Good morning, everyone! Hope y’all had a nice weekend (holiday or not!). We are just coming up on the home stretch of our OAL – just a couple more steps left until we are finished and can start rocking our gorgeous dresses! Woohoo!
Today, we will be inserting zippers into our dresses. In this post, I will be covering the insertion of a lapped zipper, which is my preferred method for this style. I won’t be covering invisible zippers here, but I do have a tutorial on inserting an invisible zipper if you’d like to use one for your dress. I put an invisible zip in my second OAL dress (the one not featured in this post), using the same method as outlined in the tutorial, and it came out beautifully! So that’s an option if you need it :) Otherwise, let’s talk about the lapped zipper!
As I mentioned, I really love a good lapped zipper. I blame Gertie for sparking that obsession, btw. When I was working at Muna’s, she never understood why I preferred to use lapped zippers in most of my garments – she was of the camp that invisible zippers were more elegant. Maybe, I guess, but sometimes I like the design element of having the zipper be visible (or, at least, the stitching line of the zipper being visible). It’s definitely easier to match up seamlines and prints with a lapped zipper, since you can hand-baste into place and sew from the right side. Also, lapped zippers are a bit stronger than their invisible counterparts – which could be important if whatever you made is a little on the snug side. Of course, there’s a time and a place for everything – lapped and invisible zippers included – but for casual sundresses, I just love a beautiful lapped zipper.
Anyway, onto the zipper!
Start by finishing the raw edges of the center back – from the bottom of the skirt all the way to the top of the bodice. I catch my facings in the serging (or whatever finishing you’ll be using) so I don’t have to tack them down later. Now is also a good time to check and make sure that both back seams are the same length and that the waist seam matches up, so you know everything will also match up when it’s time to put the zipper in.
Start at the bottom of the skirt and sew up to the zipper stop, as indicated on the pattern. Backstitch a couple of times to make sure everything is secure, then press the seam open. Leave the unstitched part unpressed.
Now make sure that zipper is the right length for your dress! If it’s a bit long (I have a metric shit load of 22″ zippers, so I forever have to shorten mine), you can easily shorten it. Just mark where the zipper stop needs to go, and sew across the teeth to create a zipper stop. If you are using a nylon zipper, you can do this by machine. For zippers with metal teeth, you’ll want to sew by hand. Once you’ve made your stop (and test it!), cut the teeth about an inch below. Presto: shortened zipper!
Also, just a side note – I always have people tell me that you can’t shorten a metal zipper. Well, I guess I’m some sort of magical sewing unicorn because I shorten pretty much ALL my metal zippers! Ha! The trick is to snip both sides of the tape as far to the teeth as you can, and then you can usually get the teeth to coax apart. Use a pair of crappy scissors in case you need some assistance. Alternately, you can sew the zipper with the excess coming off the top edge of your garment, and your facing/waistband/whatever intersecting seam can act as a zipper stop. But no, it’s not difficult (nor impossible) to shorten metal zippers.
On the right side of the open seam (or left; however you want your lap to go. I like my lap to be on the left, though), press the seam allowance at 1/2″ to the wrong side of the bodice, all the way down to the stitching.
On the right hand side (or whatever side has the 1/2″ fold), pin your zipper with the teeth right along the edge of the fold. I start my zipper about 1/8″~ from the top of the fabric; but I also don’t use hooks and eyes with my lapped zippers (personal preference! I’ve found they’re not really necessary). If you are using a hook and eye, start your zipper a little lower. As far as the tape at the top of the zipper – you can just fold that under to the wrong side of the dress. If you don’t catch it with your stitching, you can tack it down by hand at the end.
Now sew your zipper to the garment, about 1/8″ away from the fold. Use a zipper foot and/or move your needle to get close to the edge (but not so close that the zipper won’t function!). If you have trouble starting the stitching at the top of the zipper, pull both thread tails (the needle thread and the bottom thread) very gently while you press the pedal; this will keep the fabric from getting eaten by your feed dogs and making a big thread nest on the underside of your garment.
Now take the larger 5/8″ folded edge and place it on top of the zipper, with the fold meeting the stitching line you just sewed. Pin everything down, being careful to only catch the back of your garment – don’t pin all the way through the front! I just slide my hand around the inside to be sure, but you can also put a book inside the bodice and use that to keep from pinning all the way through. Once you’ve pinned the overlap down, check the zipper tape and make sure your pinning is even – it should be down the middle of the zipper tape. If it’s not, readjust.
One thing I like to do before I start sewing is to mark my stitching line (otherwise it can be kind of difficult to tell where you are stitching, since the zipper is closed and you can’t see the guidelines on the throat plate!). Go about 1/2″-5/8″ from the fold – this will depend on where you’ve pinned/basted your zipper tape – stick a pin through the marked line and check the wrong side of the tape to be sure it will catch and not be too close to the teeth. If you are sewing a zipper that still has the original zipper stop (aka, you didn’t shorten your zipper), it can be helpful to mark with a pin where the zipper stop is, just so you don’t accidentally sew over it and break your needle.
Now take the dress to the sewing machine and sew along your marked stitching line. Try to keep things as straight as possible, since this stitching is visible :) Keep the zip closed and be careful not to sew through the front of the drss. When you get to the bottom of the zipper (or a couple of stitches before your marked zipper stop), lower your needle, raise the presser foot, pivot, and sew across the bottom of the zipper (be very careful and VERY SLOW if you are sewing in a zipper with metal teeth!). Backstitch a couple of times to keep everything secure.
And that’s it! Zipper is done! :D As always, please let me know if you have any questions!