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Replacing a jacket zipper (have I lost my MIND?)

Yesterday, I did something utterly crazy. I removed and replaced a zipper in my daughter's jacket. I didn't want to. Understand that first off. I've only ever replaced one other zipper in my life (which was in the leg of some wind/rain jogging pants of my dad's). I only did it because it was for my dad, and he babysits for us for free and is pretty much a saint. Had it been my own pants, I would have used it as an excuse to stop jogging in the rain. No brainer, right? The pants are speaking to you!! That project nearly made me pull out all of my hair. It took me about 6 months of procrastinating, hours and hours of stitch-ripping and then a desperate few minutes with the sewing machine trying to get it all to come back together and still look like pants. With a working zipper. It was a close one. I still don't think all of my hair has grown back. Oooh, boy. That zipper replacing task was filed under 'NEVER AGAIN!!'

So you can imagine how bummed I was when soon after getting my daughter a light-weight jacket (new even! urgh!), one of the teeth came out of the zipper, right at the bottom, making it very hard to zip. It's lucky this child was born in January, and fairly impervious to cold temperatures. She limped along with lame zipping action for many months, then finally the zipper head yanked off and broke. Game over.

Here's the options I gave her:

  1. We can use some wooden clothes pins since those aren't seeing a whole lot of action during winter, and just keep them in your pocket, and fasten your jacket. And it totally will not look dorky. OK. I'm lying. Dorky.
  2. How about safety pins? You know, if you want to be a surgeon, it's never too early to practice fine motor skills on a regular basis. 
  3. I could TRY to replace the zipper, but I can't make any promises that it will still look like a jacket when I'm finished.

She picked the third option, and it sat on my 'to do' list for several months. I was really hoping it would be summer before I ever got to it, but since she pestered me about it EVERY day I finally broke down and got to work yesterday. 

It took a while, and it's far from professional, but I did it. Here's the last bit of stitch-ripping of the old broken zipper.

Old-zipper Here's the new zipper pinned in place:

New-zipper-pinned Let me take a moment to share something very important: Pinning is not for wusses. It is necessary. There's this very fool-hardy impulse that comes over me every time I sew, that tries to convince me not to pin anything -- that pinning is a waste of time. WRONG! Don't listen to those voices if they pester you too.

Finished-zipper Voila! The finished product. And it STILL looks like a coat! She wore it to school today. Please keep your fingers crossed that it actually holds up to real wear! Important lessons learned:

  • Buy quality! I so rarely buy new clothes and I opted for this jacket that was a little less expensive than a better brand I could have gotten at REI or the like. Urgh. That's why this bad zipper karma hit me. I knew better and should have invested in quality. I've got two kids to get through this coat!!
  • Finding a replacement zipper is a little trickier than I expected because of the kid sizing. I thought I could just pop into a sewing shop and find the same exact size and color zipper. Not so. I started out looking for about a 19 inch chocolate brown zipper, and ended up with a white 18 inch zipper because that was the closest I could find.
  • It is possible to replace a zipper with very little sewing knowledge. I've never taken a class. You really just need to study how it's made, rip out the necessary stitches and then put it all back together...
  • Use pins! Really important. If it does not pin together nicely, it is not going to look right when you sew it. This is a breakthrough for me.

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