A Zipper Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Zip Types (2024)

A Zipper Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Zip Types (1)

Welcome to this zippy edition of my sewing Substack I get SO many questions about zips… Separating zips… Close-ended zips… invisible zips… continuous zips… I hear ya! What zip do you need where and what exactly do those numbers mean?! This zipper guide has everything you need to know about zip types.

As simple as they might seem, zippers are the backbone of functionality and style in many sewing creations. But not all zippers are created equal, and choosing the right one can be the difference between a project that's just good and one that's great.

By the end of this installment, you'll be equipped with the knowledge to not just choose the right zipper, but to do so with confidence and creativity.

And if reading isn’t your thing… You can watch a video I did talking you through all the different zip types here, but please leave me a comment or a ❤️ below if you’ve found this post helpful, I’d really appreciate it!

The Anatomy Of A Zip

First, let’s talk about the anatomy of a zip… You might find some of these terms in a tutorial and it’s useful to be aware of the parts, and the functions they serve in your zip

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Top Stop: A small bar at the top that stops the slider from coming off of the top of zipper tracks.

Bottom Stop: A small bar at the bottom that stops the slider from coming off of the bottom of the zipper tracks.

Slider Body: The most common part of the zip, it separates and joins the tracks as you slide the pull tab up and down.

Pull Tab: The second part of the slider body, used to pull the zipper up and down.

Zipper Tape: This is the fabric part that gets sewn on to your project. The zipper teeth are attached to the zipper tape

Retainer Box: Secures it together and stops the slider from coming off of the bottom – this only applies to separating zips.

Insertion Pin: Holds the opposite side of the zipper in the retainer box – this only applies to separating zips.

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Different Types Of Zips

Now you know your top stop from your slider let’s talk about the two basic zips types: Closed-ended zips & open ended zips…

On the left we see a closed-ended zipper – the zip is permanently closed on one end

On the right we see an open-ended or separating zipper. The zip completely separates in two. These zips are often found in jackets, coats and other garments.

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What is a closed-ended zip?

Closed-ended zips are a great jumping off point into the world of sewing zips – and they’re one of the easiest to get the hang of.

It has a bottom stop which is a metal bar that goes across both sides of the bottom of the zipper and holds it together in one piece.

These kinds of zips are really versatile as they come in a wide range of both colours and sizes

They can be used in making pouches, bags, dressmaking, cushions and lots more.

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What is a separating or open-ended zip?

Does pretty much what it says on the tin, this zipper separates at the bottom – great for fastenings that require opening/closing.

Separating zippers are usually found in jackets and coats.

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You can cheat and use these zips in place of a closed ended zip if you like the style… you simply just treat them as you would a closed ended zip and bury the separating end in a seam or cover with a zip tab!

What type of zip do I need?

The 4 most common types are nylon coil zip, plastic moulded zip, metal zip and invisible zip.

What’s a nylon coil zip?

A nylon coil zip is one whose teeth are made from nylon, rather than hard plastic or metal. Made how it’s named, nylon monofilament is coiled and then stitched or woven into the zipper tape.

Nylon teeth zips are great to use as you can usually sew right over the teeth without your needle breaking!

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Nylon zippers are also really flexible compared to other zip types. They have strong horizontal strength, this is ideal because they’re easily fixed if broken.

These are the zips of choice for luggage and outdoor products due to their strength, you’ll likely find them on suitcases, backpacks, tents or jackets! Thanks to this bad boy you can overpack your suitcase and STILL close it shut without ripping the whole thing apart!

Nylon zippers are also very forgiving if you sew over them – it’s unlikely your needle will break if it’s a size 80 or stronger.

What does an invisible zip look like?

As the name might imply – these are (almost!) invisible! These zips are also known as concealed zips.

Usually with very fine teeth, they’re sewn into the seam in garments to give a clean finish – with only the pull tab showing (if installed correctly!).

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You ideally need an invisible zipper foot to insert this zip type more easily and accurately.

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Where to use a moulded plastic/chunky zip?

These zippers are usually constructed from acetal polymer plastic and have symmetrical teeth that interlock together. They also have more substantial & defined zip teeth than other zips – hence the name chunky! These are most commonly seen on clothes like jackets and also handbags.

Sadly, if one of the teeth breaks over time it’s very difficult to fix.

However the shape of the teeth makes them slightly stiffer/stronger than nylon coil ones – it’s a balance!

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What are metal teeth zips?

Probably the most sturdy and durable of the bunch, they have teeth made out of metal that are clamped onto the zipper tape, however they can be relatively heavy and are a lot more difficult to shorten.

Often seen on denim jeans due to their resistance to withstand multiple washes, and due to the rough nature of how people wear/treat their jeans. This style is also used for heavy-duty items such as duffle bags, leather products and suitcases.

There is a huge trend towards adding metal teeth zippers to pouches – they add a feeling of luxury.

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What are continuous zips?

These zips don’t have a beginning or end, you can cut them to the length you need as there’s no pull tab or bottom stop and you can purchase the zipper tape by the metre.

Zip pulls are purchased and added separately giving you more control over the look and design of your project.

These are great if you need a very long zip. Perfect to reduce waste and for those niche projects, you can also customise it to your needs and add zip pulls to either side!

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What does a #3 or #5 Zip look like?

Ever wondered what a size 5 zip actually is?! For the uninitiated, it might seem confusing but the reality is it’s very simple…

Zip sizes are expressed in numbers (#) and the width of the zip teeth is measured in millimeters. The most common are size #3 and size #5.

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In most cases the overall size is an approximation of the zipper teeth width in millimeters when the zip is closed.

When sewing your makes, if your project doesn’t include a recommendation for the size of the zipper, you can use the table below:

ZIPPER SIZE CHART

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Don’t forget when it comes to measuring the length of your zip, you should start measuring from the top stop and finish measuring when you reach bottom stop, this will give you the most accurate measurement of your zip.

How heavy are zips?

Weight is an important factor to consider as you want to match a suitable weight to the project you’re working on.

Usually metal zippers will weigh a lot more than moulded plastic ones.

So for example if you’re sewing some children’s clothes with a zip on the front, metal may not be suitable as it would be too heavy and weigh the whole garment down.

Zipper Tools

Grab the tools below to help you with your zip sewing!

What does a zipper foot look like?

A recommended prerequisite before you start sewing zips is getting yourself a zipper foot. Although some seam-stars agree it’s not a necessity – it does make life a lot easier and you are more likely to get a nice finish.

You can get 2 different zipper foots, an invisible zipper foot and a regular zipper foot.

The difference between both is self-explanatory, the invisible zipper foot is to be used when sewing invisible zips, and the regular zipper foot is to be used with all other types.

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(Two different types of regular feet)

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(Invisible zipper foot)

Pliers

Some zippers such as nylon coil and chunky zips can be cut with scissors to shorten, however metal ones need a little more work to shorten & pliers are the perfect tool for this.

All you need to do is snip & pull off some of the metal teeth with pliers.

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Clear Tape

An easy tool most of us have in our homes, the same sellotape we use with wrapping paper! I like Scotch Magic Tape as it doesn’t leave a residue on your project.

Use this to stick down the zip whilst sewing for ease to keep it from slipping.

Wonder Tape

Ideal for holding together seams, zips or hems when stitching knit fabric, it’ll also keep the fabric from stretching as you sew.

Even better… this tape disappears after the first wash!

If you prefer watching rather than reading, check out our video version of this guide over on our Youtube

Did this guide help you? If it did I’d appreciate it if you’d leave a comment or a ❤️ on this post to help other people find my work! And if you’d like to hear more from me I’d love it if you would subscribe below… thanks so much!

Kellie Rose's Substack is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

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A Zipper Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Zip Types (2024)

FAQs

What are the different types of zips? ›

The three main types are Nylon Coil, Vislon (also known as Molded Tooth) and Metal zippers. On the back of each slider, there should be a couple letters and numbers. For example, if your zipper says YKK 5CN, you have a YKK brand zipper in size 5 coil.

How to identify zipper type? ›

The number on the back of the slider indicates the zipper size (5, 10, 12, etc.). Some sliders might also have letters on the back. The letter might signify the type of zipper tape the slider is compatible with, like coil or molded tooth.

Which is bigger, a #3 or a #5 zipper? ›

The second number, preceded by an actual number sign, tells you the width in millimeters of the chain. So a #3 zipper has a 3mm wide chain, and a #5 zipper has a 5mm wide chain. The #3 will be more flexible than the #5, but not as strong.

What does the YKK zipper code mean? ›

YKK, it turns out, is a Japanese company. (It stands for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha–far too long to print on a zipper.) It's got about half of the world's zipper business. And it has a zipper factory in Macon, Georgia, where they make about 5 million zippers a day. They melt copper.

What zip type is best? ›

Nylon Coil is the ideal choice for items that require a lot of strength and flexibility (such as luggage, backpacks, tents, and boots) but they're also a great choice for everyday items like pants, totes, jackets, and more. These zippers are available in lots of color options, too!

What do the letters on zippers mean? ›

Zipper function. C = closed-end OL = open-end left insert OR = open-end right insert ML= two-way left insert MR = two-way right insert (see page**) KENSIN: Means that the zipper passes needle detection NC-A. N-ANTI: Means that the zipper meets the requirement for 94/27/EC for nickel.

What is the strongest type of zipper? ›

Coil: #3, #5, #7, #8, #9, #10. Again the number is approximate width of the zipper when closed. Coil looks like a spring that has been stretched out & stitched to a polyester twill tape. Coil is usually the strongest because so much area on the actual zipper is touching the other side of the zipper.

What are the three letters on every zipper? ›

'YKK' stands for: Yoshida Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha. The YKK Group is a Japanese group of manufacturing companies. As the world's largest zipper manufacturer, YKK Group is most famous for making zippers. YKK is the global leader in zippers.

Do all zippers say YKK? ›

Not only do these initials appear on zippers across brands, but they also appear on all different types of gear. You're just as likely to find a YKK zipper on a Hermes bag as you are on a scuba-diving suit, bagpipe, or backpack.

What does #10 zipper mean? ›

Zippers are sized with a number designation (e.g., #5, #10). These numbers are based on the approximate width of the closed zipper teeth in millimeters. So, a #5 zipper's teeth measure approximately 5mm across, a #10 zipper's teeth measure approximately 10mm across, and so on.

What does #8 zipper mean? ›

The number on the back of the zipper slider is most often tied to the gauge size of the zipper. The gauge size refers to the size of the teeth, as the number gets larger, the teeth get bigger. There are #2, #5, #8 gauge size zippers and go as high as #10 here in our factory. The most common gauge sizes are #4 and #5.

What makes a high quality zipper? ›

A high-quality zipper provides a very strong bond that is difficult to break without moving the slide in the opposite direction to separate the teeth. Zippers require all of the teeth to be exactly the same size for the mechanism to work correctly.

What is a CF zipper? ›

A fine-toothed coil zipper chain, this zipper is manufactured with a plastic coil sewn into the zipper tape. The rust-resistant plastic makes these great for use as marine zippers.

What is the famous zipper brand? ›

YKK's first US office opened in New York City in 1960 and is now the country's top supplier of zippers and other fastening devices such as snaps and buttons.

What are the variations of zip? ›

ZIP File Format Specification documents the following compression methods: Store (no compression), Shrink (LZW), Reduce (levels 1–4; LZ77 + probabilistic), Implode, Deflate, Deflate64, bzip2, LZMA, WavPack, PPMd, and a LZ77 variant provided by IBM z/OS CMPSC instruction.

What kind of zipper is strongest? ›

Coil zipper teeth are stronger and more flexible than molded tooth zippers, making them a great choice for indoor and outdoor projects with curves. Just note that polyester thread breaks down in the sun, so coil zippers should be kept covered to protect them from UV exposure in outdoor projects.

What is the difference between #8 and #10 zippers? ›

The gauge size refers to the size of the teeth, as the number gets larger, the teeth get bigger. There are #2, #5, #8 gauge size zippers and go as high as #10 here in our factory.

What are the different types of zipper feet? ›

The basic types of zipper foot are: standard zipper foot, invisible zipper foot and adjustable zipper foot.

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