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{How to:} Sew an Exposed Zipper (with a seam)


Lately we have been experimenting with our existing patterns, ironing out any quirks and bumps and generally making things better. One thing that came to our attention is the method for sewing the exposed zipper in our “Relaxed Shift Dress” pattern, as it stands, it’s a little on the fiddly side and one thing that sewing should never be is fiddly! Sewing needs to just flow from one step to another without too much fuss and bother. So here is a much easier tutorial for setting in the exposed zipper without the fuss and fiddle.

See below images for written instructions.



How To:
  1. Stabilise: Fuse a 2.5cm / 1” wide strip of suitable weight fusing to each side of the zipper opening (apply to the wrong side of the fabric). Fusing should be slightly shorter that the length of the zipper (including top and bottom tapes).
  2. Marking: If your pattern doesn’t already have the end of the zipper marked or notched, notch or mark the end of the zip.
  3. Staystitching: The opening of the zipper should be wide enough to expose just the zipper teeth plus a little extra for room around the teeth to prevent any fabric from getting caught. Staystitch each side of the zipper opening 6mm plus the seam allowance (1cm for our patterns) from the raw edge, pivoting 90º at the end of zipper mark/notch. Repeat for both sides.
  4. Sew the Seam: With rights sides together, sew the seam (1cm seam allowance for our patterns) from the base of the zipper mark/notch, to the end.
  5. Clipping: Clip into the seam allowances on a diagonal to the zipper base, just to, but not through the staystitching. You may find it easier to cut each seam allowance separately.
  6. Pressing: Press seams open and neaten each edge. Fold and press over the allowance of the zip opening on the staystitching line.
  7. Stitch the lower edge: Working from the right side of the garment, fold back the top of the work to the start of the centre back seam to expose the ‘triangles’ of the clipped seam allowance, align the metal base of the zipper with the centre seam, (zipper should be facing downwards and right sides together) and position it just past the stay stitching. Pin.
  8. With a zipper foot attached to your machine. Stitch across zipper tape and triangles, back tacking at either end.
  9. Stitch the zipper sides: Flip zipper up right way round, tucking the zipper tape and triangles to the inside, Align the pressed and folded edge along the zipper tape and pin.
  10. Pinning: Turn back one side of the dress back to expose the seam allowance and zipper tape, re-pin seam allowance to zipper tape only and remove pins from the front. Repeat for other side.
  11. Sew Sides: Starting from the base of the zip, stitch along the staystitching line. Repeat for other side of zipper. Press with a pressing cloth.
For all our customers who have previously purchased the Relaxed Shift Dress Pattern and would like to be emailed the updated instructions, please contact us and include the order/etsy invoice number and we will be sure to email you the updated instructions.



  • this is really awesome. thank you.

  • Perfect timing! I was just about to troll the Internet to find a tutorial on this very subject.

    • Hi there Meg,

      Glad to know we are being helpful!! Thanks for letting us know!

  • Thanks for all of these techniques posts, I always star them in Reader XD I’m not big on exposed zippers but ‘ve got a jacket that I mean to put welt pockets on with your technique and keep procrastinating over-this reminded me again so I better get on with it XD

    • So glad you enjoy the how to’s, you are most welcome, I enjoy creating them! I wasn’t big on exposed zippers either, took me a while to like the look of them and think we are friends now… procrastination, I can definitely relate to that! too many projects on the go at the moment, means a very weak focus and I’m learning to be a lot more realistic! Good luck with your projects!

  • Great! thanks for this. the photos are perfect!

  • Oooh!! I love this! Thank you this is great!

  • A beautiful tutorial (love the photogaphy!) and I like the new layout as well!

  • Anonymous

    Thank You!!! My zipper turned out PERFECT!!!!!

    • Oh! well thank you for letting me know! so glad it worked out great for you!

  • this saved my little fashion student life!

  • OMG !! I was just now stopping for the night with working on a “biker”jacket from Patrones 322 and I was so frustrated as I could not figure it out how to insert nice those zipper in the sleeves. I just opened facebook and there was this link. Thank you Thank you , I can sleep good now thinking that tomorrow I know how to do those zippers. Thanks again. xx

  • OK, apparently I’m an idiot, because I can’t figure out how to get the bottom of the zipper sewed on and my fabric is starting to fray there despite cutting on the diagonal. What am I doing wrong? What is the trick to sewing across the bottom without having a fold or raw edges?

    • Hello! Definitely not an idiot, zippers like these are tricky little things. To get it just right does require some accurate sewing and sometime it can take a few goes to get it perfect. I like to stitch the bottom of the zipper opening first by sewing the triangles to the zipper tape first after pressing the sides of the opening along the stitching lines ( Step 7 & 8) but you do need to stitch it perfectly in place, from corner to corner. It is important to have the fabric fused as that will help stabilise the opening and should make it easer to sew. Its a little hard for me to understand exactly whats going wrong with your one, but if you’d like to email me though a photo and I’d love to help you further! patternrunway[@]gmail[dot]com

  • Thanks so much for posting this tutorial. Although it took me a few tries, I eventually got it and have a better understanding going forward how to insert this type of zip. Thanks again.

  • This is the BEST how-to for a partially exposed zipper on the internet! Thank you!

    • Sarah

      Ooh thank you! So glad you liked it.

  • Laura Peden Reed

    This is helpful! But I’m confused about sewing across the bottom of the zipper… Can you add a picture of exactly where you’re stitching? Thank you!

    • PatternRunway

      Hey Laura,

      Thanks for asking, we do have a photo about that illustrates sewing across the bottom, if you see the second photos with step 7 and 8 noted on there, its a really small amount of stitching but so important to keep it all lovely and straight and tight! Hope it turns out well.

  • Livo

    Hei, I have a question, you said to stitich both sides of the zipper to the fabric, but what about the bottom of the zipper, is not sew to the fabric? Thanks so much Great Tutorial.

    • PatternRunway

      Hello! the bottom of the zipper gets stitched too! See step 7 and 8, 🙂

  • Shirley McCollough