How to sew a zipper in a seam

Learning how to sew a zipper in a seam is important if you want to make your own clothes or household furnishings. They are one of the most commonly used forms of fastening.

Many people panic at the thoughts of inserting a zipper, however!

The actual process of sewing in a zipper is not difficult, but there are some steps to do before you reach that stage.

Step 1 - The seam

Normally your zipper will be shorter than the seam you are going to insert it in. Therefore our starting point will be to sew the remainder of the seam. 

Your pattern will tell you what seam allowance to leave, it is usually 1/4 or 5/8ths of an inch. Stitch the seam with a small to medium sized straight stitch on your machine, with the normal presser foot in place.

Secure the point where the end of the zipper will come by backstitching over your worked stitches.

Next, change the stitch length to the longest your machine will do (alternatively you can baste by hand) and continue to sew the seam right to the end. Do NOT backstitch at the end as these long stitches will be removed later.

Press your seam open. 

Step 2 - Pin the zipper in place

Next comes one of the most essential steps in learning how to sew a zipper into your garment. Pinning!

Lay the zipper in place on the reverse side of the work, as shown in the photo above. Place a pin at right angles to the teeth where they finish at the base.

Continue to pin in the same manner to the other end of the zipper as shown below. Note the zipper pull will be facing down towards your working surface, so that it ends up on the outside of the garment.

Turn your work over, and then pin down each side of the seam to hold the zipper in place. You can then remove the first pins you put in on the back.

Step 3 - Change your machine foot

Now you need to change your regular foot for a zipper foot. If you lengthened your stitch earlier, you will need to change it back to your normal length now.

Position your work so that your needle is on the left side of the foot and your foot is on the right side of the zip. This can be confusing so check the photo below. The left edge of the zipper foot will be lined up with the right side of the zipper teeth.

You may wish to start a little way down, to avoid the zipper pull. 

The photo shows me stitching the second side of the zipper.

When you reach the end of the teeth, leave your needle in the fabric, lift the foot, and turn your work so that you can stitch a short row of stitches across the bottom of the zipper.

Step 4 - Finishing off

Working one stitch at a time, use a seam ripper or a small pair of scissors to snip the basting stitches. Then gently pull them out, so that your zipper can open.

If you remember, we left a gap at the top as the zipper pull was in the way of our foot. If you now pull the zipper open you will be able to complete the stitching near the top, easily.

Trim off your loose thread ends and you are done. You have learned how to sew a zipper in a seam!

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