How to sew a zipper into leather

how to sew a zipper into leather

When sewing a zipper onto leather it can me a little intimidating. But just like sewing leather to leather or any other fabric it will be the same process.

The only difference is that you may be sewing your project inside out then flip the project back out. So we will go over some tips to help you learn how to sew a zipper into leather while avoiding frustration. Sewing a zipper into leather will be beneficial for bags, jackets, clothes, wallets and pouches.

Step 1. Set up the Zipper

There are different types and colors of zippers that you can choose from on your own preference. But there are two types, where you will have the whole zipper ready to go or you will have to attach the zipper pullers to the teeth.

Any zipper will work that can be used with fabric, there are no specific leather zippers. I would recommend getting a metal zipper since plastic and the very small teeth zippers tend to break easier. But when using plastic zippers, they tend to not have as small of options.

I am using a metal jean zipper 7″ length then cut down to around 3-4″.

If you have to place the zipper pull onto your teeth make sure you apply zipper facing the same direction the teeth are pointing. So when you close the zipper you will be pulling toward the direction the points on a teeth are facing. This is very important as this will cause a very hard zipper if the puller is not placed onto the teeth the right direction.

Now you have your zipper ready so you will have to trace over your leather to figure out where it will fit.

There are two common ways of adding a zipper and the first one would be to place two pieces of leather on each side of the zipper. This will be pretty simple to set the leather pieces on each side and mark how much room you want on each side.

The goal is to aim for around 1/8th-1/2 of an inch on each side to leave some room for the zipper fabric. This is done to avoid having the puller getting caught on the leather and enough room to sew. Make sure your leather pieces are both placed evenly on each side to create a uniform look.

Another way that is very common is to create one piece of leather with a cut out for the zipper. This makes for a very nice but is mainly used for bags and pouches not so much just pockets.

Make a template of how wide and long you want the leather hole to be for your zipper and trace it onto your leather piece.

Checking a template to see if it fits the zipper

Cut out and check to make sure the zipper will fit well and the width is even. You can now set your zipper in very easily once you find the center of the hole.

Now you will be able to cut off any extra zipper length you have left over. Cut off the length until it is not as long as the leather now rip off some of the teeth. Taking off some teeth that will not be used will bring the end of the zipper fabric closer. Which will help tighten your zipper after sewing to the leather. 

Taking extra zipper teeth off using cutting pliers

Step 2. Setup the leather

If the leather is not dyed yet, you should start with that as the fabric from the zipper will be dyed as well. You should also sand down the edge at this point before you attach the leather to the zipper.

If this is all done make sure to burnish the edges that will be facing the leather now. Even if you usually wait until the end of the project to burnish, it will be very hard to burnish when the edge is against the sipper.

After your have the edge burnished you can mark off the area where the glue will go. Mark how far you want the leather to sit away from the actual zipper as this will help you keep the zipper in the center of your leather.

This is optional if you are attaching the zipper to two different pieces of leather as you can place one piece at a time. If you are doing this method, you may want to add finishers on the ends of the zipper.

All you need is two small square pieces of leather to fold over the ends of the zipper. This will cause a nice finnish that will inset the zipper under the two pieces of leather.

The square should be wide enough to be sewn in the same stitching from the zipper and leather. You will take this and attach half of the piece to the top of the zipper on top or right below the end and beginning of the zipper. Allowing for enough room for it to be folded over at a parallel length.

You can apply these with glue and place so they are sitting below the pieces of leather.

Step 3. Glue and Groove

After you found the place for the zipper to sit you will want to apply glue onto the leather and zipper fabric. You can use any contact cement or leather cement as well. Clip the zipper in place with some binder clips and let sit until dry.

If you have finisher pieces make sure they are glued to the zipper and then glued to the bottom of the leather.

Once the glue has dried you can take off your binder clips and groove both pieces of leather. Adding stitching to the finisher pieces can add some extra style points so groove them out if you’d like to.

Step 4. Punch Holes and Stitch the zipper

Using your hole chiseler, punch out the holes for your stitching then setup your needles. You will do a saddle stitch along these holes. Which you probably know how to do this by now if you are sewing on a zipper but here is a detailed guide on how to saddle stitch.

You will use two needles attached to each side of the thread that is hooked onto the needle thread. Then you will start in any hole (preferably one on the edge of the leather) then cross one needle through the next hole. Take the other needle and cross that one through that same hole.

You will continue this back and form stitching until you return to your starting point. Tie the thread on the the underside of the leather and burn off the extra pieces.

Now you successfully have learned how to sew a zipper into leather. This will open up a new range of possibilities while leather crafting!