Zipper Box on shelf with other sewing tools 
Zippers are an important tool we use to fasten clothing and many other items. Even though it is an amazing engineering wonder, it was not an overnight success. Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine received a patent in 1851 for an "Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure".  He did not make any effort to market the device. 

In 1893 Whitcomb Judson, supported by Colonel Lewis Walker created the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture a "Clasp Locker", which was similar to Howe's patent but served as a complicated hook and eye shoe fastener. The clasp locker made its debut about 100 years ago at the Chicago World's Fair. It was not a big commercial success. Judson got the credit for inventing the zipper because he was the first to market it.

Gideon Sundback improved the design of the early zipper by increasing the number of teeth and changing the slider. The "Separable Fastener" was patented in 1917. It was not even called a zipper until 1923 when the B.F. Goodrich company put them into galoshes and called it a zipper. The name stuck and the zipper began to have many more practical uses.

The earliest zipper working parts were metal teeth on a fabric strip. Today zippers are made from metal, plastic, and nylon. They are available in many colors and almost any length, even just long strips that you can measure out by the yard. Whether you want plastic or metal depends on where and how you use the zipper.    

Zippers from the Zipper notion stash box I keep handy.
In addition to being available in metal or plastic, there are zippers that only zip down and back, others that unzip and separate, zippers that are reversible because the zipper pull can slip from one side to the other.  

Several types of zippers, including parka, separating jacket, jean, invisible and standard 
Below I have photographed the ends of a separating jacket zipper with metal teeth. This zipper is suitable for heavy coats and would be one of the more durable zippers available. 

Separating zipper with metal teeth

Both ends of a parka zipper
The parka zipper can be metal or plastic, but is very useful in coats. The zipper is available in very long lengths and has the ability to unzip from the bottom giving extra leg room and the freedom to bend or sit without breaking the zipper. 

Zippers in packages
Zipper packages have not changed much in recent history. In the 50s they were wound into small plastic cases, now they are packed in slender cardboard envelopes. The outside of the package will tell you what kind of zipper it is and the length. Even if you do not feel confident to know exactly how to sew a zipper there are instructions inside the package to walk you through the steps to sew in a zipper. Below are three common zippers, a metal jeans zipper, this one is 7 inches long, but they are available in shorter and longer lengths. 

The middle zipper is an invisible zipper. Your machine probably has a zipper foot attachment to help sew in the zippers, but the invisible zipper has a different foot. The invisible zipper foot has a channel for the zipper teeth to ride through that opens out the teeth. The channel holds the teeth away from the needle, allowing a very close seam so that the zipper is completely concealed within the seam allowance. The third zipper featured below is the most common zipper used in dress making. It has plastic teeth and you can see them unlike the invisible zipper where the teeth are on the bottom side of the cloth zipper tape.

Zippers out of the packets with instructions.
Zippers are available in almost any color to match your fashion fabric. Most fashion zippers are concealed in the seams. Vintage clothing from before the 1950s will often have a zipper in the side seam. After the 50's a zipper down the back of a dress was more common and the latest fashion trends include incorporating the full zipper tape on the outside of the garment as part of the design element. In keeping with this trend now you can purchase zippers with the fabric tape in polka-dots, stripes, and bright unexpected colors to use as part of the design and decoration on the outside of the garment.  

Keeping with this year's blog themes, the word zip is an onomatopoeia.

From http://etymonline.com

onomatopoeia (n.) 1570s, from Late Latin onomatopoeia, from Greek onomatopoiia "the making of a name or word" (in imitation of a sound associated with the thing being named), fromonomatopoios, from onoma (genitive onomatos) "word, name" (see name (n.)) + a derivative of poiein "compose, make" (see poet). Related: Onomatopoeic; onomatopoeial. 

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zipper#History - who quote a lot more sources than I used.

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