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Zippers

Zippers surely rank high among the modern useful inventions of the past century. They are one of the most practical closure applications bar none allowing easy entry and exit on so many items; clothing, luggage, sporting goods, home decorator and craft items, outdoor wear, rain gear, convertible auto and 4-wheeled vehicle soft-tops, as well as a variation used on soft-plastic container-type bags such as those for tobacco, food, and sundry items. Even the Mercury astronauts’ un-pressurized cabin space suit had two zippers for entry. Zippers are everywhere!

First patented by Elias Howe in 1851 but not useable, later improved upon by another patent in 1891, by engineer Whitcomb L. Judson, the closing device was first known as a clasp locker and was composed of a series of hooks and eyes. By 1913, engineer Gideon Sundback developed the zipper further by replacing the hooks and eyes with metal teeth. In the 1940’s the Europeans brought more research into this remarkable device to develop the interlocking coil, however it was not until as recently as the early 1960’s and the explosion of plastics that the flexible interlocking coils and interlocking teeth have morphed into the familiar zippers we know today.

For the sewers world, zippers come in a vast range of colors and can be all purpose and utilitarian - light as a feather for high fashion, medium weights for skirts, trousers, and pullovers, separating, 2-way, and reversible for jackets and sport clothes. Zippers can be a nearly invisible closure in some fashion garments, practically indestructible doing heavy duty for work clothes, uniforms, jeans, sleeping bags, handbags, boots, or upholstery pillows and cushions. They are flexible by design and can be made out of polyester, nylon coil, brass, nickel, copper, or aluminum, all with locking sliders and some with custom designed zipper pulls - using Swarovski rhinestones no less! While functionally so much a part of today’s scenery, we can easily forget what it must have been like before the invention of this nifty device.

Standard zippers are sewn into your garment by hand at times but usually by sewing machine generally in a front, back, or side seam that has been temporarily basted closed, using your particular sewing machine’s zipper foot. Standard zippers use either a centered or lapped construction technique.

Invisible or concealed zippers are inserted in an open seam not yet sewn closed, using a special zipper foot that can be purchased with the zipper. The rest of the garment seam is stitched closed after the zipper is applied. The zipper literally disappears into the seam when closed.

Jeans zippers were invented by Talon in the 1920’s before pants made of sturdy denim cloth became known as “blue jeans” a.k.a. today simply “jeans.”

Outerwear zippers like those seen in winter coats and ski wear are for the most part very visible, e.g.: the teeth show when the garment is zipped closed. These weather-resistant zippers come in one-way or two-way separating or non-separating types and reversible too.

Purchase your zipper in contrasting colors to make a distinctive fashion statement or to match your article to blend in with the garment’s stylish construction. If you cannot find a zipper in the length required, purchase one that is longer as they are very easily shortened from the top or by folding over the excess.

Happy sewing!

References
Jeans Zipper from Talon
Mercury Space Suit from HighTechScience
The History of Zippers from Coats & Clark
Zipper from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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