Get Threads magazine!

Give a Gift

Sewing In a Zipper

Interface the zipper area
Lapped zipper
Invisible zipper
Interface the zipper area

Interface the zipper area

by Celeste Percy
from Threads #89, pgs. 14 and 16

At one time or another, every sewer will probably need to insert a zipper into a garment, and with a little bit of preparation, you'll be able to do it easily with great results. I'll show you how to sew in a standard zipper, using both the centered and lapped methods, as well as how to insert the popular invisible zipper that "disappears" into the garment seam. But first, here are some helpful tips regardless of the type of zipper or insertion method you choose.

zippers More on Zippers:

9 Zipper Installation Techniques
Lapped Zippers Rule
A Handpicked Zipper is Worth the Effort
Move a Zipper's Location

Both standard and invisible zippers come in a variety of lengths. I suggest starting with a zipper that's slightly longer than the zipper opening on your garment, especially when working with a standard centered or lapped application (it's usually easier to shorten a zipper than it is to insert it precisely into a given space). For example, if your garment has a waistband, insert a longer-than-needed zipper that extends beyond the waistline seam, stitch over the zipper, and trim away the excess when you attach the waistband. You can cut a zipper at the bottom to shorten it as well; just be sure to add a new zipper stop by whipstitching over the teeth at the bottom of the zipper, then cutting it 1/2 in. to 1 in. below this new stop. Don't miss other sewing tips and techniques like this by ordering a subscription of Threads magazine. Print subscriptions come with FREE access to our tablet editions.

Interface the zipper area
Before inserting a zipper, it's a good idea to add a strip of interfacing along the seam allowance, especially when using a lightweight or unstable fabric, to help support the zipper's weight and stabilize the fabric. I use a strip of lightweight, fusible interfacing that's about 1 in. wide and the length of the zipper opening. Fuse the interfacing strip to the zipper-opening seam allowances, extending over the seamline about 3/8 in. For a crisp opening edge, interface only the seam allowances.

Machine-baste to seam allowances Topstitch
Machine-baste the zipper tape to both seam allowances, stitching through the tape and seam allowance only.   Draw a chalk guideline on the fabric 3/8 in. from the seamline and topstitch the zipper in place, starting at the bottom and stitching to the top on each side.

The centered zipper
Sew the garment seam, machine-baste the zipper opening's seam allowances together, and press the seam open. Use a two-step process for this method, machine-basting the zipper tape to the seam allow-ances first, then topstitching the zipper in place from the right side of the garment. For best results, and to avoid rippled edges, topstitch directionally from bottom to top on each side through all thicknesses. Use your machine's zipper foot, which allows you to stitch close to the zipper teeth, and remove the seamline basting stitches once the zipper is inserted.

1 | 2 | 3 > View all

Comments (10)

Wazrent Wazrent writes: Nice tutorial great tips
Posted: 2:11 am on July 14th

user-2128681 user-2128681 writes: Thanks for the nice tutorial the interfacing and chalk lines were very good tips. I am going to try them then next time I make a project with a zipper.
Posted: 10:36 pm on April 10th

SewFascinated SewFascinated writes: I have made a zippered dress where the bodice was lined. I've only done it once but if my memory serves me correctly, you baste the zipper to the dress first and then with the zipper sandwiched in the middle you stitch the dress & lining together. I'm probably not explaining it well, but the pattern I used was Simplicity 2401. Hope that helps.
Posted: 10:37 am on December 30th

Vicki_J Vicki_J writes: Do you have instructions on how to attach the waistband after I install a centered zipper as above.
Posted: 11:22 am on September 23rd

JoaniesJosh JoaniesJosh writes: I've been trying everywhere to get instructions on how to handle a center back zipper when a sleeveless dress is completely lined. I seen RTW made this way (on better RTW) and I would love to learn what the steps are in creating a garment like this. The RTW appears to have no hand-stitching when inserting the zipper. Please help this Grandmother achieve this goal.
Posted: 4:43 pm on August 16th

KimsIdleHands KimsIdleHands writes: I too would like to know about zippers and linings. I have always had a difficult time with this.

TO Lorraine, you have to let the fusible interfacing cool before sewing. THis should help a lot.
Posted: 4:15 pm on July 26th

sandydemouy sandydemouy writes: I know this article is a bit dated, but I am looking for information on how to apply a zipper when a full lining is involved as well! Just curious if anyone has any info on this. thanks!
Posted: 10:16 pm on September 9th

rewetzel1 rewetzel1 writes: I've put in a few invisible zippers before but I can't understand how to do it when a full lining is involved. I'm baffled.
Posted: 10:05 pm on February 18th

metamorfosis metamorfosis writes: I am a begginer and i've had troubles with how to sew zippers so thanks for explain it so clearly. I think this article it is very useful for me.

Posted: 5:16 pm on February 14th

Lorriane Lorriane writes: Using fusible interfacing before sewing the zipper ended up doing a sticky job on my needles ...
Posted: 5:25 pm on January 5th

Log in or create a free account to post a comment.