Sewing Instructions for Zippers

Installing various types of zippers gets easier with practice
Installing various types of zippers gets easier with practice (Image: zippers image by Alex White from

Zippers cause nightmares for even experienced people who sew. They are a common sewing technique often avoided. Like most sewing techniques, installing zippers is a systemic process, perfected with practice. With the proper tools and instruction, you will find that you are able to apply all types of zippers with ease. The most common types of zipper installation include the centered, lapped and invisible zippers. Preparation steps for each type are identical, with the finishing techniques changing based upon which installation method you are using.

Things You'll Need

  • Zipper
  • Fusible interfacing
  • Zipper foot
  • Iron

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Select the appropriate zipper length. Your zipper should be just a bit longer than the seam length for ease of installation. For example, a 9-inch zipper is suitable for an opening 8 inches or shorter.

Reinforce zipper area with a strip of fusible interfacing. Cut piece to the length of the zipper opening, and about 1 inch wide. Fold over seam allowance for zipper opening to the inside of the garment and press. Open seam allowance and apply fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the garment by ironing with the sticky side face down. Interfacing may be applied only to the seam allowance portion, or extend to the portion of the garment the zipper will attach to.

Select the method of application that is most appropriate for your garment, either a standard, lapped or invisible zipper. Refer to your pattern if you are unsure which is preferable for your project.

Standard Zipper

Baste the zipper opening closed, using the longest stitch length on your sewing machine.

Center the zipper on the wrong side of the garment. Baste the zipper to the seam allowance portion of the garment, with the zipper teeth facing towards the garment. No stitching should show on the outside of the garment at this point.

Turn garment over so you are looking at the right side. Mark a stitching line with chalk or a fading ink pen.

Install a zipper foot on your sewing machine per the directions in your owner’s manual.

Shorten stitch length on your sewing machine and topstitch zipper through all layers of the garment. Stitch with the garment facing up, following the already marked guidelines to ensure an even and beautiful finished product.

Unpick the basting stitches so zipper will open and close normally.

Lapped Zipper

Sew the seam below the zipper insertion point, leaving zipper-opening portion of garment free.

Flip your project so that the wrong side of garment is facing up. Press a small seam on the left, or under part, of the lapped zipper opening. Press a wider seam, approximately one and a half inches, on the right lapped portion of the opening. (Your pattern should include extra room in this area; if not add it yourself.)

Install a zipper foot on your sewing machine.

Flip your garment so that the right side is facing up, with the under portion of the seam towards your left. Tuck closed zipper under the bottom portion of the lapped opening, with the top of the zipper facing you. The zipper teeth should be just past the edge of, but not touching, the pressed seam allowance. Top stitch through all the layers of your garment, sewing as close to the edge as possible.

Pull lapped portion of zipper opening over the zipper, ensuring that the under line of stitching is completely covered. Baste zipper to lapped portion, or use pins to ensure correct positioning.

Mark lapped portion of zipper either with a tapeline, or by drawing a stitching guideline. Top stitch the lapped portion of the zipper firmly in place, both on the bottom and the side of the lapped seam allowance.

Unpick any visible basting stitches. Add reinforcing bar tacks where desired and appropriate.

Invisible Zipper

Unzip invisible zipper. Press coils flat with a cool iron. Keep zipper open for the installation process.

Place the right side of the zipper against the right side of the garment, with the zipper teeth touching the ironed seam allowance line. The majority of the zipper should sit on the seam allowance, with the teeth towards the inside of the garment.

Install zipper foot on your sewing machine.

Stitch as close to the zipper teeth as possible, with the stitching line appearing only on the seam allowance portion of the garment. Complete with both sides of the zipper.

Turn garment so the right side is facing outwards. Zip up the invisible zipper. No visible stitching should appear on the zipped seam.

Hand stitch any lose portions of the zipper that your sewing machine was unable to reach.

Tips & Warnings

  • Most experts consider the invisible zipper application to be the easiest, so you might want to try that technique first.
  • Don't become discouraged if your first attempts are less than professional. Keep practicing and your skills will improve with time.


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