There are different ways to insert zippers depending on the type of project and the type of zipper being used. I want to show you a really simple way of inserting a normal zipper (not invisible or open ended) that is great for beginners. This method is suitable for projects such as cushions or simple skirts or dresses.
Start by overlocking the raw edges of the pieces of fabric to prevent them from fraying. If you don’t have an overlocker (serger) you can use your normal sewing machine to sew a zig-zag stitch along the raw edges. When inserting this type of zipper, it’s best to have seam allowance of at least 1.5 cm (5/8”). If you are making a cushion cover (such as a scrabble inspired cushion, an elk cushion or a petal cushion) insert the zipper before sewing up the other sides of the cushion.
Place the two pieces of fabric with right sides facing together. Mark the starting and finishing point of where the zipper will go with pins.
Now sew along the length of the seam as follows: With a normal stitch length back tack (sew backwards and forwards for a few stitches), sew up to the first pin and back tack again. Increase the stitch length a bit and sew up to the next pin. Once you reach the next pin, decrease the stitch length back to normal, back tack and sew the rest of the seam. Back tack at the end of the seam and then snip the loose threads. The reason for the longer stitch length in the middle is because that row of stitching will be unpicked later. All the back tacking is important to keep the seams strong so they won’t come undone when the middle section is unpicked. Take the pins out as you sew. If you hit a pin with the sewing machine needle it can damage the needle or even snap it! I have just left the pins in to make it easier to show you where to change the stitch length.
Iron the seam open and on the back, mark the starting and finishing points of the zipper again. Lay the zipper face down over the seam between the marks, you can use a couple of pins to hold it in place. Flip it over and pin along both sides of the zipper and across the bottom. Feel the zipper teeth through the seam to make sure it’s centred. Remove any pins on the back so you don’t accidentally sew over them.
Put a zipper foot on your sewing machine (they are narrower than a normal foot). Starting at the top of the zipper, back tack and sew about 6 mm 1/4”) away from the seam all the way along the length of the zipper. When you reach the other end, turn the corner and sew across the end. Do this very slowly and carefully so you don’t hit the metal stopper of the zipper with the needle. Turn again and sew up the other side and then across the top. The stitching at the top of the zipper will be a bit wider to accommodate the bulk of the puller.
Unpick the seam over the zipper, as shown. Iron the seam again and the zipper is all finished and functional! If you are inserting a zipper to make a cushion, make sure you leave the zipper open about half way before you sew up the remaining three sides so you can turn it out to the right side.
I hope you’ve found this tutorial helpful, particularly if you tend to avoid projects with zippers. The more practice you get the easier it is, so give it a go and good luck!
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