
If you are getting little wrinkles in the bottom corners you may need to check you clipped to the stitching line in the previous step. The more accurate you were, the flatter it will sit.
Set zipper in place
Flip your garment back to the right side. Now center the zipper underneath the opening.
Make sure the bottom of the zipper stop is flush against the bottom end of the opening. Pin in place.
(*Zip tip….Baste the zipper in place because pins can cause the fabric to pucker and makes sewing more difficult.)
Install your zipper foot
You will need to put your trusty zipper foot on your machine now. This will allow you to get nice and close to the zipper edges.
Stitching around the zipper
Starting at the top, stitch all the way around the zipper. If you have a bulky zipper head like my metal one, you may need to move it out of the way a couple of times to get nice straight stitching.
Open and close
Check your handiwork and see that the zipper runs smoothly. Now you are ready to continue to sew up your garment.
How to Sew an Exposed Zipper - In a Seam
This technique allows you to insert the exposed zipper using the seam as the opening.
Method 1 - How to Sew an Exposed Zipper Underneath the Fabric
1. Preparation: Sew your seam as usual, all the way to the top of the garment. You will be sewing shut the area where the exposed zipper will be placed. Finish the edges and press open the seam.
2. Cut and stitch the stay: Flip your garment the right way out. Cut out a stay and stitch the opening the same way as in the method without a seam.
The only difference is that you will be centering the stay directly over the right side of the seam.
3. Continue: Continue in the same manner as the method without a seam and this is what your end zip will look like!
Method 2 - Zipper On top of the Fabric
This is a really easy method for maximum impact since you can see all of the zipper. You will often see this on clothing with bright contrast zippers.
1. Preparation: Finish both sides of the fabric on the seam where the exposed zipper will be placed. You can use a serger or zig-zag stitch.
2. Sewing the Seam: Put the two pieces of fabric with right sides together and stitch the seam up to the point where the zip will be inserted.
Leave a ¼ inch (6mm) gap and then baste (using your longest machine stitch) the top of the seam shut where the zipper will be placed.
3. Press open the seam: Press open the seam all the way to the top.
3. Set the zipper in place: Flip your garment to the right side. Now starting at the top, center the zipper on top of the seam.
Pin it in place. For the bottom of the zipper, simply fold under the raw edges to give a neat appearance.
(*Zip tip….Baste the zipper in place because pins can cause the zipper to pucker and makes sewing more difficult.)
4. Stitch the Zipper: Like the previous methods, it is now time to install the zipper foot on your machine. Starting at the top, stitch down the sides and bottom of the zipper. Stitch down the inside and outside of the tape and then across the bottom.
If your zipper head is bulky you may need to move it out of the way a couple of times.
Voila you have made a fashion statement!
How to sew an exposed zipper - Extra Tips
- Different colored zippers are fun for adding a pop of color to your outfits. Zips with plastic teeth make a colorful style statement and different colored cotton can liven up your already trendy zipper.
- Design some trendy pulls for the zipper with beads, toggles and even little trinkets you may have lying around.
- Have fun with different colored cottons or some embroidery stitches to get creative with your new exposed zipper.
You will have a Cheshire cat grin on your face at the end of it all as your zipper bears its teeth and gives your garment a fine finishing touch. So go on and try out a zippy new addition to your wardrobe.