Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sureau Sew-along: Installing the Zipper

A little change of plans: today we were supposed to cover the sleeve insertion, but I decided to go with the zipper first.
I actually find that if you're using the method I'm about to illustrate, it's easier to install the zipper before you even sew the shoulder and side seams, because the dress is much easier to manipulate at this stage (you don't want to accidentally catch a sleeve under the presser foot, do you?).

So, what you need to do before installing the zipper?
 Stitch the darts
 Gather the front bodice and stitch the button placket
 Gather the skirt panels and stitch them to the front and back bodice
 Finish your seam allowances on the right side of the dress separately

[This is very stupid, but it ALWAYS confuses me (I hope I'm not the only one): the zipper goes on the left side of the garment when you wear it, so during construction, when you have the garment in front of you, the zipper will be on the right side.]

If you're done with everything, let's proceed.

On the left of the zipper mark: regular stitch length. On the right: basting stitch
The process is basically the same as we've seen when we sewed our muslin.
This time though, you will need to stitch your right side seam:
✄ use a regular stitch length from the top of the side seam to the zipper mark.
 Backstitch, then set your machine to a basting stitch (4-5mm) and stitch all the way down to the zipper end mark.
 Set your machine back to the regular lenght, backstitch, and sew all the way down to the hem.

Press your seam open with the help of a seam roll.

On the wrong side of the garment, lay the zipper right side down on the basted portion and pin it.

Still on the wrong side of the dress, baste the zipper and remove the pins.
I know hand basting is boring, but it will take you 5 minutes tops and it will ensure you won't f*** up your zipper installment, which you'll appreciate, especially if you're a beginner.

I'm using a photo of the muslin construction because my black and white fabric was very difficult to photograph... Sorry!
Flip the garment on the right side and stitch the zipper using a zipper foot. You can use your hands to feel where the zipper teeth are and stay close to them.
When you reach the bottom of the zipper, pivot, sew over the zipper (but be careful not to sew over the metal part, you'll break your needle!!!) and stitch the other side of the zipper.
Now you just need to remove the basting with the help of a seam ripper to reveal your beautiful zipper!

Of course, if you prefer, you can use an invisible zipper, or, if you know a method that you like better, feel free to use it (and share it, please, I'm curious)!
This one is probably my favorite method and the one I would recommend to a beginner.


  1. that's an interesting method, i might give it a try.. i actually always use an invisible zipper, 'cause i like the way it look, and 'cause i find it easiest to sew on a garment..

  2. I am with you on the zip side problem, always takes me a few thoughts to get it straight in my head, but I think I'm finally getting used to the tutorial for invisible zips found via colette patterns:

  3. Zippers are one of those very personal things about sewing.
    I, for one, have grown to hate invisible zippers: I never seem to make the seam below the zipper look right and they break so easily. I don't mind "visible" zippers so I'm golden with either this method or a vintage looking lapped zipper, but everyone has their preferences :)

  4. Glad to know I'm not the only one!
    That's a great tutorial (as all the tutorial from Colette)!

  5. Wow this is a great technique to ensure the seams match up and the fabric at the zipper meets up nicely. I wanna try this next!!!

  6. I've been scratching my head, wondering how side zips are done :)