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Zipper basics and sewing techniques

January 1st, 2019 / By: / Interior, Shop Techniques

Photo 1: YKK’s Marine Mates® UV VISLON® zipper is designed
to resist damage from sunlight, as well as corrosion.

The zipper is familiar to everyone, yet the word itself came into existence less than 100 years ago. The fastener’s design was a lengthy process. An early version was invented by Elias Howe, the man who also invented the sewing machine. He patented an “automatic continuous clothing closure” in 1851, but it didn’t catch on.

The button’s dominance began to decline when Gideon Sundback, a Swedish inventor working for the Universal Fastener Company, improved on Howe’s design with his own “separable fastener” in 1914. But it wasn’t until 1923—when the president of B.F. Goodrich rubber company decided the device needed a modern name: “Something that will dramatize the way the thing zips”—that the name “zipper” was born!

Photo 2: The LENZIP No. 12 Marine Grade UV Zipper is larger than the industry standard and is available with 316 stainless steel sliders.
Decisions, decisions

Marine zippers are available with metal, plastic or stainless steel sliders. Both teeth and coil zippers are available from marine distributors in standard lengths from 24 inches to more than 96 inches. Sizes typically range from #5 through #12. Teeth and coil zipper tapes are also available by the yard and/or roll.

For projects with straight lengths or slight curves, the teeth zipper is your best option. For a project that includes a curved contour, the coil zipper is your best option. Black and white are standard color offerings, however some models are available in a wider range of colors.

Zipper manufacturers

YKK Group­—Tadao Yoshida opened his Japanese zipper firm in 1934. He reverse-engineered the original zipper and helped make YKK a universal brand.

Photo 3: Sunbrella® Performance Zippers feature tape made using 100 percent Sunbrella fibers.

Lenzip—Headquartered in Rolling Meadows, (Chicago) Illinois, Lenzip has been in business since 1946. Its product line consists of nearly 1,000 different zipper styles, manufactured from metal, molded plastic and coil zipper materials. Lenzip can custom make just about any zipper and offers a lifetime warranty on its zippers, which are also YKK compatible.

Ideal Fastener Corp.—The manufacturer entered a licensing partnership in 2017 with Glen Raven Custom Fabrics, the maker of Sunbrella® performance fabrics, to offer the first zippers with the zipper tape made from 100 percent Sunbrella fibers.

These marine zipper manufacturers have extremely helpful websites, as do many zipper suppliers. Take a moment to check these out to help you make the best zipper choices for your projects.

Terri Madden owns Sand Sea & Air Interiors Inc. in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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