How to shorten a metal zip

Tilly and the Buttons
How to shorten a metal zip
How to shorten a metal zip - Tilly and the Buttons

Zip too long for your pattern? It’s not always easy to find a good quality zip in the right colour and type that you need which also happens to be the exact length stated in a sewing pattern’s supplies list.

Never fear – you can always get one that’s a bit longer than needed and cut it down.

You may have shortened an invisible zip before by sewing a bar tack over the teeth to create a new bottom stop. But if you’re using a zip with metal teeth, as needed for our Ness skirt sewing pattern, there’s a different approach you can take.

I’m going to show you how to shorten a metal zip using Ness as an example – but you can apply this to lots of other patterns too.

How to shorten a metal zip - Tilly and the Buttons

Attach the zip tapes to the garment as normal, following the instructions in the pattern, using the bottom stop as a guide for where to line it up. In other words, in the Ness skirt instructions we ask you to place the metal bottom stop of the zip 15mm (5/8in) up from the bottom of the zip guard. When you join the zip guard to the skirt, it will end up in the correct position no matter the length of the zip.

How to shorten a metal zip - Tilly and the Buttons
How to shorten a metal zip - Tilly and the Buttons

When it comes to attaching the waistband, the metal teeth will overlap the stitching line joining it to the skirt. To avoid breaking the needle on your machine, use the hand wheel, rather than the foot pedal, to slowwwly sew over the teeth – if you feel any resistance under the needle, raise the needle and carefully shift your project ever so slightly away from you to move the teeth out of the way.

How to shorten a metal zip - Tilly and the Buttons

Here comes a bit of manual labour. Grab a pair of pliers and use them to rip out one or two teeth directly above the waist seam on each zip tape. Give them a really good yank! You could also try using a tailor’s awl to unpick the teeth – just be aware that you may damage the awl doing so.

How to shorten a metal zip - Tilly and the Buttons

Once you’ve got a couple of teeth out of the way, you can get some small scissors in there and trim off the excess tapes above the missing teeth. This will make the waistband much less bulky to wear.

If you prefer, you can remove the superfluous teeth before attaching the waistband. Personally I like to carefully join the waistband first so I know for sure which few teeth to remove and don’t waste time (and bicep power!) pulling out more teeth than necessary.

How to shorten a metal zip - Tilly and the Buttons

Now you can join the waistband facing and finish making your project following the pattern instructions.

And that’s it! You’ve shortened a metal zip. Hopefully having this technique under your belt will make it easier to shop for sewing notions in the future :)

Have you made the Ness skirt yet? Grab the pattern here!

PS. If you liked this post, you may also like How to sew an exposed zip.

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How to shorten a metal zip