6 Tricks for Sewing Zippers

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Sewing in a zipper is one of the most intimidating and sometimes frustrating part of a sewing project. It always seems like the zipper or top fabric – or both – wants to move around.

Here are some tips and tricks that can make sewing in a zipper a little easier.

Trick #1: Pin the zipper to just the first layer of fabric, and put pins in every 4 to 5 inches. Then, lay the other fabric on top as your pattern directs and pin it to the zipper and first fabric. It will look like you’ve over pinned, but that’s okay! The more you can do to keep the zipper in place, the better. (Plus, we at Over-Pinners Anonymous are a nice group of people!)

Trick #2: While sewing, keep your fingers on the left side of the zipper. Don’t push, but keep your fingers there firmly so that the zipper does not slip to the left. Also, keep your right fingers pressed firmly on the right side of the zipper. Again, this helps it not slip from side to side.

sewing zippers 2Trick #3: If you have good pin karma, don’t remove the pins while sewing. Just sew right over them, and then take them out when you are done. If you do not have good pin karma, try putting in your pins horizontally instead of vertically so that they’re parallel to the edge of the fabric. Just make sure that the pinhead will be facing you as you sew, so that they are easy to pull out.

Trick #4: Go slow. No need to rush through. Unless you are in a speed sewing contest, there’s no need to rush when putting in a zipper. Going slower will allow you to watch what is happening and stop if things get wonky.

sewing zippers 3 Trick #5: Basting tape is always a great option for really pesky zippers that just don’t want to stay put. This is a thin, double-sided tape that you put on the zipper tape or fabric first. Then, you remove the paper backing from the other side of the tape and place the zipper where you’d like it.

Trick #6: Once you have the zipper placed, press it firmly with your fingers. Do the same thing with the other layer of fabric so that your zipper is sandwiched however your pattern directs. No pins needed, your zipper will not budge, and you will not have bubbles!

So whether you decide to jump right off the zipper cliff and start tackling projects that include tons of zippers, or you just go out and buy a bunch of zippers on sale to use for practice, the best way to get better at this intimidating skill is to start playing with the tricks listed above and practice, practice, practice. You’ll soon realize there is no need to be afraid – you can do it!


Related Videos:

How to Install a Zipper

How to Sew a Zipper

How to Shorten a Zipper

Sewing a Lapped Zipper

Sewing Zippers: Zipper Projects and Fun Ideas

How to Sew a Zippered Pouch

Get in touch! Leave a comment or email editor@nationalsewingcircle.com

Discussion
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34 Responses to “6 Tricks for Sewing Zippers”
  1. janet browning

    Do you have any tips to make it easier to install a zipper in jeans? The bulky fabric, the topstitching, etc.

    Reply
    • National Sewing Circle

      Thank you for your question. First make sure you are starting with the correct materials. As you mentioned, the fabric is heavy and bulky so make sure you have a heavier zipper, thicker thread and a needle meant for sewing jeans (typical labeled ‘jean’ or ‘denim’).

      I find it’s easiest to start by stitching the zipper to the right hand side (right hand side as you are wearing them, left if you have them laying on the table in front of you). This is the side that has the fabric that lies behind the zipper tape. Attaching the zipper to this side first makes it easier to get the zipper all the way down to the bottom of the zipper opening in the pants. This is especially true if you are replacing a zipper in a pair of jeans, rather than original construction, because there may be extra stitching in the way that you don’t necessarily want to remove.

      Insert your pins parallel to the zipper so that you can stitch next to them without having to remove them as you go. If you have a wide zipper foot that runs in to your pins, place the pins in the fabric with the head of the pin furthest from the needle, that way you can stitch at least halfway the length of the pin before having to remove it. Also, make sure you are using heavy duty pins. Because the zipper tape and fabric are bulky, fine pins can bend when you insert them, making your fabric not lay flat under the presser foot. This can make the stitching more difficult and lead to your stitching not being in a straight line.

      Don’t worry about trying to stitch as close to the zipper teeth as possible. You’re stitching can be about an 1/8″ away from the zipper teeth, which will make it much easier, and because there is a flap covering the zipper itself you’ll never see it. This can also help you keep your stitching straight. You can also start by stitching the zipper tape to the fabric along the side of the zipper tape furthest from the zipper teeth, then stitching a second time up close to the zipper teeth. This makes your first row of stitching easier, and eliminates the need for pins when stitching up next to the teeth.

      If you are replacing a zipper in a pair of jeans try to stitch directly in the stitching holes left from what you ripped out. This will make it easier to see where you are going and will make the stitching itself much easier.

      For topstitching, it’s definitely important to have the right needle and thread because you are going through so many layers. Having steady pressure on the foot pedal (as opposed to stopping and starting) will help you achieve a nice, even topstitch. Also, it helps to lengthen you stitching length to around a 3.5.

      I hope this helps!

      Reply
    • National Sewing Circle

      Invisible zippers can be a bit of a challenge. Here are the basic steps to installing them:
      On the fabric right side-measure and mark your seam allowance along the edge of the fabric where the zipper will be installed. If you are constructing a garment this will most likely be 5/8″. You should be sewing along this line, but if you are worried that the marking will show, use a removable pencil or pen.
      Lay the zipper right side down on the fabric, making sure the edge of the zipper teeth line up with the seam allowance marking and pin in place.
      Using a zipper foot, stitch the zipper tape in place slowly, making sure to remove pins as you get to them. You don’t want to stitch over pins, especially when installing an invisible zipper, because it can cause your stitching to be uneven or jut out around the pin which can make your zipper less invisible.
      End your stitching about 1/2″ before reaching the bottom of the zipper. This will make attaching the other side easier.
      Pin the other side of the zipper to the other side of the fabric in the same way- fabric right side up and zipper right side down, lined up along the seam allowance line. This is an easy step to mess up and accidentally twist your zipper, so make sure you have it lined up correctly before stitching in place.
      Stitch in place and then make sure your zipper can be closed before moving on. With the zipper closed, turn you project wrong side up and finish stitching the 1/2″ left from the first side. Turn right side up again and press and your invisible zipper is done!
      If you would like an in depth look at installing them, (as well as a fun project to go with it) look into our video ‘Organization Ideas and Designer Tricks’ http://www.nationalsewingcircle.com/product/organization-ideas-and-designer-tricks-download/
      Another video that may prove helpful is how to sew a lapped zipper. This is a different technique that can make inserting the zipper much easier. http://www.nationalsewingcircle.com/video/sewing-a-lapped-zipper-005162/
      Hope all this helps!

      Reply
  2. Elsa Fischer

    Im an member and I haven’t been able to see the videos like to sew napkins in the serger or to sew pockets in a purse I have pay why I haven’t been able to see them? Thank you for your respond
    Elsa Fischer from Switzerland

    Reply
    • National Sewing Circle

      Hi Elsa. We are sorry to hear you are having trouble accessing the videos. We have tested these video successfully. Our video content is best viewed on a computer manufactured in the past few years with a good broadband connection (not dial up). We highly recommend using the latest version of Firefox or Safari as your internet browser. Recent versions of Internet Explorer will work, as well. You will need Adobe Flash Player in order to view the videos. The recommended screen resolution is 1024×768 or larger. Please make sure your anti-virus software is updated and not blocking this website. If you continue to experience issues with accessing the videos or if you have any other concerns, please contact us at 1-855-208-7187.

      Reply
  3. Lisa

    I just joined during the holiday season and I find that I feel the same as kate. I’m finding nothing on this site as good as I have found on YouTube. As as well as its very boring, put a little soft music on in the background, smile ,try to be friendly a little engaging as well so I will want to come back. I will finish this subscription out and if it does not get better I will not continue to subscribe.

    Reply
    • National Sewing Circle

      Hi Lisa. Thank you for your feedback. We will forward your comments on to the proper department. Your comments are important to us and help with the development of our online streaming community.

      Reply
    • Sandra

      Oh, good grief! Just appreciate the info. If you don’t need it, you are free to go elsewhere. I for one, appreciate not having to listen to distracting music.

      Reply
    • jean.wozniak

      Hi Emma. Here is a video that explains how to install a zipper: http://www.nationalsewingcircle.com/video/how-to-install-a-zipper-003824/

      This is done on different fabric, however, you can still use the same techniques when sewing on sweatshirt fabric. To put the zipper down the front, you would simply find the center and cut a straight line from collar to lower edge. If the sweatshirt was loose fitting and loosing an inch or so around for the seam allowance wouldn’t effect the way it fit, you can sew the zipper in place right to the cut edges. If it was tighter fitting, you may need to by a small amount of sweatshirt fabric and use it to sew the zipper in place.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  4. Elaine

    Thank you.😃 I am always open to learning new techniques! Appreciate these ideas and suggestions.

    Reply
  5. Patricia

    IM trying to sew a zipper in a dress with the top of the dress is white and the bottom is red. What color zipper would you use so it does not show

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi,
      I would definitely recommend using an invisible zipper- this way you should not be able to see any of the zipper tape against the dress fabric. I would also recommend using a white invisible zipper. This way if the zipper pull shows at all it will match the fabric at the top of the dress.
      Cheers,
      Ashley

      Reply
  6. Anne Jarman

    When did everyone stop tacking or “basting” these pesky problems into place. Then you don’t need pin karma. I have even sewn the opening closed with close basting stitches to be sure the opening and positioning were perfect. Those stitches are made in a bright and very different color so they are easy to rip or pull at the end.

    Reply
  7. Karen

    I need tricks for zipper replacement in winter jackets. There is always “extra” fabric on one side or the other that seems to have “stretched out” and I have a hard time sewing up without the fabric bunching up or overlapping on itself. Can you suggest anything?

    Reply
    • Amanda Lock

      Why not tack (baste) it into position. I rarely have problems if I tack into position. It takes very little extra time and will save a lot of unpicking compared to only pinning into position.

      Reply