On Zippers in Knits

October 11, 2017

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  • That jacket is amazing! Thank you for these instructions. I sew zippers into woven fabrics fairly frequently but was never quite sure how to get good results on knitted fabric.

  • A good teacher is very rare, particularly on the Internet. You have rounded up some great ones like Jen and Kate. So clear and well thought out, and all else that it takes to be so clear. Also, as someone who has never sewn in a zipper on knitted fabric, but several on woven ones, I found that some fabrics are just easier to get good results with, especially as a newbie. So Kate’s tips on finishing the edges are additionally welcome because they help to compensate for those times you might have a looser, lighter, even floppier fabric such as this one I think in Vogue recently (probably the summer issue) where a motorcycle jacket was actually knitted in lace (at least I think it had a zipper). So beautiful but daunting to achieve. So Kate is my superhero of zipper tutoring, among other topics she has covered so well. Thanks Kate and thanks, Kay and Ann. (Sometimes I think knitters and knitting professionals can conquer the world. What’s the matter with everybody else?)

  • Yup. Vogue Spring Summer 2017. Thanks, Ravelry. I couldn’t find my copy.

  • Ann Weaver, another MDK contributor, has a fabulous class on putting zippers into knitted garments. I highly recommend taking it!

  • It’s a shame there is no picture of a finished product from inside and outside

  • My mother (she who taught me to knit) would use grosgrain ribbon on the inside of a sweater for a zipper or to reinforce button bands. I have an example, somewhere …. and if you look at older knitted sweaters, say cardigans, they also have grosgrain ribbon on the inside of the button bands. It’s not a new trick, but a great one to know and use. Thanks, Kate.

  • Thank you for your excellent timing. I have been replacing the ribbing and front bands on a vintage Norwegian sweater and have stalled on knitting the button band with 8 tricky button holes. Light bulb moment: forget the button holes and install a zipper with i-cord edging. I have installed zippers in knitwear before and have found that the hardest part is finding a zipper to match and fit. Off to go zipper shopping and maybe I’ll be wearing that sweater by this weekend!

  • When this jacket was mentioned yesterday, I had to run over to Ravelry to see it, I swooned. The design! The zippers and Jul fasteners! The welts! The combination of Ultra Alpaca and Alafoss Lopi! What a creative mind at work. It is the Oscar winner of 2017 knitting.

    I may never be brave enough to attempt The Wild One (although this zipper tutorial makes a difference), but as one commenter said on Ravelry, I will buy this pattern if only to read and possess it.

    Thank you Kate!

  • This is wonderful! I have only tried to sew in a couple of zippers, on felted items, and Kate has shown me how I could do it better. Thank you, Kate! And I love the caveat, “This is not something to do in the final hour before you go to bed.” I call that “11 pm knitting.” If I encounter a problem at 11:00 pm (or later!), I do not rip back right away. I put–OK, sometimes throw–the knitting down and try to do something soothing before bed, and look at the knitting in the clear light of next day!

  • I haven’t put in a zipper yet thank for showing how to do it very. Informative

  • I’ve often wished I had the skill even to contemplate putting a zipper in a sweater, so this article is both practical and inspirational. Since my confidence is shaky in this area I would also love advice whether there is a gold-standard brand for zippers, or alternatively brands that everyone who sews knows will not work properly.

    Also, any rule-of-thumb about width of grosgrain ribbon?

    • No single brand of zippers, but take a stroll thru your closet and see what zippers you love-or dread! Notice —is the pull shaped or wider or smaller? How does it lay when it is closed? What do the teeth look like and how do they feel when the zip is open or closed?
      Then go to Joanne’s and bribe the ladies if you must and try the zippers out. Many are not sealed and you can “try before you buy”. Are the tapes so stiff they would mess up the drape? are the teeth too rough and they would snag? And can you hand sew or would it require Thor’s hammer to pull a needle thru? (Back stitch is the most sturdy way to hand sew a zip after you are sure about the placement after basting and trying on)

      As for ribbon, 1 cm minimum up to 3 cm is a reasonable range. Look close for the fabric content. Polyester is common and it won’t shrink but it may melt if you zap it with an iron.

      Signed- a sewer who knits

  • Thanks a great article on sewing in zips.

  • Kate, I just realized I commented on twitter but not here. Thanks for such a clear description and especially the shortlist of Don’t Do This-es. I have never put a zipper into a knit and probably wouldn’t have considered doing it, as I am intimidated by even putting a zipper into fabric – but now I have moved Zippered Knit into the Column of Possibilities.

  • The one time I put a zipper in a sweater, I used a trick I use when sewing garments–baste the two sides together. Then you can line up the zipper with the exact middle, baste it in, remove the center basting, and carefully sew the zipper in. It ensures perfect centering so the zipper ends up hidden when closed, and also even placement along the zipper to prevent puckers.

    • Yup, this works brilliantly in most cases!

      It’s a little different for this jacket, since I wanted the zippers to be exposed rather than hidden…. that is, I couldn’t baste the fabric of the two sides of the opening together, since I didn’t want them to meet or touch in the finished jacket.

  • Instead of using pins, you may want to consider using clear scotch tape.

  • I always seem to have problems with zippers that shrink. Well, rather the tape shrinks and the zipper does not. Any hints to avoid this issue?

    • Hello!

      It’s not a problem I’ve run into myself, I’ll be honest.

      My first question/pondering is about whether this applied to knit garments or sewn garments that you were machine washing? Speaking from the knitting side of things, I’m typically only putting zippers into garments that I’m handwashing, so they’re not necessarily going to experience the sorts of conditions that trigger shrinkage….

      And, of course, the quality of the zippers themselves can vary enormously. I know that I’m always tempted by the bins of dollar-zippers, but as with so many things, it’s usually worth paying a little more to get something that’s going to last a good long time.

      I don’t know whether that helps or not… perhaps if you can give me a bit more detail about when this happened, and in what circumstances, I might be able to provide more detailed advice?


      • What a great reply! I haven’t tried zips in knits because of all the commercial clothing I’ve had that ended up with those awful wavy zippers. I’ve also had the same problem with pre-washing those invisible zips for skirts and so on and finding them hopelessly wavy to the point that I just assume I’ll hide a skirt opening in a pocket with wovens and not bothering to try a slimmer look with a zipper.

  • Thanks very much! I’ve been hunting around on the net for a while, trying to find an article to tell me the best way to plant a zipper on the front of my husband’s hooded vest. I think I’ll do the I-cord to bind off now. Been trying to find the best bind off for a zipper on a knit. I’m also knitting a garter stitch facing, so this all but guarantees this will be a pain in the tuchas. Never could do things the easy way…LOL

  • This is the best explanation I’ve found for hand sewing in a separating zipper. Thank you so much! But, in all my looking I’ve not found the answer to the issue that’s keeping me from starting to sew. I have the zipper all pinned in, I know how to backstitch, I have matching color thread, but how do I sew through the plastic end at the bottom end of the zipper tape?

  • Great tutorial. I’m now convinced I’ll never do it! Which is an important thing to know.

  • Good explanation zips in knits! What to use if grosgrain is not available? Tape?