Hi, it’s Amanda from Deriving Mommyhood. I am back with another post for New Horizons Designs….and today we are talking zippers! If you saw my last hack for the blog you’ll know I’m a bit of a zipper fan, and with so many New Horizons Designs patterns using them it’s a good idea to get familiar….and not be intimidated!!
First, there’s a few types of zippers out there. Separating, non-separating, invisible, ones meant to be installed exposed, metal vs. nylon, and so many lengths….eek. Let’s start with the basics.
Separating vs. Non-Separating
You’ll need a separating (open end) zipper if you need to be able to open it like a jacket. Non-separating, or closed end zips will always stay together at the bottom. You can use a separating zip when a non-separating is called for and just sew it together, but generally separating ones cost a bit more so I’ve done it in a pinch but wouldn’t make a practice of it.
Invisible zips are always non-separating. They are usually used in dresses along a back or side seam, or you’ll see them on decorative couch pillows. They are designed so that the teeth of the zipper are behind the zipper tape. If you sew them well (and an invisible zipper foot is a must for me to do that) they disappear. It’s like magic.
There are lots of fun decorative exposed zippers on the market these days. I know I’ve seen a good selection at both Hobby Lobby and Joann Fabrics. Some are metallic or patterned, and then there are these cool lace ones too. You can use these anywhere a zipper is called for really (as long as you’re paying attention to the separating or non-separating deal) you just need to sew them in a little differently to make sure that you see the zipper tape. For the lace ones, you sew them OVER the opening for the zipper instead of behind, like I did on my Tami hoodie here. For the others, you can just have a larger opening for your zipper placket or sew them over as well if you don’t mind the edges of the tape showing. It’s a great way to add a decorative touch.
Metal vs. Nylon teeth
Well this is semi obvious, but you can get plastic or metal zippers in both separating and non. Depends on your project what you want to use. Generally, I don’t like metal zippers on knit fabrics as they are heavy and can possibly do damage…but I’m cautious by nature. Also, I usually buy zippers in bulk and shorten as needed and nylon ones are A LOT easier to shorten. And if you accidentally sew over the teeth of a nylon zipper, you’re usually okay. A metal one will break your needle every time. Trust me, I know.
As I mentioned, I collect zippers. Maybe I buy in bulk off Amazon when I see a good deal, or find a bag at a garage sale, etc. Usually they end up being the wrong size for my project so I just shorten them to fit. To shorten a closed end nylon zipper, you simply cut off the extra below the zipper stop and sew yourself a new one (I do a wide zigzag stitch on my sewing machine with length 0 and stitch back and forth, could do it by hand also). For open end ones, you cut off above and can add a stop on each side or close the end in the project, depends on the pattern. DO NOT ZIP THE PULL OFF! For metal zippers, you always cut at the top to shorten them, then use pliers to remove teeth that are in your seam allowance. You can pry off the zipper stops at the top (I use a flathead screwdriver to open it up) and reattach where you need them. This is not for the easily frustrated person to take on. I did it for this zipper fly so that I could save a trip to the store.
Sewing with Zippers
It’s a good idea to have a zipper foot for sewing zippers in as it allows you to sew close to the teeth. There’s a few kinds, specifically ones for invisible and regular zippers. You want to sew pretty close to the zipper teeth in most projects, but not so close your fabric gets stuck in the pull.
Hopefully you are a little more confident in taking on a project with a zipper!
Oh wait….still not feeling ready to tackle a zipper?? I documented how I sew a zip onto a hoodie to give a few more pointers! This is a Summit Peak Hoodie, but you can use these tips for any jacket zip really.
First, I like to do a quick serge down both open edges without cutting any fabric. Completely unnecessary, but it helps me keep from stretching that edge and bastes seam allowances and things like that the direction I want them so that both sides match.
Next, I sew the wearer’s right side on. Lay your zipper right side up on your project so you are 100% on which side is which, unzip it completely, and lay the zip on the wearer’s right (left side of the picture) face down so that the teeth match the edge. Pin or clip all the way down.
(Of course, my zipper is not the right size…I’ll come back to that. For now, I’m just going to leave the top 1” unsewn)
Put your zipper foot on your machine and stitch it in place. Go nice and slow at the thick plastic part on the end. I sometimes hand crank there to be sure I don’t break a needle.
Next, we are going to prep to sew the other side. It is good to be carefulhere to make sure it all lines up. I first put pins or chalk marks at any ‘critical’ places I want to match, like seams or pockets.
Then, I turn the project inside out and clip from there, matching those pinned places carefully. Use lots and lots of pins. Maybe even use glue if you have very stretchy fabric.
Turn it back right side out and check to make sure it matches well.
Once you are sure it’s all matching, sew that side in place. I like to sew in the same direction as the first side (top to bottom in this case) so I sew from the inside instead. I find it helps keep things lined up well.
When you get to the zipper pull, lift your presser foot while the needle is down and slide it away and continue on.
Now I’m going to show how I made this zipper fit…it is metal so I couldn’t just fold over and stitch at the top. Instead, I first cut off most of the excess then measured the seam allowance from the top and pulled out the teeth that were in my way with pliers. I folded the part I removed the teeth from to the side and stitched in place.
Last, most projects would have you topstitch the zipper in place after this step. To do that, you’d lightly press the zipper the right way and the seam allowance away from it, then move your zipper foot to the other side of your needle to topstitch on both sides.
Good luck on your next project with a zipper!