Well, this was a lot easier than I’d thought it would be! Let me tell you about it…
I guess I haven’t used a lot of metal zippers. I’ve put a few in my trouser flys (… never a sentence I imagined myself writing…) but if they’re too long, I’ve always tucked the end into the waistband and sewn carefully over it, goggles on and ready to break a needle… serious, knife-edge, bare-knuckle sewing!
Recently, I was annoyed (but not surprised) not to find a zipper the exact length I wanted and so it was about time I finally bit the bullet and shortened a metal zipper myself. I’d read about it often enough but never done it, and it really is as simple as every one makes out… honest.
All you need is a pair of pliers (or maybe two) some kind of marker, and your zip. An awl can help too, if you have one. I bought one recently and it’s fast becoming my favourite sewing tool – I’m sure you’ll hear more about it in the future.
Measure your zip and mark where you want it to end. I found it easiest to mark the teeth with a permanent marker, that way I couldn’t pull out the wrong ones while wrestling with it. (If it’s your first time too, have a go at pulling one of the end ones first – work your way up to the ones on the front line!).
Open the zipper and bend the tape so that the tooth for extraction is easier to get at … say ‘ahh’…(dentistry puns are impossible to avoid here – I recommend to just go with it!) Try to grip it right at the root to prise open its hold on the tape. Give it a pull and a twist with your pliers.
If that doesn’t work, try tugging it out from the roots…
If it’s being stubborn, use another set of pliers so you can grip both sides, or, try to loosen the grip by wedging in your awl. Be careful not to destroy the zip tape at this point!
Once the marked teeth are out, go ahead and pull out a few more from the excess length.
You’ll need the ‘stops’ from the top of the zip. Some stores will sell you extra stops so you don’t have to fiddle around with the ones already on the tape, but if you’re careful you can reuse the originals.
Use the awl to loosen the stops, you don’t want to crush them with the pliers.
Then simply squeeze the stops onto the zip tape in the new position.
Cut off the excess zip tape and, voila! You’re done!
So if (like me) you’ve been apprehensive of shortening metal zippers, hopefully this will help to show you it’s not as tricky as it sounds. All you really need is a bit of elbow grease, some patience and a set of small nosed pliers. (I picked mine up from a car boot sale for £1.50!)
Notes to self;
- Now I can use all those zips I’ve recycled from old clothes!
- This really feels like a zipper breakthrough!
- The world is my zip-pull!
- Damn! I should have worn my MECHANIC-CHIC shirt to do this!
My awl is one of my favorite tools. I use it mostly for when I’m inserting metal eyelets, but it is handing in many surprising ways.
To make removing the metal teeth easier, you might try using “diagonal cutters “(US), or “snips” (UK). They are used to cut wire, so you can use them to snip off those metal teeth, much faster and cleaner than wrenching with needle-nose pliers. Make sure to wear protective eyewear as those flying metal bits can go anywhere. You can also use them to open up the metal zipper stop, much easier and safer than prying with an awl (how many times did you almost stab yourself?).
Hope this helps!
Thank you 🙏 I’ve got some of those in my tool box – another crossover tool! Great 👍👏😊
Well done. I tried this on my last pair of ginger jeans, and whilst I did it, it’s not necessarily an experience I wish to repeat any time soon. There was a lot of huffing and tutting involved and a little use of naughty words. Just couldn’t get them prised apart…. but I won in the end!!
I hear you! … it definitely takes perseverance… & maybe a bit of meditation 🧘♂️🙏😂👍
Excellent! I’ve pulled lots of teeth but never re-used the zip stop – I have just dodging sewn a bar tack flatly at the top. Definitely going to give this a try. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you! I hope it’s useful 🤞🙏 . I’ll never be shy of a metal zipper again! 😁👏🙏
Great job. I’ve just cut off the excess zipper length and bar-tacked to create a new stop. Thanks for the tutorial on how to do it like a pro.
Haha, yes… another successful method 😁👍🙏
Thanks for the excellent lowdown! I have the zips, I have the pliers, and I have the marker. No awl, though, so might have to source one of those.
I’m feeling much more confident now 😬💪🏻
(And OMG yes you should have totally worn your mechanic shirt for this!!)
👍👏 I can’t believe I waited so long to do it! … I’ll wear the shirt for the next one! 😂👍🙏