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funny pillow cases How to Install a Conventional Zipper sofa pillow covers

Updated: 2019/09/18 Views: 76

Zzzzzzzzip it! We love the sound, the look, and the functionality of zippers. But most of us are not so in love with installing them in our sewing projects. In fact, there's probably no sewing technique more dreaded than learning how to properly install a zipper. If you're a regular S4H visitor, you know that's a challenge we can't walk away from. Today, you are going to learn how to master the most conventional zipper technique. Once you’ve done so, one warning: anyone who finds out about your new skill will be dropping off all kinds of items with broken zippers on your front porch. Ha! Pull them inside, and teach them how to do it themselves! The steps shown below are for a "conventional" zipper as you might use on a garment – where the fabric meets along the center of the zipper teeth, concealing them.

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Interestingly, Elias Howe, the same man credited with inventing the sewing machine, received a patent in 1851 for the first zipper, which he called: "Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure." It’s speculated that due to the popularity of his first invention, he never produced this very early version of the zipper.?

The zipper’s next debut was at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. This version, called the “Clasp Locker," was designed by Whitcomb Judson as a shoe closure.

In 1913, a Swedish-American engineer named Gideon Sundb?ck designed the more recognizable zipper while working for the Universal Fastener Company. Its sole purpose at the time was for military use on boots, life vests, and flying suits during WWI. Sundb?ck received a patent in 1917 for a version with additional teeth and a slider, which he called the “Separable Fastener."?

In 1923, Benjamin Goodrich took Sundb?ck’s design into the modern age by installing zippers into everyday rubber boots and tobacco pouches. It was the sound the zipper made when opening and closing that gave Goodrich the idea for the official name we know and love today: the Zipper. ?

If you think these gentlemen are the main cause for zipper anxietyfunny pillow cases, think again! In 1930, it was the fashion industry that began to use zippers on children’s clothing and in men’s trousers. The zipper made it easier for children to dress themselves, and men would no longer be embarrassed by wrongly-buttoned fly closures. The zipper quickly became all the rage and we've never looked back.

With such a long and interesting history, it’s not surprising to find zippers everywhere today, from your favorite jeans to NASA space suits, as functional closures or pretty embellishments. They’re available in a variety of types, lengths, sizes (meaning the size of the teeth), colors, and finishes.?

Zippers can be made of metal, plastic or nylon, and are fitted on a woven or knitted tape made of cotton, cotton blend or polyester. The teeth on zippers are constructed in one of three ways, either chain, molded or coil.?

Based on the above parameters, zippers are grouped into a specific list of types. In addition, the type of zipper you choose should be specific to your selected project and fabric. For example, a heavy metal zipper is not traditionally the choice for delicate cotton voile.

This is the most common type of zipper, and the one we will be using in the installation steps below. It’s probably the one you'll end up using the most as well, since it's applicable to so many kinds of sewing projects. It has a pull at the top and a stop at the bottom and comes in a wide array of colors. Lengths are generally between 4" to 22". Specialty shorter and longer versions are often available too, but in fewer color options.?

These are the zippers we find in jackets, hoodies, etc., which open at both ends. They're available in a variety of lengths, usually from 12" to 48" and can be found in both plastic and metal versions.

Most likely you’ve owned a garment (probably a snow jacket) with one of these crazy zippers. They have two pulls at the top and bottom so you can open them in either direction at the same time. They are also the type most likely to come in the longest lengths, ranging from 26" to 48".

There’s also a two-way version of this zipper, which allows you to zip it closed from either end with the pulls meeting in the middle. This is the type used on larger bags, luggage and in upholstery cushions. We used this type of zipper on our?Designer Barrel Tote.

This is designed to be applied to a reversible garment and is also separating. In order for the zipper to work properly on either side, there is a dual zipper pull at the top.

Chances are you’re familiar with this one! It’s made of metal in a brass finish and available in shorter 6" to 9" lengths.

Zippers can be used for everyday functionality, for a special purpose, or simply as embellishment. There's a huge range of decorative and specialty versions available.?

This zipper is so mysterious... you can’t even see it! That’s where it gets its name. Actually, the coils are attached under the tape, making the teeth seem invisible, but rest assured... they are there. Like its conventional counterpart, this type of zipper is available in a wide range of colors and lengths, usually from 9" up to 22".

NOTE: We have a separate tutorial on how to insert an invisible zipper.

In the home decorating section of your fabric store, you can find very large/long zippers made of metal and plastic. These are designed to be used in very large/long projects, such as seat cushions. Some come on a roll with multiple zipper pulls attached. You slide the pulls down the length of zipper, except for the one you need, then cut the length of zipper required for your selected project. Save the extra zipper tape and pulls for future projects

If you purchase zipper by the yard, you have to add the zipper slider/pull yourself on one end. The other end is usually sewn into a seam. This type of zipper is usually only available in basic colors, like black and white and sometimes a few primary colors. We used zipper by the yard in our Sleep Sack project as well as our Pyramid Bean Bag Chair.?


The ones described above are the most common zipper types, but if you start looking closely, the zipper universe gets quite large. You can find special zippers for: sleeping bags, marine use, gaiters, robes, slipcovers, coveralls, purses, pockets, lightweight applications, heavy jackets, extra long openings, parkas, etc. Even using just the zipper tape itself has become a popular form of metal trim embellishment.?We used it in our Bucket Style Purse With Zipper Tape Trim project.?

It’s clear to see the zipper has come a long way since its days in WWI military boots! The most important thing to remember is to use the correct zipper for your application.?

Just when you thought we were done explaining all about the zipper, here’s a quick overview of the anatomy. Why? Because if you understand what you’re working with, chances are you’ll have a more successful experience sewing it into your next project.

Top stops: The little metal thingies at the top of the zipper that keep the pull from coming off the teeth.?

Slider body: The mechanism that brings the teeth together going one way, and pulls them apart going the other.?

Pull: The tab attached to the slider body so you can zip and unzip.

Teeth: Pretty obvious, but don’t forget they can be coil or chain constructed.

Tape: The fabric the teeth are attached to and the part onto which you actually sew.?

Guideline: Depending on the type of zipper you’ve purchased, the tape may have a subtle indentation along either side of the teeth. This where you sew when doing a basic installation.

Bottom stop: Holds the zipper together at the bottom and keeps the pull from coming off the bottom.

Top and bottom tape extensions: The portions of the tape that extend beyond the top and bottom stops. These extensions give you space beyond the zipper to help secure it in place within your project.?

Depending on your make and model of sewing machine, you should have a zipper foot in the standard accessories that came with the machine. If not, you will need to purchase one. Trying to install a zipper without the correct presser foot is probably what scares most people away from the task. Use the right foot for the job. While at your sewing machine retailer, ask about other types of zipper feet available. Below are the zipper feet we use on our studio machines, which are provided by Janome, our exclusive sewing machine sponsor.

Before you rush over to your sewing machine to install a zipper, you have to review the type of installation you are going to do for your selected project. If you’re following a pattern, it’s easy to determine. If you’re designing your own project, you want to think about how you want the zipper to look and function when sewn in place. For example, if you’re sewing a zipper into the seam of a pillow, you will use a process similar to the one described below. But, if you’re planning to sew a zipper into a pair of pants, that process is slightly different.

We are not covering step-by-step instructions for all the specialty installation techniques. Our goal is to show you the standard steps to install a conventional zipper. Once you master that, you can branch out to other options. We cover some of these specialty techniques in various project tutorials as well. Before attempting any of the zipper techniques listed below, be sure to fully research how each process is completed. If you are a S4H fan, you know we strive to always include full step-by-step instructions and/or links to other tutorials for the specialty techniques within our projects. You can also look for help in basic sewing books or videos. Some are sewn from the right side, with the zipper underneath, some from the wrong side where you can see the tape of the zipper... each is unique.

The zipper is centered along a seam and equal distance from either side. This is the installation we describe in detail below.

You see this most often on garments, especially along a front, back or side seam. The zipper is sewn close to the edge of one side of the seam, farther way on the other side of the seam, creating a lap of fabric over the zipper.

This installation is similar to a centered zipper. The difference is the top and bottom of the zipper are sewn across, so your stitching forms a rectangle. You may have seen this on special occasion garments within a fitted side seam. The zipper's opening allows just enough room to get the dress on. For home décor, you might use this technique on a pillow back.

Installing a separating zipper takes some specific tricks. Ever have the zipper pull get caught on the fabric or lining of your jacket? The teeth of a separating zipper need to be fully exposed so it can function properly.

It’s pretty obvious that the zipper sewn into the fly front opening of a pair of jeans is a unique process. It's sewn underneath, leaving only the curved topstitching on the outside visible.

A common zipper in sportswear, as well as in many of our home décor projects, in which all the teeth and part of the tape to either side of the teeth are exposed. In the main image at the top of this article, you can see several examples of this very common technique.

Contrary to the exposed zipper, these are hidden in the seam, which is why you can only achieve this look with an invisible zipper.

It's the moment you’ve been waiting for! Let’s install a zipper.

NOTE: As we do in majority of our technique tutorials, we are using a plain fabric and contrasting thread so you can focus on the installation technique. With zippers, you can use matching or contrasting thread; it all depends on the type of finish you want.

You did it!

NOTE: Installing a zipper using the Inserted method, which you might use on the back or side of a pillow, is basically the same as the steps shown above. The only differences are that you would center the zipper within the seam (rather than placing it flush with one edge), and you would sew across BOTH ends of the zipper. Your finished stitching will look like an elongated rectangle. We used an inserted zipper within the pocket of the lining in our Designer Barrel Tote.?

You may be wondering about the raw edge at the top of our zipper sample. Depending on the type of project, this area is finished in different ways. The majority of the time, you will sew across the top of the zipper just above the top stops. Then, you will trim away the excess at the top. You can also fold the excess back onto the zipper and tack it in place. It’s really a personal choice. If you’re following a pattern, this will be addressed as well as exactly where to place the zipper along the seam.


Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Jodi Kelly

Stock Photos from ldutko/Shutterstock

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