Zipper Tabs And How To Shorten Zippers

Zipper tabs are a great diy solution to make your zippers look beautiful! Here's a little how-to for any sewing enthusiast who'd like their zipper bags to have a professional look - without a lot of work. Learn how to shorten a zipper and then sew fabric tabs to each end of the zipper to give it some more color and style. I used it in this popular coin purse pattern, and it works great! And you won't believe how easy it is!

zipper tabs to shorten zippers

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You'll learn how to shorten zippers and add zipper tabs, and how to sew in zippers the neat way (no more pinched ends of your zippy pouches!) You'll be able to use this on ALL your future sewing projects involving zippers! Makes any pouch, bag, clutch or purse look neat and nice ;)

You'll Need:

zipper tabs to sew

  • a (longer than needed) standard nylon coil zipper 
  • 2 pieces of scrap fabric for tabs (2 inch by 1.5 inch each)
  • sewing machine /needle
  • sewing thread
  • scissors
  • measuring tape


1) Make zipper tabs

First, for those of you who prefer video how-tos, here's a video slide-show for you:

zipper tabs

1. Place your 2 by 1.5 inch piece wrong-side-up.
2. Fold in half crosswise. Press, then open again.

zipper tab

3. Fold the upper side to the center crease  - and do the same with the lower side.
4. Fold again along the original center and press.

Repeat with the second piece.

No stitching yet. You'll slide these two pieces on each end of the zipper.

2) Adjust Zipper Length

Adjust zipper length:  decide on the desired gross length of the zipper for your project.

1. Make sure the zipper pull is within the area you'll use and won't be cut off.
2. On one end, trim the ends of the zipper tape back to the metal stopper (right part of the photo), but don't cut off the metal stopper. It's just for convenience sake - this way, you only need to secure one side of the zipper (= less work)
zipper tab
3. On the other end, cut off the excess zipper length.

NOTE: Any chance you might need to sew over area with the metal stopper? In this case cut off the metal stopper part too. (But you'll need to secure/sew both ends of the zipper, as shown in the next step)

3) Secure the end of the zipper

 Secure the end of the zipper:

zipper tabs

Hand-stitch very close to the end of the zipper where you snipped off the excess zipper. (¼ inch from the end or LESS.)

(I'd say you can machine-stitch it, but handstitching is a lot easier in this case!)

4) Slide on Zipper Tabs

1) Slide on the two zipper tabs you made earlier (see step 3), encasing (sandwiching) each of the zipper ends.
how to make zipper tabs

The tabs are half an inch deep, so each one will cover ½ inch of the zipper end. This means gross zipper length minus twice half-an-inch tabs = the finalized exposed zipper length will be 1 inch shorter than the gross zipper length.

2) Use pins to hold the tabs in place.

how to make zipper tabs

You'll remove them one by one as you sew.

3) Then topstitch over the tabs close to the exposed part of the zipper, catching both the upper layer of the tab as well as the bottom layer (the one below the zipper). See the image:

how to make zipper tabs

Never stitch over any metal parts (stoppers), as it might damage the needle. 

4) Once sewn, snip off the excess tab material, so you get a nice and even looking zipper, like this one:

zipper tabs
Now you are ready to sew the zipper into a bag. It will make it look nicer and more professional. I love it how it adds a pop of color to any zipper bag! 

See how neat and clean a tabbed zipper looks here:

how to make zipper tabs

Now, once you've learnt how to use this little hack, it becomes so easy to add it to a few scraps of fabric and - voila! Here it is, your own little bag or purse. You can totally do this!

I used zipper tabs on this little cutie, TRIA, it's my own design. I've made tons of them, and they turned out to be the perfect little Christmas gifts.

zipper tabs on zipper bag

Pin For Later:

Learn how to shorten a zipper and then sew fabric tabs to each end of the zipper to give it some more color and style. And you won't believe how easy it is!

Want More Free Patterns+Tutorials?

Get email updates and never miss out on new free patterns, printables and tutorials. If you sign up at THIS link, you'll also get the Fabric Hanging Basket Template for FREE, right now. A cute and easy-sew!
free pattern for a fabric hanging basket

Or ...go straight to one of my currently most popular PDF patterns. This mini coin pouch is one of them - it's at  this link  on Craftsy:

small coin purse pattern

Happy sewing!


  1. I love your zipper tabs! Thanks for linking up to the first Sew-spiration link party!

    1. Thanks, Domenica! Love the video tutorials on your site!

  2. i love this tip . im seamstress at a dry cleaners. many times zippers come in with tail ends need repairs. this tip will come i n handy.

  3. Wow!!! Thank you very much for this tutorial, so clear! I'm going to take a look to your Crafty patterns. Enjoy your sewing.

    1. Clara,

      thanks! Oh, feel free to check the patterns on Craftsy. Make sure to download all free ones, they are easy and meant to be used a lot!

  4. As always, a clear and comprehensive tutorial, Damjana.

  5. Hi Damjana! Thanks for linking up at the Sew-spiration Link Party at Easy Sewing for Beginners. Your tutorial has been featured this week! Yay! Hope to see your great tutorials again next week 😀

  6. Wish I saw this yesterday! Would have been a nice touch to the bag I made.

    1. Oh, that's a bummer! But at least you'll have this tutorial ready for your next bag ;) Happy sewing!

  7. I'd like to see how you sewed it into the ends-I make tabs like this but the outer edges (where zipper meets side seam) are more to a point than boxed off. Do you not sew all the way up the side? Thanks!

    1. Duff,

      thanks for reaching out! Yep, I just sew around the tab, never touching it with the needle - even a few mm away. I'm sending you an image for your convenience. Check out your inbox - now, here goes my secret haha! Hope this helps ;)

  8. I love making little purses too but have never added little tabs to the end of the zip even though I'm always shortening my zip. Will try this next time!! I think its going to make my purse look much more professional. Although I haven't quite got that perfect right angled corner on the purse...yet!!

  9. Great tutorial! Very easy to understand instructions & photos. Thanks!!!

  10. Thank you for a very nice, clear, and neat tutorial. I can forsee using it often for my three grandchildren. Blessings.

  11. "like to see how you sewed it into the ends-I make tabs like this but the outer edges (where zipper meets side seam) are more to a point than boxed off. Do you not sew all the way up the side?"
    If I purchase this Paradigm would you send me the image and the secret too...
    Also does this little pouch have a lining inside of it and are the raw edges on the inside finished off or is there a lining basically was there any raw edges inside thank you

    1. Barbra,

      thanks for asking. Yes, the coin purse is lined, and there are no raw edges. this post might be helpful for you, as it includes more detail:

  12. How do you determine how short to cut the oversized zipper. Others say 1 inch shorter than the purse bag.

    1. Hi Sue, yes the 1 inch difference will often work (also it depends on the bag size and fabric thickness) - but it's always best to follow the individual project instructions. Hope this helps.