How To Sew a Zipper

Sewing set

At some point, every clothes maker will need to sew on a zipper into a dress, skirt, or a pair of pants.  A zipper is a device that temporarily joins together two pieces of fabric.  With some preparation and patience, you can easily sew on a zipper like a pro. 

Here’s how to sew on a standard lapped zipper.

  1. Start by getting a zipper that is an inch or two longer than the opening on your garment. This is because it is easier to shorten a zipper with your sewing machine or with a pair of scissors than to insert an exact-sized zipper into a certain space.
  2. Add a strip of lightweight, fusible interfacing by the seam allowance, especially if you’re using lightweight fabric. This will support the zipper’s weight while stabilizing the fabric at the same time. Get a strip of interfacing that’s one inch wide and the length of the zipper opening. Fuse the interfacing strip to the seam allowances of the zipper opening and extend over the seamline about 3/8ths of an inch.  If you want a more crisp opening edge, interface only the seam allowance.
  3. Put the zipper foot onto your sewing machine.  Most sewing machines come with a zipper foot; if yours doesn’t have one, you can always buy one at a store.
  4. Sew the garment’s seam with 5/8ths-inch seam allowances. Make sure you baste the zipper opening and press the seam allowances open.
  5. Now go to the wrong side of the undergarment and place the closed zipper facedown over the seam allowances. Align the right tape edge with the right seam allowance edge and sew the zipper tape to the seam allowance, using a 1/4th inch allowance. Make sure you don’t catch any fabric from the garment’s body.
  6. Flip the zipper over to the right side.  Then sew the unstitched side of the zipper to the remaining seam allowance by sewing right over the seam basting.
  7. Unfold the fabric so the entire garment’s ride side faces you. Topstitch the lap by sewing across the bottom of your zipper. Then pivot and sew 3/8ths inches from the seam line to the top of the zipper. Remove the basting stitches from the seamline.
  8. Sew the garment’s seam and baste the seam allowances together. Then press it open.  Your zipper should be face-up.
  9. Sew the other side of the zipper onto the remaining seam allowance by stitching over the seam basting.
  10. Remove the seamline basting.
  11. To make the lap on a standard lapped zipper, adjust the seam allowance to half an inch an dpin it in place. The lap should cover the zipper teeth and the first row of stitches.

Additional tips:

Make sure that the color of your zipper is the same shade as the primary color of your fabric.

Your thread should also be the same color as your zipper.

If your zipper is too long you can always cut it with a pair of scissors


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