How to handle a zipper emergency

There you are, watching your kid when suddenly you notice a flash of white appearing where it should be only black. A spot of color in an unwelcome place that can only mean one thing–a busted zipper.

As I have indicated previously, I am not highly skilled in the domestic arts, unless you count making Halloween costumes, in which case I rock. Or getting grass stains and red clay out of baseball pants, which I’m pretty darn good at. Or fixing zippers in practically brand new softball pants, at which I am awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I am compelled to share it in the true pay-it-forward spirit. Follow along, kids. Don’t worry, I’ve got pictures. Lots of pictures.

Broken zipper

Here’s the trouble. This $40 pair of softball pants has only been worn a few times but for an inexplicable reason, now suffers from a split zipper. We’ve got a tournament out of town this weekend and really need to remedy this because we only have 2 pair of pants.

After trying several times to muscle the zipper back together, I gave up. But all is not lost. This is a very fixable situation.

You can see that the zipper came apart very near the bottom (right where my finger is pointing–amazing visual aids here), which is a good thing because it gives us lots of zipper with which to work.
Fixin' toolsRepair Tools
To make a repair like this pull out your Handy Dandy Kit of Fix It Stuff. You will need some thread (you can match the zipper or match the fabric, or just grab anything handy because no one should be looking that closely at someone’s crotch), a needle and some MOM scissors. MOM scissors? Yes, those are the scissors reserved expressly for mom’s use and are not to be used to cut cardboard, hockey tape, wire, sticky stuff or anything else that nicks up the blades or makes them gooey, under threat of the most severe mom penalty ever, cleaning out the van.
SnipStep 1. The Clip
What we are going to do is rejoin the zipper and make a new end point for it, which will then allow my daughter to zip and unzip her softball pants, which she seems to think is rather important. To do that, we find the spot closest to the original bottom of the zipper, and make a small clip right between the teeth with the MOM scissors. The clip should only be about 1/8 or 1/4 inch. The key here is to make it teeny, just big enough to get the job done.

Thread zipperStep 2. Thread the zipper pull on

With the clip, you have made it possible to pull the zipper slide down, rethread the teeth, and pull the zipper up so it is joined from your clip to the top. Your zipper will zip up and down but because there is hole at the bottom, it will come apart anytime the zipper goes down. Not so great. So let’s fix that.

Step 3. Thread the needle

Use a double strand of thread, a little shorter than the length of your arm. Put a decent knot in the end. If I need to tell you how to thread a needle, this might be too much for you. Go take a nap.

First stitchStep 4. Start stitching

Putting the needle in right below where you made the clip, start a whip stitch. You want it to be tight, but not so tight that the fabric puckers. Make it as close to the width of the zipper as you can and try and make a nice, even stitch. Repeat, making your stitches smooth and tight. You are making a faux zipper stop here so it’s got to be secure.

Finished Whip Stitch

When it’s all done, it should look like a solid band of thread at the bottom of your clip point. Poke the needle through the back, weave it through the stitching a few times to secure the end, then clip the extra off closely, so it doesn’t get caught in the zipper teeth.

Step 5. Admire your work

finished product

Viola! The finished product! A zipper that works, fully functioning pants and the salvation of my $40. And it took about 10 minutes, including taking all those outstanding photos. Well worth it and much faster than waiting for backordered pants from Eastbay.

With some really basic skills, you can make repairs on a lot of sports equipment. YouTube has a ton of instructional videos if your Life Management Education skills are rusty.

Good luck with your own repairs and may your zipper never blow out during an at bat.

14 Comments on “How to handle a zipper emergency”

  1. Greatness! Love this!

  2. Blogbrarian says:

    Totally 100% impressed. I will bring my clothes that need repairs and put them on your desk. Thanks for posting!

  3. but this is brilliant! how come I never understood…I shared this at fb as well- the world should know! (of your greatness)

    • My greatness is limited to emergency equipment repairs and driving kids places. And since you are a sewing goddess, maybe you could give us some tips on things outside my expertise, which would include just about everything else needle related. Thanks for sharing!
      The Trophy Mom

  4. Lynne says:

    GENIOUS! Thanks a million, Laurie…..even though it’s better late than never for me!!! I can’t even begin to count the pants I’ve chucked b/c of this. I’m ready for the next pair, though. THANKS!

    • I hope this saves you some pants. And the repair held up through the tournament so it worked really well.

      • Lynne says:

        Good to know. I think my sewing “skills” are WAY less than yours, but I’m willing to give this a shot. I never tackled a Halloween costume, but I can sew on a button and hand stitch a seam that has pulled apart on something; although not with any finesse. When I was in college, I used masking tape to “hem” a new pair of jeans that were too long. Sad, but true.

  5. Elii says:


  6. Jason says:

    This works, thank you.

  7. FRANK says:

    I’m literally 7,500 miles away from home (and my skillful wife). My pants zipper just detached (on one side) on the only pair of long pants that I have along for this ten-day working trip to Africa. Thanks to Google, an inexpensive sewing kit (inherited from my wife’s mother) and YOUR instructions and photos, I fixed the problem in less than 10 minutes. -Thanks a million!!!

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