Several hobbyists take one look at a pattern that includes zippers, and they just turn the page!
The prospect of dealing with this seemingly complicated garment accessory is known to be a bit terrifying for sewing enthusiasts, and it’s not just the beginners who have that sentiment, but plenty of the pros, as well.
However, this outlook changes completely once you get to know the basics of the different types of zippers, and how best to sew them in. The process is actually quite simple.
Getting to Know Zipper Basics
First things first, and before we get into the different types of zippers, we should start with the rudimentary of these versatile accessories.
Why Do We Need Zippers?
Zippers open and close a garment, but is that all? Here are a few more benefits you get from sewing in the right zippers:
- Showing off the natural curves or athletic frame of the body.
- A light jacket with a zipper is much more suitable for moody weather than a hoodie.
- A zippered jacket doesn’t spoil your hairdo the way a pullover or turtleneck wood.
- Getting into a dress is much easier when it has a zipper.
- Zippered pockets are great for keeping your belongings safe.
- Zippered bags are more secure.
- Decorative zippers add a lot to the way a garment looks.
The Main Parts of a Zipper
This section is the only jargon you need to know where zippers are concerned. A zipper generally consists of the following parts:
Top and Bottom Stops
These are small metallic parts attached to both ends of the zipper. Their sole function is to keep the zipper moving in a specific range. This is what you’d need in most garments like dresses, trousers, and pockets.
Slider Body and Pull Tab
The slider body is the flat part that moves up and down the chain, and as it slides it opens or closes the zipper. The pull tab is the little handle that you can use to push the slider body in either direction.
Sometimes this handle breaks, and most of us push the sliding body directly. Which isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do!
This is the track that the slider body moves on to open or close the zipper. The teeth should be 100% intact for the zipper to work properly. Otherwise, it needs replacement.
The tape is the fabric part left and right of the chain. This is the part we use to sew the zipper into the garment.
Insertion Pin and Retainer Box
These parts are only available in the separating zippers, like the ones you have in your jacket. The insertion pin and retainer box are both found at the bottom of the zipper. With this type, these structures replace the bottom and top stops.
Zippers Size and Weight
Zippers can be made from different materials and as such, they’d have widely varying weights. If the fabric you’re working with is a light material, then choose a lightweight nylon zipper. The heavier metal-stamped zippers could spoil such delicate fabrics, but they’ll work fine with sturdy fabric.
Sizes should also match. So, for example, small zippers with numbers 1-4, are best suited for dresses, skirts, and pants, in addition to handbags and cushions. The medium-sized ones from 5-7 are used mainly in jackets, luggage, and boots. While the large zippers 8-10 are made for industrial clothing, upholstery, and tents.
You could use a chart to help you in selecting the precise size you need, and the recommended weight and zipper material for your fabric.
The Different Types of Zippers and What They’re Used For
Zippers are roughly divided into two types: closed bottom and separating zippers. The first ones are used where the zippers don’t open all the way, like in your jeans. While the separating ones are what you’d typically find in a jacket.
Here are some more zipper types and why you might need them.
1. Dual Zippers
These are like the standard separating zippers, but they have two sliders, and an insertion pin and retainer box on both ends. That’s how they could work in either direction. This variety is often found in luggage.
2. Nylon Coil Zippers
These are among the most common zippers, and this type is what you’d most probably be using in your sewing project.
The nylon coil zippers are made primarily from plastic, with the tape part most often made from polyester. Being made from such lightweight materials is itself a big plus, as they don’t weigh down the fabric in any way.
They’re quite easy to sew in, and so beginners love to work with this type! The nylon coil zippers are also available in a wide assortment of colors, so finding the best match for your fabric is a breeze.
3. Metal-Teeth Zippers
- Material - Nylon tape, metal teeth and...
- Size - 15 cm(6 inch), 20 cm(7.9 inch)...
- Closed-end - Ideal for sewing or making...
- Attractive Zip Pulls - The drop-shaped...
- Package - Set of 10 pieces
A fancy-looking zipper often complements a garment and adds some glam to it, and metal-teeth zippers are known to do just that. They’re shiny and look pricey, and they’re actually quite sturdy and durable, as well.
You can find these zippers in all sizes. The smaller range usually has a gold or brass finish, and they’re generally used for garments. The larger ones often come in heavy-duty Nickel or Aluminum, and they work best with tents and luggage.
4. Molded Zippers
These types of zippers seem to be an integral part of the fabric, with the chain, tape, slider, and all of its parts matching the color of the garment. This type is quite elegant, and it’s often installed in ready-made clothing items, rather than in hobbyist projects.
These zippers are often made from plastic, and their widest use is in parkas, hence their nickname ‘parka zippers’. Besides that, you’d also find them in prime quality bathing suits, hoodies, sweaters, sportswear, and of course, jackets.
Molded zippers look great in any garment, but they have a few more perks on top of that. They’re also rustproof, they’re not damaged by heat, and they’re lightweight, so the fabrics don’t sag under their weight.
5. Invisible Zippers
These invisible zippers are slim, lightweight, and they’re sewn in a special way that makes them appear to be a seam in the garment, not really a zipper. The only part that reveals it being a zipper is the tiny pull, and even that is partially concealed by the flaps of the garment.
This chic zipper is often used for formal dresses, skirts, slim fit garments, and wherever the existence of a zipper would spoil the overall look.
6. Pant Zippers
These are more formally known as nylon coil zippers. They’re widely used zippers, and not just for pants. The name is probably given as an indication of the regular length of these zippers and the amount of tape available on their sides. These zippers are often made from plastic, with cotton or polyester side tapes.
This versatile type of zipper can be found in skirts, blouses, cushion covers, pillowcases, in addition to purses and similar applications.
7. Lapped Zippers
Lapped zippers are a little like invisible zippers in the way that they don’t show as you look at the garment or bag. This is done primarily by sewing the zipper inside a lapel or an extra layer of fabric. You would find this type in high-end parkas and elegant jackets mostly.
This is an excellent tutorial demonstrating how to sew in a lapped zipper.
8. Water-Resistant Zippers
Anything that’s used outdoors needs a water-resistant fabric, including all the accessories used on it. Otherwise, these items would rust in no time at all. Tents and winter coats are among the main beneficiaries of this tech, for obvious reasons.
The same requirement is found in sports gear, sportswear, bags, and parkas. Sewing in these rugged heavyweight zippers might take a bit more skill, but it’s not difficult to learn at all. For best results, the kind of thread you use with these zippers should also match its heavy-duty intent.
9. Extra-Long/Continuous Zipper Chain
Sometimes, the application you’re working on requires a zipper that’s much longer than a pant’s fly. For example, upholstery, vehicle coverings, sleeping bags, and tents. These are all items that need super long zippers.
The continuous zipper chains often come in lengths exceeding the usual 10-inch varieties, all the way to 100, 200, and 300 inches long. There’s more if you need it, but it might take a bit more searching in specialized outlets.
10. Exposed Zippers
Exposed zippers often have a decorative function besides their functionality for opening or closing. They could also have a solely decorative presence, without working as real zippers at all.
Many trendy garments boast of such accessories, and they come in large shiny metallic chains to make an even more intense visual impact. Click here to learn how to sew exposed zippers into your garments.
Zippers are such an easy way to open and close something, yet they seem to be the most difficult to work with. Sewing in a zipper might look like a complicated process, but it’s really not – and it’s not just functional. It can actually add glam to your garment.
That was a roundup of some of the most popular types of zippers, and the best ways to incorporate them into your clothes, bags, or any other items that you’d like to install a zipper on.