The first time you tackle a zipper it can seem pretty daunting; however with a little practise, the right presser foot, and the correct technique, they become quite easy and really help take your sewing up a notch. This blog post will guide you through the different types of zippers and hardware you can use; show you how to use them and for which projects, and show you how to correctly install them in your garment.
There are three main types of zipper.
CLOSED ENDED ZIPPER
These are made from either plastic or metal. These are commonly used for pouches, bags, cushion covers, fly zips etc and are probably what you think of when you talk about zippers. You can either buy these pre-cut to a particular size with attached stoppers at the top and bottom of the zip, or on a continuous roll with zipper pulls you can attach and which allow you to cut the zipper to size for specific projects. You can also get a decorative closed ended zipper, with lace or another decorative finish to the zipper tape, and these are designed to be top stitched on and remain visible.
These give an almost invisible finish once sewn in, and are often used for dressmaking, particularly womens dresses and blouses. Again, they can either come made as a specific size or on a continuous roll which you can cut to size according to your needs. The teeth of these zippers are on the underside of the zip.
OPEN ENDED/SEPARATING ZIPPER
These are used for items that have to be opened at both ends, like a coat. These can also come with a double ended variety, so they can be opened at either end, but remain zipped together in the middle.
This video gives comparisons of the different types of zippers:
How to Measure a Zipper
Zippers come in different widths according to your needs, from delicate to chunky. The width of the zipper teeth is measured in millimetres and that measurement gives you the width of your zipper. For example, a zipper with teeth which measure 3mm in width is referred to as a #3. A 10mm zipper is known as #10. You will match the width and chunkiness of your zipper to the garment you are making. A zip up hoodie may have a 8 or 10mm zipper, and a summer blouse a 3mm width zipper.
Your pattern will tell you the length of zipper you will need for your project. This can either be a zipper that you buy already finished to the correct size, or one that you cut to size yourself. When measuring a zipper, you use the measurement of the zipper teeth only, not counting the zipper tape. So if the whole zipper measures 10″, but the teeth section only measures 8″, this is an 8″ zipper.
REGULAR ZIPPER FOOT
These are the standard feet that your machine will probably come with when new. You can attach them to either the left or right side of the bar, which enables you to sew down either the left or right side of the zip. The ‘ski’ shaped section in the middle, should run down the side of the zipper teeth to enable you to get nice and close to the side of the zipper for the most professional finish.
ADJUSTABLE ZIPPER FOOT
This foot has an adjustable screw at the side which allows you to bring the ‘ski’ either closer to or further away from the needle, to give a more precise finish.
INVISIBLE ZIPPER FOOT
These are used for installing an invisible zipper to get the best result. You don’t necessarily need one, as you can use a regular zipper foot to install an invisible zipper, but it helps you sew right up next to the zipper teeth to get a proper invisible finish.
This video shows you how to install a regular and an invisible zipper in your garments, and gives a demonstration of the 3 different types of presser feet listed above, and how I like to use them to get the best results in my sewing.
You can use masking tape to tape your zipper in place, rather than pins. It’s a particularly useful technique when topstitching a zipper in place on a concealed zipper installation. You can sew right over the masking tape and just peel it off when you are finished. Otherwise if you pin, and have to remove the pins as you go, you can find the zipper slips about a bit. The tape keeps it perfectly in place.
If you are sewing your zipper to a stretch fabric, using a non stretch interfacing or a wash away double sided adhesive tape (like Wash Away Wonder Tape) along the edge of the fabric where you are installing the zipper is a great idea. It stops the fabric from stretching out as the pressure of the presser foot pushes over it as the zipper is sewn on. The zipper itself won’t stretch as it is woven, but the fabric will, and it can leave a wobbly, ‘lettuce’ look along the edge of the zipper. Using an interfacing or tape helps stop this. The pictures below show how to use Wash Away Wonder Tape to install a zipper on a french terry jacket.
Now that you have all the information you need to tackle zippers, try this free pattern from Made for Mermaids to test your new skills!
Thanks for joining me today, and Happy Sewing!
Dana is a sewing teacher and fabric fancier based in Suffolk, UK. She loves sewing plus sized womenswear for herself and crazy kids clothes for her daughter. You can find her at https://linktr.ee/theslippychickencompany