Tutorial: How to center a zipper like Rosie the Riveter

It is time to conquer your fear.

Fear of sewing zippers, that is. What is it about a few inches of nylon coil and firm fabric that sends you, a grown woman,  into a dither? Pffft. Nonsense. All you need to do is gather the right tools, spend a few extra minutes prepping, and a perfect zipper is within your grasp. Really.

Today’s tutorial covers centered zippers. Let’s get started so I can prove to you how easy it is. 😉

1.  Sew the seam below the zipper area, being sure to backstitch to secure the threads.
2.  Magic trick #1: Fuse a strip of interfacing 3/4″ inch wide x the length of your zipper on either side of both seam allowances where the zipper will be inserted. Why? Because the zipper tape fabric is ALWAYS firmer than the garment fabric, and fusing the garment fabric will help prevent that rippling you hate so much. Do this BEFORE basting the zipper area closed or you will not be able to remove your basting threads. (Ask me how I know. 🙂 )

First step

3.  Finish both seam allowances from top to bottom in any way you like (serge, pink, zig-zag, etc). My example shows zig-zagging.
4.  Using a basting stitch length, seam the zipper area.

Basted seam and seam allowance zig-zagged

5.  Press the seam allowance open.

6.  Magic trick #2. Find your package of Wonder Tape or Steam-a-seam 1/4″ fusible tape. No, you are not cheating.

Zipper, Wonder tape and prepped seam

7.  Apply a strip of Wonder Tape on both sides of the top side of the zipper tape, removing the backing (duh).

Wonder tape applied

8.   Press the zipper face down onto the fabric, centering the coils on the seamline.

Wonder taped zipper placed in seam

This is how it should look when you are done. No pins, no hand basting, just a little “glue” to hold your zipper in place. Now you are almost ready to sew.

Zipper in place

9. Magic trick #3. Turn your fabric right side up and chalk a line 1/4″ on either side of the seamline and below the zipper stop. Yes, you can do this step before “gluing” your zipper in place, but I usually forget to. I like to use my awesome Japanese Chakoner because the line is super fine and it dispenses pure chalk (no residue left on my fabric), but you can use any marking tool you like.

Chalked stitching line

10.  Put your zipper foot on your sewing machine, and starting at the top of the zipper, stitch along one side of the zipper and across the bottom along the chalkline. DO NOT STITCH UP THE OTHER SIDE!

 First side of zipper done

11.  Cut your thread, and starting from the top of the zipper, stitch down the other side AND across the bottom a second time along the chalk line.

Second side stitching

This is what your zipper looks like before pressing and removing the basting stitches. Yeah, that’s right. Practically perfect in every way. No rippling of fabric on top of the zipper tape. Stitching all straight and purty. Zipper centered accurately. What’s not to love?

Zipper stitched

12. Last step. Remove basting thread and press. Voila! You did it!

Finished Zipper

I told  you you could do it.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen







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