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How to Insert a Lapped Zip...

Monday, August 31, 2015

I love lapped zips.

I use them on pretty much everything that needs a zip. If I'm making a dress or a skirt that needs a zip, I always make it a lapped one (even if the instructions say otherwise), not least because I seem to always have lots of luck finding vintage or standard zips in secondhand stores, resulting in a rather large pile of them.

Inserting a lapped zip means you don't have to go out especially to buy an invisible zip if all you have is a standard zip. You can make any pattern that has a 1.5cm (5/8in) seam allowance fit a lapped zip, but that is probably the minimum, any less and there wouldn't be enough to make the 'lap' that covers the zip itself.

Lapped zips are actually really easy to insert accurately and cleanly - so let me show you, I promise it's not scary!

First off, we have to prepare our garment to insert our zip - this is the step that makes putting in a zip that is accurate so much easier. Ever had your waist lines not match up at the back when putting in a zip? Well, no more...

Preparing to insert your lapped zip

1. Finish off the back seam raw edges being really careful not to remove any seam allowance.

2. Right sides together, line up the edges of your centre back seam, ensuring the waist seam and the top of the bodice line up - pin in place.

Note - you may want to stabilise your zip seams with an interfacing to prevent the fabric from stretching out with the weight of the zip, especially if you're using a fabric like rayon.

3. For accurate zip placement on the Felicity dress, measure 1cm (3/8in) down from the top of he back bodice. Place the top of the zip (the metal bit) at that point and locate where the bottom of the zip ends (the other metal bit) on the skirt. Place a marker pin here - indicated by the arrow below.

4. Starting from the top of the bodice, stitch your back seam closed using a basting stitch until you hit the marker pin you placed to indicate the bottom of your zip.

Once you've reached that pin, change your stitch length to the standard length you use when sewing permanent seams. Sew a few stitches, then back-tack back to the marker pin, then continue all the way down to the bottom of the skirt. Back-tack at the end.

5. Press your back seam open.

Inserting the Zip

1. Open up your zip and face down, place the right-hand side of the zipper teeth onto the right-hand side of the centre back seam seam allowance, lining up the teeth exactly with the basted back seam. Line up the bottom of the zip where your basting stitch ends.

2. Baste the right-hand side of the zip to the back seam allowance only. You'll want to ensure that you are stitching as close to the seam allowance finished edge as possible, while still attaching your zip.

3. Do your zip up. Take your basted zip and pinch the seam allowance in half so that the teeth of the zip fold out and are now facing you the right way.

Pin down the small length of fabric that is running up the side of the zip, in between the right side of the zip teeth and the basted centre back seam. This will only be about 3mm (1/8in) wide.

4. Using your zipper foot, stitch down the 3mm length of fabric you pinned to the zip using a standard straight stitch and making sure to only stitch the seam allowance and not the right side of the garment.

5. Once the first side of your zip has been attached, pin the loose side of the zip, facing down, to the other side of the centre back seam allowance, through all layers of fabric to the outside of the back of the dress. Ensure the zip is flat.

6. Stitch the other side of your zip down starting from the top, through all layers, pivoting 90degrees at the bottom of the zip and finishing at the centre back seam.

Note - I prefer to stitch my zip down with the inside facing me. This way, I can pick a spot on the zip to follow to ensure I stitch a straight line. If you prefer to stitch with the right side up, you'll have to eyeball your seam a bit more to make sure you aren't sewing over your zip, or too close to it.

7. At the bottom of your zip, do not back tack, instead, leave a long tail. Once you've finished your zip, pull your threads to the underside and knot.

8. Gently press your seam and unpick your basting stitches on the right side to reveal your lapped zip.

Not as scary as you thought now was it?

If you have any questions, please let me know and I'll do my best to answer them. Otherwise, the Felicity Sew Along will continue next Monday when we talk about how to insert invisible zips.

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Stitching Up Felicity: Attaching the Skirt to the Bodice & which way to press Waist Seams

Monday, August 24, 2015

Today we're stitching up our Felicity skirts and attaching them to our bodices :) I'm also talking about which way you can press your waist seams and what I do for different versions of the Felicity dress (and just dresses in general!).


1. For both views, right sides together, stitch your front and back skirt pieces together up the side seam.

For the Gathered Skirt Only - 

2. Within the seam allowance along the top of your skirt, place 2 lines of basting stitch, leave long tails at each end.

Note: Because this was my mini Felicity, I only did one row of basting stitches because my sample was quite small. So if you only want to do one line too, then don't let me stop you :)

Another note: you may have noticed in the Felicity instructions that came with your pattern, I instruct you to do your basting stitches slightly differently. Both ways work perfectly well, but I think showing you another way to do the same thing is always useful.

3. Gently gather your skirt by pulling one of the threads in each basting line, leaving both ends loose so that you can arrange your gathers to fit neatly into your bodice in the following steps.

For both views -

4. Right sides together, pin your bodice to your skirt along the waist line. Make sure your side seams are matching.

Note: if you are making the gathered skirt version, you may wish to mark the centre of your gathered skirt to ensure you are distributing your gathers evenly around the bodice.

5. Stitch your bodice to your skirt along the waist line, back tacking at both ends.

Which way should you press your waist seams?

Ah, the eternal question. Honestly, at the end of the day it's really completely up to you. There actually isn't a right or a wrong way, because it depends on a number of factors that are unique to your project.

When I got the feedback from my testers for Felicity, one thing that a few of them remarked on was that I didn't specify which way to press waist seams. That was deliberate from my end, because I actually do it differently depending on what view I'm making, the fabric I'm using and how I'm feeling on the day.

All of my testers pressed their waist seams differently and all of their dresses turned out perfectly fine, so as a break-the-sewing-rules kinda person, it just proved to me that you don't have to do things exactly as you're 'supposed' too. Doing what you feel is right for your particular project, based on what you're making, the fabric you're using and the tools and supplies you have at hand, is the best way to make sure you end up with a finished garment you're happy with.

There are only three different ways you can press your waist seams -

1) Press them up toward the bodice
When making the gathered skirt version, I personally press my waist seams up. This is because gathered fabric can be bulky - if you pressed them open or down, the gathers are going to be folded over onto themselves, which can result in a somewhat bulky waist line seam. This of course, totally depends on the type of fabric you're using, and if you're using something light weight, then pressing them over onto themselves probably wouldn't add that much extra bulk.

For the full sized Felicity I'm making that fits into the floral bodice you've seen in earlier tutorials, I'm using a medium weight woven fabric for the skirt that just doesn't want to be pressed open or down.

2) Press them open
A great reason to press your waist seams open is that you are distributing the bulk of the seam evenly between the bodice and the skirt, creating a smaller waist line (or at least the illusion of).

It's also super handy when it comes to inserting your zip, as the waist line seam can be bulky, which makes it hard to stitch neatly. I do this on the circle skirt version.

3) Press them down toward the skirt
I personally don't tend to press my waist seams down in general, but I can imagine that there is the potential to see the outline of your waist seam allowance through your bodice (especially if you're using a really light weight fabric or one that is particularly light in colour), so pressing the seam down will result in a smooth bodice around the waist.

So, there you have it - at the end of the day, do what you think is right for your project, there is no one right way.

Next week, we're inserting lapped zips, my very favourite kind zip!


Attaching All-in-one yoke pockets

Monday, August 17, 2015

I really love these all-in-one yoke pockets on the Felicity Dress - I don't know what it is, but I think they're cute and they work perfectly every time. Today we are attaching them to our Felicity skirts and talking about whether to top-stitch, under-stitch or just leave the outer edge as is.

Also, you can't tell but I'm using a mini version of my Felicity Pattern to illustrate the next few sew along posts, I'll have to show you the final dress at the end because she's so darn cute!!


1. When cutting out your pocket pieces, make sure to mark all of your notches, and don't forget to include a little notch down the bottom in the dip of the pocket (indicated by red arrows). These will really help you later on when you need to be very precise when folding the pocket over, as the 'back' of the pocket makes up a section of the overall waist line of the skirt.

This is especially important when making the circle skirt version, as there isn't as much room for error as there is with the gathered skirt version.

2. Right sides together, place your pocket piece on top of your skirt piece. Making sure you line up your curves.

1.5cm ( 5/8inch) from the raw edge, stitch your pocket curve together, back-tacking at the start and end of the stitch.

3.  Cut little notches into your seam allowance along the curved edge, being careful not to snip too close to your stitched seam, then turn right sides out and press.

Note - Those little cuts you made allow the fabric to sit much neater along the curve by releasing the tension from the fabric threads.

Now is the stage where you'll want to decide whether you under-stitch, top-stitch 
or leave the outer pocket seam as is...

You really can do what ever you like here, it's completely up to you (and whether you have the patience to add a small extra step - sometimes I do, sometimes I don't... hehe).

The two big reasons to either top-stitch or under-stitch is that first you'll be be providing a little extra stability to a seam that does get a lot of strain put on it since your hands could be going in and out of your pockets a lot. Secondly, they are securing stitches, meaning your pocket bag will stay nicely inside of your pocket along that stitched edge, rather than poking up, as you may find they have a habit of creeping out. Adding the extra stitch also means that your outer pocket seam will stay nice and crisp, even after washing.

So, what's the difference between top-stitching and under-stitching? It's pretty self explanatory, but top-stitching is stitched on top so you can see it on the outer garment. You can choose to use a matching thread to make it more invisible or go for a decorative touch and use a contrasting thread or stitch - you absolutely don't have to use a straight stitch like I've done on my mini-Felicity sample. If you have fancy stitches on your sewing machine, why not try them out? Or even try a little zig-zag?

An under-stitch is where you secure your seam allowance to the underside of the pocket, which is something you may want to consider if you prefer a really clean garment with as few seams showing as possible, while still providing that security and stability of adding an extra stitch.

Adding a Top-Stitch:

3mm (1/8in) from the outer seam edge, place a line of stitching along the curve, securing both the skirt and pocket seam down.

Adding an under-stitch:

Note - Adding an under-stitch to the curved pocket of the Felicity Dress is a little tricky due to the curve, but it is possible. I've chosen to use a flat sample in order to show you how to do it in a much clearer manner. The blue fabric is the skirt, the white is the pocket as per the rest of the post.

1. Open up your pocket seam and press the seam allowance toward the pocket.

2. Place a line of stitching along the centre of the seam allowance securing it to the pocket side (indicated by the red arrow).

 3. Fold your pocket back under, wrong-sides together and press. You won't see the seam from the outside...

But there will be a neat line of stitching on the inside of the pocket...

And back to the sew along...

4. Fold your pocket bag in half along the centre line. You'll want to ensure your pocket is folded in half exactly along the fold line marked on the pattern - use the notches you made in your pocket at the start to match these up (indicated by the red arrows) as well as the edges of the skirt. 

The two notches made towards the outer edge of the pocket should match up with the ends of your finished pocket edge, as indicated by the arrows below.

5. 1.5cm (5/8in) from the raw edge, stitch the bottom of your pocket bag closed. This should be loose from the skirt, so make sure you don't accidentally attach the two!

6. Within the seam allowance of 1.5cm (5/8in), baste the top and sides of your pocket to your skirt and press.

Repeat for the other pocket and voila, your cute lil all-in-one yoke pockets are done! I used the pattern for the gathered skirt in this post, but the process is exactly the same for the circle skirt.

 If you have any questions, please pop them in the comments :) Otherwise I'll see you next time, where we'll be assembling the skirt and gathering it if you are making version 2 of the Felicity dress.

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