Centered zipper construction

If you don’t have the pattern yet, you can get it here. Note: this pattern comes from the lapped zipper tutorial. You will not need all of those same pattern pieces. The pieces you need are the right back bodice and the left neck facing. Cut two of each of those. You’ll also need a 7″ plastic coil zipper. Below, you’ll see my cut pieces laid accordingly.

Right sides together, stitch to the marked dot and stop, back stitching.

Matching the layers (fabric and zipper tape) evenly, sew the right side of the zipper in place.

Repeat for the left side, again, matching all layers evenly.

I want you to notice something here. The CB seam and the zipper seam are not aligned. This is a good thing.

Now sew the left facing into place, matching seam edges evenly. If you look at the shoulder line, you’ll notice that the facing is not aligned there. Again, this is a good thing. If it does match up, you have the wrong facing pattern piece.

Repeat for the right facing.

Fold your pieces as shown here. Your facing shoulder line should be aligned to the body shoulder line.

Now sew that into place with 1/4″ seam allowance.

Repeat for the right side.

Here, the outside corners are trimmed catty-corner and the top of the zipper tape has been trimmed away.

Now turn the facings and body to their finished sides. Here you’ll see the inside right view. You should be able to see a small lip overhang in the shell (blue) fabric. Doesn’t this look much cleaner and nicer than the way you’ve been doing it?

Here you can see both sides turned. If you examine the area above the zipper stop, I think you’d agree that there is just enough space to sew a hook and eye. Seeing how neatly all of this ended up, one could almost imagine that zippers are engineered to be sewn a certain way, dontcha think? That’s why I say this method of sewing zippers is not a matter of opinion, it’s not “my” method, I didn’t invent it and it’s not a secret either.

Here you can see the outside view of the zipper. Not only is a natural lip forming to cover the zipper from the neckline, that seam displacement you saw earlier is forming a lip at the bottom (5th picture down from the top). This operation hasn’t even been pressed, much less top stitched but I think you’d agree this is a clean finish, the quality of which would be tough to beat.

So, what flavor of zippers shall we do next? There are so many other things that can affect outcomes in different fabric weights and we haven’t even begun to talk about “bend allowance”….so what’s next? If you have paypal, you can send your requests to on the back of a virtual $20 bill or write it in the inscription of the book you buy me off of my amazon wish list…hehehehe. And my birthday is coming up too! Seriously, feel free to write me and include jpgs of your completed sample if you like, okay?

Process review: lapped zipper
Lapped zipper template
Lapped zipper construction
Lapped zipper specs
Centered zipper template
Centered zipper construction
Invisible zipper tutorial pt.1
Invisible zipper tutorial pt.2
Shorten a separating zipper
Zippered welt pocket tutorial
Deconstructing a zippered pouch
Zippered welt pockets

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  1. Josh Latham says:

    Hey Kathleen, We decided to give the lapped zipper exercise a try today. As we were tracing the the peices onto oak tag, we noticed the omission of grain lines. Was this just an oversight or on purpose?

  2. kathleen says:

    I intentionally didn’t do real markings because I didn’t want to clutter the sample with details that weren’t pertinant to the exercise. If I were going to include markings, grainlines are the least of which of what I’d include but your question reminds me that this sample would be a good project with which to illustrate conventional markings. Maybe I should do that next to introduce the topic and then follow through on every subsequent piece, so that by always viewing the correct format, one would become accustomed to new standards. What do you think?

    And, I’d recommend you start with the centered zip because it’s simpler. I just started with lapped as an extension of that process review which is what opened the topic.

  3. Josh Latham says:

    I’m having a little trouble understanding the seam allowances on the lapped zipper. I sewed up the lapped zipper yesterday but it didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. I know it’s something I’m doing wrong. One thing that disappointed me was not having perfect points at the top of the zipper. I am a visual person and would like to see seperate diagrams of each peice and the seam allowances on each side of the peice. Another thing is how close to sew to the zipper. The zipper foot I’m using isn’t getting close enough to the zipper I don’t think. Should we sew as close to the zipper as possible?

  4. Josh Latham says:

    Nevermind on my last comment. I just reread everything carefully dealing with the lapped zipper and I feel stupid. You clearly state “…all seam allowances in this demonnstration are 3/8″ except the neckline which is 1/4 in.”

  5. kathleen says:

    Josh, I know you’re working on the lapped zipper; try doing the centered application; it’s comparatively streamlined.

    If you sew the centered zipper, I want you to try an *experiment* and when sewing the zipper tape, just ride the presser foot along the edge with no particular focus on getting the seam allowance “just right”. You’ll be amazed to find that even with sloppy allowance, the zipper will STILL come out correctly, lol. Only then will you see just how well designed industrial process methods are.

  6. Josh Latham says:

    My fears are calmed about the zipper. I think I will try the centered zipper first. You would think I would know more about inserting zippers because I did it for 7 years, almost every day. But the zippers I installed were done in an unusual way. These were disposable tyvek coveralls used in dust free zones. The zipper was simply sewed down one side of the front, folded over and sewed down the other side and when I got to the end I just ran off into the crotch. It had to look good enough to be worn a few times.

    Mark your calendar because Tommy Hilfiger’s new reality show “The Cut” starts on June 9th (Thu). Could be worth something discussing on this board together.

  7. Dixie says:

    Really great zipper lesson! I’ve been sewing for 55 years and always on the look-out for better ways and this is a gem. I must say that my 1955 home ec. lessons NEVER dealt with this zipper, either.
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Invisible zipper tutorial pt.1

    Owing to the generous contribution of one of our readers, Jinjer from the bay area, I’m pleased to include the following invisible zipper tutorial. As Jinjer makes frequent reference to it, you may want to review my centered zipper tutorial…

  9. Diane says:

    Thank you, Kathleen! My dress was lined to the edge awaiting the zipper and all I had to do was pick out a few stitches at the neck edge for the tape to extend into the seamline. Why is this method such a secret? It’s like bagging a jacket lining.

  10. Ruth says:

    This looks great! Just to clarify for me, you are using a regular coil zipper, correct? Not an invisible zipper? The finished outcome looks like an invisible zipper to me, and I love it. I’m going to get busy and practice some samples. I love the clean finish of it all. Thanks for the tutorials!

  11. feodora says:

    I ran into two problems when I tried the centered zipper. One, I had a hard time keeping the pressed edge of the fabric centered over the zipper. and two, when I topstitched, it made the ‘lips’ of fabric tend to stand up over the zipper teeth. Should I topstitch with the zipper open or closed? and is there a requisite distance from the teeth to keep the fabric lying down? (I’m sewing on muslin) thanks.

  12. Shirley Backers says:

    I am about to start my own blog and would like permission to like to your tutorials. They are great.

    Shirley Backers

  13. Natalija says:

    Dear Kathleen, thank you for your great tutorials. I want to try all the zipper tutorials, but I started with this center first. My results for a first try are great, but I have a bit of problems. How close to the zipper teeth do I stitch? As close as possible? My outer fabric is catching into the zipper at one point and that makes me think I did it too close. Also I second feodora’s question, how should I top-stitch it? Open or closed. My “lips” are not covering the zipper as they are yours, although I do think there is enough fabric. Is it all about pressing? Thank you.

  14. Jennifer says:

    Nice tutorial. Thanks.

    I’m curious. I’d like to make a fine garment (ie, formal dress). Are invisible zippers OK for this purpose? I’ve heard that they’re a sure sign of a homemade garment. Can a similar technique to that described here be used for an invisible zipper with a lining or even a regular zipper with a lining instead of the facing?

  15. Chrystal says:

    Love Love Love your tutorials…thanks for the information…have you written any other books? I don’t want to sew commercially or start a manufacturing business but really want this stuff I am learning on your website in one place to review when necessary.
    I get it being persnickety about how everything goes together and this has given me some food for thought in my construction process. I am basically a self taught sewer and I have learned so much…

  16. Angelika Buhler says:

    Thank you for explaining it to nicely I hope I can get perfect zippers every tone now. No wonder I never got a good zipper before , I always did it wrong

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