You know it’s time to replace a zipper when the teeth are missing or the zipper tab has pulled away from the teeth, like this one:
It’s almost impossible to put the tab back on the track.
(But if the tab has broken off and the zipper is still intact, you can always just replace the tab. You can find replacements at most large fabric stores or online.)
This method works on jeans, slacks and skirts.
If you want to know how to replace a jacket zipper, see this post.
Before you begin, measure the length of the existing zipper.
As you can see, I’ll need at least a 6 ” zipper for this pair of slacks. If you only have a longer zipper, go ahead and use it. Later, I will show you what to do with a zipper that is longer than the measured area.
If you can, ask your customer to measure the zipper, buy the one they like and bring it with them to the first appointment. I don’t like to have inventory of these on hand because I never know what size or color the customer would like, or if their first choice is even available. It’s much easier and less stressful to have them buy the one they’d like. That saves you time and hassle and you’ll have the one they like.
The zipper color does not have to match the fabric since it won’t be seen, once the garment is worn.
Once you have your zipper on hand, take it out of the package and set it aside.
Start ripping out the old zipper, paying close attention to how it was installed.
You’ll want to make mental notes of each step so that you can insert the new zipper in the same way the old one was put in.
This area at the bottom of the zipper is usually sewn in with a tight zig zag stitch or bar tack stitch. Be careful when removing these stitches as they are sewn in very tightly:
You can see that the top of this zipper was cut off. There is no problem with that because the top of the zipper will be stitched into the slacks so that the tab can’t come off at the top.
Next, rip out the area of zipper where the pull tab is now in this photo:
Notice there is a double row of stitching here.
This photo below, shows how I’m almost finished ripping out both sides of the zipper:
Once you have the old zipper removed from the pants, insert the new zipper and begin to pin the left side as shown below:
Make sure you tuck the top of the zipper between the waistband and the front of the slacks. If it is too long, you can cut it, leaving an inch or so longer than what you need.
Next, I fit the front of the slacks over the pinning I just did, pulling out the pins as you sew. You can line up the zipper with the stitching holes left behind by the old zipper. Stitch right over the same holes where the original zipper was sewn. Use a denim or heavy duty needle, if you have one.
Continue stitching to the bottom of that section, pulling the top fabric until it meets about 1/8″ from the zipper teeth as you sew. You’ll know when to stop.
Now turn the pants upside down like in the photo below. This just makes it easier to pin the next section.
Now, flip just the zipper tape on the left side over to the right side, like this below:
Line up the zipper tape with the old sewing holes on the right side and pin. Stitch it in place, sewing over the old holes, or if you can’t see those, stitch about 1/4″ away from the zipper teeth being careful to remove the pins, but don’t move the zipper tape as you sew.
On the outside, stitch just along the curve edge and stop about 3″ and backstitch to lock in your stitches. See photo below.
If you were to stitch all the way up to the waistband, you would sew the pants shut and you wouldn’t be able to put the slacks on! So, jsut sew about three inches. When you took the old zipper out, you probably noticed how they were done that way originally.
Once you backstitch and trim off your threads, pull the pants away from your machine and fold under the right side of the zipper, so that the right side doesn’t get caught up in the remainder of your stitching and continue stitching up to the waistband.
I forgot to take a photo of this step, but you can look at the very last photo and see what the stitching line should look like.
At this point, your waistband is still loose and open on each side.
If you have jeans, you can topstitch the waistband on in a matter of seconds.
Notice that on these slacks, the waistband is not topstitched down. Some of you will want to topstitch it because it is fast to do so, but I don’t like the look of a partially topstitched waistband. I like to hand stitch the opening:
Then I stitch in the “ditch” where the two fabrics meet, as in the photo below. I went ahead and stitched it so you can see the stitches out in front of the needle. Those stitches will basically be hidden. You won’t notice them if you stitch as shown below:
Do the same on both sides of the waistband.
Many times the button is loose even before you start working on the zipper. I like to tighten that up or resew it as a courtesy to the customer.
There you have it….a new zipper easily installed!