I have a drawer full of zippers but sometimes no matter how many I have in my stash there is never the right size for the project. So what do you do? Rush out to the shops and waste valuable sewing time or just shorten one you have? Learn how to shorten a zipper of course!
When bag making, learning how to shorten a zipper also has the added bonus of giving you a neat finish at the end and maximizes the opening of your bag. You can also use these techniques with zipper tape sold by the yard.
How to Shorten a Zipper | Plastic
First work out the length of zipper you need. Generally, when a pattern specifies a zip length, they are referring to the length of the teeth and not the length of the tape. So a 12-inch zip (30cm) measures 12 inches from the top stoppers to the bottom stopper.
(Read how to measure a zipper)
How to Shorten a Zipper: VIDEO
Sit back and watch my short YouTube video on how to shorten a zipper. I make weekly sewing videos so please subscribe to my channel.
This method will show you how to shorten nylon regular and invisible zippers. You will need a different technique to shorten metal zippers and you can find this further down the page.
Step 1: Measure
Start at the top stoppers and measure downwards to the required length. Mark the position required. Make sure the zipper head is near the top stoppers.
Step 2: Stitch
In the position you want your zipper to end, stitch across the teeth a few times to prevent your zip from coming apart.
This can be done on your machine using a wide zig-zag stitch or with a few hand stitches across the zipper teeth. I have used contrast stitching so you can see it better but it is much better to use a matching thread. If you are hand-stitching, use a strong double thread. I like to use upholstery thread for hand-stitching. When using a sewing machine, you can use your regular polyester thread.
Step 3: Cut
Using some old scissors (don’t use your precious sewing scissors), Trim across 1 inch (2.5cm) from your stitches.
Be extra careful you are not cutting through any metal pieces.
How to Shorten a Zipper | Metal
Depending on your sewing project, you can shorten a metal zipper the same way as shortening a nylon zip. You will need to be especially careful however when sewing across the base of the zipper as it can play havoc with your machine if the needle hits any metal.
There is an alternative way to shorten metal zippers. It does take a little longer but it means you don’t need to sew across metal when attaching the zipper to your project.
Step 1: Measure
Measure the desired length from the bottom stopper and mark it across. Don’t forget the length of zips is measured along the teeth and not along the zipper tape.
Step 2: Remove Teeth
Using pliers, remove the teeth above the mark. (towards the top of the zip). Carefully remove the top stoppers. You will want to reuse the stopper so try not to cause any damage. I am using quite large pliers as that is what I found in the garage but smaller ones allow for better accuracy.
Step 3: Reattach Stopper
Reattach the top stoppers by crimping them with the pliers. I found this the most fiddly part of shortening a metal zipper. Alternatively, you could add a dab of glue or a few stitches to prevent the zipper from coming off the teeth at the end.
Don’t just leave the end without a stopper as the first time you do up the zipper it will pull off the end.
Step 4: Cut
Cut across 1 inch (2.5cm) above the stoppers. You can use pinking shears to stop it fraying. You will notice that the original end was cut with pinking shears.
More Zipper Articles
Now you have learned how to shorten a zipper, you are ready to insert it into your next sewing project.
Do you have any extra tips for us on shortening zippers? Please share below if you do.