How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

Zippers are nothing short of miraculous when they function properly. When they jam or break in public, however, our love affair generally cools. But don't default to snaps, Velcro, or hook-and-eye closures simply because you're intimidated by zippers. It's not rocket science. It just takes a little practice. For your first-time zipper projects, try to choose a zipper with a slider on the smallish side. They're easier to deal with because they're less bulky. Also, do your best to match the length of the zipper with the length of the opening in your project.

Zippers are sewn into seams, for the most part. Rarely does a zipper run down the entire length of a garment's side. For most projects, like sewing a zipper into a pillow, you'll need to sew a regular seam before and after you sew in a zipper. Here's what to do.

Sew It Together

1 Take the two panels of fabric that will flank your zipper and finish the edges with a serger or a zigzag seam. Then sew the two right-hand sides using a ⅝-inch seam allowance and a long stitch length (basting stitch). If you have a pattern or instructions with a different seam allowance, use that.

2 Turn out the wrong side of the sewn-together fabric and iron the new seams open flat.

Line It Up

1 Place the zipper so the teeth fall in the ditch of the seam you just made, with the right side of the zipper face-down. Now you'll need to figure out the exact placement.

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

2 You'll have a starting and stopping point for the zipper on the fabric. It could be the top edge of the fabric or ½ inch down. Wherever it is, place the end of the zipper where it needs to begin, with your zipper still face-down. Line up the center of the zipper teeth along the center of that open seam. Now it's time to pin the zipper in place.

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

Pin It

1 Pin the zipper into the seam face-down with the pins running parallel to the sides of the zipper.

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

2 Next, think about the way you will be sewing the zipper. You'll start on one side of the zipper, sew along it, then turn and sew the opposite direction. Position the heads of the pins so they face toward you as you sew; this makes them very easy to remove. In other words: The heads of the pins on the right side of the zipper will face one way while the heads of the pins on the left side will face the opposite.

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

Prepare to Sew

1 Turn the fabric over and mark it with a pin just above where the bottom of the zipper lays. This will show you where to stop sewing because you don't want to sew over the metal or thick plastic piece at the end of the zipper.

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

2 Attach a zipper foot to your sewing machine. Use thread that matches both the zipper and the fabric. Make sure the same thread is loaded for the upper and lower stitches. Many zipper feet have two locations where they can be attached to the machine to enable you to start stitching on either side of a zipper. In this case, attach the zipper foot on the left side.

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

Stitching It In

1 Stitch around all four sides of the zipper with a zigzag stitch, keeping the side of the zipper foot as close to the zipper as possible.

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

2 Stitch down the right side of the zipper, stopping just a few stitches past the end of the zipper with the needle in the down position.

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

3 Rotate the zipper and fabric 90 degrees, then stitch just a few stitches beyond the edge of the zipper. Stop with the needle in the down position.

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

4 Rotate the zipper and fabric 90 degrees, then stitch up the left side of the zipper and a few stitches beyond the edge of the zipper. Stop with the needle in the down position.

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

5 Rotate the zipper and fabric 90 degrees. Stitch until you are about 2 inches from your starting point. Leave your needle down in the fabric to hold it in place.

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

Unpick, Unzip, Flip, Finish

1 With the needle still in the fabric, carefully begin to unpick the original center seam (the zipper is now underneath it, and you should be able to feel the closed teeth under the fabric) until just beyond the back of the zipper foot.

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

2 Unzip the zipper so that the pull is out of the way and just behind the zipper foot. Move the edge of the fabric a little to the right to give extra room for the zipper pull.

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

3 Continue sewing the additional 2 inches to the very end, and backstitch.

4 Flip the project over and unpick the entire center seam, exposing the zipper. Check to see that the zipper opens and closes correctly.

How to Install a Zipper Step by Step

THE PARTS OF A ZIPPER

Chain. The continuous piece that is formed when both halves of a zipper are meshed together

Teeth. The individual elements that make up the chain

Slider. The device that moves up and down the chain to open and close the zipper

Pull tab. The part of the slider that you grasp to move it up or down

Tape. The fabric behind the zipper mechanism

Tape ends. The fabric that extends past the teeth at the top and bottom of the chain

Top stop. Two devices at the top end of the zipper that halt the slider from going off the chain

Bottom stop. A device attached to the bottom end of the zipper to halt further movement of that half of the zipper

Bridge stop. Similar to a bottom stop, this device is used at the top end of a zipper to prevent each half of the zipper from separating

Pin. A device used on a separating zipper that encourages the joining of the two zipper halves

Box. A device used on a separating zipper that helps correctly align the pin, so that the joining of the two zipper halves can begin

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