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How to Sew a Zipper {sewing basics}

sewing basics zipper tips

Here it is, the post you have all been waiting an entire month to see-How to Sew a Zipper! As I was doing research for this post I realized that there are sooo many great tutorials out in blog world on how to sew a zipper! There are even a bunch of great FREE patterns, one of my favorites is the Lil Zipper Bag on Moda Bake Shop (shown in the picture above). I decided that anyone can do a tutorial on putting in a zipper but maybe there are some extra hints and tips that would be useful when you’re reading those other patterns out there. So I thought I’d walk you through some zipper basics and add my two cents.

Types of Zippers and Feet

First let’s discuss some types of zippers and the presser feet used to attach them.

Today I’m using what I’d call a “regular” zipper, it’s regular because when you attach it, you can still see the teeth and the fabric around the zipper. But a second option is an invisible zipper which, when attached correctly is hidden under the fabric, these are mostly used in garment construction. Zippers can be made with metal teeth or plastic and generally have some sort of woven fabric “tape” holding them together (which is what we stitch on).

Shown below is the zipper presser foot for my Bernina sewing machine. This is generally what a zipper foot looks like, it’s more narrow than other presser feet and has an indention on either side to allow the needle to stitch close to the zipper teeth but still hold the fabric in place.

How to Sew a Zipper

Your zipper foot may look slightly different if you have a Janome or other type of machine with a snap on foot. It may look like this:

This foot is useful on machines that do not have the option to change the needle position, so instead, you change the position of the presser foot. (Note, it still has an indention and a narrow foot area).

If you are going to put in an invisible zipper, you’ll need a different foot entirely (although I have to admit I’ve put one in using my regular zipper foot before I knew there was a difference). An invisible zipper foot will be flat on the top with a groove on the bottom to guide the zipper teeth along.

Needle Position -How to Sew a Zipper

needle position left

When you are attaching the zipper, start with the teeth down, on the fabric. Line up the edge of the zipper tape with the raw edge of your fabric. On my sewing machine, I moved the needle to the far left position before I began to sew. This is important because if you begin to sew without moving the needle, you’ll hit a metal presser foot! I always back stitch when I start and stop sewing on the zipper tape as well.

If you are making a tote or clutch of some sort with a zipper, your pattern will probably tell you to turn the zipper over and top stitch very close to the zipper on the other side. Guess what? You can easily do so with your zipper foot! But before you do that, fold the zipper up (so you can see it on the front of the fabric) and gently press the zipper tape and fabric flat. Be careful not to hover too long on those plastic teeth with a hot iron! Now, just move the needle to the far right (or move the presser foot) and proceed to stitch on the top of the fabric, very close to the zipper. Remember that now you are going through a few extra layers of fabric (mine had batting in between) so you may have to push the fabric along a little more to help guide it through. The point of top stitching is to hold down the lump created when you attached the zipper tape.

That’s it! Those are my top tips for putting in a zipper! You know, it’s really A LOT easier than you think and mostly it’s about getting over the fear and just going for it!

Also, what I really LOVE about the Moda Bake Shop Lil Zipper Bag tutorial/pattern, is how it’s constructed. You sew all one piece in a sort of tube and the sew up the sides. No issues with a lining.

BUT if you want to try another cute tute, try the Gathered Zipper Clutch from the Noodlehead blog. I’ve made a bunch of these and just can’t stop, plus you get to learn how to make a gather too!

*Extra tip: if you stitch too close to the zipper teeth, it will make it very difficult to slide open or closed. I learned this the hard way. You need to place your stitching at least 1/4″ from the teeth.*

Happy Stitches. -Anna from Crafty Girls Work Shop

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  1. Thank you for sharing this post! zippers are one of those things just seem really difficult, I will definitely be book marking this post and trying a zipper this weekend!

  2. I’m working on teaching my kiddos to sew, which is a little challenging since I’m not a big sewer myself. I appreciate the tutorial because I need all the help I can get!

  3. I avid doing zippers because once as I spent many hours sewing this great jacket for my munchkin, I screwed it up in the last step of sewing on the zipper. I am still mad about it today. I was so dissapointed, that I did not even attempt to resolve this. Today the jacket is too small- it seems as if ai feed my daughter yeast.:) your tutorial is so great that I am considering to give it a try on a jacket that I am wo,rking on now. Well maybe I will try the zippie first. Thank u for the great tutorial

  4. I didn’t realize there was a special invisible zipper foot!! Thank you! Now if I attempt a zipper, I will know what to look for.

  5. I’m a new to sewing and loving it. Have a couple of skirts (elastic waist), hijabs, and a shirt that have passed through my new sewing machine. Looking forward to sewing a zipper now, after your tutorial. I will conquer my fear. Thank you for your “two cents”; you’ve made it look simple.