Sewing Zippers

Sewing Zippers
A zipper, curiously identified commercially as a clasp locker, comes in a riot of colors, sizes and shapes dependent on function. Composed of plastic or metal interlocking teeth-like nubs, fabric tape, pull tab, slider and top and end stops, this mini marvel of closure makes getting into and out of garments a breeze.

A few common zipper applications:

Centered zippers are visible on the outside of a garment or sewing project and centered on a seam, usually a front or back seam. The zipper itself can be concealed under two equal flaps of the seam, or deliberately made visible as a design element, still centered on the seam. Centered zippers are used in casual wear clothing, for sports wear, and for heavy outer fabrics. Prior to applying the zipper, the seam is stitched or basted closed, usually using a long stitch length, the zipper is centered, with the zipper closed, on the inside seam with the coils along the seam line and then stitched, usually about 1/4-inches away from the center coils on either side. The stitches from the seam are then removed from the outside to allow for exposing the now centered zipper.

Lapped zippers have only one stitching line visible on the outside of the garment. There is only one flap that covers the zipper as seen from the outside. The lapped zipper is sewn into the garment with the seam basted closed through the zipper area. Pants and skirts most often will use a lapped zipper application.

Invisible zippers are so called because when zipped closed, the seam line closes along with the zipper, enveloping the zipper completely within the inside seam. Only the seam line itself is seen from the outside. The invisible zipper is often used in evening wear, as a deign element or anywhere the zipper would be seen as a distraction.

To machine sew the zipper to a garment, consider any one of the following techniques for the best success:

Double sided invisible tape can be used to temporarily hold a zipper in place before machine or hand stitching. Small lengths of Scotch tape, or painter's tape can be used as well to temporarily hold the zipper in place against a basted seam while machine sewing the zipper's fabric tape to the seam allowances.

Most often pinning the zipper to hold it in place, then baste with hand stitching along either side of the zipper teeth and finally machine sewing alongside the basting stitches is a common application process.

The zipper can be inserted manually using a 'hand pick' technique that applies tiny back-stitches or a prick stitch worked from the right side of the garment. Often a couture technique or used for delicate fabrics and for inserting specialty rhinestone zippers.

If needed for fabric support, use a strip of light-weight interfacing placed under each seam allowance side before stitching the zipper as it can add to the finished look by minimizing any small rippling effect.

When machine stitching, stitch from the bottom of the zipper to the top of the garment edge on both sides of the zipper.

All sewing machines come with a zipper foot attachment for use with traditional centered or lapped zipper applications. The invisible zipper instructions mention a special invisible zipper foot, purchased separately, that allows the machine needle to stitch very close to the zipper teeth. Often the inexpensive invisible zipper foot comes with a variety of shank lengths so that the foot will fit a variety of sewing machine styles. It is possible to use a traditional zipper foot to attach an invisible zipper although care is needed to be sure to have the needle close to the invisible zipper teeth. There are many websites that show how to sew an invisible zipper using a traditional zipper foot attachment as well as the specialty foot mentioned.

For an excellent tutorial on how to sew centered, lapped or invisible zippers, visit Threads magazine for an article on:
Sewing In a Zipper

Sew happy, sew inspired.

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