How to shorten a metal zipper without wrecking your good sewing scissors

Shortening a coil zipper is easy – just cut through the teeth and whipstitch a stop, right? But what about if you’ve got the problem of a pattern that needs an 8″ zipper, and all they carry in the silver zipper department is this zipper, which is clearly 9″ long  –

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I’ll admit that up until this week, I would have just cut off the end of the zipper and sewn over the teeth. Of course, I woulda wound up potentially damaging my scissors, AND I’ve definitely bent a few needles using this method. Last weekend, I realized that there is a better way to shorten a metal zipper that keeps your scissors sharp and doesn’t risk the potential eye injury related to flying shards of broken needles. So here I share with you my revelation!

Shortening a metal zipper

Supplies

  • metal zipper that needs to be shortened
  • a needle-nose pliers (might be good to use a jewler’s pliers. I didn’t, and it scratched up the zipper stops something fierce. Of course, this doesn’t bother me, but if it might bother you, perhaps it’d be prudent to find a pliers with a smooth surface.)
  • sewing pin

1. With the zipper unzipped, mark the final length of the zipper (i.e. the end of the zipper part, not the end of the tape part.) I wanted an 8″ zipper, and have marked it as such.

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2. Here I’ve closed the zipper up to the final length. Count the number of teeth between the zipper stop (the large bit on the end to the right) and the pin. Here there are 10 teeth between the stopper and the pin, so I will remove 12 teeth from each side of the zipper in the process of shortening it. I am removing an extra 2 teeth (beyond the pin) to allow for the width of the stopper in the final zipper length.

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3. Using the needle-nose pliers, start removing the teeth of the zipper in the portion to be removed. The teeth are clamped around a little ridge in the zipper tape – to remove the teeth, clamp the teeth in the pliers like shown below and twist upward (away from the tape).

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When the teeth look bent kinda like the picture below, you can reach in from the top and rotate it off of the zipper.

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And finally, here are most of the teeth removed from one side of the zipper. Two additional teeth will also be removed beyond the position of the pin, but I did that later.

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Repeat this step to remove all the teeth on the other side of the zipper as well – 24 teeth total (12 per side). You can also remove the pin from the tape.

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4. Next remove the zipper stops from the top of the zipper – this is where a jewler’s pliers or something without the little ridged teeth might come in handy. This is usually a little bit of metal folded over the ridge on the zipper tape, which can be gently bent open to slide off.

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Here it is opened up enough to slide off the tape. This wasn’t enough to reposition it, though.

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And here’s what you should wind up with once it’s removed.

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5. After removing the two additional teeth past the pin marking, slide the zipper stop onto the zipper tape right next to the last zipper tooth.

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6. Use the pliers to clamp down (hard!) on the base of the zipper stop to secure it.

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7. Repeat for the other side to complete the readjustment.

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8. Now look! It’s a perfect 8″ zipper, ready for my pattern!

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The zipper tape can now be trimmed – I like to use my pinking shears, and I often melt the end of the tape to prevent unraveling.

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I hope you were able to follow this clearly and found it helpful. I was just ABSOLUTELY TICKLED PINK when I did this the first time! I love that I can easily modify any zipper and wind up with something that looks like I got it custom (without the custom cost).

As for what I wound up using this zipper for – a heavily-modified version of Anna’s gathered clutch!

The picture of the clutch isn’t exactly the best I’ve ever taken, but whatever.

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What we’re really interested in is that zipper! (though the pattern really is super-excellent… more on my modifications in another post. I think.)

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Hurrah! A perfect-fit zipper that no one would ever guess had been shortened!

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6 comments

  1. Brenda

    I was afraid to try this procedure, but your tutorial gave me confidence. I was able to shorten my metal zipper by following your instructions. Thanks for posting!

  2. Pingback: my first aztec hooded vest | mucho xoxo
  3. julz

    Reblogged this on julz crafts and commented:
    Some time ago, I came across a post about shortening zips – an idea I hadn’t come across before. I did ask the lady if she would like to contribute a piece for my SHOW & TELL feature, but I never heard back from her.

    I went looking for it, for the Re-Blog Wednesday challenge, and I couldn’t find it, but I did find this one, written in 2012, it is a step by step tutorial on how to do it – hopefully some of you will find it useful!

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