Dependable, reliable, quality zippers are worth their weight in gold. They can make or break a garment or accessory.
When choosing the appropriate zipper for your particular project you will have to look at many factors like length of the seam, design and type of fabric.
Anatomy of a zipper
1. Teeth – This is the central part of a zipper- The track of the zipper which can be of plastic or metal. The zipper is opened or closed by using these teeth.
2. Tape – This is the fabric on either side of the zipper teeth. It is usually made of polyester. This is stitched to the fabric to attach the zipper
3. Pull and slider – This is the metal/plastic piece which opens and closes the zipper teeth by moving along the teeth track. The pull is used to move the slider
4. Stopper – this is the metal thing at the edge of the zipper teeth which stops the zipper teeth from separating fully. There are stoppers on top of the teeth and at the bottom
( For a separating zipper, instead of a bottom stopper there is a box and pin mechanism which closes the zipper and slides it open)
Types of zippers
1. Closed-end zipper
Your ordinary zipper. Those zippers that do not separate at the bottom; have a stopper at the bottom end stopping the pull from going further and separating.
2. Separating zippers
This zipper has both ends open with one auto locking slider at the end- they have a lock (a box and pin mechanism) at the bottom which can be used to attach the zipper teeth. The separating nature of the zipper helps in ease in sitting, moving etc.
You can use this type of zippers on jackets, construction clothing, coats, sweatshirts, hoodies, blouses, vests where the whole two parts have to be opened. They usually come in long lengths. These zippers are also called open ended zippers.
3. Two way separating zippers
These are also called dual zippers, double zippers, or two-head zippers. They have two sliders/ pulls. When the zipper is installed, the bottom slider can move up the teeth of the zipper, unzipping the lower portion of the zipper.
The separating zippers are used on a seam which has to be fully opened. They are great when used in front open jackets. You also see them on luggages.
4. Continuous zipper chain
These are extra long zippers which you can cut in any length you want – they are as long as 100 – 300 plus inches long. The extra long zipper chains are used for tents, cushions , garment bags, mattress covers etc or anywhere that you want that needs longer than average zippers.
According to the type of material with which the zippers are made they are classified as follows
5. Nylon coil zippers
These are thin zippers made of plastic with polyester sides. They are very lightweight and are available as separating or closed or two way separating and in different lengths
6. Metal teeth zippers.
These come in many lengths and in many makes. The short zippers used on jeans have a shiny gold/brass finish. They are available in 4 -9-inch lengths. Then there are aluminum zippers. These are heavy-duty heavy gauge zippers. Nickel ones have a shiny silver finish and are more durable than aluminium ones. These are usually used for sewing on heavy weight fabrics.
7. Molded plastic zippers
These plastic zippers are also called parka zippers and look almost like metal zippers. These are used on jackets, Parkas, bath robes, coats, hoodies, sweaters, sportswear, fleece jackets etc. They look very attractive and at the same time are lightweight, heat-resistant and rust proof.
According to the use to which they are put to, the zippers are classified as
8. Pant Zippers
These are short nylon coil zippers (7″ usually); also called pants zippers in my part of the world – because this is the type of zippers used on a pant fly. They are made of plastic with polyester sides; can also have nickel teeth. You can use them on skirts, pillows, purses and blouse backs. There are special zippers in which the teeth is enameled to match the tape.
They usually have a stopper at the bottom to prevent them from getting separated. If you have a zipper in which you have cut out this stopper you will have to manually sew the zipper teeth together to prevent them from separating
Special extra-study brass zipper teeth ones are used for jeans, work pants etc.
9. Invisible zippers
This is a type of zipper which looks almost invisible when applied on a seam except for its small narrow pull. An invisible zipper foot is generally used. You can sew this with a zipper foot as well. You can use this on the back of dresses and the side seams of tight-fitting dresses, skirts, etc. and it will look almost as if there is no zipper there, just a seam.
10. Bag zippers
These zippers are coil zippers that have a non-lock slider/pull. These zippers do not separate at the bottom. These are available at lengths of 9 inches and 14 inches
11. Water repellant zippers
These are best for use on tents, outdoor gear, etc. These are sturdy weatherproof zippers that will survive all rough weather.
Other uses: For making backpack, sports bags etc. you need zippers that are extra long but non-separating. But for making tents, sleeping bags, boat covers, covers for vehicles you need extra long separating zippers. For sewing lightweight jackets Lightweight aluminum separating zipper with enameled teeth can be used. For heavy jackets brass zippers which are separating and has auto-locking sliders are used.
According to their application. You can find the tutorial to sew different types of zippers here.
12. Lapped Zippers
In this application, the zipper is covered with fabric (a placket or the opening itself) by the clever use of stitching in a particular way. It can be used as a side opening or center back opening in clothes. More about sewing lapped zippers can be found here.
13. Centered Zippers
In this application the zipper is stitched to a seam as it is – it is not concealed by any extra fabric.
14. Exposed zippers
Here the zipper is deliberately exposed – usually large teethed metal and plastic zippers are used for this. You can check out this post on exposed zippers for more details
15. Fly zippers.
The kind of zipper application used in front of pants. Check out this post on sewing a trouser fly zipper here.
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Updated on September 5, 2022 by Sarina Tariq
My comment is not showing up. Not sure if I have to wait for moderation? I will repeat myself and if this is a double post then go ahead and delete it! I’m just beginning to do some repurposing, reworking, reusing on leather goods. I have an awesome, brand new, unused zipper I removed from a bag. I want to use it on a jacket. The end is encased in leather and I’m sure isn’t made to open. Is there a way to use this closed end zipper on an open-ended project? Is there a way to modify it? I would like to know that I have a good chance of success, before destroying it. If it WON’T be possible in ANY WAY, I’ll have to figure something else out for both pieces!
I’m just getting into doing some leather work, (reworking, Repurposing) I pulled a GREAT brand new zipper from a bag. It has one end encased in leather. I want to add it to the front of a jacket, but don’t want to destroy it if it isn’t going to work. Is there any way to make what is most likely a closed end, into a fully opening useable zipper?
I am sorry about your troubles. Have you checked this shop in Texas – austincreativereuse.org. I have read about it as supplying reusable things for sewing at affordable price. Hope that someone reading would answer to your specific query. Best wishes
I left the page for a moment to look something up and came back and my email was gone so I am going to repeat myself and hope this is not redundant. My seamstress has made me four 16” pillows with seven zippers. This seemed problematic to me so I took an insert out and have not yet been able to get it back in. I called her and she said if I bought the zippers she would redo them for four dollars each. however I am in the dark. I know nothing about sewing, zippers etc. I can see that she is invisible zippers so your tutorial here was very informative for me. I think I now realize that I can buy longer invisible zippers and she can cut them down. I will be having her make several very large pillows and kind of crazy different colors after the holidays so I was thrilled to see these bundles of all different colors for a very affordable price on Amazon. I texted it to her and she was concerned because she has never worked with those before and has a name brands she likes to buy At a fabric store store. Fact the only one in town – San Antonio – if you can believe that. Do you have experience working with these inexpensive zippers and will I have trouble in the future with them in your opinion? If you do think so is there a brand-name you could suggest to me that would maybe be less expensive than the others and where to get it online? I am on disability so I have to watch my pennies and this disability has eliminated the independence of a car so I cannot chase around town for something. Thank you so much for your informative site. I have forwarded it to my seamstress so that she can hopefully use it with her clients.
In my experience you get to buy 7 inch zipper and longer. You shorten the zipper to the length you want – cut off the extra and attach the tab to keep the zipper opening up. Correct me if I am wrong.
I am looking for a very short zipper. The fabric is 4″ while the metal zipper part is only 3″. Where might I find one that short? It was used on a pair of shorts. Thanks!
I am in zipper business and I find it informative for everyone
North Face will replace zippers for free. Try that?
#3 two way separating zipper
I need a 28″ grey two way RIGHT hand invisible zipper. Where can I get one or can I get one from you? The one on my NorthFace coat has a small tooth plastic or nylon tooth zipper. I think it is a #5 because it has a 5 on the back of the pulls. I’m thinking I might should go to a slightly bigger size, but not too huge. Can you please make a suggestion based on your expertise ?
Please what is the best size nylon zipper to use for regular pant, length and width of chain?
Thank you so much!
Are you talking about the double slider zipper pulls with a continuous zipper – or something more complicated ? The double slider zipper pulls work like this – The sliders meet and they each have a projection and a hole and you can insert the shank of a lock, such as a padlock or combination(number) lock through these holes so that the sliders are locked together. You can get it on online shops like amazon.
If this is not the right one, I hope some one else will enlighten.
Hi, Graham here from Christchurch New Zealand. I broke a zip in the top of my large backpack & am having difficulty finding one that does the same action. Namely – if you pull both pullers into the middle, which is the centre of the zip, the zip is then closed & a small padlock can secure them both. Pull both pullers apart & the zip opens.
Does this type of zip have a name? Because I can’t find a similar one on ebay.
Hope someone can advise or direct me.
Thanks for this opportunity.
Cheers – Graham.
This is so helpful, thanks a bunch!
In this fast paced world of fashion today one can never say you have enough knowledge and skill to master any design thrown your way.I am thankful and grateful for the opportunity to receive more information to guide and help me through any challenge. Thank You.
this information has really helped me in my studies as a college student who is willing to major in textile and design.i appreciate all effort that was done to put this simplified information together.