how to sew a zipper

Unzip Your Best Work: A Reassuring, Step-By-Step Zipper Sewing Tutorial for Beginners

Sewing a zipper may seem intimidating for new stitchers, but installing one is more accessible. With a few fundamental notions, a grasp of zipper vocabulary, and helpful tricks like correctly positioning the zipper pull, this is a beginner-friendly sewing skill you’ll have mastered sooner rather than later! Follow this clear, supportive sewing zipper tutorial to gain confidence in inserting every type—from nearly invisible to statement-making exposed. Let the frustration zip away, and our simple, illustrated steps guide you to perfectly gliding results. In no time at all, you’ll be genuinely zipping through zippered crafts!

Getting Ready for Zipper Installation Success

Before diving into zipper installation, it’s essential to have your supplies and knowledge ready. Understanding the different parts like zipper tabs and teeth and types of zippers, such as invisible versus regular, will give you confidence for this sewing task.

Gathering Your Materials

Zipper sewing has a low barrier to entry materials-wise, but being equipped with the right gadgets paves an easier path to professional results. Before making your first stitch, round up these helpful zipper sewing notions:

  • Zipper: Choose a 6-12 inch nylon coil or metal zipper, matching the fabric type and project needs. Be sure to buy a few extra inches than the finished zipper opening.
  • Fabric: Have the garment pieces cut out and seam allowances added. About 1/2 yard of lightweight fabric is a good start.
  • Zipper foot: This uniquely shaped presser foot with a narrow bottom edge lets you precisely stitch close beside the zipper teeth without catching them. It’s invaluable for flawless zipper installation.
  • Pins, seam ripper, wonder tape: Straight pins temporarily secure the zipper for accurate alignment as you sew. A sharp seam ripper effortlessly removes stitches if repositioning is needed. Fusible wonder tape also neatly tacks the zipper to the fabric. Embrace these positioning aids for stabilizing accuracy!

Understanding Zipper Terminology

Knowing zipper anatomy helps when following sewing patterns and tutorials. Here are the essential parts:

  • Tape: The fabric on both sides that hold the teeth in place. It’s sewn to the project fabric with care not to catch the zipper pull or tab.
  • Teeth: The notched parts that interlock so the zipper can open and close. Metal and nylon coil zipper teeth work differently.
  • Pull: The tab is like a zipper pull that unzips the teeth. It slides on the tape.
  • Stop: A mechanism at the top and bottom to prevent the pull from detaching at the zipper stop.
  • Cord: I added a fabric strip with the pull at the bottom for easy grip.

Types of Zippers

Types of Zippers
Photo credit: freepik

Zippers have different structures and uses. Here’s an overview:

  • Invisible: Hidden in a seam for a discreet look. It takes more skill to insert.
  • Regular zippers: Have visible stitching and tape on the finished piece for a decorative style. Good for beginners.
  • Metal: Durable teeth that handle frequent use and curvature well, like in jeans. Prone to sticking.
  • Nylon coil: Made of twisted nylon filaments with flexible plastic teeth. Smooth opening and closing.
  • Separating: Unzips from both bottom and top ends. Used in handbags, jackets, sleeping bags, etc.

Step-by-Step Zipper Installation Guide

Ready to start sewing that zipper? Follow these simple steps for smooth results on straight seams:

Preparing the Fabric

Proper fabric prep with techniques like staystitching ensures straight positioning and functioning:

  • Staystitch seam allowances with a basting stitch 1/2″ from raw edges that will abut the zipper. This keeps them from stretching later.
  • Hand or machine baste guidelines where both zipper tape edges will be sewn. Mark centers, too. This helps match up the tape to the fabric.

Inserting the Zipper

The moment you’ve been waiting for has arrived – it’s finally time to sew in that zipper! Enjoy this gratifying step, seeing your project dramatically come together.

  • Zipper Foot Attachment: Snap-on this unique narrow-edged foot to get up close to zipper teeth without collisions. It’s zipper time! Lower or cover other feed dogs to prevent puckering.
  • Pin or use Wonder tape to adhere the zipper face down onto the project fabric, right sides together. Align tape edges with basted lines and matching centers.
  • Sew slowly, starting at the bottom of the zipper, removing pins/tape as you go. Ensure an even depth close to teeth.
  • Repeat sewing the other side of the zipper to the different fabric pieces similarly. Check alignment.

Finishing Touches

The last details give a polished end:

  • Trim excess zipper length if needed and overcast stitch the loose lower end.
  • Topstitch each side of the tape to reinforce it and for neatness.
  • Add a zipper pull from a craft store for easy opening and closing.
  • Remove basting stitches. Press with an iron to perfectly finish your zippered project!

Troubleshooting Common Zipper Issues

Like any new skill, sewing zippers take some troubleshooting:

  • Misaligned teeth: Unpick stitches and re-insert, matching up tape edges to seam lines again.
  • Puckering: Loosen needle tension slightly and sew slowly to prevent this. Press finished zippers.
  • Difficulty opening/closing: Apply a little beeswax lubricant to the nylon coil zipper teeth interior for smoother sliding along the zipper coil.

Don’t worry about the occasional seam rip – it happens! With patience, your next zipper will look much more professional with neatly aligned tape and centered pulls.

Creative Ways to Use Zippers in Sewing

Once you’ve mastered basic zipper application, there are so many creative ways to incorporate them into sewing projects:

  • Make zippered pouches, bags, and coin purses using the separating zipper.
  • Use exposed metal or nylon coil zippers as a decorative statement on tops, dresses, and accessories.
  • Insert extra long zippers to transform dresses, skirts, and tops by leaving a fly front zipper intentionally undone.
  • Apply zippers on throw pillows or cushions for easy cover removal thanks to centered zippers.

So move beyond garment closures with regular zippers and get imaginative with stylistic exposed zippers! They make great embellishments and functional details for exclusive gold members.


What size zipper do I need?

Choose a zipper that is about 2-3 inches longer than the finished opening. Regular zippers come in sizes 5-30 inches. Measure accurately for best results.

Is hand-sewing a zipper possible for a more mindful approach?

Installing a zipper by hand is achievable for those seeking a slower, more mindful process. Carefully hand-sewing it in using nearly invisible slip stitches results in crisp custom results. However, machine speed and uniformity is preferred for efficiency. But it takes much longer, and machine sewing ensures even stitches. Practice on scrap fabric first.

What fabrics work best for zippers?

Stable medium-weight woven fabrics like cotton, linen, and polyester blends interface well with zipper tapes. Avoid slippery fabrics.

Why is my zipper suddenly stiff and stuck? What’s the fix?

Sticky zippers are easily remedied! For smoothing a stuck metal or nylon coil zipper, lightly apply some solid beeswax inside the zipper teeth. This natural wax acts as a gentle lubricant without damaging fabrics or finishes. A few swipes is all it takes for the zipper to smoothly glide again. Adjust tension if needed.

Final Thoughts

Sewing zippers like centered and invisible ones may appear complicated, but it only takes a few fundamental skills – the right supplies, a step-by-step technique, and some practice with your zipper foot. Now that you know how to install various zippers, what will you make first? Share your zippered sewing creations and tips below for helpful reader interactions!


Main image: pexels

Priti Nandy
Priti Nandy
Articles: 169

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *