Zippity Do Da

I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about zippers.  Most patterns that call for zippers give directions along these lines: Sew the bottom part of the skirt back together, from that little dot you transfered over from the pattern piece.  Then take the raw edges above the seam, fold them under, and sew them onto your store bought zipper. They give a bit more detail than that, but this is the jist of it.

The problem?  Fabric is not paper.  When you fold it under, you don’t get a nice crease, you get a rounded, puffy fold.  You have to somehow hold the zipper and the fabric – perfectly folded down along the would-be seam line, 5/8″ in from the raw edge – with one hand while attaching pins with your free hand, and achieve a straight line in the process.  I sewed exactly one zipper ever using this technique.  It was uneven and wavy along the length of the zipper, and it puckered awkwardly at the bottom.

There may be many folks out there who have great success with sewing zippers as the pattern makers would have them.  I’m not one of those lucky folks, so I developed my own technique. My way means adding a couple of steps, but it has always resulted in a zipper I could be proud of.  And while I am THRILLED to save time where I can without sacrificing quality (like using a rotary cutter and mat instead of pinning pattern pieces to my fabric and scissor cutting), I am also willing to spend plenty of extra time where I need to in order to achieve the result I want.

When I prepare to sew in a zipper, I start by serging all the raw edges so that the final product is nice and tidy, with no frayed raw edges.  It’s basically impossible to serge the raw edges after the zipper is in, but they don’t just magically disappear by virtue of the zipper’s existance, and so you are left with a pretty zipper with unravelled fluff sticking out at the sides.  After I serge my fabric, I pin the entire length of the back together, and baste it using a long stitch.  Then, I iron the seam flat in both directions and voila, there is a lovely crease where I would have struggled to fold the fabric down.

I use a seam ripper or a small pair of scissors to clip the thread at the dot transfered from my pattern (or, as often as not, I ignore that dot on the pattern and just hold the zipper up to the actual garment so I’m positive I place it where I want it), and I remove the stitching from the top half.  I now have nicely folded and creased edges to pin to the zipper.

Normally, I sew a finer stitch right over the line I basted on the lower half of the skirt.  For Bonnie’s dress, I want the chiffon layer to rest freely on top of the tafetta.  So, I removed the basting from the lower half of the skirt first (and left it in place for the top portion).  I peeled back the tafetta, and pinned, stitched, and serged the chiffon layer together along the seamline.  Then I tucked the chiffon out of the way, and did the same to the tafetta.  The result is that the two layers of fabric are sewn together along the length of the zipper, and then they separate just beneath it.

Once I have my fabric creased for me, I basically do follow the standard instructions.  I sew the zipper in to one side first, open it, and sew the other half of the zipper to the other side of the dress.

In addition to installing the zipper, I’ve sewn in the bra cups since the last time I posted, by simply tacking them to the existing seams as the pattern directions instructed.  The cups are sewn right to the seam allowance so none of the thread is actually visible on the right side of the fabric.  This does mean they’re tacked in a few teensy places, rather than being secured all around, but they’re pretty snug all the same. And with these two steps complete, our outer dress should now be complete, right?  Take a look.  Looks pretty good, doesn’t it?  I mean, this is a dress you’d wear out in public, right?

The front looks good enough.  But what on EARTH is going on with the back of this dress??  Ugh.  I’m thoroughly annoyed by this, because in fact the muslin was a bit funky in the back as well, but I just attributed it to the loose weave stretching from the weight of the skirt.  Nope.  It’s a stupid cut.  Why do I buy patterns in the first place?

I think I will need to remove the zipper, cut a bit of excess from the back bodice pieces, and then sew the zipper back in.  I’m going to ask Bonnie to come over and try it on real quickly though so that I can be sure I fix it right.

One more angle as I smack myself in the forehead here.  *sigh* It’s bedtime.


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