Zippers for Beginners

One of the hurdles for many beginner sewers is that first time you sew a zip. You need to use the zip foot, it can occasionally be fiddly, and just generally be quite intimidating!

Hopefully this post, combined with my tutorial for a Super Simple Zip Pouch will give you the confidence to give it a go!

There are three categories of zippers. They are:

Coil – Coil zippers are the most commonly bought and used type of zipper fastener. They are called coil zippers because the ‘teeth’ of the zipper are actually a spiral coil shape that interlock when the zipper is zipped up. The coils are made from polyester, although originally nylon was used to manufacture these zippers. As a result, they are sometimes also called ‘nylon zippers’.

Tooth Zippers (eg. metallic) –  These zippers are the classic shaped zip with individual pieces of metal or plastic shaped and set into the zipper tape. These zippers have a lot of strength and are used in garments such as jeans.

Invisible – These zippers are actually coil zippers, but the coils are set back behind the zipper tape to conceal them. These zippers are commonly used in garments such as skirts or dresses where the zipper is set into the seam and cannot be seen. Increasingly they are being used for garments such as uniforms that traditionally have a button fastening, but for ease an invisible zipper is used and the button detail is decorative.

Zipper Tips

– When you purchase a zipper, the size or measurement is taken from the space between the zipper stops. Always choose a zipper that is slightly longer than you require – it is much easier to shorten it than begin with a zip that is too short.

– When sewing a zipper into a project or garment, be very careful when pressing with your iron! Polyester zippers can melt.

– If a metal zipper gets jammed, run the tip of a grey lead pencil over the teeth. The graphite will help ‘lubricate’ the teeth and allow your zip to work again.

– Use the stitching line (where possible) to guide you when sewing in a zipper. You can see the stitching line on the zipper tapes in the above picture.

– Your sewing machine CAN sew over the coils of a polyester zip without breaking the needle (I have done it many times) but don’t sew over the teeth of a plastic or metallic zipper, and also be careful of the location of the metal stops. I have snapped a few needles on those before!

I think with zippers, the only way to be confident is to give it a try. So I have put together a really easy beginner’s tutorial for a zip pouch HERE. Click over and let’s get sewing!

 For more basic tips and tricks, don’t forget to check out the rest of my Back to {Sewing} Basics series!

6 thoughts on “Zippers for Beginners

  1. Thanks for the info, Ros! Until reading this, I thought there were only two types of zips. Now I know l often use coil zippers.

  2. Just bought a pattern for a wristlet that wanted a nylon zipper. After only being able to find polyester, I begrudgingly bought one, sure I was going to have to live with breaking a needle because I was missing some secret piece of sewing knowledge. Then I came across your little article and lo and behold, I had the right kind of zipper after all! 🙂 thanks much!!

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