Learn Something New: Inserting a Zipper

Swatch 1a
Swatch 1b

The question designer/teacher Josh Bennett gets most frequently is: How do you sew in a zipper? In the Fall 2012 issue of Knitscene magazine, Josh shows us how he inserts zippers into knitwear, and it’s pretty nifty. His design, the Lately Cardigan, also featured in that magazine, is the perfect project on which to practice your zipper skills.

Here’s how he does it:

1. Place markers along the zipper edging every 2″ starting from the bottom. Make sure that all row counts are the same between each marker.

Swatch 2
Swatch 3

2. Zip the zipper to the top and extend the same 2″ intervals that are marked on the zipper to the knitting (Swatch 1a).

3. Next comes the basting; this is where you will determine how much of the zipper will be exposed. Double baste the zipper on each side, securing it at the top and bottom of the sweater. Then, unzip it completely and baste, matching the marks on the sweater to the marks on the zipper .

4. Double baste at each marker to ensure that the stitches at that point do not move. After basting both sides of the zipper, zip it up and make sure that each side of the sweater matches perfectly.

5. Unzip, and using doubled thread, backstitch to sew in the zipper (Swatch 2). Keep the stitches close to the zipper teeth but far enough away that the zipper can still function.

6. Every couple of markers, check that the zipper does not get caught in the stitches. On many zipper ribbons you can see a woven pattern; use this as a guide to measure your stitch length to help keep them straight and even. A second row of stitches may be added for extra stability. Remove the bastings.

7. Finally, use a single strand of thread to whipstitch the ribbon edge, securing it to the sweater. Only go through a small amount of the sweater so the stitching does not show on the right side (Swatch 3).

Zipper Tips

  • Finish the garment completely before measuring. It is more accurate to measure the zipper edging after all the finishing is complete.
  • Work a zipper trim (directions below) along the open edges before measuring the opening or sewing in the zipper.
  • The Lately Sweater by Josh Bennett

    Changing the zipper pull is another easy way to add a bit of personality. The weight of the zipper and size of the teeth are very important as well. Keep in mind that a heavy zipper will cause pulling and sagging in a finer gauge or lighter garment, and a small zipper might not be able to handle the stress of a heavier piece.

  • I always buy a zipper that is longer than the finished measurement of the garment and cut it down to the exact size I need. To ensure that your zipper pull does not pull off, backtack across the teeth on each side separately at each mark.

—Josh Bennett, Knitscene magazine, Fall 2012

Josh makes the zipper look professional not only with his zipper sewing techniques, but also with his zipper trim.

Here’s his technique: With a crochet hook, right side facing, and beginning at the right front lower edge, work 1 row of single crochet up the right front edge. Chain 1, and then work 1 row reverse single crochet down the right front to lower edge. Repeat for the left front edge, beginning at the upper edge. Weave in ends and sew in your zipper! Perfect.

Download your copy of Knitscene Fall 2012 today and get started on the Lately Cardigan knitting pattern!


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