Zipper Replacement? Don’t Get Stuck!

Zipper Replacement? Don’t Get Stuck!

Zippers are wonderful things. They allow us to protect ourselves quickly from the cold, rain and wind. Even if the jacket has buttons, it’s the zipper that get used most.

Often it’s all we need to stay warm and dry.

The zipper also the one thing that seems to break first. If the little latching teeth get broken, bent or torn off, the zipper’s almost useless. Sometimes it’s the sliding latch that breaks. If you can get the coat zipped up, you stand a chance of the latch getting stuck, keeping you trapped inside!

Zippers are usually not that expensive to buy. Many local fabric stores carry the standard colors, sizes and types. However, if you need a specialty zipper, you many need to order it through a supplier.

For example, parkas and heavy jackets may have a heavy-duty double-sided zipper so that the coat can be reversed.

Other jackets may be shorter or longer than normal sized garments and a custom-sized zipper need to be used. I’ve had to order custom zippers for many reasons.

It takes a little longer, but getting the correct one  makes a huge difference.

Step 1 – Removing the Zipper

seam ripper used for zipper removal

Seam Ripper

You only need two things to remove a bad zipper – a little seam ripper and a LOT of patience!

The seam ripper is a small, hand-held tool that cuts the seam apart. The point is very sharp. Carefully work the ripper between the seam and the zipper, taking care not to damage the material as you cut the threads. If you haven’t used one before, work slowly. This will save the fabric — and your fingers — from getting cut!

It’s a good idea to measure the distance the zipper stands out from the seam before ripping. You’ll want to replace then new zipper at the same depth.

Once you’ve separated the zipper from the seam, remove it from the jacket. Measure it carefully to make sure you get the correct length for the new one. The measurement should be taken from one end of the actual zipper closure to the other. Often excess material extends beyond the closure for adjustments.

You should also remove any thread left in the jacket fabric.

Step 2 – Prepare the Zipper for Installation

First, take a deep breath; you’re half way there! Removing a zipper is tedious and you might want to take a short break.

Now you’re ready to start putting the new one in. Here are the steps that I use:

  1. Separate the zipper halves for a jacket (pant zipper or partial zippers are another matter).
  2. Slide one side between the outer fabric and liner, keeping the distance in mind.
  3. Pin the zipper half to the outer shell and check alignment.
  4. Now attach it to the outer shell with a baste stitch. This will keep it lined up and prevent puckering when doing the final stitching.
  5. Check alignment again. If the teeth are too close to the garment edge, you may not be able to close it!
  6. Do the same for the other zipper half.
  7. Make your finishing stitch to the both sides, making sure to work the lining carefully. The lining material can be very slippery, so work methodically to make sure it’s right.

After both sides are in place, check the zipper for operation. If everything works properly, you’re done! Just remove the baste stitch carefully, sit back and admire your work.

Eat a cookie or piece of cake! You deserve it.

A Word about Pants and V-neck Zipper Replacement

Like I mentioned, putting in these zippers is a bit different. Since you can’t separate them, they must be installed as a unit. After you’ve pinned and basted the zipper, you’ll need to carefully maneuver it around on your machine’s table. Take your time so that you get it right the first time. After some practice, it’s almost as easy to replace as a jacket zipper.

Almost . . .

Putting in a new zipper adds life to your favorite jacket or coat. The expense is usually cheaper than a new garment, even if you have it done by a seamstress.

Have a Sew Right day!



About Mary Maurer

I'm an experienced seamstress in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Along with mending and alterations, I design and make quilts, doggie vests and clothing for all occasions. I work with clients in Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and all over Northwest Arkansas


  1. […] the way, you often need to use the access point when replacing a zipper on a lined jacket or coat. Access points are handy for all kinds of alterations and repairs. They […]

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