Noni Q & A: Cutting Down a Zipper to Fit

Zippers need not be feared nor loathed.

There seems to be a lot of negativity that surrounds zippers and putting them into a sweater or felted bag by hand. It is, however, not as difficult as it looks and I am of the opinion that fear and loathing should be abandoned in favor of persistence and knowledge. . .

Thus, I present to you instructions on how to cut down a zipper by hand and set it into a static opening, such as a bag opening or the opening of a pillow.


Always look for zippers that are at least slightly longer than you need

A too short zipper will never work. . . and if you try to make it work, your knitting will buck and buckle–not a great look. So, that slightly or much too long zipper is perfect. . .


Determine the best zipper for your needs

Best for bags are zippers that have 2 closed ends and 2 sliders.

Best for jackets, a separating zipper.

Best for dresses and skirts, and invisible zipper with a closed bottom end.


Materials you will need

Scissors (rough & tough ones that can cut through plastic or metal zipper teeth0)

Pins to mark the spot (and later to hold the zipper in place as you set it in)

Sewing thread

Sewing needle

Measure the opening into which you will set the zipper.

Once you have laid our your materials and are getting to the business of cutting your zipper to fit, measure your opening carefully. Then measure the zipper and mark with a straight pin where the zipper needs to be cut.

For zippers that have closed ends (for the openings of bags and pillows, for example), you will recreate 1 of the bottom stops with thread.

For a separating zipper, but to cut down from the top stops and you don’t want to interfere with the separating portion of the zipper.

For zippers that have one closed end, such as those for dresses, skirts, and pants, best to shorten the closed end bit.


Make a thread “stop”

To make a thread stop, thread your needle with a double strand of sewing thread, then ‘wrap” the zipper teach multiple times with the thread at the place you marked with the straight pin.

I recommend wrapping the teeth of the zipper as many times as you need to to feel confident that the stop will hold. I’d say 5 wraps is about the minimum with which I would feel comfortable. If you are a comfortable with a sewing machine, you can perform this step with an appropriately size zig zag stitch.


Cut the zipper down once stop is complete

One you have completed your thread “stop,” use your heavy duty workhorse scissors to cut the end of the zipper you no longer need. I recommend leaving about 1/2″ beyond the stop.

If you have any other zipper questions, please post them in the comments to this post and I will answer them in a future Noni Q&A.


3 thoughts on “Noni Q & A: Cutting Down a Zipper to Fit

  1. Pingback: Patchwork Triangle Pouch - A Spoonful of Sugar

  2. Hello:

    I’ve read that some sewers avoid cutting a zipper to fit and actually prefer to use a zipper that is longer than their pattern requirements. This way, the zipper pull is out of the way and does not interfere when attaching the zipper to the garment. My question is, what is one to do with the excess zipper at the top? Is it just incorporated into the waistband? No one really explains the whole process!

    • Hello,
      The excess zipper fabric at the top (this is for zippers used in garments where the bottom is a closed and and the top is open) is usually where the zipper ends – that is, as established by the manufacturer.

      My zippers are different insofar as they have 2 closed ends and 2 sliders. My zippers are perfect for suitcases, bags.

      To answer your specific question, I would reccomend a zipper that is only about an inch longer then a garment opening. the bottom should be the closed end of the zipper (for pants, a dress) or the separating end (for a jacket or sleeping bag). So, let’s say you are making a dress. the closed end with the bottom stop should go at the bottom of the opening for the zipper. If you have measured correctly, you won’t have to cut and the stops at the open end will be in just the right place to enclose in a facing of some sort, or a waistband as you suggest. HOWEVER, if your zipper is an inch too long, then use thread or purchased stops to stop the zipper where you need it to, then take the remaining teeth out above the stops, trim the zipper fabric to an appropriate length and then hide this extra length in the facing or waistband.

      I am sure there are great tutorials about this on YouTube.


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