cssa: inserting the zipper

As I previously mentioned, there are three methods I’ll discuss for inserting the zipper in this skirt. The first is for suitable for both skirts with and without side seams; especially if you’d rather have the zipper in the center back. The second and third (lapped skirt and invisible) are suitable for skirts with side seams, as you’ll need a seam to insert them. Either way, we’ll be doing this prior to adding the waistband. Be sure to read through each, as they have different steps in regards to sew the side seams.

Slash Opening Zipper

This method does not utilize a seam for the zipper insertion, so it’s perfect if you want to add a zipper to a skirt that has no side seams, or the center back of a skirt that does have side seams. The best part of this method is that it uses a patch to finish the slash opening, so the zipper teeth are not exposed. If you are sewing a skirt with side seams, follow the first step. If not, skip to step 2.

I also recommend basting by hand with silk thread if you’re using a fabric that tends to mar easily when threads are pressed.

1. Right sides together, sew the right side seam. Press seam open and finish. Repeat on left side seam.

2. Mark the length of the slash opening at the center back from the waistline down (the length will be zipper teeth (for example 9”) plus 5/8”). Baste by hand or machine over the marked slash line.

3. Cut a piece of your fashion fabric 1 3/4” wide by the length of the slash line you marked on your skirt, plus 1”.

4. Place the stripe right sides together over the basted slash line, centering it over the basting. Baste in place around the perimeter to the skirt by hand or machine.

5. With the wrong side of the skirt facing up and using a small (2.0 on my machine) stitch length, stitch along the basted slash line. Start about 1/8” away from the slash line at the waist of the skirt and taper to nothing at the bottom of that line. Pivot and stitch the angled line to match the other side. Stitch again around the bottom point of the slash line to reinforce.

6. Carefully cut along the basted slash line from the waistline to the point (be very careful not to cut through the stitching you just did!), through both the skirt and patch layers.

7. Press the patch to to the wrong side of the skirt, making sure the bottom point is wrinkle free.

8. Baste the opening edges closed by hand or use a wide zig zag stitch to join the two edges temporarily. Make sure the top (waist) edges are level and the opening edges just meet but do not overlap.

9. Wrong side of the skirt facing up, place the closed zipper along the basted-close slash, centering the zipper teeth over the slash, about 3/4″ below the cut edge (waistline), so the top stop is clear of the waistline seam. Switch your machine’s presser foot to a zipper foot. Pin and baste by hand or machine.

10. Stitch (using a regular stitch length) around the zipper from the top (waist) seam, around the bottom (carefully—don’t hit the zipper stop! You may want to mark where it is with a pin before you begin), and up the other side. Stitch far enough away to give the zipper pull space, but about 1/4” within the slash line on either side.

11. Remove basting stitches around the perimeter of the patch, and the basting holding the zipper in place and slash opening closed. Gently steam or press (with a press cloth covering the fabric) the zipper opening.

Lapped Skirt Zipper

This method is probably one of my favorites for many of my vintage-style skirt projects! It’s the sort of zipper insertion I see a lot on actual vintage pieces, and really looks nice and tailored when done properly. Several of my sewing books go over this way of doing it, but I’ve added a couple of my own modifications! There are more complicated ways of doing this, but this is one of the easier ones. I also recommend basting by hand with silk thread if you’re using a fabric that tends to mar easily when threads are pressed.

1. Right sides together, sew the right side seam. On the left, mark the seam allowances with basting from the waist to about 12”down. Measure from the waist down the length of the zipper (let’s say 9”) plus your waist seam allowance (5/8”). Mark. Sew the left side seam, right sides together, from this mark to the hem. You’ll have an opening above that mark to the waist. Finish the seam.

2. With the right side of the skirt left side seam facing up, press under the left (back) seam 1/8” from the basting line, within the seam allowance. On the right seam (front), press along the seam line. The back seam will form a tiny pleat at the bottom, but the front will overlap.

3. Position zipper along the left (back) foldline, abutting the fold right against the teeth, about 3/4″ below the cut edge (waistline), so the top stop is clear of the waistline seam. Pin and baste by hand or machine using a zipper foot. Stitch in place from top (waist) to bottom.

4. Close the zipper. Lap the right (front) fold over the zipper teeth and stitching line for the left (back) edge of the zipper. The stitching line and zipper should be completely concealed under this front flap. Pin and hand or machine baste in place, allowing for the zipper pull at top along the right (front) edge. Mark the bottom stop of the zipper with a pin.

5. Using a regular stitch length, sew from top (waist) along the right (front) edge, far enough from the fold to clear the zipper pull, but still catching the seam allowance of the right edge that is folded under. About 1/8” to 1/4” below the zipper stop marked with a pin, stop stitching with your needle in the fabric. Pivot and stitch towards the side seam very carefully over the bottom of the zipper. Do not backtack! Cut the threads with about 6” to spare, pull the top thread to the backside of the skirt, and tie for a neat finish.

6. Remove all basting stitches. Gently press with a press cloth the lapped seam.

Invisible Zipper

Now, I’m going to be honest with you… Although I had planned on including directions for how I install an invisible zipper (which admittedly is not my favorite sort of zipper to use. But I think that has a lot to do with sewing vintage/vintage inspired pieces—I prefer how a regular zipper looks!), but somehow I didn’t have one in my zipper box when I went to work on these tutorials! I know… I’m such a bad seamstress and have fallen down on the job. So I’ll link you to one instead! My favorite tutorial by far is Colette Patterns well-photographed invisible zipper tutorial. There are many others out there, however—it seems everyone has their own tips and tricks to insert an invisible zipper. So don’t be afraid to dig around a bit!

As usual, let me know if you have any questions about this step! Up next: the waistband… We’re about halfway through already!

September 19, 2011 · 54 lovely thoughts
posted in sewing · tags: , ,

Doortje September 19, 2011 at 06:40

I really like how the lapped zipper looks! My grandma uses it on all of her garments because it looks so neat. I must admit, I reach for an invisible zipper most of the time…

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Faith September 19, 2011 at 06:49

Zips are my kryptonite. The number of projects I have completely finished except for the zips! I have this really annoying tendency to think ‘oh, I don’t need a zip, I’ll just sew in hooks and eyes instead’ which are of course nowhere near as good and usually end up falling out because I sew them in so quickly and poorly because I’m in a hurry to finish. So I am going to take my time with this zip because I need to. You make it look so easy!

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Casey September 20, 2011 at 07:28

I’m so glad you liked these tutorials, Faith! Zippers used to scare me a bit too–and usually resulted in projects taking far longer than they should have because I procrastinated. ;) lol. Do let me know how these work for you!

♥ Casey

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Vicki Kate September 19, 2011 at 07:33

I’ve got to decide on which method! Do I go for one centre back and add pockets in the side seams, or do I do a lapped zipper? I love the look of the lapped zipper, and I’ve never done one before so it’s an opportunity to learn something new… Decision made then!

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Cleverclogs September 19, 2011 at 07:55

Many thanks for the instructions for the slashed zipper insertion. I’ve been puzzling about how best to put zippers into a sleeve (mainly for decoration, but partly so I can have extremely narrow sleeves). This will be a terrific method.

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Casey September 20, 2011 at 07:29

So glad you liked this! :) I’ve seen it in a few of my 1940s sewing books, but it’s something that seems to entirely disappear after that period… I wonder why? The way the slash is finished is so much better than other methods! :)

♥ Casey

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KatyDidStitches September 19, 2011 at 08:12

I’m really fascinated with the slash zipper closing. I’ve never seen this before! My circle skirt will have an invisible zipper, so I won’t be using the slash this time…but I will certainly file this away for future use. The zip is on the agenda for today…and I’m putting it off…lingering over my blog reading and my iced coffee. Like Faith, zippers are my kryptonite…wish me luck!

Kathy

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Casey September 20, 2011 at 07:30

So glad you’re intrigued by this method! :) It really caught my eye years ago in a couple of 1940s sewing books I’ve collected, as I had never encountered a similar method for finishing the slash of a zipper opening that way.

Good luck with putting in that zipper! :)

♥ Casey

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Gail Ann Thompson September 19, 2011 at 08:28

Brilliant!!!
I’ve been sewing since 1965 and I’ve NEVER seen the slash opening for a zippper.
I LOVE it!!!
It’s much like what we used to call a ‘continuous lap’, used above the cuffs of tailored blouses. I never realized the implications or applications, until now.
You are a genius! Thank you!

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Casey September 20, 2011 at 07:36

Glad you like that technique, Gail! :) It’s something I’ve seen in a few 1940s sewing manuals, but never really in any of the later ones. But it makes sense for cleanly finishing a zipper slash!

♥ Casey

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Megan J. September 19, 2011 at 08:40

What do you guys recommend for a skirt with just one seam? I’ve never done a zip before and I’m rather terrified!

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Casey September 20, 2011 at 07:43

Where is the seam in the skirt? You have several options, but the ones that I like the most are either a lapped or invisible zipper. :)

♥ Casey

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MJ September 20, 2011 at 14:47

It’s probably going to be in the back (full disclosure- I’m only making a half-circle because I didn’t buy enough fabric- I bought it before the sew along started and was just flying blind in my desire for some pretties!), so that it won’t look lopsided on either of the sides.

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LBC September 19, 2011 at 09:24

*Facepalm*.

Last week, I was frantically trying to finish Simplicity 7885 (1977) a skirt and top set, before my dad got home from Nigeria. The print is a large-scale batik that he brought me from Indonesia several years ago and I wanted to avoid cutting it up too much (the birds are 8-10 inches tall), so I cut the front and back skirt on the fold instead of seaming the halves. However, I also added side-seam pockets. If you do the math, you’ll realize that I effectively eliminated all four skirt seams.

Channeling my inner Homer Simpson: “Doh!”

My solution was to slash and topstitch the zipper into place. The only reason this was at all acceptable is because the top has a long peplum that–literally–covered my [posterior]. I can’t think now why it didn’t occur to me to insert fabric strips and make it look respectable. Sheesh.

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Casey September 20, 2011 at 07:44

Ack!!! Well, don’t feel badly–I had never thought of finishing a slashed opening like this (at least if I didn’t want the zipper teeth exposed) until I saw similar methods in some of my 1940s sewing manuals, and modified them to fit my needs. It was definitely one of those “why didn’t I think of that?!” moments! lol.

♥ Casey

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Corinne September 19, 2011 at 10:00

great tutorial Casey, zippers are always a major part of any project. your suggestion for using silk thread for basting is right on. great tips.

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Jeanine September 19, 2011 at 10:27

Super cool! I have never seen this technique, and can imagine it will come in handy. Thanks!

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Vilma September 19, 2011 at 12:43

This post is soooo cool!!!! great tutorial.. I really learned a lot from this. Thanks a lot!!

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Rachel W. September 19, 2011 at 12:50

You deserve a medal for that little zipper facing for the slashed opening. It’s genius (or, at least, would have never, ever occurred to me!)

Poop– I bought an invisible zipper, but I suddenly find myself wanting to use the slashed back opening so I can have pockets in both side seams. Conventional wisdom tells me that I’m doomed to fail, since Invisible Zippers Must Be Inserted Into Unsewn Seams. But I know there are people out there who insert invisible zippers *after* the seam it’s sewn into is closed– I wonder if I could make that work here, though the slash isn’t really a ‘seam’ that’s been ripped open. Hm.

Any thoughts on my dilemma, friends? Or should I just save my invisible zipper for another project and settle for a conventional one?

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Casey September 20, 2011 at 07:48

So glad you liked that method, Rachel! :) It’s vintage sewing goodness; I originally spotted the idea in a couple of my 1940s sewing manuals, and took it from there! ;) Definite “d’oh!” moment! lol.

Honestly, I haven’t worked with invisible zips enough in recent years (all this vintage sewing means I usually opt for the “vintage” look of a lapped zipper!), but I hate sewing in the zipper and then the seam! But, I have tried sewing up part of the seam (to within about 6″ of where the end of the zipper opening is marked), then adding the zipper and finishing the last 6″ between the end of the zipper and where I sewed the seam. This really helps avoid some of the seam shifting that happens at times!

♥ Casey

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puppyloveprincess September 19, 2011 at 12:50

ah! zippers scare me!
thanks for the tips!

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Erika September 19, 2011 at 14:12

Sending some love from Sweden as thank-you for this lovely post. You have made my Monday, Casey!

(Really nice to hear so many others dread of zippers, it’s hard to come by group therapy for these kinds of problems ;-)

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Lisa September 19, 2011 at 16:42

I also love this tutorial for the slashed seam, can you give some examples of when you would use this as opposed to just putting it on a seam?? I can think of a few decorative reasons (I had them on the backs of my ankles on my favorite purple stone washed, pegged jeans on the 80′s) but are there technical/structural reasons we should look out for??

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Casey September 20, 2011 at 07:50

Other than a skirt without a seam, they’d be perfect for narrow sleeve cuffs, fitted necklines and ankles of slim pants! :) Not sure if there are any structural reasons you couldn’t use this method; although anything on an extreme bias might be tricky. I always advocate making up a sample (cut on the same grain as your garment) when in doubt!

♥ Casey

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Lizz September 19, 2011 at 17:32

I love the slashed zipper and am surprised I’ve never seen it before! Although I’m not participating in the circle skirt sew along, I’ll be using this tutorial for future projects. Thanks, Casey!

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Casey September 20, 2011 at 07:50

So glad you liked this, Lizz! :) It’s a great, vintage method that I haven’t seen in any newer sewing books. Which is sad because it makes a lot of sense for certain applications!

♥ Casey

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Katherine September 19, 2011 at 20:10

Do you think a hand picked zipper would be ok? I don’t have a zipper foot for my machine yet. I’m thinking of having pockets in the side seems too. Eeeek! So much to think about.

Thanks
Katherine

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Casey September 20, 2011 at 07:51

I think a handpicked zipper would be lovely! :) I’m always a fan of those…

♥ Casey

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Faith September 22, 2011 at 10:09

I’ve sewn in the zipper at least somewhat successfully (at least for me!) and I’ve pinned the side seams but I’m absolutely terrified to sew them up right now because the waist looks HUGE. Is this normal with sewing a circle skirt? One half of the skirt goes almost completely round my waist and I’m terrified to do anything more with it for fear of ending up with a skirt with a waist almost twice mine. It’s ages since I last sewed a circle skirt and I can’t remember if this is normal or not!

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Faith September 22, 2011 at 13:51

UGH oh dear, I just realised where I went wrong. I completely missed out the part about halving the number you get when you divide by pi. In other words, I have twice the waist I should. Do you know how I could go about rectifying this? At the moment, I’m stuck with a completely unusable skirt front and back with a waist of 60″, sigh.

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Faith September 22, 2011 at 14:00

I’m terribly sorry for spamming your inbox but I thought I’d add that, after pondering making the entire skirt shorter and putting in front seams and cutting lots off the skirt etc. etc. I finally decided to just go with the simple option and make it into a half circle skirt. It actually works remarkably well as I have an incredibly stiff cotton which has just the volume as a half circle as many skirts have as a full circle. And it fits like a dream. You live and you learn :)

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Casey September 22, 2011 at 14:38

My apologies I wasn’t able to reply to your question sooner! :) Anyway, glad you figured out a fix for the skirt (making it a half circle). In the future, some ideas for remedying the problem:

- Gather the waist to the waistband
- Run a series of tucks from the waist to the hem around the skirt (evenly spaced)
- Pleat the skirt at various points (center front always looks nice) to take up excess

If it’s any consolation: years ago I tried to make a circle skirt (I think I was 16/17 at the time) and had the same thing happen to me! ;) You’re not alone!

♥ Casey

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Faith September 22, 2011 at 15:03

I was definitely considering adding tucks/pleats etc. but I really wanted the smooth line of a circle skirt so the half circle is really the next best thing and I’m quite happy with the result. Thanks so much for your advice though and I’m sorry again for commenting so much! I was just in a bit of a panic, heheh.

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swoosh September 24, 2011 at 18:46

Thank you so much for this. I either mess up badly or end up hand sewing zippers. I’ll certainly give these methods a try tomorrow. I need to learn how to do it properly!

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Sarah Heath September 26, 2011 at 05:58

I have a tip for you with your slash zipper. When you are stitching beside the slash, when you are changing your angle to the pivot point, pivot the sewing twice instead of once. Sew to the end point, make only one stitch parallel to the waistband, then sew the other side matching the angle. When you cut your slash. Cut all the way to that one stitch, but not through. This makes the area of the item below the slash pucker less. Hopefully it will help someone.

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Jewel October 3, 2011 at 10:42

Thanks for the tips, I am really having a hard time when repairing my clothes. But this? I will definitely try doing this later. I really wanted to learn how to do this. Thanks again for sharing.

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Gracelyn October 5, 2011 at 13:24

Hi Casey,
Love your post, very educational. And this is a very good tutorial since I haven’t tried to do this before. But this one got my interest to learn. Thanks.

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Kisha October 20, 2011 at 03:37

Great tutorial, I’ve learned so many things on this topic. thanks for sharing.

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Jane Elise November 18, 2011 at 22:19

Casey, I am making this Burdastyle skirt – http://www.burdastyle.com/projects/102011-natté-knee-length-a-line-skirt?image=233814 – which has pockets (double thickness) sewn into the side seam. The side seam is bulky enough let a lone trying to install a zipper into it as well! After four failed attempt I remembered seeing this post and so I sewed the side seam up and put in a zipper down the back. Thank you SO MUCH for your careful explanation. I searched other places on the net and there is really no other information about this method. The results were great given I didn’t even trial it on scrap fabric (eek). I’m going to link to this post from my blog!

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Jane Elise November 18, 2011 at 22:23

Oh, I should have said also, that the only thing I did differently that others might like to add, is I pinked the zipper ‘facing’ so it was nicely finished. My skirt isn’t lined.

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Sassy T June 22, 2012 at 15:58

All your images have disappeared.

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Hannah Jean June 22, 2012 at 21:38

Yes, oh no, photobucket says the bandwidth has been exceeded! :(

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Kessem June 23, 2012 at 04:01

Hey Casey!
I remember loving these tutorials back in September so much, that I wanted to come back and reference to them now. Sadly, the photos have been eliminated from your site on account of too many views.. this is TOO SAD!
Is there any way you can fix this?
Anyway, thanks for the amazing tutorials, you’re always so inspiring to me!

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Jo July 28, 2012 at 03:09

Omg, I just did the slashed application on my wool and I have to say, it didn’t go well! I guess for my “facing” strip dealy, I should have used a lightweight fabric. The zipper is super bulky and sticks out in a sort of welt. Eew. I guess it’ll have to pass though.
Have you ever used this appication in a medium weight fabric? Would you have used a lighter weight for the strip?

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Rockabella-Turtleface December 27, 2012 at 12:54

hey :)
i have to say I really love your site :)

You know I am very very new to this 50ies scene and I’m very very willing to go for it. I just started ^^
i don’t want to buy clothers from the internet because there is nothing under 500€ for a SKIRT! because it’s handmade. i can understand that. So i thouht I’m going to try it myself. the pro is by that: not that expencive, and i can do it how I want.

so I don’t know why I’m telling you this but what i actually want to ask you is: which one of this zipper sewing thingies is the bet one to start with?…for the first time
and if you have any suggestions for me; a new 50-vintage- member go ahead :D

greetings from a turkish girl in germany
Turtleface ;)

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Rockabella-Turtleface December 27, 2012 at 12:55

i forgot the g in thought :*)

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Janice Bishop February 8, 2013 at 00:59

Thank you so much Casey for your help with my zip in my full circle skirt without seams it looks great.
Thank You Again,
Janice.

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Alex July 8, 2013 at 04:27

Wow,
I’ve been sewing for over 15 years and I’ve never had a zipper come out this good!! Thank you so much for sharing!!

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LLBB July 23, 2013 at 20:44

thanks for the slash opening bit!

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Care to comment? Thank you ever so much for taking time to share your comment! Although I try to answer questions, I am not always able to respond to each comment individually. But please know that I appreciate from the bottom of my heart every comment I receive!

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