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Tips & Techniques > Shortening Zippers

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Posted by: Gigi Louis

About Gigi Louis starstarstarstar
Member since: 4/4/02
Reviews: 77 (tips: 16)
Skill level:Advanced
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Posted on: 11/11/02 1:18 PM
Review Rating: Helpful by 3 people   Very Helpful by 6 people   
I love to work with sport zippers and it's always difficult to find them the right color, never mind the right length. Standard zippers are lightweight and easy to just shorten from the top but it's trickier when working with a bulky separating zipper. I now buy them long and just shorten them to the length I need. So if I need an 18.75" long separator I can get exactly that.

Before shortening the zipper I go ahead and machine baste it into the opening beginning the stitching not at the raw edge but at the seam intersection. This will give me room to turn the excess tape into the seam.

For plastic zippers I use a diagonal cutter (the Fiskars one is my favorite because it has a fine head) and just clip off the teeth.

For metal zippers I pull the teeth off the tape with a pair of pliers. Once you get the hang of it they come off pretty easily. Just give them a good pull.

Now the excess tape can be folded into the seam (and you can stitch without worrying that you are going to break a needle on the zipper teeth!). This is enough to keep from zipping off the slider. If you like, you can add a new top stop - they are available in brass and nickel from Atlanta Thread & Supply and are just pinched on with pliers.

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kiddo said... (6/29/07 11:10 PM) Reply
Gigi, thank you for the great tip. It's 2007 and it came in handy. Good tips and ideas never die. Thank you for your time writing this tip.
Gigi Louis said... (10/4/03 10:31 PM) Reply
Joy, I have taken them off but not reinstalled them. If you are careful in removing them I don't see why you couldn't do that. Generally, I just fold the extra tape into the seam - this is sufficient as a stop. However, I did recently purchase some stops in brass and nickel from I haven't used them yet - you know how when you're buying mail order you want to make the shipping charges worthwhile...?
Joyfullife said... (10/4/03 4:39 PM) Reply
Sorry, it's me again! Not sure if I asked my question I cut the extra teeth off of the tape, keeping the tape long enough to fold under? I think the top stops are metal, and I would love to figure out a way to take them off and re-install them. Have you done this before?
Gigi Louis said... (10/4/03 4:33 PM) Reply
Yes, Joy, that's it! Now, this is not recommended for coil zippers (like the lightweight ones we use in pants and dresses) - the coil will start unravelling from the tape! But molded plastic teeth as those found on most separating zippers can just be snipped off at the top to the exact length required. Geez, I see that I promised to take some photos - I completely forgot! So sorry, I will work on it.
Joyfullife said... (10/4/03 4:15 PM) Reply
I am trying to figure out how to do this. I have a plastic zipper, so if I understand correctly, I just cut out the teeth part but leave the tape to fold under?
Gigi Louis said... (1/23/03 5:48 PM) Reply
Cjn - I will check into the end nippers. Thanks for the tip! :-)
Cjn said... (1/23/03 12:14 PM) Reply
If you do this often, purchase a pair of "end nipper" pliers. They are about $20.00 US and are well worth it! They allow you to squeeze and cut the teeth rather than pull them and risking raveling the tape. Also, if the top stops are metal, you can gently ease them open and reuse them or purchase extras from a wholesaler. I prefer using brass teethed zippers-aluminum teeth not as strong. Mylar teeth okay--use them on childrens coats as they are easier on small hands & delicate chins. When I purchase separating zippers for inventory I generally buy 30" length and shorten as needed. And they are cheaper by the dozen!
Gigi Louis said... (11/12/02 6:44 PM) Reply
Skymom, I will work on that. This is a really busy work week for me but I have several projects with zippers planned soon so I'll take some pics and post the links here.
Skymom said... (11/12/02 1:31 PM) Reply
I would love to see a close-up photo of the top of one of the shortened zippers, because I'm not sure I see exactly how you are managing to keep the slider from zipping off. I've shortened a couple of zippers in the past in a pretty unsatisfactory way, so I'm pleased to see a method that really works.
said... (11/11/02 10:01 PM) Reply
Good idea. I printed this one.
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