It's Not SCARY: Sewing a Zipper


Zippers....You asked for it and here it is!  Sewing a zipper is NOT SCARY! Installing a zipper is a more advanced skill than buttons and loops or even buttonholes, but a zipper has it's place.  Special occasion fabrics are not always suitable to sewing buttonholes. Or perhaps your wiggly toddler doesn't like being still long enough to button buttons, slide up the zipper and you're done!  If you're ready to tackle a new skill, here's how to add a zipper to any pattern.  I'll be using Tie Dye Diva's Perfect Party Dress, but the same method can be used for any number of Tie Dye Diva dresses.

First, adjust your back pattern pieces.  If the pattern is written for buttons, subtract the overlap, but be sure to leave seam allowance.  Also, if the pattern does not include a center back skirt seam, add one.

When sewing the bodice, follow all the pattern instructions except for one.  Do not sew the center back seams when attaching the main bodice to the bodice lining.  Below you see the neck and armholes are sewn, but not the center back.


Serge each raw edge of the center back skirt seam.  Sew right sides together leaving about 3" un-sewn at the top.  Be sure to back-tack to secure your stitches.  Press this seam open.



Continue sewing as per the pattern instructions.  When attaching the bodice and skirt match the raw edges of the bodice and skirt while keep the lining free.  A zipper allows for enclosing the seam on the bodice so we will do that also.

Now, we are ready to install the zipper.  Press the seam allowance (1/2") to the inside on the center back.

In preparation of sewing the zipper, I prefer to trim the top edge of the zipper tape to about 1/2" 


Turn the dress right side out.  We will be sewing from the right side for the rest of the zipper installation.  Pin (or use Wash Away Wonder Tape or washable glue stick) the right back side with the folded edge right along the edge of the zipper teeth. 


zipper open  for better visibility


Using a zipper foot sew about 1/8" from the folded edge until flush with the start of the skirt back seam.  Be sure to secure your stitches at both the start and end of this line of sewing. 

A zipper foot

The zipper foot allows for sewing right at the edge of the zipper teeth.



Half way done!  Now, close the zipper and lap the left folded edge just past the stitching on the right side. Pins and Wash Away Wonder tape are very helpful at this point.  Take a moment to make sure that the bottom edge is smooth and that both the waist seam and top edge match up.


It is correct that the folded edge of the bodice will extend past the teeth of the zipper. Here is what it will look like on the inside.


Again using your zipper foot, sew the left side of the back bodice, guiding the edge of the zipper foot along the ridge of the zipper teeth. As you near the bottom stop with your needle in the down position and raise your presser foot.  Slide the zipper pull up, closing the zipper, and continue sewing.  At the end of the skirt opening pivot the dress 90° and sew across the bottom of the zipper (yes, you can sew through zipper teeth), again remember to secure your stitches with a back-tack.


Congratulations! You have successfully installed a zipper!



To finish off the dress slip stitch the lining to the zipper tape. On the lapped side of the zipper the lining will need folded in more than 1/2" to prevent covering the zipper. Add a hook and eye closure to the top of the zipper.
What a pretty inside finish too!

Lastly, secure the lining at the waist by topstitching from the right side of the dress. This will be familiar to you from many Tie Dye Diva patterns.  Enjoy your Perfect Party Dress (or any number of other Tie Dye Diva dress patterns) with a zipper!  Make getting a wiggly, impatient toddler dressed a jiff!




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