I used to HATE putting in zips, but once you’ve figured it out they’re not really that hard and you get an immense sense of self satisfaction. A well inserted zip is a most pleasing thing.
This tutorial is how to do a CONCEALED zip but the principle is the same for the regular kind too, the only real difference is the first step which I’ll point out when we get there.
The one on the left is a concealed zip – the teeth are not visible from the front and won’t be visible in your finished garment. They come in all the same lengths and variations as the regular zips (heavy duty, open ended etc) but you may have to buy online if there isn’t a well-stocked haberdashery near you.
The first thing you should know about zips (which no one told me but I quickly figured out) is that the earlier you can put them into your garment whilst constructing it the better.
For example; if you want a zip up the back of a dress insert the zip at first; before you sew the sides onto the back. The flatter you can keep your pieces the neater you’ll be able to make your zip.
This is why when someone asks a friend-who-can-sew, “Could you replace a zip for me?” they go blank whilst thinking of the politest way to say, “Bo thanks, that’s so much harder than you think it is!”
It is possible to enter a regular zip without these but you won’t be able to insert a concealed zip without
- A zipper foot for your machine
- An iron
Step One – Iron That Zip
If you are not doing a concealed zip this is the step you can ignore. If you are doing a concealed zip this is the one step you cannot ignore!
If you unzip and look closely at the zip you’ll see that the teeth themselves are folded over, what you are going to do is iron that fold out.
If you take a look at the zip now it should be nice and flat, ready to use!
Step Two – Attaching the Zip to the Outside of the Garment Pieces
Place the zip FACE DOWN onto the RIGHT SIDE of one of your garment pieces.
Line the flange (non-teeth bit) of the zip up with the edge of one of the garment pieces and pin.
The edge to which you have pinned the flange is the edge where the zip will be.
Now it’s the scary bit, well not really, but it is time to sew that zip on.
Step Three – C’Mon Sew That Zip
Use whatever stitch and needle type you’re using on the rest of the garment, by the way. I’ve never needed to change it. If you’re working with thick or stretchy materials use the same rules as normal and just go steady.
Line the zipper foot up with the teeth. Make sure you get as close as you can.
You can do it with the zip open or closed but there will be a point where the zip carrier itself gets in the way, just lift up the foot, zip it up or down and carry on re-inserting the needle where you took it out.
TIP: One way to avoid having to do this is to buy a zip a little longer than you need. Keep the zip open all the time during insertion with the zip carriage stashed at the bottom and stop sewing before you hit it. I do this all the time!
That’s the first half of your zip done!
Fold over the flange and you can see how neat it is going to look from the outside. You should be able to see only teeth no flange, or only the thinnest sliver.
Then you need to do the same for the other side. Repeating steps two and three.
This is the point when you realise how easy it is to do when the garment hasn’t been made up.
At this point I usually then sew together the rest of these two garment pieces. So if this were a dress I would sew up the remaining back seam below the zip to the bottom of the garment.
Lay the pieces flat on top of each other, line up the two sets of stitching you did on the zip and slip in the needle a few stitches up from where you left off. Then carry on that seam to the bottom of the garment.
So now you should have this – inside and outside.
Step Four – Finish Construction
If you aren’t lining the garment you’re pretty much done, you may want to tidy it up with a top stitch (so just skip to Step Six). Even if you are lining it your zip work is done for a little while. Now go and sew the rest of the garment together and come back to me when you’re ready to put in the lining.
Construct the lining but leave the seam that’s going to go where the zip is open (eg don’t sew the back seam)
I’m going to have a Fererro Rocher and a coffee, no rush.
Step Five – Attaching the Lining
Well that’s looking pretty slick, well done. Ready to put in the lining now? Good. Lining a garment is the most foolproof way to make it look a hundred times better and more professional. Even if you’re the only one wearing it, it’s worth doing!
Pin the lining RIGHT SIDE to the RIGHT SIDE of the outer fabric around the neck of the garment.
Be sure to leave a bit of overhang at the point the zip meets to reflect the fabric folded back which is holding the zip itself.
Sew along the top to attach the lining. Trim the excess fabric from the seam and open…or stuff the lining inside your garment.
Now you’re going to attach the open seam of lining to each side of the zip.
The next bit is the most fiddlesome if you’re making a garment; for this tutorial I’m just using flat pieces of fabric as it’s the easiest way to demonstrate.
Fold over the raw edge of the lining and pin it onto the zip.
TIP: You can always machine hem these edges before attaching if you like rather than folding.
Step Six – Sewing in the Lining/Top Stitching the Zip
Now here you have two options….
If you don’t want any more stitching to show on the outside of the garment you can hand tack the lining to the zip flange.
In theory you can machine stitch it just to the zip flange but if you thought pinning the lining in was fiddly then WOW. Unless it’s an open ended zip. Those things are a piece of cake.
The method I usually favour involves simultaneously attaching the lining and top stitching the outer.
As it’s the outside most people are looking at that’s the side I am going to be looking at when I sew……so I can make sure it looks straight etc.
I switch over the pins I’ve just put in so they’re on the outside of the garment
“Why bother doing them on the other side in the first place?” You say, well, I just find it easier. I means that the inside is nicely lined up and the pins hold it in place as I switch them one by one.
Put your zipper foot back on and sew down the zip on the outside of the garment. Again lining the foot up with the teeth.
Now you have a nice neat lining inside and out. I’ve used white cotton here so it stands out. If this were a real garment I’d use a cotton that blends in of course.
Finish off by sewing together the rest of the lining backseam. I usually start half a centimetre or so from the base of the zip and tidy that up by hand when snagging the garment.
And there you go!
TIP: If you want your zip to start flush with the top of your garment you can either snip off the extra flange above the little catch that stops the zip flying off the end or pin the excess along the neckline when inserting your zip and it will be concealed by the lining.
Lizzie Biscuits caters to those who wish to be conspicuous. She makes costumes for performers and peacocks.
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