How to Sew an Exposed Zip
Exposed zips have been ‘all the rage’ (as my Mom would say) for some time now. They are a great way to add an interesting little bit of detail to a top or dress and here we’ll show you how to go about it. Always use a good quality branded zip - the last thing you want is to have a faulty zip on your beautifully hand crafted garment you spent hours lovingly creating!
In this instance we are sewing the exposed zip into a top with no back seam, if you have a back seam the principle is the same you will just have slightly bigger seam allowances to work with. We are also using a trouser zip rather than an exposed zip since these are more readily available and can still create the same great look.
For a top or dress with no centre back seam use the centre fold in the fabric to indicate where your zip opening should be. Line your chosen zip up so it is ¾” (approx 2cm) from the top of the raw edge of the fabric to the top of the stopper at the top of the zip (this will allow for the turn of the cloth plus the ⅝” or 1.5cm seam allowance).
For extra stability apply a strip of lightweight interfacing 1” (2.5cm) wide along the centre back fold on the wrong side of the fabric. Starting from the top raw edge of the fabric the interfacing should run to ½” (1cm) beyond the point where the zip will finish so that there is an equal amount of interfacing either side of the fold. It is also a good idea to apply a small piece of interfacing around the stopper at the bottom of the zip because this will make sewing the bottom of the zip in place easier later.
Holding the zip in place mark the interfacing to indicate where the top of the stopper at the bottom of the zip lies. This is where the zip opening should finish. Cut along the fold to the mark and make two small diagonal snips downwards, one pointing to the left, one pointing right each about ¼” or 0.5cm long so there is a small triangle shaped flap of fabric with the top of the triangle pointing upwards. This will later be used to stitch the bottom of the zip in place.
You will now need to position your zip and we recommend using some wonderful stuff called basting tape. This is a double sided soluble tape which will enable you to stick the zip into place ready for sewing and negates the need for pins. You can also easily remove the zip and reposition it if you make a mistake. Best of all the tape simply washes away when you wash your fabulous new garment, although this isn’t necessary before your first wear seeing as the tape is invisible anyway.
Stick the basting tape along the raw edge of the zip opening on the right side of your fabric. Open the zip and lay it zipper face down on your work surface. Take the zip tape on the right and stick it face down to the basting tape on the left side of the zip opening ensuring the stopper is ¾” (2cm) down from the top and the edge of the zip tape is in line with the edge of the opening.
You can now turn the fabric over to have a look at the zip from the right side and make sure you are happy with how much of the zip tape will be exposed.
Now it is time to get stitching! You can use an adjustable zipper foot if you have one, but if not a standard foot will suffice. We used a standard machine foot for the purposes of this post seeing as everyone reading our blog will have a standard machine foot.
With the zip face down you are going to stitch the zip tape on the left side of the opening from the top down. Line the edge of your sewing machine foot up with the zipper teeth, which will be on the right hand side of the foot. You will need to sew past the stopper, which will protrude the zipper teeth slightly, taking care to ensure the edge of the foot remains in line with the zip teeth by feeding the stopper under the foot. Position your needle so the stitch line is ¼” (0.5cm) from the edge of the zip tape, reverse stitch and then sew to just before the zipper. Stop, lower your needle, lift the foot and manoeuvre the zipper up towards the top so you are able to sew along the rest of the zip and to about 1mm below the top of the stopper at the bottom of the zip. Reverse stitch to secure it in place.
Now it’s time to sew the right hand side. Stick the zip to the fabric ensuring the stopper is ¾” (2cm) from the top of the fabric and the zip is even and level. Once again line the zip teeth up with the edge of your machine foot, this time the teeth will be on the left hand side of the foot. Position your needle so the stitch line is ¼” (0.5cm) from the edge of the zip tape and repeat the steps detailed above.
Check you are happy with the zip from the right side and that both sides are even.
To sew the bottom of the zip in place fold back the bottom of the zip and pin the small triangle of fabric you created earlier with your diagonal snips to the bottom of the zip.
Use a zipper foot to stitch it in place, reverse stitching to secure it.
Turn the bodice the right way and check out your handiwork! The stopper at the bottom of the zip should be partially exposed and the fabric should curve nicely round to either side for a neat finish.
If you’re happy with the results lie the garment right side up on your ironing board/pressing surface. Holding the zip in place lightly tease the fabric away from the edge of the zip and press using a pressing cloth. Repeat on the other side.
You now have a lovely neat and rather trendy exposed zip to show off on your fab new top or dress!
Have fun sewing!
Lucy and Angela
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