How To Shorten a Zipper

Colorful zippers
Michael Ougourloglou / EyeEm / Getty Images

Zippers come in a wide variety of lengths but they are not always the perfect length for what you want to create or for what you are sewing. It is rare for ready-made garments to have the same size zipper that would match what is available for home sewing. Shortening a zipper for it to fit is not a hard task and, luckily, does not mean you have to have zipper teeth poking into your skin on garments.


Always buy a zipper that is longer than you need if the perfect length is not available.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Tape measure
  • Sewing machine
  • Needles
  • Scissors


  • Zipper
  • Thread


  1. Measure and Bar Tack the Zipper

    Measure the area you want to insert the zipper into. Transfer this measurement to the zipper and mark the zipper tape for the length you want.

    Sew a bar tack over the zipper teeth at the mark. A bar tack is sewn by setting the stitch width wide enough for the needle to land on both sides of the zipper teeth and setting the stitch length so that the stitches are almost right on top of each other.​

    How To Shorten a Zipper
    Sew a Bar Tack on the Adjustment Mark

    The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove

  2. Cut the Excess Zipper Length

    Cut the zipper below the bar tack, leaving 3/4 inch to 1 inch of zipper.

    Carefully snip just the teeth off of the zipper tape, leaving as much of the zipper tape ​intact as possible.

    Remove excess zipper

    The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove

  3. Back the Cut End

    Place a ribbon, scrap of bias tape or fabric on the back side of the zipper under where you removed the teeth. This backing fabric will give you a smooth surface to keep the zipper tape ​intact and protect your skin.

    Zipper with backing

    The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove

  4. Finish the Shortened Zipper

    Zigzag over the edges of the zipper tape and backing material, keeping the edges of the zipper tape even with the original zipper tape width as well as flat and smooth. Zigzag the raw end of the zipper tape to prevent fraying.​

    Zig zag stitch

    The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove

    Sew the zipper in as you normally would.