Sewing a Lapped Zipper

As I find myself in the throws of working on a new pattern, I am brimming with excitement and anticipation. However, at this stage, that means lots of days on the computer. Unfortunately, the blog and instagram have been feeling a bit empty and that excitement doesn't really show. I didn't want to leave you hanging in February, so I thought a nice tutorial might be in order.

Last night, I taught a zipper & buttonhole class and while preparing some web resources for my students today, I was unable to find a tutorial that uses the zipper insertion method I teach. I thought, why not put together a lapped zipper tutorial? The lapped zipper is used on my A-Frame pattern and is my go-to zipper finish. I love its ease of insertion and vintage look. I took lots of photographs during A-Frame sample construction to aid in illustrating, but I know that some folks do better with photo tutorials. So without further ado...


To start, press the seam where your zipper will go open. Press the open end of the seam as well, folding back the seam allowance.

With the zipper partially unzipped, align the left side of your zipper teeth with the folded edge of the fabric. There should be a small gap between the zipper teeth and the fabric edge. This will help keep the zipper from getting caught on the fabric. Pin or baste the zipper to the fabric along this edge.

Ever wonder why your zip has extra, toothless tape at the top? This is to give you a bit of room for seam allowance, if your zippers end is being sewn into something else. That way, you don't have to sew over teeth. Align the edge of this tape with the edge of your fabric, or align it so that the zipper head is 1/2" or 5/8" (or whatever your seam allowance is) from the edge of the fabric.

The other side of the opening will become the 'lap'. It often helps to mark this stitching line with chalk. For most zippers, you'll want the stitching to be 3/8"-1/2" away from the opening. You want to be sure that wherever your stitching line is, it must catch both the seam allowance and the zipper tape. Since those two factors are variable, try pinning or basting along this guideline, then checking the back to be sure you've gone through all layers.

Basting is a fantastic technique to have in your arsenal. If you have the patience for it, baste your zipper onto the fabric by hand, instead of using pins. This will help keep things aligned and predictable during each step of the process.

Set up your zipper foot with the needle coming down on the right side of the foot. Starting at the top of your zipper, sew along the folded fabric edge. Try to keep your fabric aligned with the side of the foot, making sure your stitching catches this fold. It's better to be a little further from the fabric edge than miss it entirely while sewing (which results in a zipper that is not attached)

When you've sewn about halfway down your zipper, sink the needle into the fabric and lift the presser foot.

Zip your zipper back up to the top, past the presser foot. You'll almost always have to have the presser foot up in order to squeeze the zipper past it. Before you continue sewing, lower the presser foot.

Continue sewing until you reach the end of the left side of the zipper opening. You'll want to stop sewing just at the end or a little bit past the end of the zipper opening (I'm stopped a bit short in the picture). If your zipper stopper- the metal bit at the end of the zipper - is in the way of where you're about to sew, you can sew a few stitches past it. Since we'll be sewing over the zipper next, you want to make sure the stopper is out of the way.

In this picture, I've attached a ribbon to my zipper seam allowance to give me both a clean finish inside and to add extra width to my seam allowance to be sure that I catch it while sewing the lapped part of the zipper. You can also cut your seam allowance at the zipper a bit wider, a technique included in the A-Frame pattern.

In this picture, I've attached a ribbon to my zipper seam allowance to give me both a clean finish inside and to add extra width to my seam allowance to be sure that I catch it while sewing the lapped part of the zipper. You can also cut your seam allowance at the zipper a bit wider, a technique included in the A-Frame pattern.

With the needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot, turn your fabric 90* clockwise, then lower the presser foot. We'll now be sewing across the bottom of your zipper. Most often, the best way to do this is by advancing the machine by hand. This way, you have more control.

Once you've sewn across the zipper 3/8"-1/2" from the opening, with the needle in the fabric, lift your presser foot, turn the fabric 90* once more, and lower the presser foot.

Now, without tugging on the fabric, align your 2nd fabric edge with the opening, covering the zipper teeth. If you like, you can even overlap your first line of stitching slightly. You can pin your fabric in place if you like.

Sew along your guideline, until you are about an inch or two from the end of your zipper.

With the fabric overlapping the zipper head, pin the end of the zipper tape in place (if you've basted your zipper in, no need to pin). We'll want to zip the zipper head out of the way, like we did in the beginning. Make sure you lift the presser foot only with the needle in the fabric.

Finally, sew until you reach the end of your zipper opening.

When you're finished, give your zipper a light press (no hot iron on the teeth, they might melt!)

A-Frame Renovation: Flex-fit waistband for A-Frame

Want a comfier high waisted skirt? Add an elastic waist to your A-Frame!

A-Frame skirt Version 2 here in a fine pinstripe linen from my stash, nice and drapey. Shown with an  Aster blouse by Colette Patterns  in some Anna Maria Horner "Loominous"

A-Frame skirt Version 2 here in a fine pinstripe linen from my stash, nice and drapey. Shown with an Aster blouse by Colette Patterns in some Anna Maria Horner "Loominous"

I love a high-waisted skirt. There was a time in my life where the more fitted at the waist something was, the more I liked it. I liked being squeezed a bit around the natural waist. (This was, not coincidentally, the time in my life where I wore the most vintage clothing, which is notorious for waist-squeezing)

There came a point where this changed, perhaps when I re-discovered pants and wore them a lot for the first time since I was 13. Or maybe when I started to move away from vintage and towards more abstract and "body unconscious"* silhouettes. I think this time had reached its pinacle when I released Cabin, and A-Frame is definitely a swing in the opposite direction in terms of waistlines. And who doesn't like being comfortable?

*this term came from a great interview with Sonya Philip on the While She Naps Podcast, which I highly recommend

Something I often do with my high-waisted, waistband having skirts is to add a bit of elastic. Not enough to created a pronounced gather at the waistline, but just enough to give you that extra inch you might need while sitting for long periods of time or after an awesome meal.

The nice thing about this technique is it also adds some structure to the waistband without using interfacing.

Start with a slightly larger pattern size

If you're making A-Frame V1 (the pencil skirt), you'll want to follow the instructions for blending between two sizes and go one size up at the waistline only. If you like a more relaxed, less wiggly pencil skirt, you could go one straight size up. If your measurements are different than the pattern (aka, your waist is smaller than the pattern for the size that fits your hips) then lucky you, you don't have to do a thing. In fact, this alteration came about as a way for me to work with patterns & even RTW skirts where I had this same problem.

If you're making A-Frame V2 (the a-line), simply go a size up. Already cut out your size and don't fancy tracing/printing/cutting again? Just add 1/4" to the waistband and skirt side seams as you cut your fabric. Definitely works in a pinch.

Gather Supplies

The waistband itself is 1 1/8" tall. For this tutorial, you'll want to use 3/4" non-roll waistband elastic. This gives the elastic a bit of breathing room in your waistband. Some of the difference is eaten up by the thickness of the elastic as well. And it makes it easier to sew down your waistband without elastic  getting in the way (and for this tutorial, you don't want to sew down your elastic as you sew the waistband).

Skip the interfacing. Since there will be a nice piece of elastic in that waistband, it wont collapse. You may want to fuse a small square of interfacing under the spot where your buttonhole goes if your fabric is thin or loosely woven.

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Assemble your skirt

Sew your skirt following the pattern direction until you reach the waistband steps. Sew on the first part of your waistband and press, but leave the 2nd part unsewn.

1. Cut a piece of elastic equal to your waist measurement - 2". I like my waist elastic to be essentially unstretched until I need it to stretch, but if you like your waistband a bit more snug all the time, subtract 3".

2. Pin one end of the elastic into your waistband, lining up the top of the elastic right below the fold on the waistline piece and 1" away from your center back seam (where the circle mark on your waistband pattern piece is).

  

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3. Wrap the elastic around the waistband to the other side. It should be smaller than the waistband itself. Be sure not to twist the elastic! Pin the opposite side in place as you did for the first.

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4. About 1/4" in from the edge of the elastic, sew it to the waistband. I started at one end, sewed to the other end and reversed stitched back to my starting point. The elastic should be positioned close to the waistband fold, not where the waistband is sewn on.

Repeat this step for the other side of the elastic.

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5. Sew your waistband closed as shown in the instructions. Slide the elastic up against the waistband fold so that you don't sew through it.

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When you approach the end of your waistband seam, give the elastic a bit of a tug, scrunching up the fabric past the sewing machine foot, so that you can lay the waistband flat to sew.

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Once you'd sewn your waistband shut, you can redistribute those gathers around the waistline. Since you're only really reducing the waistline by 1-2", you might not even see an obvious scrunch. When the skirt is on, it is barely noticeable...very different looking than an actual elastic waist skirt (which is why you still need the zipper!

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Be careful when you sew your buttonhole. The extra raised elastic might throw off your groove. It certainly did for me. Check out the first time I did the buttonhole. Yikes! I'll give myself a little credit...I was definitely rushing. The 2nd time, the buttonhole was great (see the image on the right for evidence!)

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If you're somebody who likes being comfy, but it looking for a "gateway" high waisted skirt, this could be a very nice option.

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How do you all feel about elastic waists? Do they remind you of toddler clothes, 7th grade math teacher pants, or bad 80's dresses? Or do you relish in the opportunity for something cute that fits without cutting off your circulation?

Fireworks and Quilting Cotton

I like America, but I'm not crazy about fireworks. This 4th of July, I decided to play with constellations in lieu of fireworks.

I'd been itching to make up a subtle color blocked A-Frame skirt. This pencil skirt is a sample for JP Knit & Stitch. I often make store samples and enjoy it immensely. It allows me to play with all sorts of cool fabrics and yarns I might not choose for myself to wear, but love regardless!

I wanted to play with fun prints, specifically the same print in different colorways, but still produce something that was very wearable. Genevieve and I decided on these awesome constellation prints from Lizzy House's Natural History line, which I love and have seen made up with awesome results recently (Miranda of Fancy Tiger Crafts' Butterfly Laurel Top comes to mind).

Instead of doing some of the more elaborate color blocking outlined in this post, I opted just to cut the side top and pocket lining from the turquoise fabric. If you want to do this, you'll need the same amount of main color fabric and a 1/2 yard of contrasting fabric.

Now let's talk about quilting cotton: Oft the frenemy of sewists everywhere, quilting cotton comes in all the prints but often results in all the wrong garments. Now, to be fair, many awesome quilting fabric companies have improved their base fabrics to yield more desirable garments. Compare these to the elastic waist skirt you made from starchy calico at 13 and the difference is clear.

The 'problem' with making garments from quilting cotton is that it exists in a sort of fabric purgatory: too stiff for garments that require a bit of drape (like tops or flowy skirts), not enough body for garments more suited to stiffer fabric (like pants, jackets, etc) and sometimes too fuzzy/matte for polished looking button downs, pleated skirts or other styles that work with a similiar weight cotton.

It's hard to see in the outfit pics, but the metallic prints are quite lovely together.

It's hard to see in the outfit pics, but the metallic prints are quite lovely together.

I used silver thread to sew on the waistline button, just for fun. I thought about embroidering some of the constellations too, but that seemed like overkill.

I used silver thread to sew on the waistline button, just for fun. I thought about embroidering some of the constellations too, but that seemed like overkill.

I'll admit I wasn't convinced this would make the best skirt. But I was wrong! Something about the lightness of the quilting cotton made for a skirt that was quite comfortable. I believe it's best as a pencil skirt...Though I might challenge sewists out there to prove me wrong!

It's true, many companies are expanding to different bases like rayon challis and double gauze which IS AWESOME. But we still live in a quilter's world and so quilting cottons will continue to taunt us.

Here are some tips for making garments from quilting cotton:

  1. Choose darker colors and prints that do not have a white or light background. This reduces the risk of your garment being see through and gives the final garment more depth.
  2. An addendum to #1: If a fabric looks like you might see it on either scrubs or pajamas, most likely whatever you make with it will look like scrubs or pajamas.
  3. If you want to use a light fabric or just lend your quilting cotton more body, use a lightweight cotton batiste or voile in a color similar to the main color of your fabric as an underlining. (Sewaholic Patterns has a nice tutorial on underlining a dress bodice here. This technique can be used on a skirt as well)
  4. Know that you will crinkle and have fuzz get stuck to you easily. And be cool with it.

The other benefits of sewing with quilting cotton? It sews and presses like a dream :)

Have you had super success or mega fails with quilting cotton clothing? Any tips for those who want to improve their quilting cotton makes?

More Cutting Layouts for A-Frame

One of my favorite things about the A-Frame skirt is the many opportunities for color blocking, print mixing and other ways of playing with fabric. I've provided some ideas and additional cutting layouts below, including some fabric suggestions from some awesome independent fabric retailers!

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There are many variations on A-frame that call for the same yardage and layout given in the pattern, but create visual interest by using both sides of the fabric. The sample version of the pencil skirt shown on the shop page uses an amazing double sided cotton. Since each skirt section is cut in pairs, you can simply flip over any pair of pieces to create contrast. Many double sided fabrics are available as lightweight upholstery fabric, which would work great for the pencil skirt. You could also use both right and wrong side of a fabric for a little interest. Fabrics like satin & sateen often have a crepe or plain weave back, allowing you to mix and match shiny & matte panels.

Here are some additional ideas that require special cutting layouts:

Version 1 - The Pencil Skirt

One way to play with the A-frame panels is to use both directions of a directional fabric, like stripes.

You can use striped fabric in coordinating colors, or simply re-orient your pattern pieces to create interest with horizontal & vertical stripes.

I love this woven stripe viscose silk from  Blackbird Fabrics . It comes in two colors ways and would be perfect for an A-frame pencil skirt.

I love this woven stripe viscose silk from Blackbird Fabrics. It comes in two colors ways and would be perfect for an A-frame pencil skirt.

This Cotton + Steel cotton linen canvas from  Grey's Fabrics  is another great choice for playing with directional print.

This Cotton + Steel cotton linen canvas from Grey's Fabrics is another great choice for playing with directional print.

You can also play with coordinating colors in either solid or print fabrics to get some awesome results.

Essex Yarn Dye in  Chambray  and  Indigo  from Fiddlehead Artisan Supply

Essex Yarn Dye in Chambray and Indigo from Fiddlehead Artisan Supply

Here's another variation where the whole side panel is a contrast color

Neon Clouds by Hokkoh from  Miss Matatabi

Neon Clouds by Hokkoh from Miss Matatabi

Pair with a complementary plain linen/cotton solid like Robert Kaufman Essex from  Purl Soho

Pair with a complementary plain linen/cotton solid like Robert Kaufman Essex from Purl Soho

Version 2 - The A-line Skirt

Using the original cutting layout from the pattern can produce some cool results when using fabrics with symmetrical geometric prints like checks or plaids. Be sure to use plaids that are balanced, so that the bias cut front panel will look balanced too. Check out this video from A Fashionable Stitch about balanced vs. unbalanced plaids.

A bold ikat grid cotton from  Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics

A bold ikat grid cotton from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics

Anna Maria Horner 'Loominous' check from  Fancy Tiger Crafts

Anna Maria Horner 'Loominous' check from Fancy Tiger Crafts

Here's a way to combine fabrics in Version 2.

Try combining colors in dreamy Bespoke double gauze by Cotton + Steel (In Aqua & Natural) from  Sew Biased Fabrics

Try combining colors in dreamy Bespoke double gauze by Cotton + Steel (In Aqua & Natural) from Sew Biased Fabrics

For a variation with the top half of the side panel is the same color as the main skirt, the pieces can fit into the same layout as above.

Above all, have fun! You could even go patchwork style and make every panel a different print in the same color.

Introducing: A-Frame

I'd like to introduce you to the 2nd ever Blueprints For Sewing pattern: A-frame

The A-frame pattern includes two styles: A pencil skirt and an A-line. Both feature pockets as well as A shaped seaming, a great way to showcase coordinating fabrics (like the double sided cotton above). The pencil skirt also features a back kick pleat.

Development

When I originally started working on Blueprints For Sewing, I had devised a few garments with the plan to release them all at once. After scaling back to one pattern for the initial release, the A-frame skirt was on hold.

It started as a skirt that had the fullness of an a-line skirt, but fit more like a straight skirt. The idea was that it would be easier to ride a bike in, but still have a fairly straight silhouette. Eventually after some fine tuning, it became more of a traditional a-line skirt, but with a bias cut front panel to create more volume without too pronounced of an A shape.

I tend to be a pencil skirt kinda gal style-wise, so as a result I played around with taking the A-Frame concept and turning it into a straighter cut. I was very happy with the result and pursued the two skirt plan. It reminded me of those fantastic vintage patterns that featured multiple garments in the same envelope.

A traditional thatched a-frame in Portugal

A traditional thatched a-frame in Portugal

If you'd like to read a great book all about A-Frames, check out  A-frame  by  Chad Randl

If you'd like to read a great book all about A-Frames, check out A-frame by Chad Randl

The design itself was inspired by the A-frame house and its striking angular lines, not to mention its amazing marriage of leisure and style. The A-frame was easy to build and affordable too, a key player in the history of DIY culture. I feel like this skirt is similar in spirit: Fairly economical fabric-wise, easy to put together, unique and stylized while still being very wearable. I took inspiration from vintage patterns and clothing from the 1930's - 1960's and settled on two iconic silhouettes that span the time period. And of course, in the spirit of stylish utility, both styles include pockets. Read more about the A-frame's history in the story included with the pattern.

Fit

A-Frame can be a great wardrobe staple. The pencil skirt features a snug fit, but not too snug. A common misconception about pencil skirts is that they should be super tight. If you've ever had big horizontal wrinkles on your skirt or had it ride up to your waist while you walk, you've been wearing a too-tight skirt. (However, stretch fabric skirts can fit tightly without these problems). So this pencil skirt is more of a straight skirt and while snug fitting is not skin tight. Stay tuned for some tutorials to further 'pencil' your skirt.

The a-line skirt really only relies on one measurement: Your waist. The a-line shape will fit a variety of hip sizes, locations, and proportions nicely (there's a reason the a-line skirt is considered the most flattering skirt style.) The a-line A-Frame grazes your hips and continues to flare outward, but doesn't have an overly pronounced shape.

The pattern includes instructions for proportion alterations as well as length adjustment. Along with cutting layouts, detailed sewing instructions, and tips, it includes instructions for sewing a lapped zipper. Lapped zippers are often seen in vintage clothing, have a great look, and are often easier to install than invisible zippers.

The pattern cover illustration was created by Andrea Sherrill Evans, who will be featured later in the week in an interview. Stay tuned for that later this week!

To celebrate, from now until midnight EST Friday June 12th, A-Frame and Cabin will be 20% off! Use the coupon code NEWPATTERN15 at checkout.