How to Install a Zipper

"Learn the basics of how to install centered and invisible zippers for your handmade garments from a 'Project Runway' contestant.

  • Learn how to install a zipper using both common application methods for dresses and skirts.
    Photo by Fotolia/mihalec
  • Regardless of the zipper's style, they all have the same basic construction.
    Illustration by Missy Shepler
  • When cutting longer zippers to size, don't forget to securely add a new stop.
    Illustration by Missy Shepler
  • Prep the seam for your zipper installation by adding a basting stitch at the raw edge of your fabric.
    Illustration by Missy Shepler
  • Centered zippers are a good choice for the back of skirts and dresses. It is also a great method for beginners to start with.
    Illustration by Missy Shepler
  • Once you've mastered the regular coil zipper, learn how to install an invisible zipper.
    Illustration by Missy Shepler
  • "Buffi's Dress Design," from Project Runway contestant and fashion designer Buffi Jashanmal, offers 27 stylish dress designs and great ways to revamp vintage dresses.
    Cover courtesy Storey Publishing

Project Runway contestant Buffi Jashanmal shows fashion design fans how to sew their own custom-fitted dresses from start to finish in Buffi’s Dress Design (Storey Publishing, 2014). Beginning sewists will learn industry secrets to basic patternmaking and sewing for unique, wearable pieces. The following excerpt, found in the illustrated glossary, explains how to install a zipper using the two most common types found in dresses.

How to Install a Zipper

There are many different types of zippers and the type you use will depend on the style of the dress and the weight of the fabric. For instance, metal zippers are heavy and best suited for jeans and heavier fabrics. Separating zippers open at the bottom and top and are used in jackets and coats. However, we won’t be using any of those. For the most part, dresses, made in medium-weight fabrics, require a nylon coil zipper.

Nylon coil zippers are available as regular zippers and invisible zippers. The regular zippers, sometimes called “self-healing,” are easy to use and the first choice for most dresses. If the zipper teeth come apart, you simply open and close the zipper to realign the teeth. The teeth of the invisible zipper are behind the zipper tape, so when the zipper is in place, the teeth do not show on the outside of the dress.

There are a number of ways to install zippers, but the dress projects that require a zipper will use either a regular coil zipper or an invisible zipper and a centered application. The application method is different for the regular and invisible zippers and you will need different zipper feet. However, regardless of the zipper style, they all have the same basic construction:

Zipper tape
This is the fabric part of the zipper and it is sewn to the garment seam allowance.

Zipper teeth
The teeth, in the center of the zipper, are also called coils and they are what opens and closes the zipper.



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