Learning the Anatomy of a Zipper is really just learning about all the parts of a zipper and what purpose each part serves.
Beginner and experienced sewists alike can be intimidated by zippers. Some people steer completely away from projects that require zippers simply because they’re afraid of trying to sew a zipper.
Then once they learn how easy it is to sew a zipper? They have no idea what all that fear and intimidation was about!
So, let’s put that fear aside and learn all about the parts of a zipper. Why? Well, so you can sew zippers with confidence!
History of the Zipper
Did you know that zipper was invented back in 1851? However, it wasn’t until the early 1900’s that it began to be used commercially. Zippers actually got their start in the garment industry as closures for boots.
You can read more about the fascinating history of the modern day “zipper” in this article on Wikipedia.
Today, zippers are used everywhere. And they’re even easier to use than they ever were!
Anatomy of a Zipper
Before we get started with learning how to sew a zipper, it’s important we learn about the anatomy of a zipper first.
Two Styles of Zippers: Separating and Non-Separating
In may help to start with the two basic styles of zippers: separating zippers and non-separating zippers.
With a separating zipper, the two sides come completely apart when the zipper is opened all the way. You’ll find this type of zipper commonly used in jackets and coats.
As you might guess, a non-separating zipper does not come completely apart when the zipper is opened. Sometimes you’ll find that maybe the bottom of the zipper doesn’t come apart. Or maybe both the top and bottom remain attached when the zipper is open.
Non-Separating Zippers are commonly used in home decor projects, bags, apparel and more.
The separating zippers and non-separating zippers have some parts in common. They also are slightly different because of their different uses. Let’s take a look.
The Parts of a Zipper
Remember when you were first learning how to sew? And how it was important for you to understand actually how to use your sewing machine? Well, it is also important to understand the parts of a zipper. And it’s important to know how those parts work together to make a zipper “zip”.
The Top Stop is the metal or plastic piece secured to each side of the zipper tape above the teeth. The Top Stop prevents the zipper slider from coming off the top of the zipper.
The Zipper Tape is the fabric portion of a zipper. The zipper teeth are secured to the zipper tape. And this fabric portion of the zipper is where your zipper is sewn into your project.
Zipper Teeth can be made of metal or plastic. They run right down the middle of the zipper tape. The Zipper Teeth are made in such a way that they actually interlock when the zipper is closed.
So the Zipper Slider is placed on the zipper teeth. It slides up and down the teeth to open and close the zipper teeth.
To make using the zipper slider easier, every zipper has a Zipper Pull or Zipper Tab attached to the slider. It’s used to give you something to hold on to or to grip as you slide the zipper slider up and down the teeth of the zipper.
The Bottom Stop is similar to the Top Stop. It is meant to prevent the slider from coming off the bottom of the zipper. Notice that only non-separating zippers have bottom stops.
Top Tape Extension
If you take a close look at your zipper, you’ll notice a piece of fabric that extends past the Top Stop. This extra piece of tape is called the Top Tape Extension.
Bottom Tape Extension
Okay, so if you look at the bottom end of the zipper, you’ll notice the Zipper Tape extends past the Bottom Zipper Stop or Retaining Box/Insertion Pin. This extra piece of tape is called the Bottom Tape Extension.
Retaining Box/Starter Box
Since separating zippers don’t have a Bottom Stop, they have what’s called a Retaining Box and Insertion Pin Mechanism. The Retaining Box is the larger metal or plastic piece located on one side of the zipper tape at the bottom of the zipper and just below the teeth. The purpose of this box is to provide a place for the alignment of the Insertion Pin, which aligns the two sides of the zipper teeth, allowing the zipper to close.
As you might imagine, the Insertion Pin is the piece of metal or plastic at the bottom of the zipper opposite the Retaining Box. Again, this only applies to separating zippers. The Pin is inserted through the slider, then into the Retaining Box to align the zipper so that it can be closed.
Download the Zipper Anatomy Guide
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There is so much more we could talk about on the subject of zippers. But, I think this is enough for now. I really wanted to familiarize you with the anatomy of a zipper so you would become comfortable with the terminology.
And so you would have a better understanding of all the parts of the zipper and how they work together.
At least now you’ll have a better understanding of why a particular pattern may call for a specific kind of zipper.
If you have questions about the Anatomy of a Zipper, feel free to leave them in the Comments below.
More Sewing Tutorials
If you enjoyed learning about the anatomy of a zipper or maybe you’re new to sewing, you’ll find plenty of sewing tutorials and patterns right here on Hooked on Sewing.
And be sure to check out the entire Learn to Sew series. You can follow along with these sequential sewing lessons or pick and choose which sewing lesson you want to learn.
Patti lebens says
That would be an excellent referral sheet to go to. Thank you!