The Trouble with Zips

As I’ve mentioned before, I am mostly self taught with my sewing skills. Every project teaches me something new but one little problem has had me stumped. All you super experienced amazing sewist friends will possibly read this post and say ‘Duh! Ros, have you only just worked this out?!’ But others may find this post super helpful!

Sewing the zip in my zip pouches has always troubled me. Sometimes it works well with a neat finish, and other times the zip ends are pinched and look messy. I realised that the way the zip teeth faced when sewing my pouches affected the outcome. But which way was correct?

The High School Science Teacher in me (hello, haven’t seen you in three years!) decided it was time to conduct an experiment. I made two identical zip pouches.

When sewing up a pouch, once you have your fabric sewn onto the zipper, you turn it out so
the exterior fabric is right sides together, and the lining is right
sides together (shown in the picture at the bottom of the post). Then you sew all the way around the outside apart from a gap in the lining to turn the pouch through.

This is how I got the two outcomes – one I sewed with the zip teeth facing the lining. The other I sewed with the zip teeth facing the exterior fabric.

When you sew all the way around – the zipper must be folded so the teeth face into the lining fabric. That is the trick to getting your zip neat and tidy.

Then you a guaranteed a neat zip finish every time.

OK – so is this common knowledge and I have been in the dark all this time? Or is this new to you too?

Here is my latest zip pouch – a lovely Echino woodland nappy/diaper pouch! You can buy it here.

Update! A few people asked for some pictures that were a bit clearer, so I have added some more details about this topic HERE. I hope this helps even more πŸ™‚

70 thoughts on “The Trouble with Zips

  1. THANK YOU, Ros!!! I did not know this. The majority of my zips turn out fine, but every now and then one doesn't. I'm trying to picture in my head, how I sew my pouches. I think I've probably just fluked it most of the time. No matter how long you've been sewing, there's always lots to learn, so I'm pleased you posted this. I'd love you to link this tip to the Sewing Tips Linky!

  2. Wow this was really interesting. Can you explain a bit more about the zipper teeth facing the fabric? I'm still learning to sew and I avoid zippers with everything in me.

    1. Hi Desi, when you are sewing the pouch you have to fold the zipper to stitch over it. When you do that, make sure the zipper is folded so the teeth are on the same side as the lining of the pouch. I would love to have emailed you in more detail but you don't have your email enabled in your blogger account so I hope you revisit and see this comment πŸ™‚ Feel free to email me if you want more info.

  3. Clever you! I love how you worked out a solution to a problem by experimentation. That Science Teacher Ros is closer than you think!

    I'll file this one away for when I'm ready to tackle zippers!!! x

  4. Ditto what Gillian said! I struggle with zippers (and snapping needles sewing them.) But the last time i out one in I tried it with tabs and it was perfect! I'm a convert. Also, I didn't know you were a science teacher! Some of my favoritist people are science teachers.

  5. Thanks for this Ros, you always have great tips! I just sewed my first zip ever!! I think I'd been avoiding them! It was an open ended one on a little hoodie for Noah but I will sure to refer back to this if I make little pouches or something in the future… hmmm or homemade pencil cases perhaps πŸ™‚


  6. Saw this on pinterest, I never thought about HOW my zippers turn out when they are "pinched" like that!!! Although sometimes I like they way they look, how they curve down, but sometimes it does look messy. Now I know how to get what I want when I want it! Thanks so much and keep the science/sewing experiments coming! πŸ˜€

  7. I never knew this either Ros…so thank you. I have only sewn zips with fabric buffers on each end and so haven;t faced the problem. I am wading through your fab blog (after finding you through the covert robin) and want to say thanks for making such helpful tutorials. Love your interview series too.

  8. I discovered this when I purchased a pattern for a clutch with detailed pics and instructions. Funny the little things that make you happy when you're a sewing fanatic!!

  9. I always put tabs on the end of my zippers. They usually turn out very nice that way. But I wonder if it would still make a difference. I will have to try and see. But I see so many wonderful pouches and bags that are made without tabs on the ends of the zippers and wonder why the five minute step is skipped when it makes such a difference it the final outcome. And I see you don't do the tabs either. Just thinking you may want to try it.

  10. Very helpful – I didn't know this either until about a week ago when I fiddled with a zipper enough to figure just what works. I also do tabbed though and when I do I trim my zipper (tabs included) to about 1/2" – 1" shorter than the width of the fabric — so my stitching catches just before the ends – the fabric lays just so around them. πŸ™‚ Less worry that way. lol. I like this little tip though! πŸ™‚

  11. I love your effect but I still don't understand how this works. Pretty new at installing zippers all together. How about a step by step tutorial for dummies?

    1. Good idea – I always wonder how basic I should go but so many people use blog tutorials to learn basics. Keep an eye on my tutorials for a zipper one in the future!!

  12. I just found your post and appreciate the time you took to post it. I made a zip pouch from a tutorial the specifically said to have the zipper facing the exterior fabric, so I did. And when I was done, I was not happy with the zipper and how it would nto lay very nicely. I poike with my purple thing, trying to get the corners to turn, I had clipped the corners and no matter what I did, it just would not lay nicely. So I will try your recommendation next and see how it works. I appreciate knowing you've found this to work.


  13. Thanks Ros, I never knew that…I too wondered why sometimes my zips were tidy and other times not.
    thanks for sharing, and bringing out the science teacher in you to solve the problem πŸ˜‰

    x manda

  14. I am a newbie and self-taught, depending a lot on internet tutorials such as yours.
    Thanks for sharing this tips.
    When I was sewing Henry's pencil case, I got stuck at this stage, sewing over the zipper and it turned out like your second (bottom pic) pouch – see here – All the tutorials that I have came across did not explain how to sew this part so I am very grateful for your tips. Shall try it out in my next project.

  15. I am new to sewing and last week decided to try working with zips. I keep doing it this way, with the teeth facing the lining and I still end up with pinched ends. Are there any other tips you have? It seems so simple, yet I can't figure it out.

    1. Hi Devon, thanks for your comment, I have had a few other people mention taht they'd like to see more details so I plan to do a post in the next couple of weeks sharing some more details! Ros

  16. Thanks for this tip. Im learning to sew with my sewing machine and i have been making make up bags to sell and i noticed the zippers werent coming out right, now I know! Thanks and keep the tips coming.

    from California, Alicia

  17. Yay, you! Pam from Threading My Way sent me here, and I'm so glad she did. Even the pattern I just purchased didn't explain this or how to sew the zipper edges closed well enough for me to understand. I've read through this and the extra link. Now I'm feeling much more confident about my next zipper experience–can't wait to try do one actually. Thanks.

  18. I never knew this! I just finished a bunch of pouches where the instructions said to put the zip pull at the bottom and line up with liner etc. but this was probably the reason why you do that! Been sewing for years and never even considered there was a difference! Thanks Ros!!

  19. I do believe you have just changed my life! I make ALOT of purses and I didn't know this, I always hated the purses with the curvy, pinched corners. Thank you! πŸ™‚

  20. As a former science teacher as well I really appreciated your investigation into this! Now that you've demonstrated it, makes perfect sense! Thank you!!

  21. Thanks Ross, loVe this tutorial, yesterday made lining of my crochet bag with this zipper tutorial and for the firtst time my zipper looks Soooooo great. Thanks for charing.

  22. I love this tutorial and now see the error of my ways! Oddly I also realize I’m not leaving enough fabric at the start and stop point of my zippers. Duh-seam allowance! Thanks for a great tutorial. Now I’m off to make Christmas presents!

  23. Thank you so much Ros! I still consider myself a beginner at sewing. I’ve decided to try zippers since I love bags. I did everything the instructor said and my corners came out a little curvy. I’ll definitely give your way a try because I’m starting my Christmas gifts. Thank you!

  24. Just made my first bag yesterday and thought “what am I doing wrong”! THANK YOU SO MUCH. I am teaching myself and the video’s I have been watching assume we all know this. I will be a pro in no time thanks to you!!! LOL

  25. i followed all your tips and i get perfect corners!! Thank you so much for that! But i still get the fabric pinched on the inside, at the end of the zipper. Do you know why this is happening ?? i really don’t want to give up on it! i wish i could upload a picture to show you.

  26. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! So glad I found your tutorial. I was so frustrated having that same issue. Now off to sew a NEAT zipper pouch!!!

  27. I’ve been sitting for hours trying this over and over but it seems to be impossible to not get a pinched corner even with your instructions. I don’t understand the image about how you fold the zipper – i don’t feel like it’s detailed enough. Do you have a more close-up image of how to fix the zipper issue? I really want to learn but I’m close to giving this project up completely.

  28. I’ve had this post saved in a pinterest board for ages but only come and read it now. And I am speechless. SERIOUSLY??!!!! That’s the trick? I can hardly believe it! But thanks for allowing me to remaining sane with this post. I could have gone crazy!

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