How to Replace a Jean or Pant Zipper

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:

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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!




How To Alter a Top That’s Too Low Cut

Have you ever tried to alter a blouse that was lower at the neck than you were comfortable with?

To make this alteration, we are going to do two things: take up the front shoulder seam and take in the collar.

Generally, you don’t need to take up the back of the blouse, but have the customer try it on so you can see how the back fits.

If the back fits well, don’t touch it.

If it doesn’t, you could pull up the back and front at the same time.

This back of this blouse fit great, so it didn’t need to be altered.

The only seam on this collar was at the back:


and I was glad because I didn’t want to mess with the “fluff” on the front.

The center back neck seam was stitched and then gathered to fit:


Let me explain what we’re going to do and then we’ll get after it.

We are going to decrease the circumference of the neck at the middle back seam and when we do that, we’ll need to decrease the circumference of the top as well.

To begin, take a seam ripper and unstitch the stitches that hold the collar and the shoulder seam together:


Take out the stitches from just past one shoulder seam, all around the back of the neck to just past the other shoulder seam like this:


Next, you’ll want to open up the shoulder seam. This was a delicate knit and I had to be careful where I placed my seam ripper so as not to cut the knit, but just cut the stitch:


I opened up the shoulder seam halfway:


Once that was opened up, I was able to shorten the front of the blouse by pinning like this:


Stitch that shoulder seam by sewing along the original back shoulder seamline and trim off the excess front fabric.

Next, you’ll need to take in the back neck seam on the collar. Can you see the excess collar material?


Since I took one inch off of the front of the blouse on the left and the right for a total of 2″, I need to take up 2 total inches on the collar as well.

I took the seam apart and stitched up two inches of fabric and trimmed the seam.

I apologize that the photo is not real clear, but I hope you get the idea:


Now, stitch the collar to the neck edge of the blouse:


You can see the newly adjusted collar:

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You might want to re-serge or zigzag any uneven edges.

That’s all there is to it!

If you have a t-shirt type top, you may need to work with ribbing or a facing.

Use the same principle of taking up the shoulders and taking in the circumference of the top to the measurements you need.

This will work for tank tops too.

Unless you have a really long top, you may not be able to adjust more than a couple of inches before it affects the look of the blouse.

But this should help those tops that are just a little too low for your comfort level.

How to Alter a Top With an Elastic Hem

You’ve seen these blouses everywhere:

ImageThey’ve got elastic running around the bottom edge.

Many women complain that they don’t like how they look when they wear them and pass up the idea of buying them.

Altering them is an easy fix.

Just trim off the elastic close to the edge:


I use sharp small scissors to accomplish this task:


Next, turn the hem up and press if necessary.

I hand baste the hem as well so that the knit doesn’t slip around.

If you have a woven fabric, you should press the hem up as well.


In addition, if you are sewing on a woven cloth, be sure and finish the edge with a serger or a zig zag stitch first.

Next, look for a thread to match:


On this top, I will sew a double row of stitching on the hem.

This means I’ll need two spools of thread.

If I don’t have two spools of matching thread, or they are very close in color, I will wind two bobbins.

One bobbin will be used in the bobbin case and the other bobbin will be used as the second spool of thread.


Then, get yourself a double stretch needle. They look like this:


Put the spool of thread on the first spool pin and a bobbin on the second spool pin.

To thread your machine with two threads, treat them as one thread and thread through until you get to the needle area:


Then, thread one thread through each needle:


Stitch the hem, keeping the right side of the shirt facing up so you can watch to make sure you are doing a good job.

As you can see, if you flip it over, the bottom threads form sort of a zig zag stitch:


As you can see, it doesn’t take long to convert your top and the hem looks great!:


How to Avoid Ruining a Garment

Here’s  another good question from a reader…

Judy wrote:  My question regards mistakes.  I’ve never destroyed anyone’s item (thank goodness!) but I’ve always been afraid of messing something up, especially an expensive item, like a prom or wedding dress.  Have any of you ever made an error like this?  If so, what did you do?

Here’s my answer:

Yes, I’ve made two errors in the last 13 years. First, I ruined a man’s shirt once when I accidentally serged part of the shirt in a seam and it got cut off by the serger blade. There was no way to fix it, so I gave him the money to buy him a new one, along with a huge apology, of course. I simply asked him how much he had spent on his shirt and gave him the money. He was thrilled that I would pay for a new one. By giving him the cash, I didn’t have to go shopping and find him a new one. Win-win. (The second error is explained below).

There are two things I do before I begin working on a garment.

First, I pray before I start each alteration asking that God would help me pay attention and do my best work and keep me from making any irretrievable mistakes. By His grace, that hasn’t happened since.  Now, I realize that that could have happened with a wedding gown or something else that was expensive, but I determined in my mind that if that were to ever happen, I would make it right. In other words, I would pay for a new garment or pay to have it fixed if it was possible.

Second, I always examine each garment well before the customer leaves my presence. That way, I can point out any flaw, defect, stain or problem the article of clothing has and that covers my back so that the customer knows it was not something I had done, while it was in my care.

Once, when I had finished a wedding gown and had my customer try it on, I noticed a pencil mark on the front of the gown. Knowing that I had checked the gown over very well before she left it in my care, I knew it had happened on my watch. So, I pointed it out to her and told her I would get the dress cleaned for her at the cleaner of her choice.

The pencil mark came out of the gown and it cost me $50, but it was a good lesson for me and I’m just so thankful it didn’t cost more than that to fix it.

I think the bottom line is to have confidence when you take a garment in. Have faith in your ability. Take your time (haste makes waste) and be careful. Mistakes happen when you’re tired, distracted, and/or in a hurry. You’re human. You will make mistakes, but the more alterations you do, the more confident you will feel sewing on different fabrics and garments. If you can, go to the fabric store and get a swatch of a fabric that is close to the one you’ll be working on and practice on that first. The more you do, the better you’ll get.

Now, let’s hear from you.

What do you do to minimize costly situations?






Sewing in Zambia

Hi Everyone,
Some of you know that our daughter, Michelle, works for a ministry called Every Orphan’s Hope. It is an organization that has rescued orphans in Zambia, Africa, and built homes for these children to live in. Each orphan home has 8 children and one widowed “mama” who cares for the children. For several years, the mamas have been dreaming of being able to sew. So, our daughter, thought this would be a good time to pitch out the need and see if we can make their dream a reality.
If you’d like to see their website and learn what they are all about, please visit :

 If you’d like to meet the mamas, click here: Sewing CampaignB (2)
The mamas have identified two main desires: basic sewing supplies and sewing machines. In Zambia, the electricity is very unreliable, so getting treadle type machines is the best choice for them. Every Ophan’s Hope could buy the machines here, but shipping them would be very expensive, so they have found a way to buy them in Zambia and have them transported to the villages. It will cost around $2,100 to purchase 14 machines so that each home would have one machine. (They have 11 homes now and three more are being built soon).

I’d love for you to join me in making these mama’s dreams come true.
If that’s your desire as well, there are two ways to help them out:
1. You can donate directly to Every Orphan’s Hope online at
2. You can gather basic sewing supplies and mail them directly to Every Orphan’s Hope.

Their mailing address is:
Every Orphan’s Hope
3245 W. Main St., Ste. 235/332
Frisco, TX 75034

Basic sewing supplies would include: thread, scissors, needles, pins, patterns, seam rippers, measuring tapes, or anything else you have that you are not using or would like to purchase new. Anything you donate will be greatly appreciated. They will not be collecting fabric because the weight of the fabric would make it too costly and because the Zambians prefer purchasing their own fabric from local vendors. 

If you mail your supplies to Texas, please be sure and send your package by June 8th if possible. There will be a team flying to Zambia at the end of June to deliver the goods and purchase the machines, if enough funds are collected.

Please send a link to this post to any of your sewing friends or anyone you think would be interested in helping these women achieve this goal.
Thank you for your consideration. I have a feeling that Sewfordough readers are going to be very generous! So many of you have a heart for those less fortunate than we are and we have a unique opportunity to help these ladies develop this craft that we love so much. It will give them an opportunity to teach the children in their care how to sew and provide a skill in which they could someday run and operate their own sewing business and provide for their own families.

I know they will be greatly blessed by whatever contribution you can make.

You will receive a tax donation receipt from Every Orphan’s Hope for any monetary donations you make.

If you have any questions, you can email me here at or you can contact Every Orphan’s Hope.

Thank you so much for your consideration.

Go team Sewfordough!

Celebrate With Me…It’s Free!

Today is the 3rd  anniversary of this blog and I thought you might like to know how it all started.

About seven years ago, a customer came to my door needing his suit jacket altered. As I spoke to him about the changes that needed to be made on it, he asked me if I had written a book on how to alter clothing. That was the spark. After thinking through the details, I realized that with the incredible amount of photos it would take to do the job well, no publisher would touch the project. It would just be too expensive to print. So, I put the idea on the shelf of my mind.

It wasn’t long after that when my friend, Sharon, asked if I wanted to take a blogging class with her to learn how to start a blog. I thought it would be fun to learn something new, but really didn’t think I would ever really follow through with it. The instructor asked us to each create a blog designed around a passion of ours. He asked us to think of some subject that we were interested in or that we knew something about. He also said it would be beneficial if our blogs were on a unique subject that not everyone else was writing about.

That’s when it hit me that I could blog about all this information that I had stored in my head just waiting to come out. There were a lot of details to setting up the format and learning how to use WordPress, but it wasn’t too difficult. The next challenge was coming up with a unique name for the blog.  So, on April 27, 2009,  Sewfordough was born!

This site is the culmination of 45 years of sewing experience.  Most of the techniques you see here were learned from just doing what seemed to make sense. As you know, there are hardly any books on these subjects and the ones that are out there, don’t have enough pictures in them. So, the goal of this website was to make each step of every technique easy to follow and understand.

Many people ask me why I don’t charge for all this information and instruction. When I was setting up the blog, my husband helped me process through that. He is great at that. And great at helping me to set goals, looking at the motives behind what I do.

If you’ve been on this blog for any length of time you know about my faith. Well, one of the things I want to do is serve others with the gifts God has given me. I feel pretty blessed that He has given me so many incredible people and things in my life and I just wanted to say “thank you” to Him for that. My hope is that you have received great benefit from all you’ve learned and it is my prayer that your sewing business (or hobby) is thriving.  So, that is my free gift to you.

But there is a free gift available to you that is much more important than this blog. It is the free gift of eternal life that Jesus offers to anyone who asks. Many people have heard of Jesus but they don’t know why He came to earth. He came to save us from our sin and give us the free gift of eternal life. But He doesn’t force His gift on us and we can’t pay for that gift by living a good life. And, we can’t earn our way to heaven because of our sin. But by the grace of God, Jesus came to earth to die in our place for our sins. Not everyone gets to go to heaven automatically. We have to receive His gift by placing our faith in what Jesus did on the cross and not on being a good person or doing good things. If getting to heaven had anything to do with us, then Jesus wouldn’t have had to come.  The Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one may boast.” If you’d like to know more about this free gift and how Jesus can be personal to you in your life, just send me an email.  It would be my privilege to talk about these things with you.

You can reach me at 

Fun At The Family Dinner

As I mentioned in the previous post,

we held two receptions for our daughter’s wedding.

One was held at the church.

The second was a family dinner at a public golf club in the next town.

Here are the newlyweds leaving the church:

The wedding party planned to stop off at a local reservoir for some more pictures on their way to the golf club.

We swapped cars with the newlyweds which meant we had their rental car, a small little domestic jobbie.

About a mile from the church, my husband noticed that the “low tire” indicator light had turned on.

He figured it was a computer glitch and thought we should keep driving.

(Does this sound like your husband?!)

But I really thought we should get it checked out.

(Does this sound like a woman’s response?!)

We realized that there was a tire shop within about 6 blocks of our predicament.

As we got within 2 blocks of the tire shop, we felt and heard the wheel go “thu-think, thu-thunk”.

We pulled in to the shop just as the men were closing up for the day.

And they graciously agreed to fix it for us.

We had the best time with it all.

Here we were in our formal wear and they in their grease and grime.

I said to one of the men, “People go to great lengths just to get their tires fixed, don’t they?”

We found all sorts of things to laugh about.

I figured no one would believe our story without proof, so I snapped a shot of “Jose” and my husband enjoying the moment for all it’s fun:

We kept thanking the Lord for His provision:

1. The flat tire came at a great time in the day (good thing it wasn’t fifteen minutes later) and at the perfect location

2. It didn’t happen to Jake or Michelle

3. It didn’t happen to us out in the country between our two towns

4. It didn’t happen to them the next day on their way to the airport

We were on the road in fifteen minutes and the last ones to arrive at the reception.

And the reception was so much fun too!

The bride and groom at their sweetheart table:

First Dance:

Jake and his ten,or so, buddies danced and got the whole crowd cheering with each of their unique dances:

Jake even walked on his hands across the floor. I didn’t know he had such talent!

Everyone joined in the fun and celebration.

It was my favorite reception of all time.

(Does that sound like a mom?!)

At some point in the evening, the photographer took the wedding party outside for pictures.

At the end of that session, Michelle came back inside to let me know that when Jake carried her across the expansive lawn, one of her bustles “broke”.

(Didn’t I tell you I would relate it to sewing at some point in the story?!)

Upon further investigation, we found that one of the plastic rings had actually broken in half!

If you notice in the side bar of this blog, I have a suggestion for brides to pin about 5 safety pins along the inside lower edge of your dress in case of emergencies.

I never thought I’d use my own advice! 🙂

I took one of those safety pins and used it as a “ring” and then re-tied the ribbon onto the safety pin.

She was “good to go” in mere moments!

We sent them off under a canopy of sparklers.

It was such a beautiful scene.

I wish I had a photo of that to show you.

Everyone left and I realized I had forgotten to ask for help in dismantling the banquet room!

I also forgot to take into account that we had the rental car with about 2 square feet of storage space.

So, we detained our younger daughter for awhile while we packed her car to the brim and sent her off.

While we were packing our car, she returned to tell us that Michelle had lost her wallet somewhere.

She needed it for the airplane ride the next day.

So, we prayed on the way home that God would help us find it.

When we arrived home, one of her bridesmaids was there ready to help us find it.

We scoured the house… everywhere we thought she’d been that morning and couldn’t find it anywhere.

As we were looking in her bedroom one more time, and thinking about heading over to the church to look there,

Michelle called and explained that she remembered it falling out of her purse at some point during the day.

With that, I dropped to my knees and lifted her bedskirt and there it was right in front of me!

It had rolled under the bed apparently after it fell out of her purse.


We were so happy to be able to tell her that God had answered yet another prayer that day!

We took it over to the hotel they were staying at and stayed up all night chatting with them.

Just kidding. We dropped it off and left.

And they had a wonderful honeymoon in Hawaii.

Now they are enjoying married life and we are enjoying being in-laws (or maybe we are outlaws!)

Now share with us your funny or unusual stories from your wedding day.

Don’t be shy.

Everyone has a story.

I can’t wait to hear yours!!!

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