How To Make A Zipper

Okay, I’m not actually going to “make” the zipper. Maybe a better title would be “How to Assemble a Zipper.” To start you need to gather your materials.

You’ll need:

  • nylon coil zipper yardage, size 5 (14 inches)

  • zipper pull / slide, size 5 (1 piece)

  • zipper top stops (2 pieces)

  • zipper bottom stop (1 piece)

  • iron-on hem tape

  • scissors (small snipping shears work well)

  • jeweler’s pliers

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Decide how long you want your zipper to be. Cut your zipper yardage about 2 inches longer than your desired length. I am going to make a 12” zipper, so I’ve cut 14” of zipper yardage.

Now pull apart the coil on one end about an inch.

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Snip off about 1/4” from the right side of the zipper tape (if you’re left handed cut off 1/4” from the left side of the tape.)

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This is the zipper pull I will be using:

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The slide part of every zipper pull has a rounded side and a squared off side. With a fancy pull like this one, it’s easiest to show you this on the bottom of the slide:

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You need to thread the zipper through the rounded edge of the slide. With your left hand grasp the left side of the zipper tape between your thumb and forefinger. With your right hand thread the left side of the slide onto the left side of the tape. This will go on fairly easily.

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Now for the tricky part: This takes a bit of practice. The left side of the tape is still between the thumb and forefinger of your left hand. With your right hand, thread the right side of the tape into the right side of the slide.

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Once you’ve inserted the right side into the slide, still holding the left side between your thumb and forefinger of your left hand, using the middle finger of your left hand, grasp the right side of the zipper tape … like this:

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Now, with your right hand jiggle the zipper pull until it engages. Yes, it’s awkward. It’ll take a few tries the first time. Just when you’re about to give up … it’ll suddenly catch … success!

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Once it catches, pull the zipper all the way down to the other end. Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem to be even. It almost never is. When you get the pull to about an inch from the other end, stop. It’ll look something like this:

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You’re almost there! The hardest part is done. Pull apart the zipper coil at the end. Now we’re going to put on the top stops. Top stops are impossibly tiny little clamps that attach to either side of the zipper tape to keep the pull from sliding off.

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Top stops have two prongs on one side and one on the other side. Take the side with one prong and push it between two of the zipper teeth (it’ll fit perfectly between the teeth). Then push the side with two prongs through the zipper tape.

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Now, bend the prongs inward with a jeweler’s pliers. To avoid scratching the metal I usually advise covering the pliers with masking tape. But there is another way to keep from scratching the finish. You can fold the fabric of the zipper over the right side of the top stop and squeeze with your pliers through the fabric … like this:

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Once the three prongs are securely bent inward, it will look like this:

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Repeat the process on the other side of the zipper tape, directly across from the first stop. Now you’re ready to install the bottom stop. About an inch from the bottom of the zipper, position your bottom stop across the zipper coil, like this:

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The bottom stop has four prongs that will easily pierce the fabric, like this:

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Using the same method as you did to install the top stops, bend the prongs inward, using the fabric of the zipper tape to shield the finish of the stop from scratches:

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Now your zipper’s about 95% finished. In fact, if you want, you can stop right here. But I will show you how to put the finishing touch on your zipper. On the left is my zipper up to this point, and on the right is a zipper that I purchased in a store.

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Do you notice the difference? The commercial zipper has no teeth beyond the top stops, and the edges are finished off. I’m going to do this, too. I’ll use hem tape, the iron-on kind. I’ve chosen this for its twill weave and sheen. It’ll make a nice finishing touch. First, with snipping shears cut off the zipper teeth that extend past the top stops:

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Now cut a piece of the hem tape to the length of the edge:

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Fold the tape in half and place it along the raw edge, encasing the edge between the fold of the hem tape. Now just iron it in place:

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Repeat this process on the other side. Open up the coil on the other end, past the bottom stop. Cut off the excess coil and bind those raw edges with hem tape too. Now, all that remains is to finish off the end edges. Cut four half inch pieces of hem tape and fold them in half:

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Now, fold each piece over each end part of the zipper tape and press them into place with your iron. Now, you’re 100% done! Your zipper will look like this:

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Very nice! I like this homemade zipper better than the store-bought one, and it was much less expensive. With practice, you can put together a zipper like this in no time.