21 October 2015

Sewing Orla: How to Sew an Exposed Zip

How to sew an exposed zip - Tilly and the Buttons

Sewing the Orla top? In today’s instalment of the Orla sewalong we’ll be tackling one of the defining features of this top – the exposed zip. (You can catch up with previous posts in the sewalong here.)

How to sew an exposed zip - Tilly and the Buttons

I love the way an exposed zip can make a feminine top such as this one look instantly more contemporary. As explained in the post on supplies shopping, we suggest you get a zip that’s 18cm (7in) or 20cm (8in) long, preferably 25mm (1in) wide (with each tape 10mm or 1/2in wide), with metal teeth and contrast colour tapes to your fabric. Don't get one shorter than that or you might struggle to get the top on and off! You can test this out at the toiling stage in any case.

Exposed zip with metal teeth

There are a few different ways of sewing exposed zips - including methods where the entire zip tapes are on show on the outside of the garment, or partly concealed like they are here. This is the way we like to go about it...

How to sew an exposed zip - Tilly and the Buttons

On the back bodice piece, carefully cut along the zip opening lines marked on the zip interfacing strip – including the little upside down “V”. Open the zip. Lay the zip over the back bodice, right sides together.

If your zip is 25mm (1in) wide, align the edge of the left zip tape with the left side of the opening. Occasionally zips are slightly wider, in which case, overlap half of the excess over the opening – so if your zip is 30mm (1 1/4in) wide, overlap the left side of the zip tape over the cut edge by 2mm (1/8in).

Align the top stop – the metal bit at the top of the zip – so it’s 20mm (3/4in) down from the neckline edge. The bottom stop should line up with the bottom of the upside down “V”. Pin the zip in place.

How to sew an exposed zip - Tilly and the Buttons

Fold the top of the zip tape diagonally away from the teeth and pin this down too.

How to sew an exposed zip - Tilly and the Buttons

Attach a zip presser foot to your sewing machine. You can use a regular zip foot to sew the zip, but I recommend getting an adjustable zip foot. It’s nice and narrow, and you can adjust the position of the presser bit, so you can get up close and personal with the zip teeth. You can also use it to sew piping! If you get one, make sure it fits the model of machine that you have.

(Full disclosure - that's an affiliate link to the adjustable presser foot, meaning that if you choose to buy it after clicking the link, we get a small commission from Amazon in return for our recommendation. This doesn't cost you anything extra, and we only do it for items we genuinely love and think our readers will too.)

How to sew an exposed zip - Tilly and the Buttons

Stitch the left zip tape to the bodice using a 5mm (1/4in) seam allowance, back tacking at both ends. Take your time to keep the seam allowance nice and even. When you get near the bottom, the zip pull gets in the way – with your needle down, pull the zip pull up and continue stitching...

How to sew an exposed zip - Tilly and the Buttons

Finish sewing at the bottom of the zip bottom stop – right in the bottom corner of the upside down “V”.

How to sew an exposed zip - Tilly and the Buttons

Fold the left side of the zip and the tape ends to the inside of the bodice, then pin and stitch the right-hand side of the zip to the right-hand side of the opening the same way, making sure the top stops on each side of the zip line up.

How to sew an exposed zip - Tilly and the Buttons

Do the zip up. There’s a little triangle of fabric at the bottom of the back opening – poke it to the inside of the bodice. Still using a zip foot, and keeping the rest of the bodice out of the way, sew horizontally across the triangle of fabric to secure it to the bottom of the zip tapes. This is where the interfacing on the zip comes in - it's easier to sew the triangle to this than to two separate and flappy zip tapes :)

How to sew an exposed zip - Tilly and the Buttons

From the right side of the bodice, gently press the fabric away from the zip tapes along the seam lines. Hopefully it’s looking lovely! In a later post, we’ll be making the inside look lovely too, neatly concealing the raw edges of the zip tapes with the facing. But first, let’s sew the shoulders together quickly…

For the rest of the sewalong, unless the step says otherwise, assume we’re using a 15mm (5/8in) seam allowance for sewing all seams.

How to sew an exposed zip - Tilly and the Buttons

Lay the front bodice on top of the back bodice, right sides together. Pin them together at the shoulders, matching the notches.

Change back to a normal presser foot and stitch. Trim, finish and press the seam allowances open or towards the back.

Good work! In the next post, we’ll make the collar – which is totally optional – and in the post after that we’ll move on to the neckline facing.

Wanna join the sewalong? You'd be very welcome to! Order your pattern and catch up with the other posts.

7 comments:

  1. Applying interfacing to the zip tabs is a great tip, thank you. I'll remember this for future projects.

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  2. Personally, I would face the opening which would give a much neater finish.

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    1. That's exactly what we're going to do - take a look at the post on facing the neckline and back opening. It creates a lovely neat finish :)

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  3. Hello Tilly, I'm a french reader and I'm working on a Lilou Dress (and I'm working of the step 7 which I have difficulties to understand because of my approximate English I guess). Well, I'm making a toile and I want to ask you if I can use this method to replace the invisible zipper of a Lilou dress by a regular zip as here. Will it change something to the shape of the back bodice? Maybe I have to reduce the back bodice because a regular zip is larger than an invisible one?
    Thank you, I'm totally fond of your work and your patterns!
    Kiss from Toulouse

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    1. Thank you! Yes you could definitely put an exposed zipper into the back of the Lilou dress, but ignore the seam allowances described in this post. Instead sew the zipper so that the teeth sit 15mm (5/8in) from the raw edge. Sometimes this means the tape will align up with the raw edge, and sometimes not, it just depends on the width. Hope this helps :)

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