Zippers are a sewist’s best friend when choosing a closure for garments without stretch. Zippers can be decorative or very discrete. This post covers the four main zipper types and how to best apply them. You’ll be able to apply zippers with no fuss in no time!
Preparing the Area
Before using any zipper technique the area that the zipper will be applied to needs to be prepped. Press, measure, mark seam allowance, sew up the surrounding seam (before or after the zipper is applied), and apply interfacing as needed/preferred. Start with a zipper that is just right or a bit longer than needed— zipper length can be cut to size.
***A standard or invisible zipper foot is needed for the following applications (as mentioned).
The centered zipper is the most commonly used in garment making. It uses a standard all-purpose zipper that is hidden by fabric during stitching.
- Pin your 2 pieces of fabric with the right sides together
- Sew your 2 pieces of fabric using ⅝” seam allowance or the seam allowance specific to your project together with a normal stitch until you get to your zipper marks
- From the bottom to the top length of the zipper markings use a longer stitch length (about 5 or more) to create a basting stitch
- Once you’ve basted the length of the zipper area, continue as needed with a normal stitch length to secure the rest of your seam
- Press your seam open
- Pin your zipper together to your fabric
- Attach your zipper foot
- Sew ¼” from the edge of the zipper tape just past the zipper stop then sew around back to the other side of the zipper tape. Remove your pins as you stitch.
- Backstitch to secure the stitches
- Use a seam ripper to open up your basting stitch to complete your centered zipper application
The lapped method has one exposed line of stitches and uses a standard zipper. It is sewn with an overlap on either side of the opening (typically the left). The opening covers the zipper.
- Sew up the seam that extends beyond the zipper
- Press that seam open leaving the portion of the seam where the zipper goes unsewn
- Looking at the wrong side of the fabric, choose which side will be lapped and press it under ½”
- Press the other side under at ⅝”
- Flip your fabric to the right side and pin your zipper facing upwards in place
- Use a stitch length around 2-3 sewing beside the edge
- Backstitch to secure the first side
- Mark a stitching line on the lapped side ⅜” from your pressed edge and mark just above the zipper stop
- Close your zipper
- Place your lapped marking on top of the stitches you made on the other side
- Pin your zipper in place
- Open your zipper before beginning to stitch
- Adjust your zipper foot as needed
- Sew just beside the zipper teeth down to the bottom
- Leave your needle down and pivot the direction to create a horizontal line by following your marking to complete the lapped zipper application
The invisible zipper is one of the easiest to sew, the stitching is not visible from the outside of the garment. Invisible zippers are sewn to the right side of the garments, unlike other zippers.
- Separate the zipper then prep it by pressing the zipper teeth away from the zipper tape
- Place the zipper down on the right side of the fabric along seam allowance and pin in place
- Hand baste zipper if the fabric is likely to slide during stitching
- Use a zipper foot (or an invisible one) to sew one edge of the zipper, start at the top and continue until you reach the zipper stop
- Backstitch to secure the stitches
- Adjust the zipper foot to the other side
- Repeat on the other side placing the zipper to be sewn in the front-facing position
- Sew the bottom portion of the zipper fabric together and finish
- Close the rest of the seam as needed to complete the zipper application
An exposed zipper is used for decorative purposes and is applied similarly to a centered zipper without any overlapping to conceal the zipper.
- Stitch up the portion of your seam that will not have the zipper and press open
- Place the zipper right side up on the wrong side of the fabric
- Mark the end of the zipper
- Line up your two pieces of fabric beside one another
- Mark how much of the upper you want to be visible and add seam allowance
- Transfer those marks to your fabric
- Line up the markings and pin the zipper to the fold line under the fabric opening
- Sew along the fold line on one side and backstitch to secure the stitches
- Repeat on the other side to complete your exposed zipper application
A quality zipper application will increase the overall look of your garment and will withstand the test of time. Take your time as you go through each step and you’ll be a zipper pro in no time!
What tips helped you conquer your zipper fears? Leave a comment below!