Sewing Your First Zipper- the centered zipper

By Gertie from the New Blog for Better Sewing

If you’ve never sewn a zipper before, you’ll want to start with the centered zipper. This is an application that puts the zipper teeth right in the middle of a seam line. The zipper opening is topstitched to secure the zipper teeth.

Why a centered zipper? Because this is the most basic zipper application. If you’re interested in building your sewing skills, you’ll want to start at the very beginning, as they say. You will probably go on to find another favorite method (like a lapped zipper or an invisible zipper), but the centered application is the method that all those skills will build on. Let’s get started!

You’ll need:

·         A 7” all-purpose zipper

·         A ruler for marking

·         Chalk or a marking pencil

·         Your machine set up with all-purpose thread


1.      First, you’ll sew the seam below the zipper opening, and baste the zipper opening shut. To mark this, measure 7-5/8” below the top of your fabric. (The zipper has a seam allowance included at the top; that’s what the 5/8” is for.) Make a mark with your pencil or chalk.

2.      Pin your fabric pieces together.

3.      At your machine, using a regular presser foot, baste (use a long straight stitch) until you get to your mark. Switch your stitch length to 2.5. Stitch a couple stitches, backstitch to the mark, and then complete the seam, backstitching at the end. (Note: if you’re putting the zipper in the middle of a seamline, like on a zippered pouch, you’ll stitch both above and below the zipper opening.)

4.      Press the seam flat and then open.

5.      Transfer your zipper mark to the seam allowances.

6.      Lay the zipper on seam allowance, aligning the bottom zipper stop with your chalk mark. Center the zipper teeth over your basted seamline.

7.      Pin the zipper tape to the seam allowances only. This means that the outer fabric will be free, and your pins will only go through the zipper tape and the seam allowance of the fabric. Note my pin directions in the photo; I place the heads in a certain direction so they’re easier to pull out as I’m sewing.

8.      Install a zipper foot on your machine, and use a long basting stitch to baste the zipper tape in place down the middle, stitching only through the zipper tape and the seam allowance below. Do not stitch the outer fabric! When you finish one side, turn your work around and stitch up the other side of the zipper tape. (See how the direction of the pin heads helps you?) This step is a little tricky because you’ll have to stitch around the bulky zipper pull. But don’t worry if your stitches get a little crooked, they won’t show on the outside of your project.

9.      Remove a couple inches of basting. This will allow you to move the zipper pull up and down to get it out of your way as you topstitch.

10.  Mark your stitching lines ¼” all the way around the zipper opening. This will form a rectangular shape at the bottom.

11.  Top stitch on your marking lines, pivoting at the lower corners. When you get to the zipper pull, stop with your needle down and pull it up or down, out of your way.

12.   Remove your basting stitches and clean up any loose threads.

13.  Voila! You have a centered zipper!

Once you’ve mastered the centered zipper, try your hand at our tutorials for a lapped zipper and an invisible zipper (coming soon).

 Gretchen “Gertie” Hirsch is a passionate home seamstress and the creator of one of the web’s most popular sewing blogs: Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing. She teaches sewing in New York City, around the country, on PBS’s It’s Sew Easy, and on Her work has been featured in Sew Stylish, Vogue Patterns Magazine, Threads Magazine, Stitch Magazine, and on

3 thoughts on “Sewing Your First Zipper- the centered zipper

  1. Debb Reply

    In my 9th grade sewing class, instead of pins, we used scotch tape to “pin” the zipper in place. Strips of tape all the way across the zipper (perpindicular to the seam) basted the zipper, then on the right side of the garment, another piece of scotch tape, centered over the basted seam gives you a guide to sew a perfect centered zipper. Easy, peasy!

  2. Anonymous Reply

    i need directions for the zipper bracelets! 7 inch as advertised at michaels by coats and clark
    terry thanks

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