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How to Sew a Zipper into a Hand-Knit Sweater

One of my favorite closures for a sweater is a two-way zipper.

Zippers are a great modern finish and has the bonus of letting you regulate your cardigan's warmth and ease factors. With a little concentration, you can have this wonderful effect in your sweaters too.

Here's how I sew a zipper into a cardigan sweater...

Baste the Front Edges Shut

To make sure your zipper is installed evenly and doesn't bunch up, align the garment's front edges together and baste closed using some scrap yarn in an easy to see color.

It doesn't matter if the garment is completely sewn together at this point or still in pieces as shown below.


Close-Up of Basted Front Edges

My zipper bands are made up of two rows of seed stitch. Then I bind-off knitwise with the wrong-side facing me.

This makes a smooth edge that faces the zipper on the inside of the garment and makes a cool ridge that is easy to baste.

You can see in the picture above how I caught two opposite loops in the bound-off edge of both fronts with the basting yarn to close the edges.


Pin the Zipper to the Wrong Side

Using ball-headed pins, I pin the right-side of the zipper to the wrong-side of the garment. The zipper-pulls are facing away from the me and towards the garment.

I place the teeth on the center line of the basted front edges.


Remove the Basting and Un-Zip

Since my zipper is too long for the front of the garment, I trim it and add some safety pins to anchor the edges. This prevents the zipper-pulls from flying off and landing under the couch (don't ask...).

Having the fronts seperated will make the actual sewing easier to handle and allow you to perfectly align the edge of the teeth slightly in from the edge of the front.

You should NOT be able to see the teeth edges from the Right-Side of your garment when the zipper is zipped...

NOTE: if you are going to hand sew your zipper, continue from this point. I like to use a Back Stitch to firmly sew the zipper to the sweater fronts and I use ButtonHole Twist Thread in a matching color.


Baste the Zipper to the Front

I use my fingers to massage and line up the teeth edges and zipper tape slightly away from the edge. Then I use a contrasting color thread to baste the zipper into place.

I find basting the zipper to be the SECRET to a successful, even installation.

It makes it a lot easier to sew the zipper if you are not trying to control pins AND the wiggling tape while you've got the thing under the machine presser foot.

You can see how it looks from the Front-Side on the right side of the picture above.


Sew Zipper to Sweater & Finish

Trim the zipper tape to a length slightly less than the neck edge then sew the zipper to the front edges using a sewing maching (go slow!) or by hand, using a even back-stitch.

Remove the basting thread. Reinforce the top tape securely with overcast reinforcement stitches to form a zipper stop just below the neck edge.

Take the zipper for a test drive and enjoy your efforts...

You can see I used a 2-way zipper, unzipped from the bottom-up (left arrow) and nicely hidden at the neck edge (right arrow).

Zip ON!!!


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