Saturday, May 26, 2012

How to Sew an Exposed Zipper

Sewing a Partially Exposed Zipper

Exposed Zippers. I see them everywhere.  

Want to know how to add a partially exposed zipper (just the teeth show) to any article of clothing?  

What I like about this technique is that there is no visible stitching lines around the zipper and you don't see the entire zipper tape.  It gives the zipper a clean and polished look while looking a bit more sophisticated then a fully exposed zipper. 

Quite honestly, I've done quite a few invisible zippers in my day and I must say that this exposed zipper was much easier than the invisible ones.  I didn't even have to use my seam ripper once while sewing this. : )

The first thing to keep in mind is that sewing an exposed zipper is oh so different than sewing a traditional zipper.  So forget everything you learned about putting in a zipper! 
Here's how to sew a partially exposed zipper.. 

What you need:
  • Zipper (I used a jeans zipper)
  • Small piece of tightly woven fabric that coordinates with your skirt.
  • Interfacing
  • Fabric Marking pen
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Sewing Machine
  • Thread

1. Cut a piece of tightly woven fabric 3 inches wide and 3 inches longer then your zipper (this will be called stay fabric from now on).  Add interfacing to the stay fabric.

2. Serge, overlock, or zig zag stitch around all four sides of  the stay fabric.

3. Next you will mark your sewing lines on your stay fabric. Place your stay fabric so that the interfacing is facing up.  Place your zipper 1/2 of an inch below the top of your stay fabric.  With your fabric marker, mark the stay fabric where the bottom of your zipper ends.  You want to mark just below the bottom stop of the zipper.  (The bottom stop is the metal part at the bottom of the zipper that stops the zipper from coming apart.)  You're done with your zipper for the moment. 

4.  Next, draw a line down the middle of your stay fabric to just below where the zipper's bottom stop will be.  

5. Now, with your skirt right side out, pin the stay fabric onto your skirt with right sides together (interfacing should be facing up).  You will need to place your stay fabric so that it starts 1/2 an inch above the top of your skirt.   Be sure to pin this stay fabric on straight.  You don't want the zipper to be crooked or slanted! 

6.  Now it's time to sew the stay fabric on your skirt.

Again with your skirt turned right side out, begin by basting down the middle line of your stay fabric. Be sure to stop sewing where you marked the bottom stop of your zipper.  (Ignore the other sewing lines below).

7.  Next,  you will sew (not baste) a long rectangle that is 1/4 inch away from both sides of the basting stitch you just sewed.  To do that, start at the top of your skirt and sew (not baste) a line 1/4 of an inch to the left of the basting stitch you just sewed.  When you reach the end of the line, keep your needle down and pivot the fabric; sew across the bottom line, then pivot and turn and sew up to the top of the skirt keeping the seam consistently 1/4 of an inch from the middle line.  

8.  Now you will cut your skirt to make the opening for your partially exposed zipper.  Carefully slash down the basting stitch.   1/4 of an inch before the bottom of the basting stitch, cut a very small upside down V.  Be careful not to cut any seams. 

9.  Flip the stay fabric to the inside of your skirt.  Fold down the extra 1/2 inch of stay fabric at the top of your skirt so that the ends are hidden.  See the (blurry) photo below. 

Press the entire opening flat. 

10.  Time to pin the zipper to your skirt. Turn your skirt right side out again.   

With your zipper zipped up, place the zipper in the opening of your skirt.  Pin the zipper in place at the top and the bottom.  You will do the bulk of the pinning from the inside.

Turn your skirt inside out.   Carefully pin the zipper to the stay fabric only. This will give you a clean finish with no visible seams around the zipper.  I used quite a few pins to make sure the zipper would be sewn on straight.  You could also use fusible web or iron on hem tape to keep the zipper in place before you sew. 

11. Time to sew the zipper on.  

You will sew the zipper on just to the stay fabric; again this will give you a clean finish without any visible seams around the zipper. 

This is a bit difficult to explain, so I'll do my best.  To  sew the zipper just to your stay fabric, open up your stay fabric and push the entire skirt to the opposite side. (See the photo below.)  If this doesn't make sense, don't hesitate to ask me.  I'm having a hard time explaining this. : )

Using a zipper foot, sew about 1/8 of an inch away from the metal part of the zipper.  Sew down one side, then across the bottom, and then up the other.  Pivot the foot with the needle down as you turn.  Keep the bulk of the skirt away from your stay fabric as you sew so you don't accidentally sew your skirt fabric into the zipper.  Also, be careful not to sew the metal teeth.  

Now for added strength, sew another line 1/8 of an inch away from the edge of the zipper tape

And that's it.  You're done! Here's the zipper from the inside (prior to ironing or clean up).

And the outside:



  1. Thanks for the tutorial but I'm slightly confused. When you bast stitch did you 1) bast stitch the stay fabric onto the skirt? I assume this is the inside of the skirt? Also, is the skirt already cut open?? Thanks!

    1. Wow. Sorry this is so late. Yes, you baste stitch the fabric onto the skirt. You do this to the outside (right side) of the skirt. AFter the stay fabric has been basted and sewed, you cut along the basting stitch to open your skirt up. Flip the stay fabric to the inside of the skirt and iron in place. You should have a nice long rectangle that is the perfect opening for your zipper. Now, place your zipper in the opening and pin in place. Then you sew the zipper onto the stay fabric. Feel free to email me if this still doesn't make sense. Exposed zippers are very different from sewing other types of zippers!!

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