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How to Sew Zippers

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Do you know how to sew invisible or regular zippers on DIY clothing, handbags and accessories? From pants to jackets and dress openings, zippers are durable fastener to close the edges of an opening on a garment. 

Learning to sew zippers would firstly appear as a really hard task if you don’t have enough knowledge regarding sewing. However, it is a lot easier than it looks.

So how do you sew a zipper? Zippers can be hand sewn or by using a sewing machine with or without a zipper foot. There are regular zippers and invisible zippers, and the sewing method will vary slightly depending on the type of zipper you are installing.

Besides sewing buttons along with other project embellishments, sewing zippers correctly is also a handy sewing skill to practice. If you’re into DIY sewing projects including zippers, then there are a lot of methods that can get the job done, choose the most appropriate one that works well for you.

Whether you own Singer or Brother sewing machine, with practice and patience you can easily learn the skill and it is totally worth the effort and time you’ve invested.

This guide will walk you through the steps to sew a zipper in place, along with key points to look for and crucial sewing tips to ensure success. Covered below are the frequently asked questions about sewing zippers, and a helpful hacks to smooth out the process.

steps on how to sew invisible and regular zipper on sewing machine

Basic type of zipper foot

As a beginner gaining experience with your new sewing machine, it’s important to know the different purposes and uses for each essential sewing foot

To sew a zipper with a sewing machine, we recommend using a zipper foot to accomplish a clean finish zipper:

  • Standard zipper foot: The general standard zipper foot often comes with your sewing machine. The foot features two notches, one on each side that allows use for both left or right-hand. It is used for a regular zipper with exposed teeth and commonly used in garments and accessories.
  • Adjustable zipper foot: The adjustable zipper foot is a type of zipper foot that can be used for both regular and invisible zippers. Also, the foot can be positioned to the left or right. This foot is very handy to use as topstitching, piping and when adding stitches near piping.
  • Invisible zipper foot: The invisible zipper foot is only used for invisible zipper and cannot be used for other purposes. It has a hole in the middle of the foot and allows to create a smooth center stitch line. Make sure to adjust the center needle position when using this type of foot. 

Difference between standard and invisible zipper foot

In order to learn how to sew zipper properly, understanding the difference between standard and invisible zipper foot is crucial. By doing so, you can execute professionally sewn zipper on every garment no matter what kind of zipper you are installing.

The main difference between standard and invisible zipper foot is that the visual and serving purpose is not identical. The invisible zipper foot has been designed for offering genuinely concealed closure to the opening on garments and accessories, whereas the standard zipper is great for exposed zippers.

The invisible zipper foot is used with zipper open, and the zipper right half has been placed beneath the foot right groove, left zipper half is placed beneath the foot’s left groove.

The standard zipper foot is designed for sewing the zipper’s right half from the foot’s left side, and turns fabric for sewing the zipper’s other side with same foot side. Also, the zipper has been sewn to garment before stitching was done on the seams.

Do you need a zipper foot to sew a zipper?

As a beginner, we recommend using a zipper foot to sew a zipper in order to avoid any damage on the sewing needle and the machine itself. You do not need to own all three types of zipper foot, however start with a standard zipper foot to make seams close to the zipper. 

Without a zipper foot, it is challenging to sew clean finished seams around the zipper. Practice makes perfect, but so does having a few key tools in your sewing kit.

Zipper Seam Allowance

Every sewing pattern indicates seam allowance and instructions for how to sew a zipper properly. Simply following the tutorial and indicated seam allowance is crucial to accomplish the sewing project in the correct way.

Generally, the seam allowance for zipper is ”. Whether you are sewing exposed or invisible zipper, properly finish the seam allowance as instructed, such as serger or zigzag stitch the seam and sew the two sides together through seam allowance with long length stitch.

The zipper can be basted to seam allowance prior to sewing for achieving a better finished product. Seam zippers make the stitching process easier and you will be learning easy sewing methods in this tutorial.

zipper opening on pocket

How to sew an exposed zipper

An exposed zipper sits right on top of the garment, and shows the zipper tooth and zipper tape barely behind the fabric. Depending on the style and sewing pattern requirements, there are many ways to sew an exposed zipper.

Prepare a standard sewing foot when you are sewing completely exposed zippers for decorative purposes or a half exposed cleaner finished look. 

Sewing exposed zipper materials:

  • Fabric
  • Exposed zipper with closed bottom
  • Zipper foot
  • Pins
  • Fabric marker
  • Ruler
  • Sewing machine
  • Fuse a 1” or 2.5 cm wide, light or medium weight interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric on each side of the zipper opening.
  • Mark the zipper start and end of the zip on the fabric, or transfer the sewing pattern notch to the fabric using a fabric marker.
  • Stay stitch each side of the zipper opening with seam allowance from the raw edge and pivot 90 degree angle at the end of zipper mark to create sharp angles on both sides.
  • With the right sides together, sew the seam as indicated on the sewing pattern from the bottom of the zipper to the end.
  • Clip the seam allowance on a diagonal to the zipper base, but not through the stay stitch.
  • Press seams open and neaten the edges. Fold and press over the seam allowance of the zipper opening along the stay stitch line.
  • Fold back the top of the triangle to align the metal base of the zipper with the center seam, and pin to secure.
  • Flip the zipper and tuck the zipper tape and triangle piece to the inside and press the folded edge along the zipper.
  • Re-pin the seam allowance to zipper tape only and start sewing from the base of the pipe. Stitch along the stay stitch line and repeat for the other side.
  • Lastly, use a pressing cloth and press the zipper tooth closed.

If you have a lining for the garment, stitch the lining from the garment hem to the end of zipper. Press the seam allowances to the wrong side for the zipper opening and hand stitch around the zipper from the wrong side.

invisible zipper on side of dress

How to sew in an invisible zipper

Many garments are available with invisible zippers and these are ideal for all fabrics ranging from weighted wools to tweeds, silk and even polyester. A properly sewn invisible zipper appears as part of seam and the zipper tooth is not visible on the right side of the fabric.

Begin by selecting matching color tape and size of an invisible zipper as indicated on the sewing pattern instructions. Replace the regular sewing foot with invisible sewing foot to execute flawless finishes.

Sewing invisible zipper materials:

  • Fabric
  • Invisible zipper
  • Invisible zipper foot
  • Pins
  • Fabric marker
  • Ruler
  • Sewing machine
  • Finish seam edges when required before applying the zipper. 
  • Mark seam allowance on the fabric edges with fabric chalk for showing the zipper location.
  • Using pins or chalk, mark seam allowance on fabric edges by creating straight line with a ruler. Check pattern, but typically, it is ⅝” or 1.5cm.
  • Open up zipper and place in downwards right side with zipper teeth on marked guideline. (note- zipper head faces down)
  • Pin with zipper teeth while facing away from edge.
  • Beginning at topmost edge, stitch zipper through the invisible zipper foot. Stop at teeth end in bottom and move out the zipper head.
  • Put two fabric pieces beside each other and flip piece with zipper on other side. It puts invisible side’s opposite side in right place for sewing. Repeat the steps while stitching the zipper edge.
  • Pin back seam from the seam bottom towards end under zipper bottom.
  • Pull zipper tape ends out of the way by gently moving it to one side and sew zipper closely to previously stitched line. Overlap little and backstitch to secure the ends.
  • Lastly, press open back seam and check that the zipper is lying flat with no bulges or puckers along the edge.

If you are not comfortable using pins as you sew the zipper, hand baste the zipper tape into the garment. Remove the thread after using the sewing machine to stitch around.

Stitching zipper without zipper foot

Zipper foot helps to attach zipper on the garment more easily and quickly. However, when you are new to sewing, you may not have all the resources and tools to complete the sewing project. 

Before zipper feet became popular, many sewers used regular zipper foot.

Care must be taken while sewing without a zipper foot. It’s simple to use finger sewing method and nothing is there to keep fabric from catching the needle. 

Make sure to be slow in the process!

Here is step by step instructions for sewing zipper without zipper foot:

  • Prepare by marking the zipper end on the wrong side of the fabric.
  • Use basting stitch and sew to your mark.
  • Change to shorter stitch and finish sewing the rest of the seam.
  • Press seams open.
  • Tape zipper and center the zipper teeth on the seam with the wrong side facing up.
  • Use clear tape to hold the zipper in place.
  • Change to left needle position and place back side of zipper teeth against the left side of the foot. Sew straight down the length to the zipper stop.
  • Pivot the needle and sew across the end of the zipper.
  • Sew up the remaining side of the zipper and backstitch when you reach the top.
  • Remove the tape and turn inside out.
  • On the right side, use a sharp seam ripper and carefully open up the seam allowance.

When you are preparing zippers to sew, uncurling and pressing the zip does help to stitch close to the teeth to create clean finishes. 

Always press the back of the curled teeth flat with a warm and dry iron instead of steaming. Be careful not to touch the zip teeth as it is extremely hot.

Can you sew a zipper by hand?

Sewing zippers by hand is always known to require little effort, but takes more time compared to using sewing machine. 

You may find it intimidating to use a sewing foot in case you make a mistake or break the zipper. To avoid this problem, go ahead and hand stitch the zipper.

The hand sewing method mostly comes handy when you’re not satisfied with the zipper’s length. Adjust the zipper length by cutting and properly closing the teeth so the bottom can get hand stitched and is half an inch from required length, now you’ve got a zipper with correct length for the garment.

Centered or side seamed zippers can easily get sewn in by hand, and the quality and durably is superior as you’ve got total control over it. Make sure to match the th color as same as the zipper tape so the stitching rows are not visible or stand out.

How to sew zipper by hand?

Start by placing zipper face along seam and pin this down with the teeth center lined up with the seam. Let the zipper far down from the seam allowance and garment through uneven basting method. 

Always use a pick or prick stitch to hand stitch the zipper tape in place. A tiny backstitch at the beginning and ending will help to give you more control.

Hans sewing zipper materials:

  • Fabric
  • Zipper
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Needle
  • Create neat edge with fabric so you’re not having any raw edges to show. Fold down a ¼ inch fold and press in place.
  • Have neat fabric edge with zip tape while pinning this in place. Be careful to not place this near zip as it can result in fray.
  • Now slip stitch fabric in place on the zip. In addition, stitching line can also be added for stitching underneath for providing zip with extra strength and stability.

Depending on the zipper type, the stitching technique will vary slightly:

  • When hand sewing regular zipper, use hand picking method. 
  • When hand sewing invisible zipper, sew with a back stitch because the stitching won’t show on the right side.

Tips for sewing zipper

  • Utilize pins to sew over sewing machine in every 4 to 5 inches on the zipper, or depending on the zipper length adjust the gap to use as many pins as possible to get more control.
  • Do not push through while sewing. Simply have right hand press firmly on the right side of the zipper.
  • Sew slowly. Do not rush when sewing zipper. By doing so you won’t have thread jamming or any other technical issues.
  • Use basting tape on the zipper tape or fabric first. Remove the paper backing on the wrong side of the tape and place where you need them.
  • Always press with fingers after zipper is placed to remove any bubbles. 

Using any brand of sewing machine or the hand basting method, here are the easiest ways to sew zippers whether you have an invisible or exposed zipper. Use these tips and techniques to replace old zippers on your garment or for adding zipper closures to the DIY clothes you made from scratch. 

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