Learning how to sew is a long and enjoyable road of new discoveries that can last a lifetime. There are 101 ways to achieve the same effect and very few of them are wrong. For students learning to sew professionally this can sometimes be a frustrating thing, as they prefer a straight answer to the question “How do I do this?” For home sewers there can be an additional hurdle of learning from instructions but not from a person. You often learn all the right skills, but you are not necessarily sure why and when you need to apply them.
So today we give you some tips and tricks on how to insert a regular zip into a garment, the easy way (for invisible zips, see this blog post). Enjoy!
To insert a regular zip, you will need a regular zip (open ended or closed) and a standard zipper foot. If you are inserting a zip into a seam, like the centre back or side seam of a dress or skirt, you will need a closed zip: it means you can’t separate the two parts of the zip. If you are making a jacket you will need an open ended zip, or you have to put the jacket over your head! In the example below we are inserting a zip into a seam that requires a closed zip. Make sure you have overlocked or zigzagged your seam allowances before starting the process below.
Machine tack together the seam of your garment where you are intending to insert your zip. For a jacket front, you can machine tack the whole centre front seam. For a dress or skirt, sew up the centre back seam from the hem to the zip notch on a normal stitch, backstitch, then machine tack the rest of the centre back seam. Press your seam allowances open.
Machine tacking means using a very big stitch on your machine, between 4 and 5, to create a temporary stitch that’s easy to unpick.
With the inside of your garment facing you, lie your zip face down onto your seam (you will see the wrong side of the zip). Pin it in place so the zipper teeth lie in the middle of the seam. Pin horizontally like in the picture below. If you need a fastening above the zip, like a hook and bar on a dress, make sure the zipper head is lying 1.5 cm below the raw edge.
Turn your garment right way around and pin the zip in place from the outside, pinning around it in the direction you’re going to sew it. This depends on your machine’s zipper foot: as you can see from the picture below, we will start sewing from the right hand side of the zipper, as that way our machine foot can sit next to the bulky zip without interfering. Your machine foot might be the other way around, so please check before you start sewing.
Remove your first pins on the back, switch to a zipper foot on your machine, and start stitching your zip from the top. Pivot and stitch across the bottom, then pivot again and continue stitching on the other side. You are stitching an elongated U shape, hence why pinning correctly to begin with is important. Stitching across the bottom of the zip can sometimes be a bit tricky, so you may have to help your machine along by hand turning the wheel. You can also backstitch across this area if it will be under a lot of strain.
Finally, unpick your machine tack from the very first step to reveal your zip!
This is an easy way to insert zips and once you get confident, you can play with contrasting threads to turn your zip into a feature.