What Are the Best Tips for Sewing Zippers?

A.E. Freeman

Sewing zippers is an important skill for any seamstress, as many garments and fabric accessories require a zipper. Attaching zippers to an item usually requires several steps and a few important pieces of equipment. A zipper foot for a sewing machine is a must for sewing zippers. If an invisible zipper is being used, a special foot should also be used.

A regular presser foot cannot be used when sewing zippers.
A regular presser foot cannot be used when sewing zippers.

Before the zipper can be attached to a garment or accessory, the seam should be basted together. Basting the seam involves sewing with a long stitch. The long stitches are easy to remove later on, exposing the teeth of the zipper. How long the seam is depends on the length of the zipper, which in turn depends on the project. For example, a 7-inch (18-cm) zipper is ideal for a small skirt, while a jacket requires a longer zipper.

Before sewing on a zipper, the seam should be basted together.
Before sewing on a zipper, the seam should be basted together.

Some seamstresses like to attach a piece of interfacing to the seam to reinforce it when sewing zippers. The interfacing makes the fabric near the zipper thicker and more stable, making it easier to use the zipper. Fusible interfacing should be ironed onto each edge of the seam before it is sewn together.

After the seam is basted, it should be ironed flat so that the zipper can be placed on it. The seamstress should line up the teeth of the zipper with the basted seam so that, when the project is finished and the stitches removed, the zippers teeth are visible. The method of holding the zipper in place when sewing depends on the seamstress's preference. Some argue that gluing the zipper to the seam is a lot easier than pinning it in place. When sewing zippers, the pins have to be removed before the needle goes over them.

Using a zipper foot when sewing zippers isn't very difficult. The feet vary from machine to machine but are often very easy to understand. Unlike a standard presser foot, zipper feet are one-sided so that the zipper teeth can glide under the machine easily. Most feet can be switched from the right side to the left side, depending on which half of the zipper is being sewn.

An invisible zipper requires a special zipper foot, which allows the sewer to bring the needle and thread right next to the teeth of the zipper without damage. Sewing invisible zippers can actually be simpler than sewing a basic zipper, as there is no need to baste the seams first. Invisible zippers are sewn against the right side of the fabric with their teeth open.

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Discussion Comments


Or, you can just skip the zipper altogether and add buttons. I'd about rather sew buttonholes rather than fool with a zipper! You can't always get away with buttons, but sometimes, you can.

I've made a couple of skirts and rather than deal with zippers, I added a little to the waistband and put in elastic. I guess it's a complex, but I really, really hate sewing zippers!


I've *never* basted a seam shut before putting in the zipper! I can see the sense in it, but I've never done it before. I just basted the fabric to the zipper and when I had it like I wanted it, I sewed it down and took out the basting stitches.

One thing I definitely recommend for a sewing machine is to use the zipper foot. It's just easier, and it's usually not a big deal to switch the presser foot on a sewing machine.

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