anatomy of a zipper and zipper sewing tips

If you’ve ever been intimidated to sew a zipper, this diagram and our zipper-sewing tips might help!

anatomy of a zipper chart

The teeth or coils of the zipper are the parts that open and close. the teeth or coils are held in place by the zipper tape which is the part that you actually sewn. The slider is the mechanism that does the opening and closing, and the pull is the part that makes it easy to move the slider. At the top and bottom of the zipper are the stoppers, which prevent the slider from sliding right off the ends!

Did you know that an invisible zipper is essentially just a backwards zipper? Contrary to popular belief, the zipper isn’t actually invisible (too bad, but it would be really difficult to sew if is was actually invisible!), but it’s often called invisible because it doesn’t really show once it’s sewn in. Only the tapered zipper pull shows on the finished garment.

Tips for sewing a zipper

  • Interface or reinforce the fabric where you’ll be sewing the zipper. This prevents the fabric from stretching and distorting and will give your zipper a smoother appearance.
  • If you’re sewing an invisible zipper, open the zipper and press the coils flat, away from the zipper tape, before you sew it. This will open the coils a bit and help you to sew closer to the coils so the zipper will be really hidden when it’s finished.
  • Mark the top and bottom stoppers on the zipper tape itself so it’s easy to see them when you’re lining up the zipper to sew it.
  • I always have better luck when I hand baste the zipper tape to the seam allowances before machine stitching them. It takes only a couple of minutes and it saves lots of seam ripping (and swearing!) later.
  • It’s easier to shorten a zipper at the bottom than at the top, so always sew the zipper from the top down. Once you’ve decided how long you want your zipper, bartack over the teeth or coils to prevent the slider from sliding right off the bottom of the zipper. You can use a paper scissors to shorten a zipper. If you’re using a metal zipper you can use a pliers to carefully remove the extra teeth.
  • A zipper foot will make it easier to stitch close to the teeth or coils. If your sewing machine doesn’t have a zipper foot, you can purchase one separately. Be aware that different machines require different types of zipper feet!
  • Some zipper feet are adjustable, while others are stationery and you can change the position of the needle to stitch closer to the teeth or coils. Try different types of zipper feet, too, to see if you prefer one type or another. Some people like using a foot specifically made for invisible zippers. Other people prefer a regular zipper foot. It depends on your preferences and what feels comfortable.
  • It’s often better to use a zipper that’s too long for your project and shorten it as needed. This makes it easier to stitch the zipper without running into the slider, which can get in the way otherwise.
  • Sew both sides of the zipper tape in the same direction. This will prevent the fabric from creeping in different directions on each side of the zipper.
  • Watch the metal bits, and sew with care! It’s easy (and dangerous) to break a needle if you accidentally try to sew through anything other than the zipper tape itself.
  • An invisible zipper can be particularly counter-intuitive to insert the first (or second) time. Once you understand how it’s positioned and sewn, however, it’s quite easy and quick to sew.
  • Different zippers have different insertion techniques, so be sure you have good instructions for the type of zipper you’re sewing. An invisible zipper is different than a centered zipper vs. a lapped zipper, etc.
  • Relax! Zippers can sense fear. Trust me on this one and take a few deep breaths before you begin…

Do you have other tips or tricks to add?



  1. Hannah W

    Instead of thread basting, I like to glue baste a zipper using an ordinary glue stick.

  2. Cindy

    I like to use wonder tape instead of thread basting. I find the zipper fabric lies nice and flat with the wonder tape.

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