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Friday, January 31, 2014

Tutorial: Install a zipper and match seams without pinning or basting


     If you don't like sewing heresy, click away now! I once did a tutorial on stitching elastic in the round without quarter pinning. You might start to think I never use pins but, the truth is, I use them all the time. But sometimes, I really feel I have better control and sew much faster without using them....as in the case of elastic, princess seams, hems and zippers. My fingers are my pins. (Did that sound corny? Ok, moving on...)

Here's what it looks like:

How to Install a Zipper and Match Seams without Pinning or Basting

Step 1: Interface the wrong side of the fabric. Finish the edge of the fabric.
Benefits to interfacing: 
A. It makes your fabric beefier in order to support that zipper.
B. It minimizes the fabric stretching while you sew, which will make seam matching easier and will make zipper buckling less likely when the fabric decides to returns to its original size. (Preshrinking is a good idea for the same reason.)


Step 2: Press the appropriate seam allowance under. Check that all seams, including hem, match up at this point. Lay your zipper over the garment to check again if the hem length really does work with the zipper length.

How many times have I finished a zippered garment only to find the right and left hems didn't match? Ugh. I'd rather adjust the hem now.


Step 3: Stitch one half of the zipper tape to the garment.

Align the top zipper stop with the top of the garment. You've already checked your zipper length with your garment length, so if you let the zipper go into place naturally as you stitch, you don't have to worry about where it's going to end up at the bottom. You're worried only about aligning the zipper tape with the edge.

I like to use a 5/8" seam allowance with a serged edge because lining the zipper tape edge with the serged stitching is the perfect distance, but do what makes sense to you.



Tip: Oops, I'm almost at the end and the zipper is in the way! The trick-du-jour is to raise the presser foot, slide the zipper pull up, lower the presser foot, and finish. That's a great idea, sometimes. But usually, I spent 10 minutes trying to squeeze the zipper around the foot. Finally, one day it dawned on me: Joy, backstitching, cutting the threads, pulling the garment out a little, moving the zipper pull, and starting again take 5 seconds. This is an automatic movement for sewists, right? The moral of the story: if a sewing trick (including this tutorial) is not helpful, don't do it!


Below you can see where I stopped and restarted my stitching. Not a big deal.


Step 4: Test your zipper to make sure it slides easily.


Step 5: On the zipper tape, mark the points you will need to match. 

I used tailor's chalk here.


Step 6: Transfer the markings to the back side of the zipper tape where you will see them when you stitch.

*** Move on to step 7 for a pinless procedure. Or see note at bottom.


Step 7: Align your zipper tape appropriately with the edge, match your first match point (the hem in my case) and stitch an inch or so.


Step 8: Align the next match point with its corresponding seam and pinch it. Now, grabbing the fabric behind the presser foot, put the fabric and zipper taut so they are lying flat and aligned with each other correctly. Stitch.

You can pinch off smaller sections than what I'm showing here (I did) - whatever gives you the best control. Each time you pinch off a section to stitch, just use the match points as reference points. When you pass one match point, look to the next one.




Step 9: Check to make sure the zipper slides smoothly and all your seams match up.

Perfect, I think!




Step 10: Open the seam allowances. Grab the extending zipper tape and fold it over. Fold the seam allowance back under, sandwiching the zipper tape extension in between.




Step 11: Topstitch. 


***Note: Pinless sewing makes sense only if it's faster and easier - and still looks good. Obviously. If I have a tricky fabric, bulky garment, or something else unwieldy going on, I prestitch the match points. You could call that basting, I suppose.



This fun sweatshirt coat is the Diamond Cardigan Coat from Ottobre 4-2009-37. The pattern calls for snaps but Sara specifically requested a zipper instead. And a tutorial was born, haha.

She spent a few minutes looking for the pockets. Oops, sorry, there aren't any.


22 comments:

  1. Thanks for this tutorial; I needed this! My son's Minecraft jacket, I got the very top, after zipping, uneven. :( If I had interfaced it, the zipper wouldn't have waved either. I wanted to redo it, but he was so excited about wearing it, he wouldn't let me!

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    1. The minecraft jacket looks pretty awesome anyway (: Happily there's always next time...

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  2. Beautiful zipper and great technique. Basically the way I use pins is as match points. I only put a couple in a seam and they aren't to hold the fabric together so much as to remind me where to put my hands next. When I start sewing the first thing I do is reach up the seam and pull out the first pin and replace that with my hands. I sew to that point and then remove the next and repeat. So for example a pant leg might have three pins, whatever it takes to section the sewing into arm length bits i can hold taught. So all this is to say, I'd do a zipper the exact same way except the match points would be marked with pins instead of chalk.

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    1. Sounds very similar. I think, with practice, it pretty much become intuition for your hands to know where to go next - like playing piano.

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  3. i like your style :) I'm all about some pin-less sewing. I also really like this coat. I'd love on in my size.

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    1. I always poke myself with pins! Maybe I'm not alone in that. I want one in my size, too!

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  4. Thank you for this tutorial! It makes so much sense. I will try it next time I need to sew a zipper.

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    1. Thanks, Becca! Good luck on your next zipper!

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  5. I am going to have to try this next time because I pin then baste by hand then sew, and that is a pain! This looks so much easier. I need to remember to add 5/8" SA for zippers too because that with the serged edge looks very nice. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Erica. I have basted a few times. Sometimes I've found the fabric shifts anyway for me.

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  6. this is a great hint. I hand baste (with super huge stitches) to do the same sort of thing, but this way looks sort of faster :)

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    1. I guess it's a matter of preference (as it is with pretty much all things sewing, right?). I don't mind saving time, though (:

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  7. My kind of tutorial! I'm going to give this a try for my next zipper.;)

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    1. Thanks, Cindy! Good luck on your next zipper!

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  8. That is a fabulous tutorial - what a perfect result! I really need to learn to do more without pinning/basting every thing as my sewing is sooo slow. I think it's fear that I will make a big mistake! There are two things I especially like about your daughter's new coat, the colour and the shape. It's so pretty at the back. It would be easy to add pockets inseam or on top for future incarnations, I think.

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    1. Thanks, Philippa. And I love the coat, too - I've really been contemplating making one in my size.

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  9. I love this too! So helpful. I'll be trying it out the next time I do a zip. :D
    (and I still love that coat)

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    1. Thanks, Kristin! You'll have to tell me if you go pinless on your next zipper (:

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  10. thanks for this tutorial Joy. especially the zipper pull trick! will use it for sure next time!

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  11. Is there a women's version of that pattern? I love it!

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    1. Thanks, Megan. Enough people have expressed the same thing, I think I'm going to ask Ottobre for a women's version of the pattern...

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