originally posted 3/26/2010
although not specifically about jeans, I think my method of instally zippers should be included with jeans/pants. This is the process I use on jeans. I do skip the fly shield which eliminates several fussy details. If you do not wear underwear, you definitely need a zipper application which includs the fly shield. But for myself, this process changed a frustating, garment ruining activity into a snap every time.
I’ve seen several blog posts and quite a few Utube tutorials on inserting zippers. Partly I can understand this great wealth of knowledge on one tiny subject. Zippers were the bane of my sewing life. I found many ways to avoid zippers. They are not the only closure available. Not even the nicest. Certainly not the easiest. Especially for me. It was not unusual for me to spend and hour or even two sewing and ripping, sewing and ripping and ruining planned garments. As long as I followed the professional instructions from books, my sewing instructors directions or the zipper packaging, zipper insertion was a nightmare for me. After over a decade of zipper-heartache, I finally realized what I wanted. I want to use a zipper when it is the best closure for my garment. I want to insert a zipper without any ripping. I want the zipper to look great on the public side. I started inserting zippers, without looking at instructions. I prepared carefully, pressing frequently and then watching what I did carefully. I sewed slowly but at a medium (3) stitch length. A medium length is easy to rip – which I wanted to avoid- but secure during wear. After settling upon my own procedure with few changes and many years of practice (about 2 more decades), I can finally put in a zipper to my satisfaction first time, everytime, in about 7 minutes. Here’s how
I start the clock when I put the zipper foot on my sewing machine. In my mind everything before this is preparation or a different sewing unit. This is an important distinction. I have already been sewing for several minutes, about 30. If I have a back yoke, the back yoke is attached. The center back and center front with fly extensions have been serge finished. Front pockets have been applied and the front crotch seam is sewn from about 1″ about the crotch to the dot which marks the fly extension clip. That’s a lot of sewing. If you count any of that as time sewing the zipper, your time will be greater than mine.
First stop is the ironing board prepare my zipper. I take the zipper out of the package, examine it for any defects and press it. Yes, zippers can have defects. I’ve had staples right in the middle of the teeth. Everytime I’ve used a zipper with the staple in the teeth, the zipper has later failed me. Also some times at the fold the teeth will become misaligned. If the zipper is not good, right out of the package, it’s not going to get any better. I toss it (or save for muslins) and try another. I’ll also confess that I’m not exacting about color. I can’t be anymore. Have you noticed the loss of colors at the zipper counter? There used to be rows and rows of colors and lengths. Not so much anymore. If the zipper is correctly installed, it may not matter much. The fly or flap will cover the zipper and prevent it from being seen. So something close in color is often good enough. When I can’t find anything close, I’ll use neutrals, navy blue, black, tan, grey and white. Unlike manufacturers who can have thousands of zippers dyed to match. We as individuals have to make do.
Upon the ironing board go the front of pants, seen here with front pocket and tummy panel. I press the seam flat first and then open from the bottom to the fly extension clip. I’m pressing the fly extension back exactly 1.25″. I know that because while the fabric was being cut and marked on the cutting table, I marked the 1.25″ with just a little scratch of chalk in the the top seam allowance. I do have and use a Dritz pressing template. When both sides of the fly extension are well pressed and steamed, I take the zipper and the pants back to my sewing machine.
Now here is one of my advantages. I’ve been doing this so long that I don’t have to think about how to adjust my machine. Without thought I’ve changed the stitch position to the far right and in this picture am lining up the zipper with the end of the fly extension and about 1/16″ away from the zipper teeth. I find anything between 1/16 and 1/8″ inches is good. More than that and I start being short on zipper coverage later on. So what will be the left edge of the fly is lined up, facing up (were seeing the private side of the zipper-fly right), check zipper is teeth-up tab-up, and then stitch from bottom of zipper towards the top until I run out of pant. Back to the ironing board
And apply a strip of double-sided water-soluable tape. I could use 1/4″ SteamASeam too. Apply with finger pressure or steam for the SAS and then remove the backing
Wait, I’m not ready to press the right side into position. Before that I want to line up the right fold to just cover the stitching on the left side. I use a pin and secure the top to zipper. The carefully fold the pant back into it’s previous position so I can see the SAS or WSS tape
I’m not acutally lining up the fly extension, just smoothing it out while pinned into place and then fingerpressing only one thickness to secure it to the tape. With SAS, I’d have to steam it into place. That’s why I prefer the WSS tape. Guess what? Back to the sewing machine all the while handling the pant and zipper gently.
At the machine, the zipper is placed right side down. I’m stitch next to the furtherest edge of the zipper through zipper and only 1 thickness of the fly (and tummy panel); from bottom to top. Then back to the ironing board (Who says you can’t get any exercise when sewing?)
This is a slightly better picture of where my last line of stitching was done. BTW, the zipper is now secured to my pants. It doesn’t matter where else I stitch, this zipper will not reveal my flesh or underwear.
I place my pants, right side up, smooth the zipper fly into place with my hands and then carefully press the top. I still have the top pinned. It’s only one pin and I can avoid stitching it or poking myself.
I gently turn the pants back and place a pin at the very bottom of the zipper stop. When I stitch I want to miss this little gizmo. How can I avoid it, if I don’t know where it is? So pin in and then smooth the pant back into place, carefully because it is possible to push the pin out of position. Then, what I like to think of as a secret weapon
3/4″ masking tape. Use of “blue painters tape” also permissible. The width I use determines how wide my zipper fly will be. I actually find that with 3/4″, I’m just a hair short of a full 1″ zipper fly. If I want a wider fly, I have to plan for it back when I’m cutting and add more width to the extension. (This is the first picture where I see the white marks. However I didn’t notice them while sewing.) I begin the tape just above the pin that I inserted at the bottom zipper stop. I align the tape with the center front fold of the zipper fly. I have in the past attempted to tape the fly down and closed which required a wider tape. I’m now able to handle the pant gently and get it back to the sewing machine without disloding anything. As I lift my pant from the ironing board, that pin at the bottom zipper stop has done it’s job. I remove the pin and continue to the sewing machine. (Exercise, exercise, exercise)
At the sewing machine, I align my foot with the left edge of the tape. I concentrate on sewing at an even, medium speed and keeping the foot aligned with the tape until I reach the bottom corner.
Nowdays, I think that the zipper and in particular the bottom of the zipper is a real opportunity for creativity and embellishments. I’ve done many things. I can free-handed stitch the bottom into a nice jeans-worthy curve. But on this pair, I’m going to do a triangle which requires a few simple pivots. Above at the end of the tape I pivot to direct my stitch towards the center front seam
At the center front seam I pivot and stitch up the seam until my needle is about 1 or 2 stitches below the tape (I’m paranoid about hitting the bottom zipper stop)
At that point, I pivot again to sew back to the fly stitching. Today I ended at the fly stitching by dropping the feed dogs and allowing the machine to stitch 3 times in the same spot. That will secure my zipper. But there’s lots more that can be done. I’ve also switched feet, my zipper foot doesn’t work with zigzap stitching, so I’ve switched feet and done some narrow zigzagging or just a tailors tack. Wow, I mean there really are decorative things you can do.
But now it’s time to remove the pants from the machine
and remove the first pin at the top and the masking tape
And now finally, in real life, I notice the 2 white spots.
The front zipper stitching looks perfect and fortunately the two spots were removed with cold water.
The back stitching looks ok. It’s not perfectly lined up with all those guide lines on the zipper. But I DON’T CARE. Because (1) I installed a zipper because it’s the best choice. This is a cotton-twill fabric cut with Trudy Jansen’s Jean pattern #906. Jean styling needs either a zipper or buttons. (2)There was no ripping. I didn’t baste anything that had to be removed; or stitch anything which needed to be unstitched and re-done AND (3) My zipper application looks good on the front. Even with pictures, I spent less than 10 minutes. My camera did not time out between shots.
Let me make a few other observations about what may affect your time.
- If you insist upon basting anywhere, that is extra prep time and extra clean up time.
- Fly shields, I don’t need them. My underwear sufficiently covers my flesh so that I’m never personally injured. No I don’t wear granny pant!es. Until my prenancy I wore bikini panties. I did try thongs. But a day of pulling that string out of my -uh you know what– and then finding a boil on my tailbone, convinced me that thongs were not a good choice. Bikini’s were more than se)(y enough for me when I was 20-something. After that, well I found thigh-highs. I do believe they are the most attractive for ladies of substance. Even hanging in the wind to dry, they do not look like a clippership sails. Besides more important than the clothes, is the attitude with which you wear the clothes. I feel se)(y like I am and appreciate the fact that I don’t need to spend an additional 10 minutes installing a fly shield.
- TopStitching Instead of switch between threads, I used 2 strands of thread where I wanted topstitching. Sometimes I switch to the triple stitch. Both are adequate in my mind and do not take much more time.
- Glue/Pins of course the more pins used, the more pins that need to be removed and put up. I’ve seen suggestions to use various glues. But you have to dry them in place. That takes time.
Despite my dislike and reservations of these things, you might want them for a particular purpose. Maybe there is a “look” you want to duplicate. Or you don’t have my supplies on hand. I’m OK with that. Do what you want to, I do with my sewing. Just remember every extra thing you do adds to the time to complete your zipper installation and your garment. So if you add anything to my procedure, you’re not likely to finish in 7 minutes.