Notions to Know: How to Sew a Zipper

Zippers are pretty much ubiquitous in our everyday lives – from clothing to accessories to home goods, we’ve all encountered a zipper at some point. But many people I’ve met who sew as a hobby and are great with many different sewing notions struggle with figuring out how to sew a zipper!

There are a few different techniques for attaching different kinds of zippers. but today we’re going to look at the most common and basic way to sew a zipper. It’s going to involve basting, covered in this post, and topstitching, mentioned in this post. You should also dig up your zipper foot if you’re sewing by machine. A zipper foot looks like this:


A zipper foot is essential in learning how to sew a zipper, a sewing notion - Sew Me Your Stuff

To demonstrate how to sew a zipper, I’ll mimic a zip-open back of a dress. Here are the materials I’ll be using:

  • Fabric of choice, cut into 2 equal rectangles
  • Zipper of desired length (Note: if you’re unsure about the length you need, it’s safer to buy a zipper that’s too long so that you can trim it later!)
  • Thread
  • Zipper foot

It's important to learn how to sew a zipper, a sewing notion - Sew Me Your Stuff

When you sew the back of a dress, before you attach the zipper you’re going to stitch the seam below where the zipper will be. Notice in this picture how I line up the zipper with the edge of my fabric to see where the bottom stop will be and then mark it.

It's important to learn how to sew a zipper, a sewing notion - Sew Me Your Stuff

Since my zipper is going to be 7 inches, I’m going to start the stitch 7 inches from the “top” of the fabric (minus the seam allowance) and stitch all the way to the “bottom.” Use your regular presser foot for this.

It's important to learn how to sew a zipper, a sewing notion - Sew Me Your Stuff

Next, press the seam open, including the unstitched seam allowances. (Review this post if you need to see how to press a seam!)

It's important to learn how to sew a zipper, a sewing notion - Sew Me Your Stuff

Now grab your zipper. Press the zipper tape flat, being careful not to touch the metal coils with the hot iron! Close the zipper and flip the pull tab upwards.

It's important to learn how to sew a zipper, a sewing notion - Sew Me Your Stuff

Position the zipper face down on the wrong side of the fabric, with the zipper teeth centered on the seam and the bottom stop where the stitched seam ends.

It's important to learn how to sew a zipper, a sewing notion - Sew Me Your Stuff

Baste one side of the zipper to the seam allowance, and place a pin right below the bottom stop.

It's important to learn how to sew a zipper, a sewing notion - Sew Me Your Stuff

Flip your fabric right side up, and position your zipper foot so that the foot is to the right of the needle. Set up your sewing machine to begin stitching at the pin, but remove the pin before you stitch.

It's important to learn how to sew a zipper, a sewing notion - Sew Me Your Stuff

Starting at the seam below the zipper, stitch across and up the length of the zipper on the right-hand side through all layers. I recommend starting the stitch with the zipper closed then opening the zipper once you’ve gotten about halfway down the zipper. You can’t sew around the zipper pull very easily, so you’ll want it out of the way.

It's important to learn how to sew a zipper, a sewing notion - Sew Me Your StuffIt's important to learn how to sew a zipper, a sewing notion - Sew Me Your Stuff

Now repeat on the left-hand side, moving your zipper foot so that it’s to the left of the needle.

It's important to learn how to sew a zipper, a sewing notion - Sew Me Your Stuff

Now just remove the basting. Congratulations – you now know how to sew a zipper!

It's important to learn how to sew a zipper, a sewing notion - Sew Me Your Stuff

This is just one method of attaching a zipper, but it’s the basic technique that can be adapted to many different situations.

Happy sewing!


Learni.st
 – Learn how to sew starting from step one
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Etsy – Shop Sew Me Your Stuff

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How to Attach Fusible Interfacing

It’s time to take a little break from the sewing machine and talk about fusible interfacing. It is a very handy tool that is really worth your time to learn how to use properly!

I first mentioned fusible interfacing in this post about important notions and tools you’ll need to know as you expand into new crafts and projects.

Interfacing is used to stiffen fabric so that your finished project will hold a certain shape. It’s usually used in collars and buttonholes but has many applications. Interfacing can be fusible or nonfusible. Fusible interfacing can be attached to fabric using heat, but nonfusible must be stitched to the fabric.

This post will help you learn to apply fusible interfacing using your iron. Remember, you can click any of the pictures to enlarge for clarity.

Things you’ll need:

  • The piece of fabric on which you need to apply the interfacing
  • A piece of fusible interfacing cut slightly smaller than your piece of fabric, typically about 1/4 inch from the cut edge
  • Your iron on a medium/high setting
  • A pressing cloth
  • Some water, in a spray bottle if possible

Having the right equipment is important when learning how to attach fusible interfacing if you are a beginner learning to sew with sewing notions - Sew Me Your Stuff

Here I have set up everything that I need. I’m only attaching a small piece of fusible interfacing to fabric. Notice that the interfacing piece is slightly smaller than my fabric piece. When you trace a sewing pattern, generally you will trace the same size interfacing pieces as fabric pieces. However, before you attach the fusible interfacing, you’ll want to trim it to be about 1/4 inch from the edge of the fabric to avoid bulk.

Having the right equipment is important when learning how to attach fusible interfacing if you are a beginner learning to sew with sewing notions - Sew Me Your Stuff

Place your interfacing right side down on the wrong side of your fabric. In other words, place the fabric on your ironing board wrong side up. Then place your interfacing on top of the fabric right side down. The right side of the interfacing is the sticky side with raised bumps. The wrong side, which is smoother and not sticky, should be face up.

Then place your pressing cloth on top of both pieces. Your pressing cloth should be a thin piece of cotton fabric.

Attaching fusible interfacing properly is important for a beginner learning to sew with sewing notions - Sew Me Your Stuff

Next, spray the pressing cloth with water until it is damp. Dampen the entire area covering the fabric and the interfacing. If you do not have a spray bottle, you can wet your cloth in the sink, but a spray bottle will save you time. You don’t want your fabric to be soaking wet, and a spray bottle will help you aim right for the area that will be over the interfacing and fabric.

Attaching fusible interfacing properly is important for a beginner learning to sew with sewing notions - Sew Me Your Stuff

While you set up your fabric, interfacing, and pressing cloth, you should allow your iron to heat to a medium/high setting. Once your cloth is properly damp, press your iron firmly onto a section of the fabric and interfacing for 10-15 seconds.

Attaching fusible interfacing properly is important for a beginner learning to sew with sewing notions - Sew Me Your Stuff

Now there’s an iron-shaped dry spot right exactly I was pressing my iron!  If you have your cloth at optimal dampness and your iron at optimal heat, the pressing cloth should be dry when you lift your iron. Repeat this until you have pressed your iron onto every section of the fabric and interfacing.

Attaching fusible interfacing properly is important for a beginner learning to sew with sewing notions - Sew Me Your Stuff

And voila! Now the interfacing sticks directly to the fabric even as I bend it, fold it, and wave it around.

There are varying weights of interfacing to choose from based on the weight of your fabric and your desired stiffness. When you go to the fabric store, they may have a guide handy next to their interfacing bolts to help you choose the right weight for your project.

Happy sewing!

Learni.st – Learn how to sew starting from step one
Pinterest & Twitter – Follow for tips, ideas, and more
Etsy – Shop Sew Me Your Stuff

August 2012 Summary

Hello sewists! In case you missed any posts during the month of August, here is a little recap of what I’ve been posting to Sew Me Your Stuff over the last month. You can revisit the July 2012 recap here too.

Fabrics:

Sewing Machines:

Techniques:

Videos:

Thanks for sewing!

Learni.st – Learn how to sew starting from step one
Pinterest & Twitter – Follow for tips, ideas, and more
Etsy – Shop Sew Me Your Stuff

The Pressing Issue

Hello sewists! I apologize if it seems there’s been a lack of activity on Sew Me Your Stuff. My dino laptop decided to no longer connect to the internet, so I’ve been using a public computer to update my blog and Learnist when I can. But this is a pretty important post for beginners as you learn to sew so I wanted to be sure I shared it with you!

When you buy your first sewing patterns, you may find that the pattern instructs you to press the craft or garment in certain ways during the construction process. Also, it is necessary during all sewing projects to press your seams as you go to give the product a more professional-looking finish.

So what is pressing exactly?

Well, on the surface, it may look a lot like ironing. But there are a few key differences!

1. Unlike ironing, you don’t typically move the iron back and forth across the fabric in swift motions. When pressing, you use the tip of the iron to manipulate fabric, and you use repeated pressure rather than wide sweeps.
2. The goal of ironing is to remove wrinkles, which is why you use the back and forth motions to force the fabric flat. When pressing, your goal is to set a piece of fabric into a particular position, such as pressing up a hem or pressing open a seam. Sweeping back and forth would distort the grain of the fabric when doing this, so you only press the specific point you’re working on with the tip of the iron.

So what is pressing used for?

Typically, you’ll use pressing after sewing a seam. Stitch the seam, then separate the seam allowances to press it flat until it seems to become one with the rest of the fabric. At this point, it’s a good idea to finish the raw edges as well, but make sure the seams lie flat. Sometimes your pattern instructions will tell you to press the seam in a particular direction, but otherwise assume it’s to be pressed flat.

Also, pressing is used when tucking a raw edge in towards the craft or garment, like when you’re completing a hem. In these situations, your pattern will often call for you to press the edge up (or down) once or more and them stitch it in place.

So how do you press?

You may want to find a pressing cloth before you start. A pressing cloth can be anything as long as it’s 100% cotton. Most often recommended are old bed sheets and T-shirts. It’s helpful if you have something transparent so that you can still see what you’re pressing.

Once you have your pressing cloth, place your fabric in position according to the directions and the pressing cloth on top. Then press the tip of the iron to set the fabric into position inch by inch.

One thing I’ve learned from styling hair (random, I know) is that you get your best results if you hold the fabric in place with your fingertips after you lift the iron until the fabric cools. This will keep the new fold or seam in place better than pressing it over and over without holding it.

If you need a demonstration, here’s a short video where I demonstrate how to press a simple seam open and flat.

When you press your seams, you’ll probably want to repeat the motion more than I do in this video. This is just a quick demonstration of the technique.

Right now in the beginner stage, pressing seams flat is probably the best choice as you learn to sew from patterns and more complicated projects. As you become more advanced, you’ll find many ways to finish your edges and give your hand-made projects a more professional look and feel.

Learni.st – Learn how to sew starting from step one
Pinterest & Twitter – Follow for tips, ideas, and more
Etsy – Shop Sew Me Your Stuff

Happy sewing!