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Feb 26, 2016

Ladies Tailoring: Let's Make a Lapped Zipper!



Time for another Ladies Tailoring post, readers.

In our last class we learned how to insert a lapped zipper.  You're probably familiar with these: a back (or side) zipper with a little covering (i.e. lap) over the top that covers the zipper itself. 

To practice, our professor had us cut two pieces of fabric, 9" x 9".  These will represent the two back pieces of our skirt between which the zipper will be inserted.  Using tailor's tacks (trust me: they get easier the more you use them), trace a 1" seam allowance, stitching with the right sides of your fabric together.  Pull the pieces apart and cut through the center of the thread loops.  This leaves two identical sides.







Since this is supposed to be the center back seam of the skirt, we're going to stitch up about 1" to where there's a notch in the center back seam of the skirt.  We will press this seam open.





Our zipper needs to be at least as long as the opening.  Mine's about 10".  Any extra length will be cut off when we add our waistband.  NOTE: extra zipper length should stick out at the top, not at the bottom.

Now, with the fabric right side up, turn the zipper right side down.  You're going to be stitching the left side of the downward-facing zipper to the right back side of the skirt.



Line up the zipper teeth to your tailor's tacks.  Remember, the zipper is going to be folded back along the tacked line so that, from the front, it will be the right side of your zipper.



When you fold the seam allowance under, the zipper teeth will be visible

Place the zipper on your fabric, making sure the bottom zipper stop is just above the point where the two pieces of fabric are joined together.  Again, the zipper is facing down and we're stitching only the left side of the downward-facing zipper.



Stitch with your zipper foot up against the zipper teeth, from the bottom edge of the tape to the top of your fabric.  Again, the zipper is facing down.  Don't worry about your stitches where you're stitching around the slider; we'll be stitching again from the top side.



When you've finished, fold the seam allowance under.  The right side of the fabric faces up, and so does the zipper.  Now edgestitch up along the zipper's edge, from the point where the zipper is visible to the top of the fabric.  (Later this stitch line will be covered by the lap.)

Second line of stitching: seam allowance folded under and zipper and fabric facing up.

With the zipper closed, match the tailor's tacks on both sides of the skirt (i.e., on the two pieces of fabric).  The line where they match up will be edge of the lap.  Leaving your tailor's tacks in place, whipstitch the lap closed.  (I used red thread so it would be clearly visible.)





You're now going to attach the other side of your zipper.  Turn your fabric over, wrong side up.

Stitch down the unattached side of the zipper tape, along its outer edge, attaching it to the seam allowance on the left side of skirt.  NOTE: make sure you are sewing only through the zipper tape and the seam allowance.  All the other layers of fabric must be flipped out of the way!



Next, stitch along the zipper tape itself, a second parallel line of stitching.



Turn your work right side up.

With chalk, trace down a line 1/2" from the edge of the lap and parallel to it, and then across just beneath the bottom of the zipper stop.  It must be below it or your needle will hit the metal stop.

My chalk line extends past the bottom of the lap (the short heavy chalk line); it shouldn't.

Now topstitch along the chalk line.  Make sure you are clear of the zipper itself, which you should be able to feel beneath the lap.  When the stitching is done, remove basting stitches and tailor's tacks.



Using a press cloth, lightly press the lap so that it lies flat over the zipper.  The zipper should open and close easily and the lap should form a perfect rectangle.





You can also prick stitch along the edge of the lap rather than use a sewing machine as I did above.  That gives a more handmade look to your finished garment.

And that's it.  I hope you've found this tutorial to be helpful -- and clear. 

Have a great day, everybody!

28 comments:

  1. OMG what awesome step-by-step instructions, with such clear pictures! Sometimes I look at instructions in a book and say, huh? What?? Thanks for showing us what you’ve been learning!

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  2. Hi,

    I'm a bit confused here. At the beginning of the initial stitching step, you said "Now, with the fabric right side up, turn the zipper right side down", but after the stitching of the first side of the zipper is complete, you said "When you've finished, turn your work over, so that the right side of the fabric -- and the zipper -- faces up". Was there some point in between these steps where the fabric got flipped so it was wrong side up?

    Ken

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    1. Hi, Ken. I wasn't clear. I've changed the wording in my post. The fabric is still facing up, it's the seam allowance that gets folded under so the zipper is now facing up. Hope that helps!

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  3. I've been doing this all by machine for so long, I had to reread the photos several times to figure where the similarities and differences lie. The extra step of whipstitching the opening closed after the first leg of the zipper is sewn is probably a level of dedication I won't need to ascend to, but I have to admire the results.
    Impressive.

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  4. Usually I can see the value (real or theoretical) of couture techniques, but in this case I'm stuck. Instead of the tacks and basting stitches, why wouldn't you just machine-baste the opening? Did the professor explain *why* doing it this way was advantageous? Or the class was more about just learning the techniques?

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    Replies
    1. I've asked myself similar questions: these are simply his methods but clearly there are faster ways to accomplish this.

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    2. I'll chime in on this one. My tailor teacher explained that Tailoring work is majority hand sewing which includes basting. Not only does it help you perfect your hand stitching technique but you are able to charge more for your time and labor. Also hand stitching puts less stress on your fabrics than machine feed dogs and when it comes to "picking out" stitches.

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    3. Since my last tailoring stint in 2006, I've tried to machine short cut but my garments take a hit and end up going back to hand work. My other sewing friends hate that. That's always the first thing out of my mouth. "You should hand stitch that!"

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    4. I don't work with wool fabrics very often, but rather cotton and linen. I definitely can see that wool, which is usually loftier than cotton, benefits from hand stitching. It's easier to control by hand. It really depends on the fabric, in my opinion. I have always marked with chalk or pencil in the past, but neither works well on, say, wool tweed. That's when tailor's tacks are definitely a good idea.

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  5. The extra steps here make such a difference in achieving an even, crisp finish. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Peter,
    I've been following you for a few years now and today I just have to say: You are a teacher, an artist, and friend! Your dedication, attention to detail, and love for your craft are so clearly communicated thru this new internet media! It's clear you are a gifted designer / stitcher / tailor, but moreover, you are a communicator & journalist who loves to connect to people! You share yourself with us in a way that shows you are approachable, which makes you such a great Teacher!
    I guess I just want to say "Thank You"!

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    Replies
    1. I echo what you say so beautifully. THANK YOU, Peter.

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    2. Thank YOU so much -- that's lovely to hear!

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  7. Fascinating! I too have been doing the standard instructions for lapped zippers for years (the ones printed inside the packages), and puzzled at the purpose of the extra steps... but after careful thought I can see many benefits.
    For example, how having the seam open gives a more precise first seam (you're not dealing with the bump of the basted seam next to the zipper). And how stitching the other side through the seam allowance before stitching the lap on the outside gives you both a secure tape catch, and the extra straight outer lap.
    I will be honest though... I'm probably going to stick with my usual basted seam... but if I ever have a tricky fabric, I will remember this!

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  8. The only problem with this is if the skirt needs altering later and you have to remove the waistband...the tab will not have anything to stop it from coming off in your hand...ask me how I know? But this is very slick! Thank you for sharing it!

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    1. Good point -- a pin at the top of the zipper tape (or a few stitches) should prevent that from happening but I don't have to tell you that! ;)

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    2. Zipper tabs are available. Use pliers to install. Or hand or machine stitch several times the opening between the last two teeth. Or use a very fine wire. Or, use a small soldering iron to melt the last two (plastic) teeth together. Or fold the zipper edge back and stitch it down.. . . I prefer to install a tab, but sometimes don't have at least one handy.

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  9. I keep asking myself why could I do great zipper installations when I was 14 and now I can't seem to get it right. I think fabrics have changed a lot in that 50 years. I am glad you can do it so well.

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  10. I always struggle with attaching a facing (instead of a waistband) with a lapped zipper. Any chance you might be able to do a mini tutorial or add on for that? I know how to sew facings in general just can't figure out what to do with the folded/lapped part and proper spacing to the teeth from the back, facing side.

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    1. Off the top of my head, you want to make sure that the folded facing abuts the zipper teeth -- I'd stitch this part by hand for sure (the facing onto the zipper tape). Naturally you want to make sure that you don't catch any of the facing in the zipper when you open and close it.

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    2. Threads magazine has a wonderful tutorial for attaching a facing with a lapped zipper. Also for invisible zippers, separate article. Keep these handy so I don't have to remember.

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  11. That looks wonderfully neat and professional, thank you!

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  12. Thank you for showing how to achieve such a professional finish. I'm going to use this method when making cushions from some cherished fabric. Previously I was scared the zipper would let the look down.

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  13. I am going to save this to Pinterest (which other sewists can see) to remind me to take more care with lapped zippers. It is not as if I've never sewn in a lapped zipper in the last gazillion years, but that I have NEVER marked with tailor tacks nor taken the time to baste the zipper closed before the last finishing steps. What a lovely zipper insertion ! That extra care really makes a difference.

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  14. Just in time! I wanted to do a lapped zipper in a "fine" dress I am making this week, but I had forgotten how to do them so that they look really nice - I will be using this method now. Thanks!

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  15. Thanks so much for posting this technique! You do so great work and your photographs and instructions are so easy to follow.

    In this tutorial it looks like you have a 1" seam allowance for the zipper and then a notch and reduction down to a 5/8" seam allowance. Is that correct? Is that larger seam allowance something you drafted onto an existing pattern?

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  17. Best tutorial for this technique I've ever found. Using this weekend on an upcoming project. Thanks for the clear pictures!!

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