Garment Construction

5 Must-Know Tips for Sewing Zippers Perfectly

Knowing how to apply all types of zippers, and there are many, is an important skill every sewer should master. A well-executed zipper insertion gives any project a clean, professional look. Done poorly, and it’s a dead giveaway the project is “homemade.”

invisible zipper

As with many sewing techniques, the key is to understand the steps involved up front and to do the proper preparation before the first stitch is sewn. Proper marking, positioning and basting all help to ensure zippers are centered properly, stitching is straight and even; and, they start and finish where they are supposed to. Most commercial patterns provide instructions that are overly simplified and miss those small but important details that can make the difference between a well applied zipper to one that is poorly done.

For some, zippers are an intimidating technique to execute. Yes, every type of zipper application has its own rules and techniques for inserting them, but there are a few standard tips that will help ensure they are all done properly and look right on the project.

Mastering in Minutes: Zippers

Intimidated by zippers? Don’t be!

Craftsy expert Callie Works-Leary takes you step by step through 3 zipper insertions so you can properly prepare the seam, place the zipper and stitch it for a professional appearance. Get the Tutorial

Here are 5 tips and tricks to ensure a well-sewn zipper:

Tip #1:

Buy a zipper that is longer than required. What makes many zipper applications look bad is the stitching that appears on the public side of the project. The biggest problem contributing to this is that darn zipper tab that gets in the way when sewing the final stitching. Nothing looks worse than a stitching line that is not straight or goes wonky as a result of having to go around the zipper tab.

One of the best ways to avoid that problem altogether is to buy a zipper that is 2” longer than required. Placing the top of the zipper well above the zipper opening takes the tab completely out of the line of stitching, so sewing can be done easily. Once the zipper is sewn in place, the extra portion can be removed. The usual facings or waistband that follows will keep the zipper from running off the project.

fly front zipper

Longer than required on a fly-front zipper

Tip #2:

Accurate measuring and marking – prep work makes all the difference. Some zipper applications are more straightforward than others. The conventional zipper, for example, at first glance looks like it requires a rather simple and straightforward application. Place the zipper under the seam opening and stitch around the zipper to secure it in place — done. You’d think that was easy. Think again. Getting the zipper to stay centered within the opening and sewing straight and even stitching lines around the zipper is no easy task, not even for this experienced sewer. The secret is in the prep work that needs to be done before any real sewing begins. Accurate measuring and marking can help make the process simple and easy.

Before a zipper is pinned in place, mark or draw guidelines to make sure stitching lines are straight and even. Accurately measuring helps to make sure zippers are positioned properly and align at the top properly. The devil is in the details when it comes to sewing zippers. Taking the time up front to prepare the zipper opening will ensure stitching is done right the first time.

railroad zipper

Railroad zipper marked for sewing

marking

Properly mark placement on an invisible zipper

Tip #3:

Baste to ensure precision and to hold zippers in place. Hand basting before sewing is always a good thing. When it comes to applying zippers it has many benefits. It prevents the top fabric from stretching or shifting about so stitching lines are straight and don’t pucker. It also helps to keep the zipper teeth properly centered within the seam opening. The best part, if your stitching needs to be redone, no repining is necessary. This is a great tip for those applying a zipper for the first time – it’s just good insurance.

railroad

Hand-baste a railroad zipper to keep it centered

Tip #4:

Apply zippers to flat pieces when possible. Whenever possible apply the zipper while the fabric pieces are still in their flat state. In other words, typically before side seams are joined together. This just makes sewing them so much easier. It’s not always possible, but if you can move up the zipper step in the sequence of assembly, go for it.

invisible zipper
Tip #5:

Keep a journal of tutorials for all types of zipper applications. There are so many great tutorials in sewing books and of course on the internet that teach how to sew every type of zipper application. Craftsy.com is a great source and has many great tutorials on the subject. Gather what you consider the best ones and set up a place either on your computer or as a hard file for easy reference when the need arises.

Mastering in Minutes: Zippers

Intimidated by zippers? Don’t be!

Craftsy expert Callie Works-Leary takes you step by step through 3 zipper insertions so you can properly prepare the seam, place the zipper and stitch it for a professional appearance. Get the Tutorial

13 Comments

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Reply
Belinda

Thanks for the great zipper sewing tips….very helpful even for the experienced sewer!

Reply
Linda

Its always great to know other experienced sewers like what I recommend. Thank you.

Reply
Sherry

Tip #1 confuses me. It seems that the zipper teeth would “roll” into the facing or waistband, rather than lie flat at the top, and that the zipper tab might even stick out at an angle because of the roll. However, if you stop sewing the zipper 5/8″ from the intersecting seam and cut the z tape there (at 5/8″), I can see that the facing prevents the tab from zipping off the garment, but doesn’t that leave exposed teeth that show just above the top of the tab? I haven’t yet tried this technique, so maybe I’m completely misunderstanding this. I hope so, because the technique sounds good on the face of it.

I’m a big believer in basting!

Reply
Linda Reynolds

The zipper teeth don’t roll into the facing. The facing seals the teeth to prevent the zipper from running off the tape. After having done many of these I have yet to find an issue with using a longer zipper. Give it a try and let me know your thoughts.
P.S. I too am a huge believer in basting – always a good thing.

Reply
Elaine at Scrubjay

Now I am actually looking forward to putting in zippers! Thank you so much.

Reply
Linda Reynolds

You’re most welcome. Hope this will help.

Reply
lyn herring

can you sew over the teeth of a zipper with a sewing machine .

Reply
Linda Reynolds

Nylon teeth – yes, metal – not so much. Thanks for reading the post. Hope you will find it useful.

Reply
amira

Thank you for the helpful tips of sewing-zippers ,we need it but for the bigginers they need more details with pictures.

Reply
helen

Thank you ….it was very easy to apply .Please I need update on subsequent posts. Thanks

Reply

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