how to sew in a zipper

How To Sew in a Zipper: A Step-By-Step Guide for Beginners

Installing a zipper may seem daunting, especially for sewing beginners. But with the proper techniques and tools, it’s easier than you think! By following this guide, learn how to prepare the fabric, attach the zipper tape with pins and sewing, and add finishing touches to achieve flawless and seamless zippers.

An Overview of Sewing Zippers

Zippers come in a few main types, like invisible, lapped, centered, and exposed zippers. Invisible zippers have discreet zipper tape and teeth on the backside to hide in a seam when closed. Lapped zippers have the zipper tape covered by a folded fabric edge where one piece overlaps the other. Centered zippers are sewn into a seam in the center, with equal fabric on both sides. Exposed zippers are visible and can be a decorative focal point.

To install any type of zipper, you’ll need a few essential tools:

  • Zipper foot for your sewing machine to help guide the zipper tape
  • A zipper at least 2 inches longer than the opening to allow room for adjustments
  • Fabric for your project
  • Matching thread to blend the zipper
  • Hand-sewing needle for invisible stitches
  • Seam ripper for fixing mistakes
  • Iron to press and flatten as you sew

Preparing the Fabric

Proper preparation of the fabric ensures a smooth zipper installation. Follow these key steps:

First, measure and mark where you want the zipper placed using tailor’s chalk. Allow about 5/8 inch on each side for the seam allowance.

Next, staystitch the seam allowance on both sides to stabilize the fabric. Staystitching prevents stretching as you work on the zipper. Use a regular stitch length and stitch just inside the seam allowance.

Now, make a basting stitch to mark the future zipper opening. Sew with a long stitch length just inside the seam allowance. Later, this will help open the fabric when inserting the zipper teeth.

Finally, press the seam allowance open, where the zipper will be inserted using the tip of a hot iron to flatten it.

Pinning and Sewing the Zipper Tape

Pinning and Sewing the Zipper Tape
Photo credit: freepik

With the fabric prepped, it’s time to pin and sew the zipper:

Start by pinning one side of the zipper tape to the seam allowance, right sides together. The edge of the zipper teeth should align with the fabric’s raw edge.

Please attach the zipper foot to your sewing machine. Adjust the stitch length to around 2 to 3 mm – slightly longer than usual.

Sew the zipper tape to the fabric, starting about 1⁄2 inch from the top. Use the zipper foot edge as a guide. Remove pins as you sew to avoid hitting them.

Press the fabric and zipper flat using an iron. Fold back the opposite seam allowance. Pin, then sew the other side of the zipper tape in place.

Sew a few stitches backward and forward at the base to create the zipper stop. Knot and trim excess thread tails.

Finishing Touches for a Polished Zipper

For an invisible zipper, you’re done! But exposed and centered zippers need some finishing:

For exposed zippers, topstitch close to both sides of the zipper tape for a neat, finished look.

Hide any excess zipper tail by folding it back and slip-stitching it down. Make sure to check that the zipper moves effortlessly all the way down, from the top.

Unzip and use a seam ripper to fix any uneven stitching. Gently tug fabric away from zipper teeth while re-sewing problematic spots.

Tips for Smooth Zipper Installation

Sewing in zippers takes patience and practice. Here are tips to help:

  • Use wax paper or wonder tape under the zipper area when sewing. This prevents the fabric from sticking to the teeth.
  • Choose a zipper about 2 inches longer than the opening. This gives room to adjust placement during pinning.
  • Take it slow! Rushing through zipper installation often leads to crooked stitching.
  • Troubleshoot stuck zippers by lubricating the teeth or loosening tight stitching with a seam ripper.

Frequently Asked Questions

What length of zipper do I need?

Your zipper should be 2 inches longer than the opening you are zippering to allow room for adjustments.

How do I pick the right thread color?

Match your thread color to the zipper tape or garment fabric for a discreet look. For exposed zippers, use a contrasting thread to emphasize it.

What zipper foot should I use?

Look for one made for your specific sewing machine model. A universal presser foot can work, too.

Why is my zipper crooked or getting stuck?

Rushing the installation can cause crooked stitching. Go slowly and use a seam ripper to fix it. Lubricate teeth if the zipper is sticking.

How can I make an invisible zipper genuinely invisible?

Perfectly pressed seam allowances and tiny stitches keep the zipper hidden inside the garment.

What fabrics work best with zippers?

Sturdy fabrics like denim, canvas, or twill insert zippers smoothly. Use zigzag stitch on knits to allow stretching.

How do I shorten a zipper?

Mark the new length with chalk. Use pliers to flatten teeth near the cut line. Cut off excess, hand stitch to finish.

Should I iron as I sew the zipper?

Yes, ironing the fabric and zipper tape flat as you go helps ensure even, well-aligned stitching.

 With the right tools and techniques, installing zippers can be easy. Just go slow and use these steps for flawless results every time. The more zippers you sew, the more confident you’ll become!

What sewing challenges have you faced? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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Main image: freepik

Priti Nandy
Priti Nandy
Articles: 168

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