How to Sew a Zipper
Knowing how to sew a zipper is a skill that comes in handy for many types of sewing projects, but it can be a bit intimidating. Whether you’re making a bag, a garment, or repairing your own clothes, if you love to sew, there will come a time when you need to know how to insert a zipper!
There are a few different ways to sew a zipper, so we are going to show you the two most common, reliable methods: how to sew a standard zipper and how to sew an invisible zipper. Follow along to learn everything you need to know!
How to Sew a Standard Zipper
Knowing how to sew a standard zipper is a valuable skill because it is so versatile. A standard zipper is when the zipper tape is visible, which gives you the opportunity to add a pop of color to any project. Once you have mastered this way to sew a zipper, try it out with projects from our shop like the Traverse Bag, the Sandhill Sling, or the wallet and pouch from the Everyday Essentials Pattern Book.
*zipper of your choice
*two identical pieces of fabric
1. Choose a zipper
There are three main types of zippers: metal, plastic, or nylon coils. What type you use mostly depends what you think looks best!
Metal zippers are more durable and can withstand more heat when you iron them, but cannot be shortened without pliers. They are also much heavier than other zippers, so make sure your fabric is strong enough for a metal zipper or consider adding interfacing for extra support. Plastic or nylon coils are inexpensive, they can be shortened with scissors, and they typically come in a wider variety of colors.
Some zippers are closed at the bottom—this is the type you will use for most projects. But make sure to choose a zipper that separates at the bottom for jackets and coats. You’ll also want to look at the size of the zipper teeth and make sure you get a size that is suitable for your project. You don’t want to accidentally order a camping tent sized zipper for your DIY coin purse!
2. Prepare the zipper
Pre-wash the zipper to make sure that it won’t shrink later, after you have sewn it into your project. You also need to press the zipper with an iron so that it lays nice and flat for sewing. If you are using a plastic or nylon zipper, be careful! Use your iron on a low setting or try not to touch the zipper teeth directly with the iron so that you don’t melt the zipper teeth.
3. Attach the zipper
You have chosen and prepared your zipper, now it’s time to learn how to sew the zipper! Place one piece of your fabric on a flat surface with the right side facing up. Lay the zipper on top with the teeth facing down and line up the edges of the zipper with the edge of the fabric. Attach the fabric and zipper together with binding clips.
4. Sew one side
Now, you will sew this side of the zipper onto the fabric. This step is super easy if you have a zipper foot for your sewing machine, but you can also use a regular presser foot. If you are using a presser foot, adjust the needle to be as close to the zipper as possible.
Before you start sewing, unzip the zipper part way so that it doesn’t get in the way of your needle. Start sewing until you get about halfway down the zipper, then zip the zipper back up so that it is once again out of the way. Sew the rest of the edge and backstitch at the end. Cut the excess thread.
5. Repeat for other side
Next, repeat steps 3 and 4, but with the other side of the zipper and the second piece of fabric. Attach the unsewn edge of the zipper to the fabric with binding clips (with zipper teeth against the right side of the fabric), and sew up the edge in the same way as before.
How to Sew an Invisible Zipper
When you are learning how to sew a zipper, you may also want to try sewing an invisible zipper. An invisible zipper is perfect for dresses or other projects where you don’t want the zipper to show, like in The Wishing Pillow Pattern from our shop. That makes this method a very useful way to insert a zipper into your next sewing project.
*zipper of your choice
*two identical pieces of fabric
*an invisible zipper foot or a regular zipper foot
1. Line up the zipper
After pre-washing and pressing the zipper, close the zipper and line it up with the edge of your fabric, with right sides together. Place one pin at the top of the zipper tape to secure it to the fabric, then completely unzip the zipper. Line up the edge of the zipper tape with the proper seam allowance and pin it down.
2. Sew one side
Next, you will sew on one side of the zipper. If you have an invisible zipper foot for your sewing machine, place the zipper inside the ridge of the foot and sew down the edge of the zipper, backstitching at the end.
If you have a regular zipper foot, line up the edge of the foot so that it is resting on top of the zipper, then sew down the edge and backstitch.
3. Mark the end
Close the zipper again. Then, using a fabric marker, draw a line across both sides of the zipper to show where the stitching ends.
4. Repeat on the other side
With the zipper still up, attach it with a pin at the top of the second piece of fabric, with right sides together. Unzip the zipper and pin the rest of the zipper tape in place, along the edge of the fabric. Change your zipper foot to the opposite side, sew the zipper edge, but make sure to stop when you get to the mark you made with your fabric marker. Backstitch.
Push the zipper tail out of the way and pin the two sides of the fabric together. Place a pin underneath the end of the zipper. Starting about a ¼” above the end of the previous stitches, sew on the outside edge of the previous stitches until you get to the pin. Remove the pin, switch to a regular presser foot, and sew down the rest of the fabric, sewing the seam closed.
You just learned how to sew a zipper two different ways: way to go! For more sewing tips and tutorials, keep coming back to the Little Fabric Shop blog.