Facing my Sewing Fear of Zippers

I never thought I’d be saying this but there are some things in the sewing world that scare me – like full stress and panic, clenched teeth, sweaty palms. So what do I do? I avoided them like the plague. And the one that really sets me into a tailspin – ZIPPERS!! Who knew something so innocent as a zipper could cause such angst!

In the past, I would seen a cute jacket or sweatshirt and there it would be, staring at me with it’s shiny teeth – the dreaded zipper! So I would do what any logical person would (absolutely not logical!) and first buy the pattern, print, tape and grade my size, buy oodles of @pheefabrics to make said project and finally stash it away for a future date when I would miraculously no longer fear the zipper.

The time finally has come – too many patterns sit sadly waiting to be sewn. I have wanted to make a jacket with @pheefabrics Supplex for the longest time. With fall creeping into the Northeast, I wanted to make one more than ever.  So first I headed to the Phee Fabrics Facebook group for moral support and then to this blog post on installing zippers on knits. 


I was armed and figured if I was going to try and learn a new skill, I might as well go all in and found a pattern that had not one, not two but THREE ZIPPERS! The Evergreen Jacket from Hey June Patterns has a plethora of cool add-ons, but I was most interested in having a two tone affect with the bias zip and collar. I love the look of black, red and gold accents  – so cherry and black Phee supplex were the answer. 

I have never sewn a jacket, or any top for that matter, in @pheefabrics Supplex and now I feel like I have really been missing out! Phee Supplex is not only a game changer for leggings but also the exact weight and look I wanted in a jacket. It has a sporty feel and great weight for a seasonal transition piece. And since it’s not bulky, I can wear it throughout the colder months under my huge “I live in a cold place and on’t care if I look fashionable so I don’t freeze” winter coat 🙂

So off I went with my pattern and fabric, zippers and seam ripper (that got used far more than I care to admit) but I was determined. 

Happy mid project progress selfie

Here’s what I found from my experience with sewing this jacket and zippers:

  1. DO NOT RUSH! If you have an appointment or are tired or stressed that day, it’s not the time to start on this project. I think jackets in general require some care and attention – after all these are more involved in construction than many of the other patterns I have sewn.
  2. In the same vein as above, take it SUUUUPPPERRR SLOOOWWW when actually working with the zippers. The entire project can be made on a regular sewing machine using a basic straight stitch (if you are using Supplex which does not fray). Do you see that little slider for speed on the needle, move it all the way to the far left (or the slowest speed possible on your machine.) This may seem a bit excessive, but even with it all the way down, the zippers will only take a few minutes to stitch in. This helps to prevent breaking needles (none were injured in the making of this jacket) and straight stitching.
  3. IMG_20191010_115727Use a zipper foot (if one is available)  – here is a close up of mine on my machine. If you do not own one, it may be possible to complete this jacket since the seam allowance is ⅜” but I would highly recommend trying to find one that will fit your machine. It really makes life easier.
  4. There is no such thing as too many pins. This really helps keep things straight and prevents the fabric from stretching and bunching when you are sewing.
  5. Make sure to read through the entire pattern first (this goes for any time you sew) – you can see here where I sewed the zipper into the wrong seam and had to rip EVERYTHING OUT! No fun!

I hope this helps you feel less intimidated by zippers and encourages you to try out something a bit more challenging – the result, in my opinion, is totally worth it!


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Adding Zippers to Polartec (or any knit fabric)

Zippers!! A lot of people are afraid to tackle a zipper, but don’t be! They definitely take some practice, but they really aren’t that hard to do. This tutorial will help walk you through the process with some tips and tricks for getting the perfect zipper. Some of the instructions and photos may vary based on your type of sewing machine, so definitely consult your manual as needed, but the basic steps still apply for sewing zippers onto Polartec or any kind of knit fabric.

My son lives in t-shirts and hoodies year round, so I wanted to make him a new hoodie from the gorgeous new Heathered Gray Polartec PowerStretch from Phee Fabrics. I chose the Ziggi Zipper Hoodie from Wardrobe By Me, and went with one size bigger than his measurements so that he had some room to grow.

Let’s get started!

When adding a zipper to knit fabrics, I always use stabilizer to keep the fabric from stretching out of shape while sewing the zipper in place. You are working with a non-stretch material (the zipper tape) and trying to make it fit a stretch material…trust me, stabilizer is your best friend here!

You will need something that is suitable for knit fabrics. My go-to stabilizer is Shape-Flex, a.k.a. SF101, from Pellon.


After you have cut out your garment pieces, you will apply the stabilizer to the edges of the fabric that will be attached to the zipper. For my hoodie, that means I attached a small strip of interfacing to the wrong side of the front center pieces and also to the front center edge of the facing pieces (also on the wrong side). You don’t need a lot of stabilizer here…just a strip about .5″ – .75″ wide and as long as the fabric (minus the SA if desired).

Be careful when fusing the stabilizer! Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s directions and that you are not going to “melt” your fabric. I like to take a scrap of the fabric and a scrap of stabilizer and test it first before trying with my “real” fabric. For the Polartec PowerStretch, I definitely needed to use a pressing cloth so that the high heat and steam needed to adhere the stabilizer wouldn’t damage my fabric.


Once you have your stabilizer attached to the necessary pieces, follow the instructions to assemble your garment up until adding the zipper.

I HIGHLY recommend basting your zipper before stitching – especially if you are working with a facing as well. My hoodie also has kangaroo pockets that I wanted to make sure were lined up correctly.

Take your zipper and place it face down on the right side of your fabric. Here I’ve used clips to hold it in place.


I’ve also marked the top of my zipper outside of the SA. Since I’m using a longer zipper, I will have to shorten it, but I always wait until after I have added the zipper to do so. Also, since I’m using a metal zipper, I need to be extra careful that I’m keeping the zipper teeth out of the SA. Stitching or serging over a metal zipper could damage your machine! I’ve marked my zipper about .5″ down from the top of the front piece, as this pattern has a .25″ SA.


When sewing your zipper, you are going to use a straight stitch. For basting, you don’t even need to switch to your zipper foot yet. I have a narrow teflon foot that I use 90% of the time, and it’s small enough that I usually don’t bother with my zipper foot unless I’m using a zipper with 1″ zipper tape. Then the zipper foot is handy. I also use Microtex needles, which are super sharp and help get through the zipper tape.

For basting, just choose a long straight stitch. I set mine to about 5.


Now, baste the zipper to the first side of your hoodie. Make sure you stay within the SA. In other words, the SA for my zipper is .25″, so I basted at about 1/8″.



Once you have that side basted, unzip the zipper and place it face down on the right side of the other front edge.


Again, you want to mark the top edge the same amount as the other side. Now, while it’s still clipped, you can zip the zipper up and check the alignment. As you can see in the following pic, my bottom hem and the pockets were not aligned.


To fix that, I take my ruler and line it up with the seams on each side and then make a mark on the zipper tape where the seams need to be on the un-basted side.

Now unzip the zipper again, and line those marks up with the corresponding seams and reclip the zipper to the fabric.


Baste the zipper to the second side in the same way as you did the first. Once it’s basted, zip it up and check that everything is still lining up. Perfect!


If things are still not aligned, you can easily take out the basting stitches and shift things around. Once you have everything where you want it, it’s time to sew it in place.

Now is the time to change over to your zipper foot and also set your stitch length shorter – about 2.5-3. My pattern calls for facings, so here I have lined up my facing on top of the zipper before sewing.


Stitch through all the layers to sew the zipper to the garment.

When sewing the side with the zipper pull attached, you may need to move the zipper pull out of the way in order to manoeuver around it. To move the zipper pull, make sure the needle is DOWN and in the fabric, then raise the presser foot, shift the garment, and slide the zipper pull out of the way of your stitching.


Once you have moved the zipper pull, shift the fabric back into place, lower the presser foot, and finish sewing.

And there you have it – your zipper is installed! Easy peasy! 🙂


I hope you have found this helpful, and I look forward to seeing what you make with all of the awesome Polartec fabric from Phee Fabrics!