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How to Insert a Full Circle Zipper

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We get a lot of questions about zippers. They seem to live at the top of many people's lists of Sewing Phobias (ziphobia!). In an effort to calm these fears, we already have three step-by-step tutorials for inserting standard zippers, tackling invisible zippers, and putting in an inset zipper. We're adding to the zipper toolbox with the following zip tips about how to put a conventional zipper into a circular opening.

A curving zipper like this is most likely to be found on small pouches and purses, although you could also use one to open the end of a duffle or other round-ish tote. 

Our thanks to Janome America Education Coordinator, Nancy Fiedler for providing these helpful instructions.  

  1. From your project fabric, cut a 7" - 8" long strip the width of the zipper. This will be the tab that holds together the ends of the zipper. You can choose a fabric to blend or contrast with the zipper. We chose a contrasting color. This is simply a working length. The steps below show the math to determin the actual length. 
  2. To determine the true length of the tab, first measure the diameter of the circle onto which the zipper will be attached. For our sample, the circle diameter was 7". 
  3. From the diameter, subtract ½", which is the amount of the circle's diameter that will be taken up with the seam allowance when stitching the zipper in place (you use up approximately ¼" to either side when stitching around – or ½" in total). For our sample, we are now at 6½".
  4. To get the circumference, multiply the diameter by pi: 6½" x 3.14 = 20.41". Round up to 21".
  5. Subtract the length of the zipper. For our sample, we wanted the full circle to open, so our zipper is the closest option to the full circumference or 20". 21" - 20" = 1".
  6. The finished tab length should be 1". To this finished length add ½" at each end to account for both seam allowances: 1" + ½" + ½" = 2".
  7. After all this fun math, you now know you need a tab that is 2" x the width of the zipper. 
  8. With a fabric pen or pencil, mark horizontal stitching lines at each end of the tab. Remember, these are at ½" from each end. 
  9. Place the tab right sides together with the bottom end of the zipper. The marked stitching line on the tab should be just above the bottom zipper stops. Stitch the tab in place. 
    NOTE: We are using a contrasting color of thread so it is easy to see our seams. You should use thread to best match your zipper. 
  10. Press the tab away from the zipper, as if extending the length of the zipper. This also reveals the remaining raw end of the tab. 
  11. Open up the zipper slightly and tape the top ends together to temporarily hold them in place. 
  12. Fold the zipper into a smooth loop; in other words, make sure there are no twists or turns in your loop. 
  13. Place the top end of the zipper right sides together with the tab. The second marked stitching line on the remaining raw end of the tab should sit just below the top zipper stops. Stitch the tab in place. Tear away the tape.
  14. You now have a full circle zipper joined at the ends with your tab. 
  15. To allow the zipper tape to curve, snip along both sides of the zipper tape at a depth of about ¼". The cuts should be approximately ⅜" apart.
  16. Open up the zipper all the way. Pin the zipper in place on your fabric circle. The sides of the snipped zipper tape should be flush with the raw edges of the fabric circle. 
  17. Attach a Zipper foot. Stitch this first side of the zipper in place all around. Again, we are using contrasting thread to emphasize our stitching (you should use matching thread). Stitch in a full circle.
  18. Close the zipper to check your work. The zipper should sit smoothly and evenly all around. 
  19. If your project calls for it, this would also be the point to add topstitching around the first half. 
  20. Open up the zipper all the way again and attach the second half of your project to the remaining clipped edge of the zipper tape. 
  21. You've come full circle!
  22. If your opening is not a full circle, you would not need a tab. The ends are simply captured within the seam as they would be with a straight edge opening. The key is in the clipping. Just as clipping fabric adds ease and allows the fabric to stretch and mold into a curve, clipping into the zipper tape will help the zipper sit smoothly along a curve.

Our thanks again to Janome America Education Coordinator, Nancy Fiedler for her help with this tutorial. 

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Comments (8)

Nona said:
Nona 's picture

how did you sew on the inside fabric to cover the raw clipped edges of the zipper as shown in 2nd photo .

thanks.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Nona - This particular sample was lined, which is a whole separate process that we didn't address for this particular technique-only  artice since it's not required to create the circle. We did an entire separate project with the lining. Here is that link: http://bit.ly/FullCircleZipCase

Gina S said:
Gina S's picture

Thank you! Now i know why i had so much trouble putting in a zipper on a curve, i didn't clip it! I took it apart 5 times and was almost in tears. I have never been afraid of zips, but swore i would never do one on the curve again. Now i can't wait to try this! :)

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Gina - That is great news! Curves.... here you come!

Jane Coombs said:
Jane Coombs's picture

Wow I have Ziphobia. I am about to replace a zipper in my daughters jeans. Removing the old one was tricky. I bought a replacement one for $6 at Joanne's. Not suitable. Found the exact one in downtown LA for 50 cents. Today I am headed to QuiltCon in Pasadena. I will deal with my Ziphobia tomorrow. The circle zipper looks like it might be easier to install.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Jane - You shall conquer Ziphobia!! Have a blast at QuiltCon - we weren't able to attend this year.

LesLee said:
LesLee 's picture

Oh I sew want to try this! A friend's birthday is March 1st. and i have been tryng to think about what to make her. This is perfect with a litte cash or gift card inside.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@LesLee - that sounds like a perfect gift plan! Let us know how it turns out.