sewing 101: zippers

Posted by & filed under Sewing 101.

Hello and welcome to zipper day!

Today you will need:
1 – all-purpose zipper (4″ is great, but longer is fun because it means we get to shorten it!)
2 – 4″x6″ fabric rectangles
sewing machine with zipper foot “I”
needle and thread for hand sewing
scissors and/or snips (have your non-fabric scissors handy to cut through your zipper)
iron & ironing board
seam gauge

Today we’ll cover two basics: How to shorten a zipper and how to install a centered zipper.

Shall we?


It’s super easy to shorten a chain or ladder zipper with just a needle and thread. (And some of y’all may want to do this so you can carry on with the rest of the lesson!) Here’s how:


This video turned out to be so long that I needed to break it into a Part 1 & Part 2. No worries, though! The first video sets everything up and bastes the zipper in place (remember basting? we’re using it, yo!), and the second video is where it all comes together beautifully. You’re going to be pleased.

There are tons of other types of zippers (like invisible zippers and the kind that zips up your ribcage on the side of a pretty dress or the fly of your pants), but this is where we’ll stop today. Knowing this most basic type of zipper installation is great!

And tomorrow, we have a happy, easy lesson about snaps and elastic! Yay, us! (you may want to grab some snaps – I use the “pearl snap fasteners” at JoAnn’s – and some elastic. any size will do!)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the Brother NX800 machine mentioned above for free in exchange for a mention of the product in my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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3 Responses

  1. Su 18 April 2012 at 10:34 pm

    Thanks for doing all this – super helpful!

    I ordered the $5 market bag pattern from the Sandi Henderson site several weeks ago (the one you suggested to us). However, my order says its still “processing” (even though they say they ship in 24-48 hours). Customer service won’t answer my emails and no one picks up the phone nor has answered my voicemail about when the item will ship.

    Anyone else having this problem?

  2. Carol 24 April 2012 at 12:58 pm

    I love your tutorials! I’ve been sewing many years and yet I still enjoy seeing how other people do things. Maybe I can find an easier way or a shortcut!

    I do my zippers a little differently. I measure how far down the zipper goes (just as you do) but I sew the center seam with a basting stitch where the zipper will be and then when I get to the mark where the end of the zipper goes, I change my stitching to a regular stitch, backstitch as needed and finish the seam out.

    I press the entire seam open and then I center the zipper on the seam, starting from the top. When I was younger, I would just pin the zipper on and sew it in, removing pins as I go. Now that I’m older, I pin, hand baste it in and then sew it in. I remove the hand basting and then the center seam basting and it’s all done!


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