Fixing a zipper with broken or missing teeth, step by step with pictures and video tutorial.

Flannel is oh so cozy in winter, wouldn’t you agree? About two years ago, my husband splurged on me and bought me a pair of Carhartt Flannel lined jeans. I was so thrilled with how warm they were. I’ve never gotten used to wearing leggings, though I’m starting to venture down that road now. Just as I was getting used to my warm cozy jeans, after only 2 weeks of wearing them, the zipper broke! Since it was my fault the zipper broke, I didn’t feel right returning them to the store. I also didn’t feel right about throwing out a $60 pair of brand new jeans!! So I tossed them in the mending pile thinking I’d figure out how to fix them in the near future.

How to Fiz a Zipper with broken or missing teeth

Around my house, things can stay in the mending pile for quite some time! In this case, my flannel jeans had to wait about 2 years before they were rescued! I pulled them out a couple times, to ask sewing advise from my MIL, or to try and come up with a solution. They always ended up back in the mending pile.

Last week, as the weather turned very cold, I decided it was time. I was either going to fix those jeans, or send them on their way, and I was really hoping for the prior!

What was the trouble? Two teeth had broken off the zipper, about an inch up from the bottom and the zipper pull was now only attached on one side.

How to Fix a Jean Zippers With Broken Teeth

Before diving in and doing anything too crazy…(I had thoughts of making the fly button instead of zipping)…I decided to do some research online. After finding just a couple people with a similar problem, and reading their solution, I felt confident to tackle this jeans repair.

Step 1 – Encouraging the Zipper Pull off the chain.

First thing to do was get the zipper pull OFF the pants. This proved easier than I was expecting because there was no stopper at the top of the left side of the chain. Lucky for me! One less step. Normally you would find a stopper (pictured right) on both sides of the zipper tape.

There are a couple things you can do to encourage the zipper pull off the chain.

  • There is usually a stopper at the top of each side of the zipper chain.Use pliers to open one side of the mouth of the zipper pull
  • Loosen a few stitches in the hem with a seam ripper
  • Take a couple of the teeth off the top, with the intention of putting the stoppers back on just a little lower.

Step 2 – Taking the Stopper off

Next I had to remove the stopper from the right side of the zipper chain. Quite the little challenge! You need to bend the stopper a little to open it up.

After having played around with this, I now know that the best thing to do is place the stopper upright (U shape) in the mouth of the pliers and gently squeeze to widen the opening. Then it will slip right off the zipper tape.

Be careful not to damage the fabric around the stopper. If you pull at it or work too roughly with the pliers, you can weaken the fabric and loosen the weave which would make your zipper floppy.

Step 3 – Putting the teeth back together

Putting the teeth back together on a broken zipper.With the zipper pull and the stopper removed, I proceeded to carefully piece the teeth of the zipper back together manually. This was also a frustrating task because, try as I might, keeping these together while playing around with the fabric, stitching, etc., was nearly impossible. I had to re-do this step at least 5 times before my repair job was completed. (Yes, my thumbs were feeling very sore and irritated by the time I was done.)

All this practice taught me the easiest way to push the teeth back together is to lay the zipper on a hard surface. The arm of a sewing machine proved very useful in this case. That is, in fact, the only thing my sewing machine ended up being useful for in this project.

Stack the two sides of the zipper on top of each other, overlapping almost too much, and then press them firmly together with your thumb.

Step 4 – Sew heavily to create new bottom stopper

To ensure I didn’t loose all the effort I just put in “zipping” the two sides together, I went ahead and created my new bottom stopper just above the broken teeth. Yes, this means loosing an inch of space in the zipper. This is unfortunate since woman’s jeans don’t really leave much room to spare, but to me it was a much better alternative than giving up on this lovely new pair of jeans.

My first attempt was to do this with my sewing machine. I’m not a big fan of hand sewing! I can cross stitch all day long, but somehow hand sewing is a different story. But this mending project required a good old fashioned needle and thread and some strong stitching. Back and forth repeatedly and making sure to stitch wide enough that the zipper wouldn’t just slide over the top of it.

(If I was to do this project again, I would go ahead and purchase a new bottom stop like pictured and linked above.)

Step 5 – Working the zipper pull back onto the chain.

With the zipper “zipped” back together and secured above the missing teeth, I started working the zipper pull back onto the chain. This time I really thought I was going to need to do some seam ripping to make room above the teeth to work the pull back onto the tape. But the more I fiddled with it and thought about, I decided that if I had gotten the zipper pull off without removing any stitching, I should be able to get it back on the same way.

Unfortunately I had to allow the zipper to pull back apart so that I had room to work the pull onto the left side. Better than using a seam ripper though! After bending the fabrics out of the way as much as I could, I somewhat forcefully worked the zipper back on to one side.

With it back on one side, I pressed the zipper back together once again, and then prayed I could get that zipper pull to grab the other side and connect back to normal. It is very tight, no room to work, and just takes a whole basket of patience!! Keeping the teeth together I just kept playing with it until it finally slipped into place. Hooray!

At this point I knew my jeans would be in working order shortly!

Step 6 – Putting the stopper back on

Don’t drop this itty bitty stopper on the floor! (I did it twice…) Simply put the stopper back in place above the zipper teeth, and gently squeeze it together with the pliers. This keeps the zipper pull from coming off the top of the chain. It should tightly clamp onto the fabric at the top of the zipper. If you have a hard time getting it back on, you may need to open the mouth up even more than needed to remove it.

This project took me about an hour from start to finish, pliers, scissors, needle and thread, and a whole lot of PATIENCE! But I am so thrilled to have my Carhartt flannel jeans fixed and ready to wear.

What kind of zipper troubles have you run into? How did you fix them? I’d love to hear your zipper solutions in the comments!


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