Who’s Afraid of Lapped Zippers? Not This Girl!

My latest (and only) pencil skirt pattern called for a lapped zipper. So, I dutifully followed the patterns instructions to insert the lapped zipper–and they made no sense to me. I didn’t understand how to get everything to line up properly if you had a 5/8″ seam on one side and a 1/2″ seam on the other when you’ve already sewn up the rest of the seam 5/8″–I mean, what the. . .  It was a pretty intensely frustrating twenty minutes. I finally gave up and opted for a centered zipper.

A couple of weeks ago, a very sweet lady at my church who knew that I had taken up sewing came into the store where I work and said that I had been on her mind and did I need any help with zippers.

???   !!

Seriously. I had said nothing to her of my woes. It’s like she justknew.

Of course, I readily accepted her help, and she said she’d bring me directions for a lapped zipper method that always worked beautifully. True to her word, a few days later she brought me instructions and samples for lapped zippers. She walked me through the steps and at the time they made perfect sense. Later when I tried to puzzle through them on my own, not so much. But, after some thorough mulling it over, I had my “a ha!” moment and all was well.

The whole thing was fortuitous because the yellow twill skirt I’m working on (or was working on when I first started writing this post) calls for a lapped zipper, and I am determined that this is a skill I will master. I think a lapped zipper is so much nicer than an invisible one, as invisible zippers tend to be not the greatest quality.

Naturally, I decided to scour search casually look around the internets to see what other lapped zipper tips I could find.

A couple of places, like Threads, tried to feed me the 5/8″ / 1/2″ seam mumbo jumbo, so I kept looking. Although I find it interesting that some people use interfacing around the zipper. I can see how that would be really helpful.

I found some useful tips for sewing a centered zipper courtesy of the Sewing Divas, but it wasn’t really what I was looking for. However, their suggestions for avoiding “gaposis” problems seem pretty solid.

But, I did find an article on sewing a lapped zipper from the Sewing and Crafting Alliance (I did not know this was a thing) that seemed remarkably similar to the method described to me by lovely lady at church. Check it out–they explain it pretty well.

But, now I’m going to describe in terms my brain understands this lovely method of zipper insertion. (I’m also doing this to solidify the method in my mind.) So, here’s what I did:

1. Make sure you mark where the bottom of your zipper will fall on the fabric. (Typically, your pattern will provide this mark.)

2. From the bottom up, sew the seam using the standard 5/8″ allowance. Once you reach the mark, switch to a basting stitch and sew the rest of the way.

3. Press the seam open. (Also, press your zipper if it needs it. Mine did.)

4. Align the zipper with the center of the seam. Now, you’re looking at the bottom of the zipper (where you begin sewing). With the seam allowance on your right extended, the rest of the fabric flipped out of the way.

5. Use your zipper foot. (I’m not going to explain which side of the foot you should be on. I really feel you can figure this out on your own.) Starting at the bottom and using a standard stitch length, sew about an inch or so. Then switch to a basting stitch for the rest of the seam. About half way up (or whenever you want to, really), sink your needle and raise your presser foot so you can unzip the zipper and get it out of your way. Then you can finish the seam.

6. Now, this is the part that really scrambled my brain at first. Flip all your fabric to the right (this is the side you just basted). Situate your fabric so that there is a fold close to the zipper teeth. Then, stitch right along the edge of this fold. (This step is actually easier if you baste close to the teeth first–you know, from step 5.) Again, make sure you pause at some point, sink your needle and raise your presser foot to move the zipper out of your way. I found that I needed to pivot my fabric all over the place to accomplish this. As long as you leave your needle sunk, no biggie.

7. It’s time to turn the fabric right side out. Starting at the seam, top stitch across the bottom of the zipper, just below the zipper stop. Sew about 3/8″ to 1/2″ from the seam, sink your needle, and pivot so you can sew parallel to the zipper (you’ve seen lapped zippers, right? You know what I mean, right?). Again, pause about half way up or so, sink your needle, raise your presser foot, and unzip the zipper. You might want to use a chopstick or something. After you get that pesky zipper out of your way, you can finish your top stitching.

8. Remove the basting.

9. Do something celebratory. Because you’re done. With the zipper.

You may notice that there are now two rows of top stitching. Well, that’s just because I went a little crazy on the first go and didn’t make sure to catch in the seam allowance. So. . . be careful of that.

Easy, no? I think I’m basically doing whatever the usual method of lapped zipper insertion is–I’m just going about it a little differently.

Does anyone else out there have any zipper tips and tricks to share? (Especially about finishing the top of the zipper–I haven’t quite figured this out yet.) I’m all ears!


2 thoughts on “Who’s Afraid of Lapped Zippers? Not This Girl!

  1. Pingback: Holiday sewing – circle skirt | Manas

  2. Pingback: Top 5 of 2013 | Manas

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