Sewing Blog

How to Shorten a Zipper, Three Ways

How many times have you been halfway through a sewing project and find that you do not have the correct length zipper for your project? Well, if you have one that is too short, you will have to buy yourself a new zipper. But, if you have one that is too long, you can easily shorten it to suit your needs!

Below, you'll learn how to shorten the three most common zipper types: a regular zipper with plastic teeth, an invisible zipper with plastic teeth, and a metal zipper with metal teeth, stoppers and pull.

how to shorten a zipper three ways

Shortening a regular zipper and invisible zipper are both pretty straight forward, but if you want to work with a metal zipper, there are some key tips to know, since you cannot of course sew over metal safely with your machine. But do not worry, it is still very easy to do! Just follow my tips below and you will be shortening zippers with ease! Okay, let's get to it!

Regular zipper

mark bottom

Step 1:

On a regular zipper with plastic teeth, the extra length will be removed from the bottom of the zipper tape and you will be creating a new bottom stopper by sewing it either by hand or by machine. Measure down from the top towards the bottom to the preferred length. The spot you are marking is where you will be making the new bottom stopper.

marked bottom

Step 2:

Mark the zipper tape with the placement of the new bottom stopper. Note: the length of a zipper is measured from the top of the pull to the stopper, not by measuring the length of the zipper tape itself. So keep this in mind if your project calls for a 14" zipper, that distance is meant to be from the pull to the stop only.

sew new stopper

Step 3:

Using your conventional sewing machine, sew a straight stitch over the teeth. The stitch should also extend a stitch or two on either side of the teeth as well. Make extra careful that your zipper does not have any metal teeth before sewing this step. Go back and forth a couple of times to form a sturdy stopper. To sew this by hand, simply create a bar tack over the zipper teeth by inserting and exiting the needle just on either side of the teeth a few times.

new stopper

Step 4:

The new stopper will now look like the image above. Since most zippers are inserted into a garment or project on the inside, and the fabric is what actually stops the zipper pull, the stopper will not be seen.

cut zipper

Step 5:

Making sure there is no metal anywhere near your scissors, trim off the excess zipper tape about one inch under your newly sewn stopper.

finished zipper

Step 6:

And it is done! Now just sew your newly shortened zipper into your project as instructed!

Invisible zipper

mark bottom

Step 1:

Just like a regular zipper, the excess zipper length is removed from the bottom of an invisible zipper. Measure down from the top to where you want the new stopper to be. Also like with a regular zipper, the length of an invisible zipper is measured from the top of the pull to the stopper at the bottom, so be sure to measure that and not the zipper tape when figuring out the desired length.

mark bottom

Step 2:

Mark straight across the zipper tape and teeth. Note: for an invisible zipper, the teeth are on the back side of the tape.

sew new stopper

Step 3:

Insert the zipper into your sewing machine. Sew a line of straight stitches across the tape. Start a few stitches before the teeth, then extend the same amount on the other side of the teeth. Go back and forth a couple of times to form a strong stopper. To sew this step by hand, simply create a bar tack over the zipper teeth by inserting and exiting the needle just on either side of the teeth a few times.

new stopper

Step 4:

Your stopper should now look like the image above.

cut zipper

Step 5:

Trim off the excess zipper tape, leaving about one inch under the new stopper. As always, make sure there is no metal anywhere near your scissors prior to cutting the zipper.

finished zipper

Step 6:

And finished! Now your pretty invisible zipper can go into your project at the correct length.

Metal zipper

mark bottom

Step 1:

Unlike with the regular and invisible zippers above, a metal zipper should have the excess length removed from the top down, instead of off the bottom.

Measure down to where you want the top of the pull to be, again keeping in mind that the length of a zipper is measured from the top of the pull to the stopper and not by the length of the zipper tape. What you are marking here is where the top pull will be.

marked bottom

Step 2:

Your zipper should look as it does above, with your mark showing you where to start the zipper pull.

pull teeth

Step 3:

Because the teeth are metal, they cannot simply be cut away, as this is terrible for your scissors and your sewing machine. Instead, the teeth have to be pulled off the tape with pliers. This is not always easy and as you can see from my tape above, it can also leave some damage behind on the edge of the zipper tape, but as with most zippers, this will not be seen in the end.

teeth removed

Step 4:

Carefully pull the teeth off the zipper tape until you have about one inch of area with no teeth left.

reapply top stopper

Step 5:

If you want to reuse the metal stopper at the top, that too needs to be removed and then reattached at the top of the metal teeth. If your zipper is being sewn into a seam and the fabric will hold it all in place, the stopper does not need to be reapplied. But if you are relying on the stopper to keep the pull in place, be sure to put it back. And while it is off, be very careful not to accidentally yank the zipper pull up and off!

cut zipper

Step 6:

Carefully cut away the zipper tape about one inch above the new top of the pull. Be sure not to come in contact with the metal teeth!

cut zipper

Step 7:

And that's it! Now the zipper can be sewn into your project at the correct length.

finished zippers
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Intimidated by zippers? Don’t be!

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11 Comments

Leila

Here is a tip that will make pulling out metal zipper teeth much easier. If you only pinch about a third of the zipper tooth in the pliers (at the edge near the center of the zipper) they will come out much more easily and are less likely to damage the zipper tape. You don’t want to squeeze the pinchers on the tooth shut as you are trying to pull it out.

Reply
Gail Beam

Thank you for this very informative tutorial with great pictures!

Reply
madonna janet reynolds

i have yust seen your advertizment and think that was great i can do that but i cannot
put a zip in a garment could u show me how this is done on trousers ..coats or jackets i have thrown good clothes out yust because i cannot do a zip..thank you…

Reply
Amanda

So glad I found this. I had a metal zipper to put in my son’s jeans and it was too long! It took a little patience to pull out the teeth and I used a very small flat head screwdriver to help wedge off the zipper stops but it worked and the zipper looks like the original. Thank you for posting this tutorial.

Reply
Diane

Thank you so much for this information. I had a 7 inch zipper and needed it to be 4 inches. Your information worked like a charm!

Reply
Cristal

Great post! I’m using an old zipper from a dress found at GoodWill that was too long. Now it’s the perfect size. Simple and easy. Thank you!

Reply
sue harrison

great now i can match the zip and fabric length required not available strange in this day and age lincraft has best match not size

Reply
Kim

I read about a technique where the lady just removed the metal stop from the bottom and re-applied it further up the zipper to the length she needed. I’ve used this technique several times and it works very well.

Reply
Dulce

I’m having trouble with the end of the zipper that plastic thin at the end where the zipper slides in easily , well that worn out . Is it fixable

Reply

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