How to Sew a Zipper: A Beginner’s Guide

Zippity do da! Sorry… I couldn’t help it.

But, I don’t care if it’s learning to sew a button on pants or thrift flipping a two piece set, any time you get to conquer a new skill and become more comfortable sewing, it’s a great day!

And, today, you’re going to learn how to sew a zipper. I know that zippers tend to be a little intimidating (check out where I STRUGGLED with a zipper on a dress I was making below).

3 Ways to Fix a Wavy Zipper

As you can see, I don’t always get it right. That said, each time I learn I want to help you do the same and now I’m here to guide you through this process, step by step.

By the end of this post, you’ll be zipping through your sewing projects with newfound confidence!

Introduction to Zippers

Before we dive into how to sew a zipper, let’s take a moment to understand zippers better. Zippers are more than just a closure mechanism; they’re a design element that can add a professional touch to your sewing projects. There are several types of zippers, each with its unique characteristics and applications:

  • Coil Zipper: Made of nylon, these are light, heat resistant, and waterproof. They’re flat on one side and have teeth on the other. Ideal for backpacks, sleeping bags, purses, and tote bags.

  • Tooth Zipper: When you think of a standard metal zipper from your Levi’s, you’re probably picturing a tooth zipper. Both metal zippers and plastic zippers tend to fall within the “tooth zipper” category. The zipper teeth are typically visible on both sides. Each tooth is separate, making these zippers sturdy and perfect for jackets, denim, and camping gear.

  • Invisible Zipper: With invisible zippers you’ll hide the zipper underneath a seam with only the pull tab visible. They’re flexible and strong, making them ideal for dressmaking and soft furnishings such as cushions.

Understanding the different types of zippers and their applications will help you choose the right zipper for your sewing projects.

Tools You’ll Need

Before we start sewing, let’s gather our tools. Here’s what you’ll need:

Having the right tools at your disposal will make the process of sewing a zipper much smoother.

How to Sew a Zipper

We’re familiar with zippers? ✅

Have our tools ready? ✅

Great! Let’s dive into the step-by-step process and begin sewing zippers.

If you prefer video, check out this great zipper tutorial by DIY Sewing Tips

Step 1: Prepare Your Fabric

The first step in sewing a zipper is to prepare your fabric. Start by finishing the edges of the fabric where you plan to place the zipper. You can use a serger or a zig zag stitch with your sewing machine for this. Make sure to leave enough space on each side for your pattern’s recommended seam allowance (usually ½ inch or ⅝ inch). This step is crucial as it prevents the fabric from having frayed edges and ensures a clean finish.

Step 2: Sew the Fabric Edges

Next, place the right sides of the fabric facing one another. With your sewing machine you’ll sew the two pieces of fabric together with a straight stitch—just up to where the zipper will be installed. This step creates a seam that will serve as the foundation for your zipper.

Note: If you’re sewing an invisible zipper (like I did in this thrift flip), you won’t want to use a standard zipper foot, but rather an invisible zipper foot (or an adjustable zipper foot, as it can be used for either regular or invisible zippers).

Step 3: Baste the Zipper Opening

Basting is a sewing technique that involves creating long, easily removable stitches (known as a basting stitch). Use a long basting stitch to stitch the rest of the seam, stitching over the section that will open for the zipper. Since this stitch will be removed later, there is no need to backstitch the end points. A basted seam will hold it closed while you attach the zipper, and it also makes it easier to remove the stitches once the zipper is installed.

Step 4: Press Open the Seam Allowance

Pressing open the seam allowance is an essential step in sewing a zipper. With the fabric’s wrong side facing up, press open the seam allowance. If the seam allowance won’t lie flat, you can use an iron to flatten it. This step ensures that your fabric lies flat, making it easier to sew the zipper.

Step 5: Place the Zipper

Now, it’s time to place the zipper. With the wrong side of the fabric facing up, lay the zipper face down along the basted section of the seam allowance. Align the zipper’s top stop with the fabric’s top edge. This step requires precision, so take your time to ensure that the zipper is correctly aligned.

Step 6: Pin the Zipper

Before sewing, affix the zipper in place using sewing pins or zipper tape. Ensure that the zipper is lined up from the top stop to the bottom stop. Pinning the zipper in place ensures that it doesn’t move while you’re sewing, leading to a neater finish.

Step 7: Stitch the Zipper

With the right side of the fabric facing up and starting at the top of the zipper, make your first stitch just past the zipper pull. Continue stitching to the bottom of the zipper. Stop and turn the fabric 90 degrees to sew a few stitches along the bottom of the zipper. Turn the fabric again to stitch the other side of the zipper. This step attaches the zipper to your fabric.

Step 8: Remove the Basting Stitches

Congratulations! Your zipper is now attached! Remove your project from the sewing machine, and cut the threads. Use a seam ripper to remove the basting stitches covering the zipper. This final step reveals your neatly sewn zipper.


Do I need a zipper foot to sew a zipper?

Yes, you generally need a zipper foot to sew a zipper properly. A zipper foot is a sewing machine attachment designed specifically for sewing zippers onto fabric. It allows you to stitch close to the zipper teeth without the foot getting in the way, ensuring a neat and professional-looking result.

There are two types of zipper feet:

  1. Regular Foot: This foot has a single narrow toe that allows you to stitch close to the zipper teeth on one side. It is suitable for standard centered zippers where the teeth are exposed on the outside of the fabric.

  2. Invisible Zipper Foot: This foot is used for sewing invisible or concealed zippers. It has two grooves that accommodate the zipper teeth, allowing you to stitch close to them while hiding the zipper tape within the seam allowance. This creates a nearly invisible zipper installation.

Using the appropriate zipper foot makes the process much easier and reduces the chances of accidentally sewing over the zipper teeth, which could damage your sewing machine needle or the zipper itself. It also gives you better control, especially when dealing with tricky fabrics or intricate designs.

What stitch to use for a zipper?

When sewing a zipper, you typically use a straight stitch. A straight stitch is the most common and versatile type of stitch used in sewing. It creates a straight line of stitches, making it ideal for securing zippers to fabric.

Are zippers easy to sew?

The ease of sewing zippers can vary depending on your sewing experience, the type of zipper, and the fabric you are working with. For beginners, sewing zippers can be a bit challenging initially, but with practice, it becomes easier.

Can you hand sew a zipper?

Yes. Hand-sewing zippers can be time-consuming compared to using a sewing machine, but it allows you to work with more delicate fabrics or when you want to take your time with the process. It can also be a handy skill for minor zipper repairs and alterations.

Remember that practice is key to improving your hand-sewing skills, so don’t be discouraged if it takes a bit of time to master this technique. With practice and patience, you’ll be able to achieve neat and professional-looking results.


Here’s another great zipper tutorial by Makers Gonna Learn

Learning how to sew a zipper is a milestone in any sewer’s journey. It’s a skill that opens up a world of possibilities, allowing you to tackle a wider range of sewing projects. So, go ahead, start sewing, and let’s conquer the zipper together! Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be discouraged if your first few attempts aren’t perfect. Keep sewing, keep learning, and most importantly, keep having fun!

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