How to Shorten a Zipper | Free Sewing with Zippers Tutorial

How to Shorten a Zipper

Hello! Stephanie from Stephie B’s Designs here again today with another sewing tutorial. This time I’ll be showing you how to shorten a zipper, something you may all need to do from time to time.

How to Shorten a Zipper?

Because I sew clothing in many different sizes, I never know what zipper length I may to need and I don’t always have the time to run to the store to buy one every time a project comes up. So, I tend to keep several 14″ and 22″ zippers on hand (in many different colors, of course), and shorten them as needed. That way I’ll always have a zipper when I need it.

Depending on your sewing project, you’ll need zippers to come in different sizes and this often involves shortening a zipper. Making your existing zipper isn’t too difficult. I’ll show you everything you need to do it today. For this zipper tutorial, I am shortening a 14″ all-purpose zipper down to a 12″ zipper for my sewing project.

First, I’ll show you how to easily shorten a zipper by hand – then I’ll give you a couple tips and tricks to doing it with a sewing machine:

Sewing a Zipper by Hand

How to Shorten a Zipper Step 1: Measure and Mark

As you can see in the image below, the zipper length is measured from the zipper stop at the top, to the zipper stop at the bottom. This is a 14″ zipper.

In order to shorten the zipper, you’ll need to create a new zipper stop at the bottom of the zipper at your desired length (I never knew I could use the word zipper so many times in one sentence!)

In my case, I want a 12″ zipper, so I use my handy dandy disappearing ink fabric marker to draw a line where the new zipper stop will be.

Shortening a Zipper Step 2: Create the Zipper Stop

Grab some thread and a needle, knot the end of the thread, and lets make a zipper stop.

Starting from the bottom of the zipper tape, position your needle as close to the zipper teeth as possible at your marked line and push it through to the top. I tend to start on the right side of the zipper – from my perspective.

Now push your needle back down on the other side of the teeth along that marked line – again, as close to the teeth as possible.

Push the needle back up from the bottom, through the spot you pushed it through just a moment ago, to create a loop around the zipper teeth.

Repeat the last couple steps – making loops around the teeth – about 12-15 times.

As you can see below, you’ve created a zipper stop!

How to Shorten a Zipper Step 3: Tie off the Thread

Tie off the thread and proceed to Step 4… you’re almost done!

If you aren’t sure how you should tie it off, though, I can help you with that, too.

Flip the zipper over so the bottom is facing you. Slide the needle under the new zipper stop through the center along the teeth.

To knot it, I wrap the thread around my needle 2 or 3 times, then pull the needle away from the zipper to tighten and create the knot.

Repeat a couple times and you’re good to go… You’re thread has been knotted off! Cut off the excess thread, turn the zipper over, and admire you’re work. 🙂

How to Shorten a Zipper Step 4: Cut off the Excess Zipper Tape

Cut off the bottom portion of the tape at least 1/2″ below the new zipper stop.

Finally, finish the new end with pinking shears, a lighter (use caution of course!), or your choice of seam sealant, such as Fray Check.

And you’re DONE!!! Now you know how to shorten a zipper.

It feels great to learn something new, doesn’t it? Glad I could help. 🙂

We’d like to thank Stephanie for her great tutorial today! For your reference, we’ve decided to add a couple more thoughts on other methods of shortening zippers or shortening other types of zippers.

Shortening a Zipper With a Sewing Machine

The process isn’t much different with a sewing machine. You would still mark and measure the zipper the same way that was done above. Then, instead of hand sewing around the zipper to create the zipper stop, you would simple go over the marked line with your sewing machine a few times to create a strong new stop. Make sure to sew stitches a little bit on both sides of the zipper too.

At the end, you would trip the zipper tape – just as was done above.

Shortening Other Types of Zippers

The tutorial above showed the process of shortening a typical nylon coil zipper. The process used above works great for the nylon coil zipper and would work well on other non-separating zippers – like invisible zippers. These are all zippers that don’t separate at the end.

A separating zipper would be something like you would have on a jacket – like the one in the picture below. In a separating zipper the two pieces of the bottom come apart and then can be placed back together. Separating zippers come with both metal or plastic teeth and the process of shortening them is different.

The process of sewing separating zippers is somewhat more difficult as you need to leave the existing zipper stop in place and remove a portion of the top part of the zipper. In this instance you’ll do the following:

Step 1: Measure from the zipper stop at the bottom up to where you want the finished length of your zipper to be.

Step 2: Remove the top zipper stops with your pliers. Needle nose pliers work well for this step. (Note: It’s often possible to reuse these top zipper stops so try not to damage them).

Step 3: Remove each zipper tooth at the top of the zipper that you won’t need to get your finished zipper length.

Step 4: Place the zippers stops on (the ones you you removed in step 1) with your needle nosed pliers. You can also buy replacement zipper stops if necessary….and if this is a plastic separating zipper then it will be necessary to either buy replacement zipper stops or sew some thread in place at the top to make your own.

There are a number of other tutorials that go over the process of shortening a separating zipper in more depth but I just wanted to go over it with you briefly here so you know that the process is different when sewing with a metal tooth separating zipper or plastic tooth separating zipper as opposed to the nylon coil zipper used in the tutorial above.

Other Tutorials on Sewing Zippers

Thank you for joining Stephanie today to learn all about shortening a zipper. Working with zippers is an essential sewing skill and something you’ll do over and over. We have a number of other tutorials on sewing zippers. Here’s a couple of them:

(1) How to Sew an Invisible Zipper: Stephie B is back in this tutorial to teach us the ins and outs of sewing an invisible zipper. An invisible zipper is a zipper that is blended into the seam of the clothing so that the zipper teeth are not visible. In this tutorial she’ll take you through all of the steps to using a sewing machine to sew these zippers.

(2) How to Sew Zippers 101: In this tutorial Sarah goes over everything you need to know about zippers – picking the right type of zipper, how to sew zippers using a zipper foot, and finishing a zipper. This is a must see tutorial if you’re new to zippers and sewing.

We sure hope you enjoyed this tutorial on shortening zippers. Adding zippers to your sewing projects won’t be near as difficult if you follow the advice here at Peek-a-Boo Pages. Thanks for joining us today!

As always, be sure to join the Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop Facebook group for info on our latest sewing patterns and help with your sewing projects.

How to Shorten a Zipper

One Response

  1. How do you shorten the zipper at the top. I have a zipper for a jacket so it needs to go all the way to the bottom and close at the. botto,

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