Hello there!

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!)

Happy Teeth-Pulling!

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!