“Zip It Up”

Today we learned that my niece and her husband are coming back to the U.S. from their tour in Germany.  They will be coming back in the next two weeks and are bringing their new 6 week old baby to see the family for the first time!  Since they will need to wait until October/November for the military to move their things, I got busy today making more changing pad covers and a new fall bunting for the baby.  Many of our customers are intimidated when it comes to inserting zippers, so I thought I would share the zipper insertion for the bunting to see if these tips might help you the next time you have to insert a zipper into a new project or replace a zipper in an older item.

This is the bunting I am making for the baby. Just about anywhere there is a seam, a zipper can be inserted!
If you are inserting a zipper according to a pattern, make sure to mark the end point for the zipper’s bottom. If you are inserting a zipper on your own, make a mark where you want the zipper to end.
I will be using a standard 14″ zipper.
Any zipper longer than 7″ will have one or more creases in it from the packaging.
Steam press the zipper tape, but don’t press the zipper coils. They could melt!
The most important result of inserting a zipper is that the tops of the zipper tape match. You can be off by a tad, but if you are too far off, the zipper will be skewed and won’t close properly. There is 5/8″ of zipper tape at the top of every zipper.
When inserting the zipper, you want to make sure the bottom of the zipper (the metal stop) is below your end mark. You don’t want to sew on the metal stop when inserting the zipper! I usually don’t like the metal stop to show in my finished project.
Let me say, right now, there are many ways to insert a zipper. This is just my “go to” method. If you have something that works well for you, bravo! To begin the insertion, I need to sew the seam up to the end point for the zipper. The seam in this garment is 5/8″.
After sewing up to the end point, I press the rest of the seam not yet sewn so it, too, is 5/8″.
I typically do not use pins to hold my zippers while sewing. Pins can create bulges in the fabric which can sometimes distort the fabric and make a smooth insertion nearly impossible. I have much more success with clips. I use both large and small clips for this job.
Since I work one side of the zipper at a time, I keep the zipper closed and line up the top of the zipper with the top of the garment and clip them together using a small clip.
I then line up the zipper under the fabric the way I want it to look when it’s zipped and clip it in place using my large clips. Notice my fabric is running along the middle of the zipper teeth.
I’m now ready to go to the machine, so I put on my zipper foot and lower my presser foot pressure about 1 to 2 numbers lower than normal. This keeps the top fabric from extending past the zipper tape when I’m finished sewing. (Today, I actually lowered my pressure 3.5 numbers lower than normal since I am sewing on a very lofty fleece).
No matter what material is being sewn, you need to start sewing your zipper from the bottom to the top. This prevents a pucker at the bottom of the zipper.
If you want your seam closer to the zipper, move your needle position. I wanted about 1/4″ distance from the zipper, so my foot is a little further away from the edge with my needle in center position.
Since I cannot sew next to the closed zipper pull without it distorting the fabric, I need to stop…..
…pull it behind the zipper foot and then continue sewing. Depending on your fabric, you may have to leave your needle in the down position so nothing moves while you are sliding the pull.
Now that one side of the zipper is finished, I switch the zipper foot to the other position and start sewing again from the bottom. I join with the first stitching, then go across the bottom of the zipper. I usually turn the needle wheel by hand for this operation because I know I will be sewing over the zipper coils. By doing this by hand I can feel the coils under the needle and I can ease over them without breaking my needle.
Time to start sewing up the other side of the zipper. I usually don’t use pins or clips for this; I just guide it with my hand. Remember, if you pull the fabric, it will skew everything. You are just guiding the fabric.
Since I cannot sew past the zipper pull without distorting the fabric, I, once again, stop well before getting to the top so I can move the zipper pull behind my presser foot. This time I left the needle in the down position so nothing moved.
Now that I am finishing, I can see the two sides of my zipper top meet. Take a victory whenever you can! Remember, they don’t have to be perfect. They will be hidden in another seam, but they should be really close 🙂
Zippers inserted into fleece can be very tricky. They do not like to cooperate, so I would not suggest you use this type of fabric to insert your first zipper! Overall, looks good from the front…
…and the top of the zipper and the flange across the front both match, so I’m golden! (In full disclosure, the right of the zipper is 1/16″ higher than the left, but that will not be noticed when the bias binding goes around the neck edge). I told you, fleece is very tricky!

As I said earlier, there are many different ways to insert a zipper. This just works best for me. I think the most important tips are to use clips instead of pins, always sew from the bottom up on each side of the zipper, turn the wheel by hand when going across the bottom of the zipper and lower the presser foot pressure by one to three numbers from normal. These tips should have you inserting zippers like a pro in no time! Happy Sewing!