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How to Shorten a Zipper

  • When making a bag, learning how to shorten the zipper has the added benefit of giving you a neat finish at the end and maximizing the opening of the bag. You can also use these techniques with the zip ties that are sold.

    There are two main types of zippers:

    Plastic - These are also called nylon zippers and have plastic teeth. They are usually found in clothing.

    Metal - These zippers have metal teeth and are found in bags and household items. They are sometimes used in clothing as a revealing option, adding a pop of color and interest to an outfit.

    Plastic or metal zippers require a different technique.

  • How to Shorten a Zipper - Plastic

    This how-to will show you how to shorten nylon regular and invisible zippers . You will need a different technique to shorten the metal zipper, which you can find further down the page.

    Step 1: Measure

    Start by figuring out the length of zipper you need. Usually, when patterns specify zipper length, they are referring to the length of the teeth and not the length of the strap. So a 12" (30cm) zipper measures 12" from top to bottom. (read how to measure a zipper)

    Start at the top plug and measure down to desired length. Mark the desired location. Make sure the zipper pull is close to the top plug.

    Step 2: Sew

    Where you want the zipper to end, stitch over the teeth a few times to keep your zipper from coming apart.

    This can be done on your machine using a wide zigzag stitch or with some hand sewing on the zipper teeth. I used contrasting colored stitching so you can see better, but it would be much better to use matching thread. If you are hand sewing, use strong double thread. I love hand sewing with decorative thread. When using a sewing machine, you can use regular polyester thread.

    Step 3: Cut

    Using some old scissors (not your precious sewing scissors), snip 1 inch (2.5 cm) off your stitch.

    Be extra careful not to cut through any metal pieces.

    How to Shorten a Zipper - Metal

    Depending on your sewing project, you can shorten metal zippers just like you can shorten nylon zippers. However, you need to be extra careful when sewing the bottom of the zipper because if the needle hits any metal it can wreak havoc on your machine.

    There is also a way to shorten metal zippers. It does take longer, but it means you won't need to sew metal when attaching the zipper to your project.

    Step 1: Measure

    Measure the desired length from the bottom plug and mark it out. Don't forget that the length of the zipper is measured along the teeth, not along the zipper tape.

    Step 2: Tooth extraction

    Using pliers, remove the tooth above the mark. (towards the top of the zipper). Carefully remove the top plug. You'll want to reuse the plug, so try not to cause any damage. I used fairly large pliers since that's what I found in the garage, but smaller pliers improve accuracy.

    Step 3: Reattach the Stopper

    Press down on the top plugs with pliers and reinstall them. I found this to be the most tedious part of shortening metal zippers. Alternatively, you can add a small amount of glue or sew a few stitches to keep the end of the zipper from coming off the teeth.

    Don't just leave the end without the stopper, because it will pull the end off when you zip it up the first time.

    Step 4: Cut

    Cut 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the plug. You can use small scissors to keep it from fraying. You will notice that the original end was cut off with small scissors.

    How to Shorten a Zipper - Summary

    Now that you've learned how to shorten a zipper, you're ready to insert it into your next sewing project.

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