How to Insert a Centered Zipper

Hello! Today I’ll be showing you how to sew in a classic center zipper using your BERNINA sewing machine (I use a BERNINA 350 PE). This is a very common type of zipper application, often seen on the center back seam of fitted garments, like a pencil skirt or a sheath dress.

Before you begin, finish your seams so they don’t unravel during wear and wash. Using your pinking shears, slightly trim the seam allowance, preventing your fabric from unraveling. Here you can see that the center back seam of my garment, and also the facing, are finished with my pinking shears.

DSC_0684

Once your garment is complete up to sewing in the zipper, with facings applied, the first step is to baste and sew the seam shut.

DSC_0685

Typically, your pattern will have a mark showing where your basting stitches should end. I like to pin my seam closed, right sides together, and place two pins at that mark as a reminder to switch my stitch length!

DSC_0674

From the top of the garment down, baste the seam closed, using your Reverse pattern foot #1/#1C/#1D and a stitch length of 5 mm.

DSC_0677

When you get to your dot and your double pins, shorten your stitch length to your regular sewing length, about 2.2 – 2.5 mm. Backstitch and sew the rest of the seam.

DSC_0686

Here you can see the basting stitches above (left of) the dot, then backstitching and a regular stitch length below (right of) the dot.

Press the seam open.

DSC_0687

Align the top of the zipper with the top of your garment (not the facing) and feel with your fingers to ensure that the zipper teeth are centered under the basted seam.

DSC_0688

From the front of your garment, pin your zipper to the seam allowances and fabric of your garment. Pin along both sides in the same direction. (I usually pin, but some people like to hand-baste in their zippers for a bit more control, and I’ve even heard of people using glue sticks to baste their zippers in!)

DSC_0664

Now we’ll sew in our zipper! Install the Zipper foot #4/#4D and move your needle position to the far left. This allows you to sew neatly and closely along the side of the zipper.

DSC_0673

DSC_0689

With the zipper on the left side of the zipper foot, sew from the top to the bottom, backstitching at each end.

Ta dah! Half done.

DSC_0658

Return again to the top of the zipper, and move the the zipper to the right hand side of the zipper foot. Don’t forget to also change the needle position to the far right!

DSC_0674

DSC_0694

Sew the length of the zipper, from top to bottom again.

DSC_0696

Finally, install the Reverse pattern foot #1 once more and tack across the bottom of zipper: sew back and forth several times for strength.

DSC_0695

Press!

DSC_0697

Once your zipper is sewn in, remove your basting stitches using a seam ripper.

DSC_0699

Go slowly as to avoid ripping a hole in your fabric, and pick out one stitch at a time, revealing your perfect zipper!

DSC_0700

The last step is to hand sew your facing down over your zipper. Fold the facing over the zipper, tucking the tails of the zipper inside.

DSC_0701

Make sure the top of your zipper is aligned! If its a liiiitle bit off, you can fudge it a tiny bit at this point by folding down your facing a smidge more or less.

DSC_0703

Pin down over the zipper tape and slipstitch your facing to your zipper without going through all layers. Then slipstitch the other side of your zipper.

DSC_0705

This step will be invisible from the exterior of the garment.

You’re done! Hem and press your garment, then wear it proudly!

5 thoughts on “How to Insert a Centered Zipper

    1. Hello Joann! I did not match my chevrons because this was just an example on a flat piece of scrap fabric, not a garment. I didn’t want to confuse people by adding in too much for a simple tutorial. If I were making a garment, I would certainly match my stripes (or at least try!). Thanks for reading!

  1. This is a really good example of a centered zipper – I envy your straight stitching. One thing, though. As a
    sewing instructor myself, I put a lot of pressure on myself to have samples as near
    perfect as possible – as surely your technique and stitching is. However, one of the great things about sewing for ourselves is that we can avoid the “mistakes” we see in ready-to-wear. I’m referring to matching stripes. I show my students the importance of matching stripes and plaids before they sew their first seam. This is an important technique that exemplifies a master seamstress. I notice more and more in the few remaining sewing magazines that this is apparently no longer considered necessary. I still think it’s important, especially when the stripes are big. I realize you’re focusing on a technique, not design, but just wanted to mention it. Thanks!

  2. I do agree with the other reviewers. Allie is understood as to concentrating on the technique; however, this is Bernina. All aspects should be perfect or close to it. This was a poor choice of material if there was no intent to match the chevrons. A plain fabric would have accomplished the zipper insertion perfectly well.

Leave a Reply