Hello there! Happy New Year!
Today I’m going to share my quick and dirty method for adding a metal zipper to the back of tops. Admittedly this technique won’t give you a strictly couture finish, but it is neat and doesn’t require any alteration of pattern pieces. Basically it’s a simple no head-ache detail with dramatic end results. Cha-Ching!
1. Partially constructed top with neckline and hem unfinished.
If you choose to use bias tape as I’ve done for a fancy hem I’d recommend adding it later after step
2. Metal zipper that is long enough to extend from back neckline to hem.
You can use a standard or separating metal zipper. You’ll also notice my zipper is much longer than required, we’ll cut longer zippers to size in step 10.
3. Marking tool
4. Wonder Tape (optional)
5. Two inch wide strip of fusible interfacing that is long enough to extend from your back neckline to raw edge of hem.
6. Fabric scissors
7. Crap scissors
8. Ribbing, bias tape, or other neckline finish.
Now that you’ve gathered all the necessary materials, let’s get hacking.
Step 1 – With wrong side of fabric facing out, fold your partially constructed top in half down the center back lying side seams on top of one another. Use your marking tool (in this case a Clover Pen-style Chaco Liner ) to mark several points along the fold.
Step 2 – Unfold top. On wrong side of fabric use a ruler to draw a straight line down the center back connecting marks from step 1.
Step 3 – Center interfacing strip on center back line and fuse to wrong side of fabric.
Step 4 – So this is the scary part, deep breath. Cut the center back along the line marked in step 2. You will only cut through the back and fused interfacing, be careful not to accidentally cut the front or sleeve.
Step 6 – Finish your hem. I’ve added bias tape along the raw bottom edge to make my hem a little fancy on the inside. If I were to make this top over again I would add the bias tape at this point in the hack rather than at the beginning. A simple folded over hem would also work well.
Step 7 – Use wonder tape or pins (or both) to place center back along either side of zipper tape. The zipper tape should be attached to the right side of fabric in order to leave the entire zipper exposed on final garment. Start at the hem lining up your zipper pull with the folded hem edge. Make sure both center back corners line up evenly next to the zipper pull to create a straight hem. Don’t worry at this point if the zipper extends past the neck line we’ll address this issue in step 10. Also be sure to leave a little space between the zipper teeth and your center back edges to ensure the zipper can open and close freely.
Step 8 – Using a zipper foot sew zipper tape to center back. Metal zippers can have quite wide zipper tapes so I like to use two rows of parallel stitching on each side.
Step 9 – Wrap and pin the ends of zipper tape around the hem. Sew ends in place. If this step is to rough and tumble for you another option is to cut off the zipper tape that extends past the zipper and melt the raw edges with a lighter to finish.
Step 10 – Now for the dirty step. Close your zipper. Pin neck binding, bias tape, or other neck finish to neckline. Position your neckline under the presser foot right in front of the metal zipper. Rotate the hand wheel towards you (do not simply sew over the metal zipper because you’re guaranteed to break a needle and cause who knows what destruction and chaos) carefully to stitch the neck binding to the neckline at the center back. This may cause much gnashing of teeth, but I have found I can coax the needle around the metal teeth by rotating the hand wheel to stitch over a metal zipper. If you do feel resistance from the needle hitting metal lift you needle and presser foot and shift the fabric forward ever so slightly and then lower the presser foot and continue rotating the hand wheel. More often than not the needle will bend just slightly and slip between the teeth. You may need to change needles after this step.
Because I was working with knit fabric on this top I only used the sewing machine to stitch a small section of the neck binding over the zipper. Later I switched to my serger (step 12) to finish the rest of the neck line. DO NOT SERGE OVER THE METAL ZIPPER! Don’t do it! If you want to serge part of your neckline start after the zipper and when you’ve made it around quit serging before you reach the zipper. Please don’t injure yourself or your serger.
If you are not switching to a serger just continue to sew around the neckline.
If you cannot abide by my crazy hand wheel method you have two options. The first, you can buy a metal zipper the exact length you need. Pacific Trimming is one online source for zippers made to measure. If you choose this route don’t forget to factor in the hem and neckline seam allowance when you are calculating. The second is to buy a metal zipper stop. I found the one below at Winmil Fabrics in Boston. You just poke the prongs through the zipper tape at the desired length and bend them to hold the stop in place. After the new stop is secure you can cut off the extra length and pull out any extra teeth with pliers.
Step 11 – Use your crap scissors to cut off the extra zipper length.
Step 12 – If you have not done so previously finish attaching the neck finish to the neckline. In my case I used a serger to attach ribbing to my neckline. I started serging after the metal zipper and after sewing around the neckline I stopped before reaching the zipper. It is probably worth repeating one more time, DO NOT SERGE OVER THE METAL ZIPPER.
And that’s a wrap!
Big thank you to my sister and baby niece for helping photograph this project. This baby kills me!
Supplies: Hacked McCall’s 2820, 1 1/2 yards grey sweatshirt fleece, 1/4 yard grey ribbing, neon red bias tape, 24 inch metal zipper, thread. Styling:Perforated Leather Vans Slip-On, Brooke Lucky Jeans, Boy Shirt J Crew, Ear cuffs gift.