Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How to Replace a Jacket Zipper the Traditional Way

I almost called this article "How to Change a Jacket Zipper the Right Way" - but, in spite of my website's name, I don't really believe there is a right or wrong way in sewing.

Replace a Coat or Jacket Zipper

There are so many ways to sew things and get great end results... Anyway - this is the technique my Home Ec teacher would have approved of for replacing a jacket zipper.

There are not a lot of steps, but it does involve a fair amount of time to complete this.

Remove the Old Zipper

Remove Old Jacket Zipper

  • Get comfortable, the first step is going to take some time. 
  • (With two people working non-stop, except for when I stopped to snap this photo, this took two pairs of hands a full hour, so if you're working alone, expect it to take at least two hours.)
  • Make sure you have good lighting and get out your seam ripper.
  • Pick an end of the zipper, and also pick a side, and begin cutting every other thread that holds the zipper. 
  • The jacket in my images had a zipper held in by four rows of stitching, which is fairly common for a lined jacket or coat. (Those are my helper's hands, I got to be behind the camera for a few minutes.) 
  • Keep removing the stitches until the zipper is loose and you can see inside the lining of the jacket (as shown in the image.)
  • Pick off ALL the loose thread ends - there will be a lot and they will probably be hard to get hold of to pull out of the zipper placket's fabric. 
  • If you can't get a grip on the thread ends, you can use tweezers to grab them and them out of the material.
How to Use a Seam Ripper
Cutting a single thread with seam ripper

How to Install the New Coat or Jacket Zipper

  • Position the new zipper in the open-out zipper placket. 
  • If you prefer to use pins, pin the zipper in place. 
  • Be aware that some types of fabric will show permanent pin holes if you use pins, so check before you stick pins in your coat. 
  • If you prefer to just jump in and start sewing, set your sewing machine to its longest stitch with thread in a color that contrasts the garment's fabric so it will be easy to see, and slowly baste the zipper into the placket. 

Sewing Machine Basting Tips
Sewing Machine Basting

Use Contrasting Basting Thread
Close-Up of Contrasting Basting Thread

  • Finish basting the zipper in place, then test the jacket's zipper to make sure it works properly and lines up correctly. 
  • If anything is a touch "off" - like the zipper not working smoothly or if it looks crooked - pull out the basting and set the zipper again. 
  • It can be a little bit of a hassle, but it is MUCH easier to remove basting stitches than regular stitches.
  • If everything is good, pull out about three inches of basting stitches, set the machine up with the proper thread and set it to a normal stitch length, then sew about an inch, trying to hit the original stitching line closest to the zipper teeth, from the original zipper. 
  • Remove about three more inches of basting stitches, then sew about three inches. 
  • It's a little harder to remove the basting stitches with the jacket placed in the machine like this, but it is the fastest way to do this.
  • Keep going three inches at a time until you have stitched the length of the zipper in place. 
  • Stitch the second row of top-stitching along the zipper, about 1/4-inch in, or on top of the original stitching line - if you can see the original stitch line.
  • Repeat these steps on the other side of the zipper. 

Remove Basting Thread
Remove Basting Thread

Trim off thread ends and test the zipper one more time to make sure it works properly, then give yourself a big pat on the back, because you just replaced a jacket or coat zipper the traditional way.

Completed Jacket Zipper Replacement
Completed Jacket Zipper Replacement

Are You Considering Starting a Sewing or Alteration Business?

Tips on Pricing Jacket Zipper Replacement

I mentioned the time involved a couple times in this article for a reason - if you enjoy sewing and are considering taking in alterations for a business, you are going to need to know how long things take so you can set your prices. 

For example, if you are going to give someone a price on changing a jacket zipper, expect a minimum of $5 for the zipper cost (usually more) plus 2.5 hours at however much you want to make per hour - let's say $10 per hour or $25 labor, which is cheap for a skilled task like this - (remember, it's okay to charge what you are worth - if everyone could do this, they wouldn't bring their stuff to you - match your pricing to your skill level - if your skill level warrants more than $10 per hour, charge more) so anyway - when you add the zipper cost to the labor $5 + $25 = $30 - that's $30 you need to charge for this job if you want to make any money. 

That might sounds like a lot of money for a jacket zipper replacement, since there are places you can buy a new coat for less than that, but it is ultimately up to the customer to decide if his or her jacket is worth the investment.


  1. There are so many ways to sew things and get great end results... Anyway - this is the technique my Home Ec teacher would have approved of for replacing a jacket zipper. learn more

  2. Thats very useful. Surely having the right tools such as the sewing machine, fabrics and accessories will make your creation a fashionable piece of garment.
    CL King


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