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How to Insert a Zipper into a Full Circle

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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 for 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. We're already scheming on some fun projects to put the technique to use. 

  1. From your project fabric, cut a 7" - 8" 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.
  2. To determine the 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 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. 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. 


Comments (22)

Nancy Boling said:
Nancy Boling's picture

I'm trying to make a 30" hula hoop bag for my daughter.  She has quite a few hoops so I wanted sides on it to give depth.  Im horrible with math and I'm trying to figure out how long and wide the strips on the side should be. Also I thought my zipper whold have to be as long as the widest part of the bag but now that I have a 30" zipper it seems like it's going to be way too short. if I made a square bag and put the zipper at the top it would fit, but I want it round.  Since this isn't a project too many people would be interested in, I understand if you can't do a tutorial on YouTube. Would it be possible for you to help with the sizes of fabric to cut and the correct zipper size. 

Thanks so much,

Frustrated Beginner

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

@Nancy - Sounds like a cool project. We wish we had the time to help with all the requests we get for project design specifics, but there just aren't enough hours in the day. Figuring this out for you would essentially mean designing the project, and we simply can't do that -- especially working long distance. The one thing I can suggest is to make sure you are measuring the hoop in the right way. Is the 30" the diameter or the circumference? You really need both to correctly determine the size of your panels. You might want to check out our tutorial on creating circles without a pattern. It shows how to work with pi to determine measurements:

Katie M said:
Katie M's picture

Thanks for this tutorial.  I'm trying to make some earbud pouches as gifts for nieces and nephews this Christmas and this is exactly what I needed.  I too would be very keen to know how you did the lining.  At the moment, I figure I can either add bias tape to conceal the snipped zip and seam allowance, or I can handstitch in linings.  Would love to know how you for a nice neat lining stitched in. 

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

@ Katie - glad we could help with a last-minute gift solution! We definitely have this circular pouch on our official "You Asked 4 It" list. We hope you'll keep visiting to see that... and, as they say, so much more!

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

@ van angelus - you're welcome 

Patricia Taylor said:
Patricia Taylor's picture

Thanks so much!  This was keeping me awake trying to figure out how it could be done.  You saved the day!

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

@ Patricia - We are so happy to help - and so glad you'll finally get a good night's sleep!

Bucklebee said:
Bucklebee 's picture

So, here's a related thought.  I make a handbag with a curved zipper top closure.  I do not clip the zipper tape.  The opposing forces of the exterior fabric and lining pulling on the tape keeps the top of the bag smooth and firm.  The curves are smooth.  Make physics work for you!  Very useful post, thanks so much for the "magic formula."

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

@ Bucklebee - true - you don't always need to clip the zipper tape if the curve is gentle, but it is a good option is you're having trouble keeping a smooth curve. Thanks!

Kathleen Ann said:
Kathleen Ann's picture

Awesome! I could have used this about a month ago. I was following someone's tutorial and realized too late that the zipper was not going to come together correctly. Fortunately the tote was for my grandbaby's wooden blocks so it wasn't a big deal. So glad to have this proper way to install the zipper!

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

@ Kathleen Ann - Better late than never, right? Next time it will be a snap. 

Chrst256 said:
Chrst256's picture

How do you insert the lining? The first photo shows a yellow lining.

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

@ Chrst256 - we didn't address a lining in this tutorial as it isn't critical to the basic technique. As we plan the projects that will eventually feature this type of zipper, some will feature a lining. 

Ashley M said:
Ashley M's picture

Can't wait to see a version utilizing a lining. It's the most daunting thing to me about making this kind of purse.

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

@ Ashley - Thanks for weighing in - we are still planning one down the road.

Pammyk said:
Pammyk's picture

Wow! Love it. Great tutorial on circular zipper installation. Who knew?! Do we get the instructions on how to make the darling pouch?

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

@ Pammyk - as we mentioned above, we are looking into various project options that use this technique. So not necessarily this pouch, but we have some things in the works. 

mpistey said:
mpistey's picture

Yay!  Something useful from 10th grade geometry!  Just kidding, great instructions, cute pouch!

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

@ mpistey -- see... your teachers were right. You ARE using math in your everyday life 

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