Are you scared of zippers? Here’s one technique that can help you embrace the joy of zippers, and include them a lot more often in your projects.
There are tons of ways to insert zippers, and probably a million tutorials already out there on the topic, but since I haven’t written about it yet, I’m throwing this out there in case it helps someone.
Now, I know of some really beautiful techniques for incorporating zippers, that hide stitches and raw edges, and I don’t claim that this is one of them. I think I would describe this technique as more freewheeling, when you need to just get something done, rather than fuss over it to make it perfect and flawless.
This zipper technique is absolutely fabulous for making throw pillows, which I did on New Year’s Day in one project for my upcoming book this Fall, but since I am absolutely forbidden from showing you the results, I thought I’d make a pouch instead, and show that.
Isn’t this fabric divine? I actually have several boxes and drawers full of interior decorator samples, and every fall in Chicago there’s an art festival in Ravenswood where one of the local design firms sells off their samples for $1 – $5. I always come home with the most luscious fabrics, and then get depressed about using them to make the handbags for which they were intended because of how fussy it is to do beautiful zippers.
No more! 2013 is all about cutting it up. Let’s get to it.
You get to decide how many layers you want to incorporate here. You can line your pouch, or not. You can quilt your pouch, or not. You can add batting, or not. Whatever you decide to do, you’re going to treat your layers as if they were a SINGLE layer. That’s right; I’m not hiding my raw edges behind fancy French or hidden seams. That’s just how I roll in 2013.
You also get to pick the dimensions of your pouch. Because I was working from drapery samples, that kind of dictated the size, which was cut at 12″ square. You’ll want to use a 1/2″ seam allowance, so take that into account when you’re cutting.
When you pick your zipper, just make sure it’s about 4″ shorter than your cut measurement. So, I used an 8″ zipper, with a lot of contrast, because that’s how I choose zippers. If you’re going to take the trouble to insert them, be loud and proud!
Layer your top, batting, and lining as you would a quilt, with all the right sides facing out. My lining is batik, so one side is as good as another.
Oh yes, this will be a thick one! It’s like stitching two quilts together! The batting was probably overkill (even though it’s super-thin), but I wanted to give the pouch a little bit of body. I used a 90/14 needle with 50 wt thread and it was fine.
Now, you’re going to pin around all four sides, but on the top, you only want to stitch 2″ in from the corners. Hence, why your zipper is 4″ shorter than the cut size. This worked for me because an 8″ zipper is actually just a hair over 9″ long; there’s 8″ of actual zipper teeth, and 1/2″ on each end of “extra”. So, if you happen to need to shorten a zipper or you want to use a longer or shorter one, just stitch this upper edge just shy of the length of your zipper teeth.
Use a 1/2″ seam allowance for this type of zipper installation. If you don’t want to use 1/2″ seams all the way around, you need to at least use it on the edge where the zipper is going.
When you get to the corner, back stitch about 1/2″ and then forward again to reinforce the corner before turning (this is known as a “triple stitch”. This gives you just a little extra security for places that will take a bit of stress.
Now, my pouch is super-bulky, so I’m going to remove the extra batting that extends beyond the seam allowance. You may not be able to do this if you quilted your fabric, so don’t worry about it too much.
Install the Zipper
Center your zipper in the opening, with the zipper pull toward the pouch. Pin the zipper to one seam allowance. Open the zipper a little more than halfway, and pin the zipper all the way along the one edge.
I hope you have a zipper foot! if not, move your machine needle all the way to the left, and use the edge of your presser foot to guide you along the zipper teeth.
When you get close to the zipper pull, stop stitching and cut your threads.
Now, close the zipper – not completely closed, but enough so that the zipper pull will clear your feed dogs and the presser foot. My zipper foot is more than 2″ long, so I have to close my zipper up quite a bit. Now, put your pouch back in the machine and finish stitching that side of the zipper.
Congratulations! You’re halfway done with your zipper!
Here, you would probably want to use a matching thread to your zipper. Since I’m conducting a teachable moment, you get contrasting thread.
Next, you need to pin the other side of your zipper to the opposite seam allowance. Two things you need to pay attention to:
- Make sure your zipper is not completely closed; and
- Only pin your zipper about halfway.
Ok, start stitching again! Don’t stitch all the way up to your zipper pull this time, because you need some maneuvering room.
Stop stitching here, cut your threads, and then open your zipper. Remember to open it as far as you need to so when you continue stitching, the pull is not under your foot or on top of your feed dogs.
Now you can finish stitching! Look! You just inserted a zipper!
The rest of these steps will make your pouch a little more polished, but it’s up to you whether you want to bother!
First up is to finish debulking the seams by taking the extra batting out from underneath the zipper.
Next, you can finish the raw edges along the zipper with a serger or a zigzag stitch. Again, matching thread will help this look a little more professional. As with the zipper insertion, you may need to stop stitching to move the zipper pull out of the way. Just remember not to close it all the way, these are a BEAR to open from the wrong side!
If you use a serger, a double-eye needle is great for weaving in thread tails. If you clip your serger threads instead, some fray check is a good helper.
Serge around the remaining 3 sides. I just serged all those edges together.
If you want to get corners that are more “square” when you flip your pouch right side out, you’ll need to do some further debulking. Taper the seam allowances toward the corner. I’m ok with cutting off the serging here, because those corners will never see the light of day again.
Now, turn your pouch right side out. There are just a couple of additional finishing touches that might be nice on your pouch.
You might want to use a tailor tack on each end of the zipper on the outside. These are points of stress, and you don’t want your seam coming apart.
A tailor tack is just a zigzag stitch in the same spot; kind of like stitching a button, except there’s no button. In fact, I used the button stitch on my machine to make this stitch. It’s 5mm wide.
This can be a little tricky to execute because you want to make sure all the extra layers are out of the way and your seam allowances are pressed to the correct side. Just maneuver it all under your needle and stitch about 15-20 times. Also, watch out for the metal clip on the zipper on this end; you don’t want to break a needle by accidentally stitching on it. That’s why I used such a wide zigzag.
Isn’t that a thing of beauty?
One final step. When you open your pouch, you may find your zipper’s seam allowance flipping to the outside, especially if you have several thicknesses of fabric. I solved this by hand-tacking the seam allowance to the lining.
Start to finish, this project took me about an hour to do. It certainly can be faster if you don’t have to sit there trimming batting from the seam allowance.
I hope this helped you with inserting zippers and you incorporate them into more projects. If you were going to do this on a throw pillow, just put your zipper on the bottom or on one of the sides. Have fun! Drop me a line if you use this technique on a project – I would love to see it!