Tips for Sewing Metal Zippers – have no fear!


Aren’t these zippers beautiful? Sewing a metal zipper into a simple pouch or your next purse will dress it up like jewelry does around your neck. Check out these examples:

Everyone who compliments my Sheena Tote talks about the zippers, really. I try to explain to non-sewers (do we have a name for them yet… like Muggles?) about the awesomeness of Cotton + Steel fabric but their eyes glaze over.

My 2 Sided Zips are totally dressed up with metal zippers. And the tutorial is written so you don’t have to sew over the teeth!

Here’s another tote bag I sewed (my daughter confiscated this one). The metal zipper turns it into a really beautiful bag. I just love it.

One nice feature of metal zippers is that they usually have slightly wider zipper tapes than regular nylon zippers. That means sometimes when I’m using my straight stitch foot I don’t have to switch to a zipper foot. I can sew with a 1/4” seam allowance with the foot sliding right against the teeth. Obviously, you’ll want to switch to a zipper foot if it makes your job easier.

So are you ready to sew metal zippers into all your projects? You can! Here are some tips:

1. Buying them: I shop 2 places for all my metal zippers. Zipper Island and Wawak.

2: Understanding Metal Zipper Sizes: A ‘jeans’ zipper is usually a size #5 (indicating the size of the zipper teeth). The green zipper above is a #5. I also like size #4.5 (the white zipper above), with slightly smaller teeth. I have also seen a #10 metal zipper, but it has really large teeth and I’ve never had an appropriate project to try it on. 

3. Sewing Metal Zippers: The main thing to remember is that in the fight of needle vs. zipper teeth – the zipper will win every time! 

You can choose to slowly sew up to the zipper (hand crank the wheel as you get close), then backstitch, cut threads, and start again on the other side. That’s what I did in my 2 Sided Zips Tutorial.

Your other option is to sew ‘through’ the zipper teeth. If you choose to do this, slowly hand crank as you go over/through the teeth. Do NOT use the foot pedal at all. When you feel the needle hit metal, wiggle your project until the needle slips down between two teeth. Then hand crank another stitch to see if you are past the zipper. If not, wiggle the project again until the needle goes down. 

The second ‘wiggle your project’ technique is what you’ll probably use most often because chances are your pattern or tutorial wasn’t written with a metal zipper in mind. It’s not hard at all, you just have to take care.

4. Trimming: If you need to trim away parts of the zipper, use heavy duty scissors, not your precious Ginghers! I like these gray handled ones that I found at Lowe’s near the saw blades. They are titanium (supposedly) and really cheap compared to nice sewing scissors. We use them for everything except fabric.

If you want to remove a few zipper teeth for some reason (I’ve had to do it, although I can’t remember why at this moment), pliers come in really handy for that. They just pop right off with pliers.

Do you have a tip for sewing with metal zippers that you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments below. I love to hear tips!

Happy sewing!

Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂

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  1. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much! I have a Christmas present that involves metal zippers. A skinny nylon zipper just would not do. I bought the zippers and have not started because I got nervous. Your post is timely and so very helpful.

  2. When I’m using metal jeans zippers I always shorten them at the top and pull out the extra teeth with needle nose pliers. There is a trick to pulling out the teeth – you have to grip each zipper tooth as close to the center edge as possible, then pull it straight out. If you grab too much of the zipper tooth with the pliers, the tooth will pinch itself shut and the zipper tape will tear.

  3. says:

    Great explanation and use of metal zippers I really enjoyed it!!! Thanks!

  4. Thanks for this. I stick to nylon all the time, but you are right that metal are so pretty. Your projects look great.

  5. Honestly, I’ve never used a metal zipper so excuse my ignorance. Do you cut off the end without worrying about that little metal holder to hold things in place? I know that in my experience with nylon, you just cut off the end and your stitches will make sure everything doesn’t fall apart. Is it the same with metal?

    1. Great question! Just like other zippers, once you sew across it, the slider won’t go any further. So you can safely cut off any extra zipper past your stitching.

      Tip: Make sure the zipper slider is on the side that you want it before you sew across the zipper. I’ve cut off a few sliders without thinking, lol!

  6. I sew using metal zippers quite frequently as I do repairs for racing stables (repairing racing silks as well as horse items on my industrial machine). Since I need specific colors and sizes I go to where I can custom order colors from their vast color options and cut to the exact size needed, no minimum quantities. I don’t order using their on line ordersheet, I call in my orders and they arrive very quickly. They have my card info,( I know I know), but I have no reason not to trust them after using their services for many years now.

  7. I have never tried metal zippers before, but I will now! What pattern is the bag at the top of your post? I clicked on the Sheena Tote link, but could not find it. Thanks.

  8. I’ve had some difficulties sewing through the metal teeth by hand-cranking. The thread often breaks, I assume from rubbing between the needle and the zipper teeth. I’m using good quality thread, so I don’t think that’s the problem. When this happens I resort to hopping over the zipper teeth by stopping with the needle up and pushing the project forward until I’m on the other side, but that doesn’t seem as secure. Any tips?

  9. Mea Cadwell says:

    When sewing metal zippers I hand sew stops on the end that needs to be cutoff (I try to only cutoff one end to make less work), then use needle-nosed pliers to pull out the metal teeth and stop.

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