The Busy Bean

How To: Basic Zipper

You know when you buy a zipper and there are instructions on that little cardboard piece it’s attached to? Here are some (hopefully) more clear instructions for that type of zipper insertion.

I’ll show you on a pillow back, but it’s the same idea for a skirt – with one additional step I’ve got a diagram for.

Start with your piece of fabric and cut wherever you want your zipper. I like mine offset, probably for the sheer fact that then if it’s not right in the middle it won’t bug me later. Or, it’s more aesthetically pleasing this way?! I cut around 3.5-4″ from the bottom.

Now place your pieces right sides together and baste together using a 5/8″ seam allowance. Press your seam open.

Align your zipper with the edge of your fabric. Just make sure your zipper stops where you want it to. On a pillow, I align the top of the zipper with the side of the fabric. This might be different if you’re putting it in a skirt. If it’s a good skirt or dress pattern it will have marks for where you want your zipper to be. Now baste the zipper in place using double stick tape (which I love and is pretty cheap) or a glue stick. I am also a big fan of the lapel stick.

Now it’s time to sew in the zipper. Using your zipper foot, sew 1/4″ from the edge of the zipper. Most sewing machines come with a zipper foot. Use it!! I used to think it didn’t make a big difference. It does. Those teeth add a lot of bulk, and your zipper foot is designed to accommodate that bulk on one side. Sewing a zipper without a zipper foot is like driving down the road when they’re doing road construction and the lanes are uneven… you can do it, but it sure takes a lot more effort to keep your car going straight. If your presser foot is higher on one side because of the zipper, you’ll have a hard time keeping your stitching straight. And these lines are going to show on the outside of your project, so you want them to be straight!

Sew on one side, then do the same thing on the other side of the zipper. Here’s where there’s a little difference in sewing a skirt (or dress, or other garment) zipper vs. just sewing it into a pillow. You will need to sew across the bottom of your zipper when you sew down both sides.

You’ll also notice on your seam that you want basting stitches where you will be sewing the zipper, but you’re going to continue that seam down the garment with regular length stitches so the seam doesn’t come apart.

Apparently, according to the pictures I took while I worked on this, at this point you stop and grab a snack. Maybe some delicious cookie butter with a chocolate bar spoon?

Or, just carry on because we’re almost done. (But I highly recommend snacking.)

Grab your seam ripper, and rip out those basting stitches. Just slide it in on one end and rip all the way down.

You will have lots of tiny little threads hanging out now. Just fold back your fabric to expose the zipper and they’ll be obvious. Take a minute to grab them and pull them all out. Mostly because they’re annoying to look at. But they could also get stuck in your zipper and make it a little more difficult to open once in a while.

Finish up your project, and enjoy your professional looking zipper!

And seriously, on a pillow back you can hardly even tell it’s there.

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8 Thoughts on “How To: Basic Zipper

  1. Great tutorial!! Really helps! tks

  2. I only recently figured out how to do a pillow back that has overlapping fabric, so you can slide the pillow inside w/ no closing. I don’t know what that is called? LOL And thank you for this because I was trying to figure out an easy way to do a zipper on a pillow, the next thing I’ll tackle. :)

    • Tsoniki,

      Try zippers! I do most of mine with zippers because I’m totally cheap and they use way less fabric than the envelope back. Plus, I like how firm they keep the pillow inside.

  3. What do you do with the double sided tape? Do you just leave it in?

    • Hi Rachel,

      Oh, great question. Yes, you just leave the tape in. The kind you buy in the notions isle of the fabric store is water soluble, so it will just dissolve when you wash your item. Or if you don’t plan on washing it you can rub a wet cloth on it if any shows and it will just wash away.

  4. Pingback: The Busy Bean · How To: Selvegde Star Pillow

  5. Nice tute. But cookie butter? Never heard of it and it sounds like some serious YUM!!!!! Where do you get that?

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