Rather than flail around looking for more online instructions and advice on lapped zippers, I went through all of my sewing books and tried each and every method I already owned. I had a LOT of lapped zipper techniques to learn from. Here is the rundown:
This is the Singer Sewing Essentials method, and oh my criminy those women love to baste. Baste the zipper opening closed, baste to the left, baste to the right. I did this one twice and still had the lowest success rate with this method — big gap at the zipper pull and lookit:
I still managed to miss a little bit of the inside of the placket. Time consuming and inconsistent results. My least favorite method.
2. Coats and Clark Package Instructions
Several people suggested using the instructions that come with Coats and Clark zippers and I can see why — nice results! True, my topstitching goes wonky toward the zipper pull but that is operator error (well, they suggested optionally marking your stitch line with tape and I didn’t do that. They don’t specifically say to eyeball it but they don’t say not to either. Maybe we can share the blame. Anyhoo, a very nice zipper though maybe the placket is a little wider than necessary. I definitely approve.
Now check this out! My favorite by far was in a book I almost didn’t bother looking in, Guide to Fashion Sewing by Connie Amaden-Crawford (Note, I used an older edition). This method is quick with excellent results. You don’t even baste the zipper opening, you just press it, then fudge the left seam allowance about a quarter inch so it will be sure to tuck under the placket. Then you stitch the closed zipper to the left, pin the right side over it, and topstitch a half inch from the seam fold. DONE. Suck it, tricky lap zippers, I conquered you!!!
I think the most elegant version was the one I made using the instructions I got from Pat Moyes at Apparel Arts in San Francisco. It uses a lot of measuring and marking but not a ton of basting. In this method you use chalk or a tailor’s pencil and mark your stitching — that ‘L’ shaped stitch line for the placket is marked but also the stitching lines inside. That way there is no chance of missing the inside of the placket. No matter what method I end up using in future I will add this approach to it. Note I still had the jog at the zipper pull. This is a slimmer placket, which I appreciate.
And this entry wins the Miss Congeniality Prize:
You sew the placket first! Without the zipper!! See:
You baste the zipper opening, and press the seam allowances open, per usual. Then, and here’s the crazy part, you topstitch the right side 3/8″ inch from the zipper opening fold. Then you open the basting stitches and tape the left side of the zipper to the wrong side of the fabric and stitch it with a zipper foot. I had a problem with this because I wound up stitching through the tape, since I couldn’t see itBut that can be avoided next time.
Next, on the right side, you put the other side of the garment over the zipper, covering your stitches, and tape the fabrics together. Then sew the seam allowance to the zipper as close as possible to the topstitch on the wrong side.This method took only a couple of minutes and it looks really good. The underside is totally covered by the placket (not true of the very time-consuming Singer approach) and since the placket is sewn shut first, it solves the problem that led me to Lapped Zipper Intensive in the first place. I am really impressed.
This exercise has convinced me of several things, namely:
- Don’t Baste Your Time. None of the baste-heavy methods produced results superior to the non-basted ones. Basting can be replaced by careful measuring and/or careful marking, neither of which require extra time at the machine or pulling out basting! Also, sometimes I messed up even with the basting but I never messed up when I measured/marked.
- Wider is better. Seam allowances of 3/4″ to 1″ are necessary for good results in lapped zippers (for me anyway)
- Pressing is sewing. Even the zipper opening can be left unbasted if you use good pressing. Pressing took the place of basting in the most efficient techniqes.
- Mark your stitch lines and peek. Careful marking of stitch lines in lap zippers takes out all the guesswork. Also, don’t forget you can flip it over, peek inside, and otherwise guarantee that you will be catching everything the way you need to before you put your project under the needle.
- Tend toward being ‘open’-minded. I would say these techniques were split 50-50 between those that had you sew with the zipper closed and the teeth directly on the zipper opening, and those that had the zipper open and lined the teeth up slightly beside the opening. My favorites tended to use the open zipper (the exception was the placket-first technique).
- Pulls go down. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that every method that had me leave the zipper pull up ‘to reduce bulk’ wound up gapping at the pull when I finished. The methods that had me leave the pull down managed to cover the pull.
But my most pleasing discovery was that with enough practice I could learn to sew a lapped zipper overnight!