Sewing in a zipper may seem like a daunting task for someone just learning to sew. However, while it will take some patience and practice, learning how to do it is worth your time and effort. Being able to sew in a zipper is a very useful skill to have if you want to successfully make your own clothes or other sewing projects that include zippers.
Part 1 of 2: Preparing to Sew in a Zipper
1. Purchase a zipper that is the correct size and style for your project. Zippers come in a wide variety of colors, styles, and sizes. Pick the one that works best for your project.
- If you can't find a zipper that is the perfect length, purchase a zipper that is slightly longer than the seam opening you want to put it in. This will give you some leeway in positioning the zipper and will help you avoid hitting the end stop of the zipper with your sewing needle, which would break it.
2. Pre-wash the zipper to prevent shrinkage. This is only necessary if your zipper is made of natural materials. Simply follow package recommendations, as most zippers are made from man-made materials but some are made from natural fibers such as cotton.
3. Press the fabric sides of the zipper. Make sure it is as flat as possible. Use a gentle heat to prevent melting the zipper if the teeth are made of plastic.
- Zippers with metal teeth can stand up to more heat from an iron.
4. Cut pieces of fusible lightweight interfacing into one inch strips that are as long as you seam. This is only necessary if you are using a lightweight fabric that is not very strong or stiff. The interfacing will be used to make it stronger and stiffer, better able to handle the repetitive pressure that is caused by a zipper being opened and closed.
5. Insert the interfacing into the seam area of your project. Simply follow the directions on your fusible interfacing to complete this step. In most cases you will simply place the thin strips of interfacing on the wrong side of your fabric right next to the seam. You will then iron over the fabric and interfacing, which will attach the interfacing to the fabric.
Part 2 of 2: Sewing in a Zipper
1. Machine baste the zipper opening closed. Sew right along the edge where you want the zipper to be eventually. Remember to sew so that your seam allowances stay the same as the rest of the garment.
- This may seem counterintuitive but remember that a basting stitch is only temporary. It is used here simply to keep your seam in place. You will remove it after you have attached your zipper.
2. Press the seam open, ironing the seam allowance back against the wrong side of the project. Be sure to get the seam allowance pieces as open and flat as possible, as the folds on either side of the basting stitch will need to be nice and crisp.
3. Pin your zipper into place. Install the zipper in its closed position. Position the top of the zipper so the pull is just above the top line of the garment.
- Any excess zipper that is laying below the end of the seam is not a problem. You want a little bit extending down, perhaps an inch or so, but any length in excess of that can be removed. Just cut off the excess zipper before you pin the zipper on and whip stitch the end to make a zipper stop.
4. Machine baste the the zipper to your project. Once again, the basting stitch will be removed later, it is just used here to keep the zipper in place. These basting stitches are necessary because they will keep the teeth of the zipper centered on the seam when you can't actually see the zipper as you sew over the right side of the project.
5. Flip the project over, so that the right side of the fabric is facing up. You should only see the top of the zipper sticking out the top of your project. The rest of the zipper should be hidden away.
6. Use a zipper foot on your sewing machine to top stitch the seam through all fabric layers. Sew from bottom to top on both sides of the zipper to prevent rippling. The stitches should be kept at close to the center of your seam as possible, but your zipper foot will basically lead the way.
- You will need to finish the sewing by putting a line of stitches across the bottom of the seam. This will give your zipper an end point which the pull cannot go below.
7. Remove all of the basting stitches with a seam ripper. Begin by taking out the basting stitches that kept the zipper in place. Once those are removed, take out the basting stitches that go down the middle of the seam. This should expose the teeth of your zipper underneath.
- When taking out your basting stitches, be careful not to snag thread in your fabric or any of your permanent top stitches. A seam ripper is a great tool but it can easily cut threads that you don't want it to, so be careful.
8. Test out your zipper! It should open and close smoothly and be centered nicely in your seam.