How To Sew A Zipper Into Your Favourite Hoodie

How To Sew A Zipper Into Your Favourite Hoodie
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Pullover hoodies are fine, but sometimes what you really want is one that zips up — especially if you want to be able to take it off without messing up your hair. Enter this simple sewing project: Just two seams and one cut. Best of all, the picture or writing on the front stays totally visible.

What You’ll Need

Expect to spend a few bucks at a fabric store on the two key ingredients: A zipper and some interfacing. If you also need pins, thread or an entire sewing machine, budget a little bit more. (Actually, you can do this project just fine with a hand needle, but we use a sewing machine in the video.

  • A hoodie. If you’re nervous about cutting up something beloved, practise first on an op shop find.
  • A separating zipper in the same length as the front of your hoodie, or longer. My Lifehacker hoodie was 66cm (26 inches) from neckline to bottom, so I bought a 26-inch zipper like this one for about $6. Look for one in the same colour as your hoodie, or darker.
  • 25cm of lightweight, fusible interfacing. This is a thin fabric that you’ll iron on to stabilise the centre of the hoodie where you will cut it. I bought a dark coloured featherweight interfacing, and my cost for 25cm was about a dollar. The colour doesn’t really have to match, so usually I’ll get black if I’m working with dark fabrics, and white for anything else. You’ll cut this into strips, so you don’t need much. The 25cm will give you plenty of extra.
  • An iron and ironing board to attach the fusible interfacing. If you don’t have one, you can skip the interfacing. Without the interfacing, though, the cut edges might curl, obscuring the cool design that makes you love this hoodie so much.
  • Miscellaneous sewing supplies: Pins, scissors, thread in a colour to match your hoodie and either a needle or a whole sewing machine. Make sure you have a zipper foot for your machine; if not, pick one up while you’re at the store.

Find the Centre Line and Iron on the Interfacing

Before you begin, you have to find the imaginary line down the middle of the hoodie where the zipper will go. The top is easy: It’s where the two sides of the hood meet. But the bottom is a little trickier, so find it as shown in the video. Lay out the hoodie with the side seams together, and the point halfway between them is the centre bottom. Mark it with a safety pin, or draw a line with chalk if you have some. Turn the hoodie inside out.

Cut strips of interfacing to be wider than the zipper, maybe 7.5cm or so. Iron the strips to the centre line, on the inside of the hoodie. Don’t worry if the strips are too short; just stick the pieces down next to each other. You can see me doing this in the video. You can also see, if you look closely, that my interfacing was crooked initially, so rather than trying to fix it, I just stuck down some more pieces next to the original ones. Nobody will notice.

Pin and Sew the Zipper

While the hoodie is still inside-out, pin the zipper down. Make sure it is absolutely straight and the fabric is neither bunched nor stretched. The zipper should be face-down, so that the pull is in a place you’ll be able to grab and use when the hoodie is finished. Then, pin the zipper down. I like to put the pins lengthwise, and remove them while I sew.

Before you start sewing, make sure you’ve swapped out the regular foot on your sewing machine for a zipper foot. A zipper foot only touches the fabric on one side of the needle, so you can bring the other side as close to the zipper teeth as you like. Adjust the zipper foot to be on the right side as you’re looking at the needle. Double check that the machine is set for a straight stitch, since anything else will break the needle. (Ask me how I know.)

Turn the hoodie right side out. I find this makes it easier to keep track of the layer of fabric I’m working on, and makes sure it isn’t bunching up or getting sandwiched with, say, a stray piece of the sleeve.

Now all you have to do is stitch down the zipper tape. I like to leave about 6mm of space between my stitching and the zipper teeth. That way, when you zip it, there is plenty of space for the zipper pull to move without getting caught on the fabric. Take a look at how I position the foot in the video: The edge of the zipper foot lines up with the edge of the zipper tape. That might not work out for every brand of zipper, but it sure is handy when it does.

Verify Everything Is Lined Up, and Cut

Now we come to the genius of this method: Cutting the front of the hoodie is the last thing you do, so you can take your time making sure that you got everything perfectly right. Try on the hoodie — the last time you’ll ever pull it over your head — and make sure that nothing went horribly wrong. Are the lines of stitching straight? Is the zipper making weird lumps on your belly? Did you sew the sleeve to the chest? Don’t be afraid to pick out the seam (with a seam ripper or sharp scissors) and try again. When you get it right, I promise, it will be worth it.

If it looks good, you’re ready to cut. Get your sharpest pair of scissors, and carefully cut right up the middle, between the two seams.

Now it’s time to look at that excess zipper tape at the top (if your zipper was longer than your hoodie). Don’t just cut it, or else the first time you zip up your hoodie the zipper pull will slide right off the top. The simplest way to finish off the top is to fold the tape back at a right angle and secure it in place with a stitch or two. Trim off any excess.

That’s it — you have now turned your favourite pullover hoodie into a zip-up. Enjoy!