| Sewing Patterns for the Modern Woman - Blog Post: How to Shorten a Zipper

How to Shorten a Zipper

By Allie

Allie is the co-founder of Indiesew and creator of all things pretty on the site. Follow Allie and receive other Indiesew updates by subscribing to the blog.

Indiesew Tutorials | How to Shorten a Zipper

My first experience sewing on a zipper was at a Modern Domestic class I took in 2008. We were tackling piped pillow covers with an invisible zip closure. I was still very much a beginner sewist, but the class sounded fun in a naïve, I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-getting-into sort of way.

It turned out to be one of my favorite sewing classes I’ve ever taken. In that class our instructor gave stellar instructions to insert an invisible zipper into our pillows. She made sure we used Wonder Tape so that the zipper tape didn’t shift while we were sewing. And she gave clear and concise instructions on how to use the invisible zipper foot. Seven years later, I still cannot replicate the precision of my first invisible zipper sewn in that class.

In this class we were also shown a technique that, until starting Indiesew, I figured was common knowledge. We were taught how to shorten a zipper, a method that I’ve used countless times since. But over the past two years, I’ve found that many sewists had no idea a zipper could be shortened. So today, I’ll show you how to shorten your own zippers so that you can finally use that 22” brass zipper you’ve been hoarding.

This tutorial will apply to invisible and standard zippers (both metal and plastic) sewn into dresses, skirts, jeans, and handbags. I briefly touch on this method in Part 8 of the Jamie Jeans Sewalong

The Evergreen Jacket and the Dropje Vest require a different method for shortening a zipper, which involves pulling the zipper teeth and reattaching the stops. This technique is covered in the Evergreen Jacket pattern instructions and also in the first part of this post. 




Read your pattern instructions and decide how long your shortened zipper should be. Zippers are measured from the top zipper stops to the bottom zipper stops. On most zippers, the zipper tape will extend beyond both stops by roughly .5 to .75”.

Five inch metal zipper | Indiesew Blog

Using a seam gauge, ruler or measuring tape, mark where your new zipper should stop on both sides of the zipper tape.

Mark desired zipper length | Sewing Tutorials




We’ll be sewing a simple bar tack to the end of your zipper, so you’ll need to change your stitch settings. I use a zigzag stitch with a wide side-to-side and the shortest length settings.

Bar Tack Stitch Settings | How to Shorten a Zipper




Center and lower your presser foot over the zipper teeth. Turn your hand wheel a few times to make sure that your zigzag stitch will clear the zipper teeth. If your needle is traveling through the zipper teeth, increase the width of your zigzag stitch so that the stitch travels only through the zipper tape.

If your needle comes into contact with the zipper teeth (especially on metal zippers) it will likely break in a loud, startling episode that you'll swear never to replicate. Trust me.

Make sure your zigzag stitch is wider than your zipper teeth

Then, sew roughly ten stitches back and forth. These overlapping stitches will act as the new zipper stop. The side-by-side image below shows this method on both a metal zipper and a plastic invisible zipper.

Indiesew Blog |  Sew bar tack over zipper teeth




With the bar tack sewn, trim off the excess zipper teeth and tape using a pair of non-fabric scissors. For invisible and plastic zips, you can simply cut through the zipper teeth and tape.

How to Shorten a Zipper | Trim plastic invisible zipper

For metal zippers, gently maneuver the scissors between the zipper teeth until you’ve cut through the zipper. I use thread snips because the small blades can glide between the metal zipper teeth.

Trim metal zipper with small thread snips |

Voila! You now have a shortened zipper ready to be sewn into your garment or handbag! Simply sew your shortened zipper into your new garment as your sewing pattern instructs.

Shortened Metal Zipper | Sewing Tutorial

Do you have other tips for shortening zippers? I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments below. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook to receive daily handmade wardrobe inspiration!

Happy sewing!  

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You read that right. Zippers can be shortened! Find out how with these four simple steps. |

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