We’ve all had a zipper break on us — whether in a coat or a bag, a broken zipper makes a perfectly good piece of clothing (or backpack) unusable. Did you know that replacing a zipper is quite simple? It is. Really. Here’s how you do it!
I made this backpack for Connor right before he started kindergarten. It was great, but now that he’s in first grade (and it’s winter), he constantly stuffs his backpack full of his binder, library books, lunch bag, shoes and sometimes even his snow pants. The stitching held up really well — so well that it was the zipper that finally broke. Time to replace it!
Note: These simple instructions are for removing a zipper in a backpack (with lining), but the same steps can be used to replace a separating zipper in a coat or anything else!
Start by grabbing a seam ripper. I love the one in the photo. It’s actually a small sharp blade so it makes it really fast to remove stitches (however, it can cut through your fabric just as easily).
Remove all of the stitches holding in your zipper. Try to keep the fabric folded as it was when it was sewn. This will make it easier later.
The ends of this zipper are enclosed in fabric so we’ll have to remove a bit of stitching at each end too.
Keep going until you can completely remove the zipper. Remove any bits of thread that are left behind. At this point, I like to measure the zipper which needs to be replaced and go to the store and get a new one.
I chose a heavy duty zipper. Connor’s a bit tough on this backpack and it needed a tougher zipper. Start pinning the zipper in place, keeping your fabric edge folded like it was before.
If your bag/coat is lined, make sure that as you pin the top piece, the lining gets pinned in place too and it doesn’t get in the way of the zipper.
You can test your zipper as you’re pinning. If it still opens smoothly, you’re ok!
Repeat the pinning for the other side of the zipper. Now grab a needle and thread and baste (simply stitch in place using a large running stitch) by hand. Remove the pins as you go. When you’re done basting, make sure the zipper still opens and closes smoothly.
On your sewing machine using the zipper foot, sew in the zipper close to the edge of the fold of fabric. If you don’t have a sewing machine, you can sew this by hand – just use small stitches.
Once that’s sewn in, remove your basting stitches.
And you’ve done it! You’ve replaced a zipper! You’ll be amazed at the amount of money you can save if you learn this useful skill. Happy sewing!