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easiest knitted sweater zipper install ever

27 March 2011 243,656 views 66 Comments

One of the more dreaded knitting finishing techniques is installing a zipper. I admit it, I’ve never been a fan either. There are multiple helpful zipper tutorials out there, and I’ve used a few of them. I always came back with the same issue though; you lay out the sweater, you center the zipper underneath and try to baste in the zipper. The problem is as soon as you pick up a piece of knitted fabric, it does what knitted fabric does. It stretches and drapes and wiggles out of that straight taut line. You’re trying to sew a stiff tape with no give onto a floopy material. It’s like trying to get a pair of tights on a squirmy three-year-old. If you’re a perfectionist like me, it’s a nightmare.

I think I’ve found a solution though. If I’m remembering correctly, it’s something that StashKnitRepeat Amy tipped me off to two summers ago. I used it to sew in a zipper on one of the Knitting it Old School
sweaters and then I used it again last week finishing Pump Jockey.

Hold on while I blow your mind at the simplicity.


Blocking wires.


They hold the knitted fabric in place and stablize the whole deal. It’s so simple, yet so effective. I’m already looking at knitting another sweater that needs a zipper. That’s how well it worked.

Here’s how I did it:

Easiest knitted sweater zipper install ever from Splityarn.com

I started by weaving in two blocking wires on each side of the sweater fronts. One right along the first set of stitches right on the edge, the other about 4 or 5 stitches away.

zippertutorial (3 of 12)

With my small rotary mat inside the sweater, I placed the zipper underneath the sweater fronts taking care to center it directly under the edges.

zippertutorial (4 of 12)

While it was still laying there all correctly positioned, I pinned one side of the zipper tape down between the blocking wires

zippertutorial (6 of 12)

Starting at the bottom, I began backstitching the zipper in along the teeth edge first, and then once more along the edge of the zipper tape.

zippertutorial (5 of 12)

I came up through the zipper tape, into the sweater between two columns of stitches.

zippertutorial (11 of 12)

And then back down a row or so, taking care to stay in the same column of stitches. This puts the thread in the ditch between stitches and is invisible from the front.

zippertutorial (12 of 12)

It will look like this from the backside when you’re done with the first side of the zipper

zippertutorial (8 of 12)

Leaving the blocking wires in, I put it back down on the mat and pin basted the other side.

zippertutorial (10 of 12)

I then opened and separated the two sides of the zipper to sew in the other half. Obviously this step needed feline assistance. Thanks, Mother!

zippertutorial (7 of 12)

And that was it! I took the blocking wires out as the last step and had a zipper installation that was painless.

Pump Jockey finished!

Crazy easy, right?


  • Ruth said:


  • pumpkinmama said:

    Totally genius. So, hand stitched only is strong enough for a busy zipper?

  • Caro (author) said:

    I think because it’s backstitched and not a running stitch and done twice per zippertape side. Boon has been wearing his everyday since I finished and when I looked closely yesterday, it’s not showing any sign of wear.

  • Kim said:

    wow, seriously. I have one of these to do this week and that is going to make my life SO much easier! Thank you! -off to go find my blocking wires…

  • JoannaCos said:

    I’ve typically shied away from patterns calling for zippers but your tutorial has left me feeling empowered! I’ve never thought about using my blocking wires like that. Fantastic! (I’d probably follow up the hand stitching with a quick pass through my sewing machine though. My hand sewing skills are marginal at best). Love the little red peekaboos in your folded seams! Very cute cardi!

  • Ashley said:

    This makes me feel like I should invest in blocking wires immediately–although I agree that I’d probably follow up with machine-stitching after basting it in. I have no faith in my hand-stitching abilities!

  • Manise said:

    What a perfect way to install a zipper! Brava!

  • Ellen said:

    I get all jazzed about process tricks and tips, so thanks for this one. I love a tidy finish.

  • Maura said:

    Ah, such a clever solution! I have a sweater I don’t wear much because of a faulty zipper installation. I’ll have to try this.

  • ann said:

    You just totally blew my mind. My last zipper was such an ordeal I’ve been afraid to knit something else that needs one. This makes it sound… well, not horrible.

  • gale (she shoots sheep shots) said:

    Really excellent tutorial! I love when there’s such a good solution to an ongoing problem and someone points it out to me. And on a Monday. Double snaps!

  • Steven said:

    Excellent, Caro! This looks so do-able — and your instructions are so clear!

  • seashoreknits said:

    I’m dying here – this is so perfect.
    I’ve only done one zipper install – also on the one and only sweater hubby ever asked for.
    It worked – but I never could achieve perfection and one side of the cardi droops lower than the other (maybe only enough for me to see it, but no matter).
    I struggled mightily with it to get even that good.
    So this technique just looks like a dream to me.
    Thank you so much for sharing – and now here’s to more zippers in my knitting future.

  • Laura Nelkin said:


  • Carol S. said:

    and if you go to a plumbing supply store and buy welding wires (non-rusting!)instead of blocking wires they’ll only cost you about $2.00 for 6.

  • TreasureGoddess Christine said:

    Ok, you just made my whole day!! And Carol S, GREAT tip about welding wires. You guys rock!

  • cauchy09 said:

    gosh, you make it seem so straightforward. and you make me want to start…and finish…a sweater so i can try this.

  • Natalie said:

    Excellent! This makes so much sense. I’ve tagged this so I don’t forget about it.

  • Liz C said:

    I can’t begin to tell you how giddy this has made me. Maybe now I can re-do the zip on my ancient ribby cardi so it’s a wearable sweater again, instead of a Hall of Shame knit I can’t bring myself to let go. Thank you!!

  • julianna said:

    Thank you thank you thank you. I’ve had a Noni bag languishing for months b/c I couldn’t find a way to get the #@** zipper in. Blessings to you. :-)

  • nolaboard said:


  • Deborah Porter said:

    Gee, it does sound easy. I’ve never did anything that needed a zipper,
    but I will invest in blocking wires just in case. Actually I’m knitting
    a lace shawl and they might help with that also.

    Thanks for the tutorial.

  • Kim said:

    I have always avoided zippers in the past. Maybe I need to rethink this…..That looks so easy!

  • dee near Berkeley said:

    Wow, just … wow. An elegant solution, which is “geek” for “it’s the best.” What a great use of blocking wires, too.

    The zipper world is shifting on its axis for knitters. First, there was TECHknitter’s knit-the-zipper-in solution (in the Winter 2010 Interweave Knits mag, but she links the video from her site), also truly elegant, but from a different angle. Now there is your hold-it-in-place-with-blocking-wires approach. Two FANTASTIC and unique answers to a major knitting migraine.

    I thank you from the bottom of my heart and from the tab of the separating zippers I can now use in my knits.

  • Elizabeth GM said:

    Caro, that is pure genius. I had just finished admiring TECHknitter’s technique of using a latch hook, but this is even more elegant in its simplicity. Thank you for the great tutorial!

  • Sue Plantinga said:


  • Jennifer said:

    Wow! Thanks to the folks at Webs for point us your way. I have had a sweater (and its zipper) waiting for months for me to put it in. I had tried one way but it ended in frustration. Fortunately, I just broke down and bought myself blocking wires.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

  • Ina said:

    Thank you, this is pure genius. Simple, effective, brilliant.

  • Shelley said:

    What a terrific technique. I always have trouble keeping everything straight. This solves it! Thank you.

  • Laura Altes said:

    Very cool. Thanks for the tip.I’ll have to buy a set of blocking wires now.

  • Samina said:

    Coming from Grosgrain’s blog to say that this is pure genius. Now I’ll actually go knit something that needs a zipper just to do this.

  • Meghan said:

    This is so brilliant! Thanks for sharing!

  • Friday Finds « Threadpanda said:

    […] of my Sarahs pointed this out to me: “the easiest knitted zipper install ever.” I’ve only installed a zipper once, but this seems really, really clever and I will be trying […]

  • Andrea said:

    I run a knitting finishing business and I have never seen a method as brilliant as this. My customers will love you!

  • madonnaearth said:

    I love this tutorial, it is awesome!

  • Mette said:

    Thanks for sharing – I hope to be able to buy blocking wires in Denmark.

  • Carol B said:

    Awesome idea! I’ve got a vest I want to make, and was not looking forward to my first experience putting zippers into knits. This is genius.

  • Beanie said:

    Genius! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Judy Bedell said:

    I have made a hooded baby sweater with a zipper down the back for countless baby/shower gifts. I always crochet around the edges. This helps to keep the sweater from stretching when you start sewing. I usually pin, baste, and then sew by hand.

  • split said:

    It easier than I thougth 😉
    Thank you very much!

  • Tove said:

    That looks great, now I have to try it, I have never been a fan of zippers, because I hated putting them on, but this looks great.

  • Judy said:

    I love this idea, thanks os much for sharing! It reminds me a bit of my old days of sewing and how easy it was to put in a zipper — because the seam has already been stitched, so no fabric moving around. The seam is take out after the zipper is sewn in. This technique approaches the beauty of that one.

  • Dottie said:

    I’ve been knitting for many years, and like others have “struggled” with zipper instal. What a clever idea, and so well explained and shown! Thanks so much, I’ll share with my Monday Morning Knitting ( and crocheting ) group!!!!

  • Dottie said:

    Where did the “your comment is awaiting moderation” line above come from??? I didn’t write that, and don’t know what it means! Old knitter, but “newbie techie “!!!

  • Donna Williams said:

    This is so good I am printing it off and inserting it into my helpful hintknitting book. I was just looking at a project with a zipper and wondering if I could get someone else to put the zipper in for me. Not anymore. I will tackle the project and do it myself. Thanks

  • Mimi said:

    Brilliant method !! I have blocking wires, especially good for lace and fine work blocking, but suddenly, I feel as if new horizons and uses for them have opened up. I’m all for anything that gives a nice finish and is easy too.

  • susan said:

    I agree–brilliant.
    Are there any tips for what to do with the extra cloth on the zipper that extends beyond on the top?
    And how about the stiff, plastic coated edges on the bottom of the zipper?

  • PHYL said:

    Thanks for such a wonderful idea, all the way from Australia. I will bookmark this idea of yours for future reference. I have always avoided knitting jackets for this very reason and yet, thanks to you, you have simplified it so easily.

  • June said:

    Very clever method! For those of you not sure about the hand stitching, if you use buttonhole twist instead of all purpose sewing thread and stitches that are not too short or too long it will be very sturdy. Buttonhole Twist, or topstitching thread, is heavier than regular sewing thread.

  • janehopeten said:

    Holey cow!!! Being a seamstress for 30+ years (specializing in ALTERATIONS) and a serious knitted for almost as long where have you been lol this will work on the machine too if you have a good machine. Gotta take a break. You seriously blew my mind! THANKYOU

  • Molly said:

    Excellent tutorial! I’ve never heard of blocking wires. My sweater’s finished except for the zipper. Wish me luck!

  • Astrante said:

    I’ve been keeping this brilliant tip at the back of my mind, for the day I’d need it… and the day has come. I’m going to install my first zipper in a knitted sweater and thanks to you I feel quite confident about the process ! Thank you so much.
    Wish me luck !

  • Ki said:

    Thank you so much for this. I followed a link here from Ravelry and bookmarked this page. I’ve had a cardigan that I failed to properly set a zipper into four years ago…dug it out tonight and redid it following this method. Brilliant!

  • Sylvia Strang said:

    Excellent technique, I will probay use my sewing machine instead of handsticthing. Thank you ever so much!

  • Zipper install | Avishoes said:

    […] was browsing some patterns on Ravelry (knitters heaven) I clicked through to “the easiest knitted sweater zipper install ever” and found indeed the easiest install ever. The brilliant thing about the internet and a site […]

  • Susan Smith said:

    This is nothing short of awesome! What a simple – yet brilliant – solution. I will no longer fear zipper installation! Thank you…

  • Stumbling Over Chaos :: Land of the red-hot linkities said:

    […] Tutorial of an easier way to sew zippers into knitting. (via Cabled Sheep) […]

  • Budgie said:

    I hope all the tutorials would be as clear as yours Caro! Magnificent, clear, awesome, incredible!!!

  • Sandra said:

    Used this technique over the weekend to sew a 28″ zip into the sweater Chicane, by Cookie A. Absolutely fantastic method. I had no issues with wobbly edges or stretching fabric. Wonderful, I’ll use this technique for every zipper I install in the future.

  • Knitter’s Pride blocking wires. | Hillsborough Yarn Shop said:

    […] designer and knitwear photographer Caro Sheridan suggests using blocking wires to help install a zipper on a knitted sweater–clever! Check out the “Techniques and tutorials” board on the HYS Pinterest page […]

  • The Tara Jacket, Finished Edition - Inside Knitscene - Blogs - Knitting Daily said:

    […] had never installed a zipper in knit wear before, and I used this amazingly handy tutorial Amy sent me from Splityarn. Blocking wires made an immense difference. I tried to pin down the […]

  • Oliver Tutorial no. 3 – Steeked Pockets | Petitchoufleur Knits said:

    […] fairly quick to do. If you want some extra tips (and have some blocking wires handy), you could try this method […]

  • Maureen said:

    Thank you for sharing your expertise

  • Fave Friday – The Dude Sweater | iKnit2Purl2 said:

    […] Rangel, on Ravelry. I’m a little nervous about adding a zipper but I’ve already found this great tutorial. I think I’ll try to modify this pattern to give it a modern, more fitted look […]

  • Marny CA said:

    Clever, outstanding …

    Wish there was/were a YouTube video!!

    As I’ve gotten older I’m more squimish about everything … there was a time when zippers were not to be feared.

    Now you’ve given me a new thought – but would be easier to see video.

    Thank you!!!

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