Sheer and Utter Terror, or, A Tutorial for Peace of Mind.

As most of you know, I've been doing a lot of little custom projects for people for extra money as I try to get my business together online. I've done everything from professional organizing to hemming pants and I'm having a blast! Recently, a good friend of mine asked me if I had ever installed a zipper in a sweater, and if so, could I do it on one she was knitting for her father-in-law's birthday? Sure, no problem, I've sewn with zippers many times. But there was a catch: the sweater's pattern called for it to be knit as a pullover, then have the zipper installed, then be cut open. Dear sweet mother of God, what have I agreed to? I was faced with the very terrifying prospect of not only having to neatly sew a zipper into a hand-knit garment that a friend had painstakingly made, but I'd also have to make sure I didn't completely destroy it as I cut it apart. The idea of holding the fate of a gorgeous hand-knit piece of art in my hands, not to mention the fact that it belonged to someone else, scared the crap-o-la out of me. But I'm sure it scared her even more, being a novice seamstress, and I knew I could do it, so I agreed. Now, in the end, it turned out brilliantly. And the process went on without a single hiccup. So for everyone out there who feels ill thinking about such a task, I'm here to offer my method  along with the knowledge that everything really will be okay. So take a deep breath.

First of all, Ms. Aleene is your new best friend. I use all the glues this company makes on almost a daily basis. You'll want to get some of their No-Sew Fabric Glue for Basting.

When you've got a zipper that's the correct length and color, start by separating the two halves. Place a fine line of the fabric glue on the edge opposite the teeth, and glue them to the front of the sweater, on the right side, on either side of where you plan to cut. You want them to be butted as close as possible without overlapping, with the toothed edges facing away from the center (see the photo below). Allow the glue to dry thoroughly. Set your sewing machine to a small zig-zag and stitch along the edge of each zipper half. When you're done, go back and stitch along the same path with a larger zig-zag stitch.

That should be sufficient to hold everything together so you can cut the sweater apart... Just typing that makes me sweat a little, but really the fear is totally unfounded...

At that point I think I blacked out for a sec. Every fiber of my being was telling me that what I was doing was wrong, wrong, wrong. I was convinced I was going to kill the sweater and lose a friend...

Huh. That wasn't so bad. Nothing came unraveled, or exploded, and I didn't die. It actually held together great! I trimmed off the excess ends of yarn that were sticking up above the edge of the zipper:

That kinda weirded me out, having a pile of fluff that was once hand-knit stitches...
I decided to do my "poor man's serger trick" aka a zig-zag stitch that goes off the edge of the fabric to further reinforce the edge:

I zipped up the zipper and it was perfect. (Well, I decided I wanted a little less of the zipper facing to show, so I added another row of large zig-zag stitching a little closer to the row of teeth. I may have also added that row juuuust to be on the safe side.) I wish I had photographed the end result, but I had to run to get the sweater back to my friend so she could finish knitting the sleeves and didn't have time. But it looked amazing and was much easier than I anticipated. She's very happy with it. In fact she says she wants me to do it to another sweater she's working on... Oh goody.


  1. steeking is incredibly unnerving but, it looks like you did a great job!

  2. It looks like there are a good number of stitches for the zipper to be stitched onto. I'd been contemplating doing the same thing, but had planned only two or four stitches in between the two front edges, but that looks more like four or six. How many did she use?

    1. I believe there were 6 stitches, you need enough room not only to cut but to be able to attach the zipper and turn it under.

  3. I'm not entirely sure how many she used, and each pattern is a little different. I think I would recommend no less than 4, and 6 seems like a much safer amount. Hope that helps!

  4. Wow, that is awesome!! I had wondered about using the sewing machine, too. That is so great to see the whole process!! And it does look like yours turned out great! I was able to find this via Pinterest. Thank you so much!

  5. Well done very brave of you! Shame you didn't get a photo of the finished article but what you can see looks very neat and I'm inspired to give it a go 😀

  6. Would this work for crochet as well?