5 Ways To Sew A Slot Zipper
THERE IT IS…
Your heart rate goes up, you become more and more nervous, and you start panicking a little bit.
When you fail now, everything was in vain…
and all that although you know it in and out side, you are in contact with it several times a day, indeed you would be lost without it.
Your first zipper…
It is Saturday afternoon, we are at the school’s sewing studio. The darts on our mock skirts are done and the sides have been finished with the serger. Its time to insert the zipper. We gather around a table where our teacher shows the technique. Now it’s our turn. It is getting serious. Around me everybody is fully concentrated, for a few minutes there is nothing but the sound of the sewing machines…. and silence… until one after another exclaims:
“HEY, that wasn’t even that difficult!”.
And it really isn’t, but still there are many sewers hesitating and avoiding the insertion of a zipper..
Maybe that is because besides the many techniques of inserting a zipper, there are many different types of zipper themselves. And I don’t mean, that you can get them in every color of the rainbow, with funny colorful patterns or metallic blue, or even with lace, made of metal or synthetics… you see, I could go on and on and on. You fill find a nice selection of all kind of extraordinary zippers at Etsy.
But what I mean is the type of zipper, respectively for what it is used.
When I first needed a zipper, I went to the haberdashery and asked for a zipper. When I was asked what type of zipper I needed, I was totally lost. Well, a zipper….The seller asked what I was going to use it for and I said a dress. So she suggested an invisible one. Luckily it was indeed what the pattern had asked for, but until then I actually never really realized, that there are different types.
What types of zippers are there?
Without going too much into details there are closed end and open end zippers. The open end zippers allow to completely separate the left and the right zipper half and is used in jackets. Otherwise it would be pretty difficult to get them on and off 😉
The closed end zippers can’t be separated. These are the ones we have in skirts or dresses, where we just need to create an opening that is big enough to put the garment on and off.
The closed end zippers can be further divided into the regular zippers and the invisible ones. The invisible zipper is, as it names suggests, when sewn in properly, really invisible in the seam.
However the most common zipper is the regular one. This is also the type that we used in school. The first technique to insert a zipper was the slot zipper. This means both sides of the opening form a welt that meet exactly above the elements of the zipper. And just as there is more than one type of zipper, there is also more that one technique for insertion.
I checked my sewing resources and found a few version, that eventually have the same end results, even when using a different approach.
Some methods make sense, some other not right away. but how do they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So I got myself some zippers and prepared some fabric.
I am going to compare the version we learned at school, with the method from the Burda book Die neue Nähschule, as well as from the book Handbuch Nähtechniken written by Lorna Knight, and the Craftsy courses Mastering Zipper Techniques (free mini course) respectively. 40 Techniques every Sewer should know and as a little highlight, I will try the Couture version from Claire B. Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques.
The slot zipper
#1 The Basic
This is the technique shown by our teacher.
First you mark the point on the fabric where you want your zipper to end. Note, that you should always buy a zipper, that is at least an inch longer that you actually need. Then you baste the two sides of the opening with right sides together. This was done by machine. At the point where the zipper end you change your stitch length back to something normal like 3 and reinforce with a few back stitches. Then sew the rest of the seam.
Next you need to press the seam open and remove the basting stitches.
Turn the fabric right side up and place the zipper so that the top tab is 1 cm below the upper edge. Now you need to align the folded edge to cover the elements of the zipper and pin it. Go around the zipper and pin both sides.
Our teacher then directly started to sew, whereas we heard from the other group, that they then first basted the zipper in place.
Anyway, the zipper needs to be opened and approximately 0,5 cm from the edge you start sewing. Around 5 cm before you reach the bottom, stop sewing, but leave the needle in the fabric. Then lift the presser food and move the slides behind the needle. You need to this as otherwise, you can’t sew until the bottom. The seam ripper can be a handy tool to do this 🙂 Just be careful not to rip your fabric.
When you reached that, again leave the needle in the fabric, lift the food and turn the fabric 90 degree. Now turning the hand wheel, count how many stitches fit until the middle seam and make the same amount of stitches on the other side. Turn the fabric once mew and sew another 5 cm, before moving the slide once more behind the needle and finish the seam.
Honestly I was a bit shocked by the end result. I sewed like 3 or 4 zippers this way at school and they all looked actually pretty nice. Looks like this is not the best technique to use with my home sewing machine.
#2 Do it like Burda.
The beginning is very similar. you need to make a seam with big stitches, press it open and remove the basting. But before placing the zipper you need to baste the edges first.
Now the zipper gets basted. I did this with the blue thread.
The sewing is again the same as in method 1, you start at the top and go round the whole zipper. I am not sure if the basting of the edges brought any advantage but I like the end result very much.
#3 á la Lorna Knight
Actually this method was my secret favorite and I was very excited to test it. This time we would sew again a the first seam, but instead of opening it, the zipper gets pinned and basted on the seam right away.
Now we go to the sewing machine but instead of the top, both sides are sewn starting from the button. This should avoid uneven fabric transportation.
When the zipper is sewn in, the basting can be removed.
I am not so happy with the result, The instruction didn’t say anything about how to sew around the pull of the zipper. I guess this really only works when you have a zipper foot attached, which I didn’t. So I had to fumble around, while the fabric was already under the machine, and unfortunately this is really visible in the stitching.
#4 Fast, faster, wondertape
For number 4 you don’t need any pins nor thread, but wondertape. I had heard a lot about it, but never tried it. It is an adhesive sticky tape, that will resolve in water and won’t ruin your needle. A wondertape 🙂
At the Craftsy version the zipper opening gets only measured and pressed. No basting.
Then the wondertape gets attached and then the zipper. Once done you can sew it in.
The whole procedure was extremely fast and easy and also the result is very promising. However, I need to admit that next time I need to position the zipper more carefully, as the teethes are a bit visible.
#5 Couture Zipper
In contrary to the wondertape, the couture zipper is much more time and labor intensive But then who would spend so much money for a glues zipper 🙂
Obviously in couture there is no finishing with the serger, but I hope you don’t mind 🙂
The first real couture step was to mark the zipper opening with thread tracing.
Ten the edges get stabilized with some organza stay.
Now the zipper opening gets pressed and the zipper pinned in place.
If this was a real garment, we would pin it on a body or dress form. Again I hope you don’t mind, that I use my flat table 🙂
Now both sides gets basted close to the zipper teethes from the bottom up. If you find it awkward to baste one side, you can turn your work and baste from the right side. The edges should form a little peak that flattens out, when the garments is worn without showing the teethes.
Now sew the zipper in with little running stitches.
Next the upper zipper tape ends get trimmed and turned under and sewn flat. Fell stitch also both side of the the zipper tape to the seam allowance.
Last thing is to shorten the zipper and make a little bar tack inside and outside. Finish the raw edge of the zipper tape with a narrow binding and your done.
My absolute favorite is obviously number 5 😀 I just love all those little details and I think the zipper looks great. It just really needs its time.
If it needs to be a bit faster, than I will certainly use version 2, basting the zipper definitively improves on the look.
If it needs to be really fast, than the wondertape is the version to go. The result is very neat, however, its is a bit expensive and actually it is also just “basting”.
I am bit disappointed by version 3, I thought the result would be much more superior, but I found it was tedious and not totally satisfying.
The loser of this comparison is obviously version 1, but I really have to emphasize, that with the machine at school, the zipper looked much much better, that here at home. Also a class mate, told us that she had sewn a zipper like 10 times at home, with very bad results and at school it worked right away.
Here are all five next to each other.
Which one is your favorite?
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