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Change a Double Zipper to Close in the Centre {tutorial}

2013 December 29

I thought I would follow up my Cargo Duffle post with the zipper tutorial I promised. Especially since Kim asked for it – she wants to make a cargo duffle as well! This bag, by the way, performed beautifully on it’s maiden voyage via 3 differently sized airplanes. It is the perfect size to fit under the seat and leaves just enough space to rest your feet beside it. Letting you use whatever leg room you can get!

When I was buying supplies for the duffle cargo I was disappointed that I could not find a zipper that closed into the middle. Instead, all my local fabric shop had were zippers that met in the centre and opened at each end. I’ve been experimenting with zippers lately and have found that I am shortening a lot of them to fit my projects. So I thought, maybe I could flip the zipper slider around to open the zipper teeth in the opposite direction. I was pretty excited when it worked!

The only negative I can find to this process is that it won’t work on a metal zipper – at least not as far as I can tell. I was unwilling to pull my metal zipper apart because the teeth seem to be different on each side. If you take a look at the teeth on a plastic zipper (below) – they are symmetrical and will fit into the zipper slider in any direction – making the whole process of turning the slider around possible. I’d love to know if you’ve tried this and what your conclusions are.

What you need:

  • plastic two way zipper
  • pliers
  • craft scissors
  • craft knife
  • sewing machine
  • small fabric scraps to match your project
Here we go:
Step 1: (1a, 1b) The bottom of the zipper has two pins with stoppers molded into them (circled in red). Take your craft knife and carefully (Please!) cut off the two stoppers. This will allow your slider to come off the bottom of the zipper. (1c, 1d) Take note how the pieces look as you remove them.
Step 2: Without separating your zipper lay it right side up and mark the left and right pieces on the top – just past the top zipper stoppers. This will be hidden once you are finished, but I used my water soluble fabric marker anyhow.
Step 3: Remove the top zipper stoppers. (3a) I found the best way is to use some old scissors to cut through the stopper right beside the zipper tape. (3b) Once it has been cut the stopper will pull off with a bit of gentle tugging. Be careful not to cut the other teeth or the zipper tape!
Step 4: (4a) Both ends of your zipper will have the stoppers removed now. (4b) Lay the zipper pulls next to the zipper pin end in the correct order. Technical info: The wider end of the zipper pull allows the zipper teeth to be pulled in and fastened together. So the wide ends of your pulls should be facing each other together in the middle.
Step 5: Push the stoppers back onto the zipper at the bottom end, one at a time following the photos below. Open and close the zipper, being careful not to accidentally pull the zipper pulls off of the tape – since you don’t have stoppers at the ends anymore.
Step 6: To make a temporary stopper, put a bar tack near the end of the zipper teeth at each end. Set your machine to a zig-zag with “0″ length and the maximum width. Stitch several (10-15) stitches in place. Make sure the width crosses over all of your teeth or you will have a broken needle! (Trust me – I know from experience…)
Step 7: I also covered the ends of my zipper so the bar tack would not show when I used the zipper in my cargo duffle. If your zipper is too long you will not need to do this because the ends can be stitched into the project.
  • Cut 4 pieces of fabric wider than your zipper tape and long enough to reach from the end of the zipper to 1/2″ past where the teeth start. This length will be different for each end. You can also pick the longest length and make them both match.
  • (7a) Place the pieces right sides facing at the edge of the teeth/bar tack.
  • (7b) Stitch using a 1/2″ seam – be careful when stitching over the teeth. I usually turn the hand wheel and move the fabric around to avoid breaking my needle.
  • (7c) Fold the fabric down over the end of the zipper and top stitch close to the folded edge of the fabric.
  • (7d) Cut the edges from the fabric so it matches the width of the zipper tape.

All finished – now you can install it in your bag project!

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34 Responses leave one →
  1. Kim permalink
    December 29, 2013

    Thank you so much for posting this tutorial! I just finished both sides of my cargo duffle and will soon be doing the zipper! Thanks again!

    • January 1, 2014

      I’m glad Kim. Hope your bag turned/turns out great! :)

    • Tiger permalink
      March 30, 2017

      Thanks for posting the zipper info. I just converted mine using your experience and it works super well.

  2. nicole permalink
    February 13, 2014

    Thank you for this tutorial, cant wait to try it! If I get a longer zipper so I can sew it into the sides, would 28″ be long enough or would you suggest 30″ to be safe? Thanks again!

    • February 13, 2014

      I think that if you measure the zipper you are going to buy from the beginning to the end of the teeth portion and get one that is 27″+ you should be fine. (Not from end to end, just the teeth) That way you can center the teeth within the 26″ section Anna designates for the entire zipper. This should make the teeth reach from side to side so you can skip covering the ends. If you can’t measure it, I would buy a 30″, just to be sure. I don’t have one here or I’d measure it for you. Let me know if that doesn’t make sense!

  3. nicole permalink
    February 13, 2014

    It does make sense and I thank you! I figured I would go with the 30″ just to be safe. Im not able to measure in person. Thanks again!

  4. Lori permalink
    May 23, 2014

    Thank you sooooo much! I’m making a large travel bag that requires a 30″ purse zipper, but all I could find in that length at Joann’s were zillions of parka zippers. There were only a couple of short purse zippers. (Who are all of these people sewing parkas???) I googled “how to reverse a zipper pull” on my phone right there in the store and this tutorial popped up. I bought a long parka zipper and decided to try my luck with this. Well, I just followed all of your steps, and it totally worked! I’ll be using this trick again and again. Thank you so, so much. :0)

    • May 26, 2014

      Hooray Lori, I’m so glad it worked for you! I was so happy to have figured it out myself. It’s a great pretty simple solution thankfully!

  5. Karen permalink
    September 24, 2014

    Genius! I ran across this tutorial on Pinterest. I’m thrilled with how easy it was to do! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Charis permalink
    April 8, 2015

    THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I absolutely can’t WAIT to try this!!!! I was having the same problem not being able to find a long enough length of zipper – this is so exciting!!! I was debating buying by the yard zippers but let’s face it – I hate paying shipping and I LOVE coupons haha! So now I can have coupons without shipping galore!! Ahhh thank you!!

    • April 9, 2015

      Hooray Charis! I’m SO glad for you! My favorite part of writing tutorials is when they help :)

  7. Sue permalink
    May 29, 2015

    Thanks so much for this tutorial. It was exactly what I was looking for! I have done this before, but it’s been a long time and I forgot how.

    • June 1, 2015

      I’m glad you could use it Sue. I’ve had so much use out of this now that I sorted it out!

  8. November 17, 2015

    Thank you sooo much for this tutorial! I need to replace a 54″ zipper in a duffle bag and couldn’t find the right closure. I just ordered a 60″ and can’t wait to try your method.

  9. Holly permalink
    December 14, 2015

    Oh, my goodness! Thank you so much-repairing a backpack zip for a friend, and so grateful for your how-to!

    • December 16, 2015

      Hooray Holly! I’m so glad it helped! Thanks so much for letting me know :)

  10. Ruthe permalink
    November 14, 2016

    I used your instructions to change a different style of nylon coil separating zipper to a center closing zipper, and it worked like a dream. My only difference was that the bottom stop was metal, so I had to use a clipper tool from my beading tool kit. I wound up using that single tool to remove the nylon top stops as well. I would caution other sewists to wear safety glasses when removing these bits as they can fly anywhere, and we wouldn’t want an injury.

    • November 14, 2016

      Good call on the safety glasses Ruthe! Since I mostly wear glasses I forget to let people know. Crazy things happen when parts are flying around. I’m glad the tutorial was useful to you!

  11. Martha Moran permalink
    September 22, 2017

    Thank you, Sherri. I looked all over NYC and the Internet for a center closing dual zipper for weeks and could not find one. But then, I found your tutorial! Total success!!! Thank you thank you thank you. I’ve linked to your tutorial on my FB page.

    • September 25, 2017

      Oh HOORAY Martha! I’m so glad. That was my problem as well. Lucky break that these zippers work in both directions! :)

  12. Allison permalink
    March 4, 2018

    This worked perfectly, thank you!

  13. March 31, 2018

    Interesting, good fix for double zipper. My problem, I do not like double zippers. I want to remove the bottom zipper and just use one zipper. How do I do that fix?

    • April 12, 2018

      Hi Pam. If the zipper is a separated zip. Like the one in my photos, you should be able to follow the same process to remove the tabs – then remove one of the sliders to make it a single slider zip. Hope that helps!

  14. Pam permalink
    April 17, 2018

    Thank you for responding. I didn’t make myself clear enough. My problem is with a double zipper car coat. It is difficult to align both zippers. I would like to do away with the bottom zipper. The zipper is plastic, gun metal color. Where would I buy a bottom keeper, and would that make it work?

    • April 30, 2018

      Oh, I see Pam. Hmmm… Unfortunately, that is something I am not familiar with. Could you remove the top zipper pull through the top of the coat and leave the bottom pull on with the keeper at the bottom of the coat so it would not fall off?

  15. Ted Irvin permalink
    October 18, 2019

    Thank you for posting the zipper conversion. I was going to give it a try, but is was very helpful to see how someone had done it . Worked great, moving on with the project.

  16. Bummy permalink
    July 17, 2021

    Thank you so much for posting this! You actually saved me some dollars.

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