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!