Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Zipper repairs -- a tutorial

I recently repaired this black leather coat that for our priest. Apparently while trying to unzip the inner lining, he caught the zipper head in the fabric and managed to pull apart the zipper tape and open the zipper head. 

In the end all I was able to do was to move the zipper head back to the beginning of the zipper then tighten it with a pair of pliers. The tape can't be repaired without interfering with the workings of the zipper. Luckily the area is about three inches from the closing end of the zipper, so he can still use the coat with the lining. 

 Repairing a zipper with pliers is easier than replacing one but it takes a gentle touch while squeezing the pliers in the right place. Tighten too much and the zipper teeth can't run through. Not enough and the zipper teeth won't close. And the zipper parts are small so they break very easily.

I tighten the zipper head in two places. In this case I tightened the slider window (see upper view). First I press the top board and bottom board together very lightly. (see the bottom view)

Then I squeeze the two sides of the slider toward the center. By tightening the zipper head this way there is less chance of  breaking one of the parts. 

Zippers are tough but they take a real beating, especially as they get older. 

One way to help metal zippers slide smoothly and prevent them from getting sticky or rough, is to drip a little melted candle wax into the slider from the front, or throat. Be careful to avoid getting hot wax on the fabric. The wax coats the zipper teeth as it moves up and down. Add wax as needed to completely coat the teeth. Thick bees wax works best but I've used plain candle wax on my jeans zipper. 

Both zippers on the
jacket, notice how much
larger the outside zipper is.
Nylon zippers don't rust or get sticky, but they do like to get caught in fabric or loose thread. When this happens be extra careful not to jerk the slider. Instead try sliding it backward so that it moves along the same route of the fabric that is caught in it. 

If necessary, cut the fabric away and slowly pull it out a thread or two at a time. Yes, you have to weigh which is going to cost less in repairs, usually zippers are more difficult and time consuming. 

I cut loose threads as closely to the back of the slider as possible and then pull it out from the front of the zipper head. Yes, one thread at a time.

Probably the best thing to do to save yourself from having to replace zippers, is to teach your children how to use them. Zippers need a straight, clear path. (I used a train metaphor with my boys.) Every curve and obstacle can derail the slider. And it can jump off the track more easily than children realize. It's possible to open the zipper head and feed the teeth back in then close it up again. However, that is a very delicate job so, if you find yourself having to do it, take your time, work carefully, and open or close the zipper head in minute amounts.

All opinions and instructions are mine. For more information on zippers, garments and other textiles, visit Textile School
(Warning: You may not be able to walk away.)

1 comment:

Karen S said...

Lots of patience needed with this repair!