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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4 comments on "How to Insert a Lapped Zip..."
  1. I like lapped zips for situations where there may be stress on the zip, for example the side seam of a tight fitting skirt, because it does not show even if there is stress on the fabric either side of the zip. I notice that your stitching veers slightly off at the top to avoid the zip slider head. To keep the stitching straight I stitch up to near the zip slider and then, with the needle down in the fabric, lift the presser foot and open the zip a bit by sliding the zip head down past the needle. I then lower the presser foot and continue stitching in a straight line. Getting the zip slider past the presser foot can be a bit of a struggle as you will be stitching so close to it and I find it helps to rotate the fabric or you may find that you can raise your presser foot just that little bit more by holding up the presser foot lever (better still, getting a handy bystander to hold it up for you). On some machines you can even remove the presser foot and then replace it; because you have the needle in the fabric the fabric does not move from you line of stitching.

    1. I love lapped zips for that reason too :)

      I think the stitching looks like it's veering off because of the top of the zip tape is flaring out where there is no zip to keep it straight. This wouldn't be noticeable once I finish the neckline and that bit is gone. The zip is open when attaching it to the first side, but can't be open when attaching it to the other side due to the fact that the centre seam is basted shut - which is slightly annoying because the zip head can get in the way, but I prefer it to invisible zips :) Oh, zips, they are quite fiddly things to get perfect aren't they?!? Hehe.

  2. Great technique and tutorial! Can't wait to try this out on my next project! Thanks :)

  3. That's amazing! I've not seen this type of technique before, definitely giving it a go. :)


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