What zip should I choose for my sewing project?

Zips are probably the most common fastening but also the one of the most feared to insert!

Choosing the right zip can be tricky as zips come in variety of colours, lengths, types,  some have metal or plastic teeth so what zip should I choose for my sewing project?

Main Zip Types

Conventional (regular all-purpose) zip

Conventional zippers are the most commonly used, and only open at one end and are sewn into the seam. This type of zips comes in a wider range of colours, and come with both metal and plastic teeth. Centred insertion is the most common way to insert this sort of zip and used for front and back closings.

Concealed (invisible) zip

This sort of zip provides a garment with a totally concealed closure, and on the right side, the teeth are invisible. These have to be used with an invisible zipper foot, which unrolls the coil as you stitch. The zip is stitched from the wrong side, and once it’s installed is hidden in the seam.

Metal (brass jean) zip

Patterns that require these sort of zips will specify its use on the pattern envelope as this zip needs a wider overlap to put in correctly. Brass jean zips have brass teeth, a closed bottom and are purposely designed for jeans and other medium to heavy fabrics like Denim.

Trouser (front fly) zip

Always buy a zip that is longer than the opening it’s intended for. Inserting a fly front zipper is among one of the easier zips to sew where most of the sewing is done on the wrong or inside of the garment.

Open-ended (separating) zip

Metal separating zippers available in mid and heavy weight and these are as they sound – open at both ends and used for garments that need to be opened at both the top and bottom such as jackets and sportswear. These types of zips are available in standard black and white and not too many to other colours. It can be sewn so that the zipper teeth are on show.

Decorative zips

These are usually plastic and as such lightweight, durable and strong. Quite popular at the moment are the lacy edge zips that can be sewn on the outside of the garment to add to the garments style.

Zip anatomy

Originally named the ‘Hookless Fastener’, Elias Howe invented the first zip in 1851, but it didn’t really become popular until 1930’s.

1. Stop (Top) – This is the small bracket at the top of the zip that stops the zip pull/slider from coming off the tape.

2. Zip slider or zip pull – This small pull operates the zip, and makes the teeth come together to close or come apart to open.

3. Tape – This is the woven fabric strip, which the teeth are secured to, and its this that is sewn to the garment.

4. Teeth – This is the part of the zip that locks together and can be made from nylon or polyester.

5. Stop (Bottom) – This is the bracket that the slider/pull rests on at the bottom of the zip.

Tips for choosing a zip

  • A pattern will specify which length of zip you should buy. If you can’t buy one the right size, always pick one slightly longer, which you can shorten
  • Choose a zip that matches your fabric.
  • Always close the zipper and press the creases out before inserting.
  • If using a cotton-tape zip, wash and pre shrink it first to avoid puckering.
  • Always consider the weight of the zip with the weight of your fabric – if the zip is too heavy for the fabric, it will cause the garment to sag and not hang right
  • Applying basting tape to the right side of the zip can help keep your zip from moving while stitching.

How to shorten a zip

  • Measure the correct length from the top of the zip.
  • Mark with a pin.
  • While zip is closed and zip coil facing down, machine zigzag using a stitch width 5.0 and length 0.5 across the zip teeth several times to secure.
  • Cut off the unwanted zip part of the zip about 25mm below the stitching and use as normal.

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