Another Dress + Zip Tutorial

Another day, another dress!  When I delivered the last dress to Ella, Eva was very downcast that she didn’t get a dress (in spite of the fact that she told me she didn’t like it and didn’t want it the day before!).  So, since she requested a purple and pink one just like Ella’s (the C’est Dimanche Roma remake), I had to make one for her as well.  It’s a fun dress, so I was happy to make something that she actually wanted!!!  She hasn’t been a fan of any of my creations lately – only the dolly dresses.

 

I drafted the dress in a size 5, did some stash diving to find a purple and pink floral for her – she wouldn’t want “dainty”, but rather something bold.  I found a suitable purple and orange.  I hope that will suffice – there’s some pink in there!

I chose a contrast center panel for this dress – just to break up the busy print.  I am happy with the choice as well as the bright orange piping.  With fall right around the corner, I decided to add sleeves to this dress.  Keeping with the lines of the dress, I chose to draft a straight sleeve and piped those and lined them with the contrast used on the front panel.

Because I wasn’t thrilled with the button back option of the first dress, I decided that this dress would get a zipper.  I find a zipper to be a much more practical option than buttons all the way down the back – especially since this will be a play dress.  Trying to minimize the opportunity for a wardrobe malfunction!  Eva is one busy and wild girl, so wardrobe function is important.

I had Livvy and Liam over yesterday afternoon, so I got Livvy to try on the dress.  I think that it is a bit big on her – I made a size 5, and it’s a perfect fit on my size 5 mannequin, but Livvy is still 4, as is Eva.  I may have to make a size 4 pattern and sew some 4’s for Livvy and Eva.  Isn’t she cute!!!  I think I’ll add a narrow sash to the back so that it can be snugged in and worn now.  Pardon the cell phone picture!  LOL!

There are 3 different zipper choices that could be made – invisible, lapped zipper or centered zipper.  I didn’t have an invisible zipper, so opted for a lapped zipper back.  I think it’s a nice, clean finish and almost invisible.

When I learned to sew, we were taught that the centered zipper looked “cheap” as it was used on the mass-produced garments seen in less expensive stores, while lapped zippers were seen in better clothing.  I don’t even know if these distinctions are even made anymore, but in my mind, a lapped zipper looks better.  I’m happy with the results and it will make dressing quick and easy.

I know that so many seamstresses (both new seamstresses as well as seasoned ones) have a fear of zippers, so I thought I’d share my easy application that I’ve used for many years. (I had to use cell phone pictures, but I think they are clear enough)  When I learned to do zippers this way 20+ years ago, it was such a game changer for me.  I hated the basting, etc. that was taught in home ec classes and was never happy with the end results prior to this method.  I have chosen contrast fabric/zipper/thread so that it will be easy to see.

Choose your zipper, place it next to the seam area and with the top of the zipper even with the upper edge of the fabric, mark along the seam where the bottom stop of the zipper is (the metal part at the bottom).  Sew the seam below the mark with a 5/8″ seam allowance.

Press the seam allowance open.  Then press open the 5/8″ seam allowance on both sides above the stitched seam.  A seam guide works really well for this task, giving the fabric a nice crisp crease while measuring at the same time.

With the zipper foot on the machine, place the top edge of the zipper even with the top edge of the fabric and place the zipper seam allowance underneath the fold, placing the raised edge of the zipper right against the folded edge of the dress fabric.  Stitch very close to the folded edge (1/8″ or slightly less).

After taking the first couple stitches, leave the needle in the fabric and raise the zipper foot and carefully open the zipper past the zipper foot area.  Continue stitching along the folded edge.  After a couple of inches have been stitched, leave the needle in the fabric, raise the zipper foot and close the zipper.  Put the zipper foot back down and continue stitching until you reach the bottom of the zipper, where you placed the mark.

At the bottom of the zipper (make sure that you are just PAST the metal stop), leave the needle in the fabric, raise the zipper foot and pivot the fabric/zipper 90º.  Take the other side of the seam allowance and place the folded edge right on top of the stitching line and lower the zipper foot.  Hand crank the wheel of the sewing machine for 4 – 5 stitches.  You want to be just on the other side of the zipper.

Then raise the zipper foot, pivot the fabric 90º, lower the zipper foot and begin stitching back up towards the top of the fabric, keeping the stitching line evenly spaced from the folded edge (use masking tape to aide with stitching straight if needed) and with the folded edge staying exactly on top of the previously stitched line (you want to JUST cover that line of stitching).

When you approach the pull tab of the zipper, put the needle down into the fabric, raise the zipper foot and open the zipper.  Place the seam allowance of the fabric so that it is aligned with the seam allowance of the zipper.

Continue stitching keeping the foot the same distance from the folded edge and stitch to the end of the fabric.

With my contrast thread, you can see that I got a little jag over when I opened the zipper foot – I was hurrying rather than being careful.  Of course, with matching thread this wouldn’t be visible.  However, the goal is to keep everything perfectly even.  😛  It took me less than 2 minutes to put this zipper in – it took longer to stop and take the pictures during the process than it did to stitch the zipper!

As you can see, the lapped zipper is even, the stitching line is covered by the fold of the lap.  When a waistband or facing is sewn to the top edge, it leaves a beautiful finish.

If you’ve been afraid of zippers, give this a practice try – you’ll be amazed at how easy zipper installation is using this technique.

What’s next in the sewing room?  Maybe another pattern draft, though I have pulled out and washed some knits that I may give a try sewing.  😃

6 thoughts on “Another Dress + Zip Tutorial

  1. Rettabug

    I am SEW bookmarking this post in my favorites, Kathy! Add me to the list of those with a fear of zippers since middle school home economics.
    I can’t wait to try your method, even if I just do it on some scraps to get it get in my head.
    Thanks so very much for a wonderful tutorial!

    Reply
  2. Linda Thompson

    Well how dumb I have been! I never ever in all my years thought about a lapped zipper in the center back. It certainly is easy to get a perfect lapped zipper, rather than getting that center zipper in perfectly straight especially at the waist or bodice lines.

    Thank you Kathy. Love the new little dress…cannot wait to hear Eva’s reaction!

    Reply
  3. Cheryl Clapp

    Thanks for the zipper tip – I can do them but avoid them whenever possible. This dress bodice seems to reflect a crown. Would be cute to do one with sparkly jeweled buttons on the three points!

    Reply

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