Have you ever wanted to make a sweater or jacket but decided against it because it had a zipper closure and you feared the installation of such zipper seemed too daunting? Well fear no more! With this easy step by step tutorial you will be able to add zippers to those fashionable garments with great results. It just takes a little patience!
Now let’s get started!
1. You will need some basic supplies in addition to the zipper itself. When purchasing the zipper be sure to purchase a “separating” zipper for jackets and sweaters that open all the way. There are various types, some with metal teeth, coiled teeth, etc. The type is not important to the installation, rather it is a matter of personal preference and fashion statement of the garment.
2. Next, I like to make marks on both the zipper and the garment. This makes it easier to match up as you sew and avoids those unsightly puckers. How frequently you mark depends upon the size of the garment. For bigger pieces I would mark ever 3 or 4″ for smaller pieces every 2″. You will also need to decide if you want the bottom of the zipper to line up exactly with the hem of the garment or start a little higher. Adjust for these things in your markings.
3. Next line up the markings on the zipper with those on the sweater and pin in place. You can also baste the zipper in place if you prefer but I find pinning is usually enough, unless you are working with very slipper or stretchy yarns.
4. Ideally you’ll find a zipper that is exactly the right size for your garment, but more often than not, I’ve found that is not the case. Don’t worry, it’s easy to adjust a zipper to the needed size. Buy a zipper that is longer but as close as possible to your garment length (no need to pay for extra zipper you aren’t using right?) and pin from the bottom up. When you get to the top fold over the zipper where you’d like it to end (I fold it back so that the neat fold is facing me and it’s on an angle slightly less than 90 degrees). Note, do not cut the zipper at this point or bad things could happen!
5. Once you have both sides pinned in place, open and close the zipper a few times to make sure it is functioning properly (you don’t want to go through the trouble of sewing it in place just to find out it doesn’t work) and also to make sure that it glides up and down unencumbered by the stitches on the garment.
6. Now it’s time to sew! Using thread that closely matches the garment, from the right side start at one end and sew the zipper in place as close as possible to the garment edge. I like to do a backstitch because it goes quickly, is secure and if you make the stitches small enough they will not show on the garment. If you don’t know how to backstitch, there are many resources on google. Here’s one that I like: How to Backstitch. If you had to adjust your zipper length, sew the tops that you folded back in place neatly and then trim the extra zipper. NOTE, the zipper is cut from the top ONLY, do not cut the bottom part of the zipper where it joins to close.
You could actually end here, but I like to make sure my zippers are very secure since they tend to get lots of wear and tear with constant opening and closing, so I run another row of stitching about 1/8″ away from the first row (away from the zipper). And for me that still isn’t enough, so I whip stitch the tab of the zipper to the garment on the inside. Overkill I know, but I’ve never lost a zipper yet!
This is what it looks like from the inside of the garment
And this is what it looks like from the outside – see no visible stitches!
And there you go, one perfectly functioning and darn good looking zipper installed!