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How to Shorten a Metal Zipper

Video: Threads magazine

Learn how easy it is to shorten a metal zipper in this quick video.

Tools needed to shorten a metal zipper

Start with a few essential tools, including two types of pliers with cushioned handles: a pair of diagonal pliers with a short, pointed blade and a pair of needle-nosed pliers.

You will also need metal zipper top stops, available at craft and sewing stores or from online retailers. It’s important that the zipper top stops’ size matches your zipper size. To find out how to determine the zipper size, check out “Zipper Basics: Sliders and Stops.”  Hint: The underside of the zipper slider offers the answer.

Work from the top

Metal zippers must be shortened from the top. First, mark the desired shorter length at the top of the zipper tape. Using the diagonal pliers, cut and pull off metal teeth on each side of the tape for at least 1 inch above the marked line. Take your time and use care to avoid damaging the zipper tape when removing the metal teeth.

Use pliers to cut and remove metal zipper teeth
Cut and remove teeth one at a time from the zipper tape.

For further explanation on removing zipper teeth on metal and plastic zippers, see “Pulling Teeth: Tips to Shorten Zippers.”

Then slide the properly sized zipper top stop onto one side of the metal tape where the teeth were removed. Place a small piece of soft fabric over the top stop and squeeze the top stop with the needle-nose pliers until the stop grips the tape. Now apply a zipper top stop to the other side of the tape, at the same level at the first zipper top stop.

Finally, trim the excess zipper tape above the newly installed zipper top stops. The zipper is ready to be installed.

Additional resources

“Reader Tip: Fashion a Zipper Stop”

“Sewing Zippers 101”

“Zipper Installation Fixes for Common Problems”

“Make a Clean Zip-Front Opening for an Unlined Garment”


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