Zipper tabs are a great way of shortening or lengthening zippers and add a personal touch. Today I’m going to show you a super easy zipper tabs tutorial so that you don’t need to be looking for the perfect zipper for ages.
Zipper tabs tutorial
Ever needed a zipper and didn’t find the size you were looking for? Well, it did happen to me a lot! The solution was to reduce it and sew a zipper tab at the end. But how to make a zipper pull tab? In this zipper tabs tutorial I’ll show you how easy and fun making a zipper tab is!
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Zipper tabs can use up any fabric scraps, as it is a very small and quick project. Actually, you can get a zipper tab on in less than 15 minutes, even less as you get more experienced. They are a great way of shortening or lengthening zippers and add a personal touch. Even if you don’t actually need to shorten your zipper, a tab would still make your project truly stand out.
Tabs can be shorter or longer, depending on the final object design. If you only need a small opening, add a short zipper and longer tabs. If you just need some nice-looking ends, use short tabs, just enough to cover the zipper ends.
How to incorporate zipper tabs into a project:
- You can sew the tab within the seam – this method will not give you the best looking results as the zipper tab will be kind of squished inside the seam. Still looking better than a plain zipper though. Be careful to only use this on plastic coil zippers, and not on metal or plastic molded zippers.
- Exclude the tab from the seam – when sewing the seam, stop when you reach the zipper tab, move the needle past the tab then continue sewing to finish the seam. This will give a nice, neat finish to the zipper area.
- Leave the zipper longer than your project, on both ends and apply the second method highlighted above when sewing the seam. This method leaves the zipper tabs completely exposed, adding an interesting touch to your project, making it look pretty fancy. This is mostly used for cosmetic bags and pouches.
Reasons to use zipper tabs:
- A zipper tab can be a cute detail for small pouches like pencil cases, coin purses or make-up pouches.
- Make it out of a nice contrasting fabric to add some pop of color to your project. It will also make it look a lot more professional.
- Side seams without tabs tend to look pinched and puckered and it’s extremely hard to make a nice finish. Tabs add a clean finish and also look nicer.
For a patterned pouch that needs to open wide, consider leaving a longer zipper end and finish it with a nice tab instead of just leaving the metal stopper on. In this kind of tabs, sew around the tab to secure it. For extra enforcement or just as a nice design, you can also stitch the diagonals of the fabric square.
For a plain looking pouch made of solid-color fabric, a patterned zipper tab would make a very nice accent piece.
Tips and tricks to get a perfect zipper tab:
- Use medium weight fabric. Silk or other soft fabrics may frail or pucker and ruin your project very soon;
- Consider sewing reinforcing stitches for extra strength;
- If you incorporate the zipper tab in the seam of your project, go very slow when sewing over the zipper’s coil part. In case you’re hitting the zipper coil, the needle could break;
- If your zipper still has the metal stopper and you need to stitch over the area, remove the metal part before sewing and secure with thread;
- You can machine sew the zipper end, but hand sewing is easier and takes less time;
- For a sewn-in zipper, you must start with a zipper longer than your pouch opening. If it’s the same length and add tabs, the opening will be much shorter;
- It’s not necessary to measure each piece exactly, unless you really want to. You can just eyeball the fabric pieces and cut the extra bits later. You can also make a long strip of fabric if you’re working on more pouches, and cut each tab from it.
I’m really curious to see how you spice up your bags, pouches or anything that uses a zipper, so please let me know in the comments.
How to make zipper tabs
- zipper (works for both regular and invisible zippers)
- fabric scraps
- scissors or rotary cutter
- quilting ruler
- cutting mat
- fabric pen
- matching thread
- sewing machine
- pressing iron
There are various ways of sewing zipper tabs and in this zipper tabs tutorial I’ll be showing my most used method. The measurements in this tutorial are for a 1″ wide zipper.
Cut the fabric
- Measure the zipper opening in your project and mark these measurements on the zipper.
- Cut a fabric rectangle of 3″ x 2 1/2″. So the width is 2 times the zipper width plus 1/4″ allowance on each side of the rectangle; if it sounds confusing, it will make more sense in the next steps). The length depends on the method you choose for inserting the zipper into your project. In my case, my final zipper tab was 1 1/2″ long by 1″ wide.
Make a tube
- Fold the rectangle in half, lengthwise and mark the crease.
- With the fabric wrong side up, fold each half towards the crease and press with the iron on steam.
- Turn the strip to the other side and fold in half, widthwise.
- Sew the raw edges together with 1/4″ allowance.
- Finger press the seam open (if the fabric is too stiff, press with your iron too).
- Turn the little tube right side out, with the seam in the middle, and press well.
Insert the zipper in the tube
- With the tab seam down, insert the zipper into the tab and align the bottom end of the tab with the mark on the zipper. The zipper teeth should be on the right side of the zipper tab (the seam in the zipper tab should be on the wrong side of the zipper). Then pull the tab to slightly cover the mark. If the tab will be sewn within the seam of your project, pull the tab a little more. If the tab will be completely outside the seam allowance, then you need to pull it even more.
- Next step is to edge stitch the top of the tab.
- Then pull the tab up and trim the zipper on the mark.
- Push the zipper tab back and edge stitch the bottom.
- Repeat for the other tab on the opposite end of the zipper (the zipper pull end). For this end you’ll first need to pull the zipper pull out of the way and secure the ends of the zipper by running a line of stitches just above the zipper end. It helps to temporary sew the zipper teeth by hand, just below the zipper pull.
- And that’s it, you’re zipper tabs are done and your zipper is ready to be inserted into your project!
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