Lapped Zipper Tutorial: like my Mamma taught me

Howdy doody.  As mentioned in my Simplicity 2154 post I wondered whether I should share the way that I was taught to sew in a zip.  Apparently it is a lapped zipper & for some it is a sewing milestone, perhaps due to it being more of a vintage method?  I don’t know.   Anyway, here follows a bit of a lapped zipper tutorial.  For me it was just the basic way to sew in a zip, taught to me by my Mum, so in true “handed down the generations” stylee, like the family recipe for yorkshire puddings, lemon cheesecake or plain old spag bol, here is how we do it our way.  It is a bit different, only a bit, from how I’ve seen others do it.  You might prefer it, you may not – up to you!  (No prizes for spotting the special guest appearance by world class sewing machine fluff)

So I will assume that you have go to the bit where you sew your zip in.  As for any regular zip you should have sewn your seam – whether it is your centre back, side seam or even centre front for one of those groovy zipped up all in ones – yes, you should have sewn it up leaving it open where the zip will be sewn.  I also finish the seam allowances at this stage, all the way up, even where the zip will be.

OK, next we are ready to place the zip.

Place the zip face down on the right side of the fabric.  You are going to sew on the reverse of the zip tape on the side of the tape closest to the fabric edge through zip tape & fabric.  First you need to mark your stitching line 5/8″ from the fabric edge as close to the zip teeth as you would normally (usually about 1/8″ would it be?).  You see I am lazy & try to avoid basting as much as possible, but feel free to pin then baste through all layers in a line that will also be a guide for your stitching.

See here using your zip foot, sew along the stitching line you have marked.  You will need to start with your zip open, then a good way before you get to the zip pull, stop stitching, leave your needle down & lift up your zip foot.  Turning the fabric + zip slightly pivoting on the downward needle, you can carefully pull the zip closed before continuing (remember to straighten your fabric & put your zip foot down first!)

Next flip around to the right side – you see you have sewn the first half of your zip without a visible stitching line -I prefer this to the method that involves an edge-stitched edge.  (This is the bit that I think is different from what I have seen) If need be, press this seam.

Now, head on over to the other edge of your opening & press 5/8″ to the wrong side.  If it is like this chiffon & doesn’t stay pressed very easily, you can also pin or baste it in place.

Bring the newly pressed edge across the zip sewn in so far so that the folded edge reaches a position neatly over the zip, just slightly overlapping the other seam/zip edge.  Keep it nice & straight.  The next part may involve some trial & error to get the position of the seam line right – I’m using pins to mark where I shall sew – as close as I can be to the zip, but not too close that the zip gets snarled up in the fabric.  Before you baste, make sure you can run the zip up & down with the pins there & adjust if necessary.  Also mark across the bottom edge of the lap just above the bottom of the zip (shown in the pic but not quite right angled – derr!).  This will be a right angle from the zip seam & forms the end of the lapped zip edge.

As before, you will be sewing with the zip open to start with, then half way through, stop, needle down & zip foot up to swivel the zip closed (that’s what’s happening in the picture).  Straighten fabric, put the foot down & carry on to the end.  When you reach the end of your stitching line, follow your intended end of the lapped zip edge, leaving your needle down, lift your zip foot & turn 90 degrees to make some stitches across the bottom of the lapped edge finishing at the already sewn seam below the zip.

There, you’re done.  Did that make sense?


55 thoughts on “Lapped Zipper Tutorial: like my Mamma taught me

  1. Tania

    Brilliant! It’s the first line of sewing that makes the difference. I’m definitely going to be using your method from now on. :o)

  2. Kim

    Thanks for this! It is always great to see how others make something and eye opening to do things a little bit differently to see if it works better!

  3. Helen Made

    Great tutorial thanks! It’s different to how I’ve seen it done by others but makes total sense. I haven’t done a lapped zipper yet but I’ll definitely try this mathod!

  4. shivani

    thanks for this, Winnie – it’s brilliant! I’ve never done a lapped zipper because I couldn’t get my head around the instructions I’ve come across. But this is so clear. thanks!! 🙂 x

  5. Amanda

    Thanks for this great tutorial! I just recently did my first lapped zipper & I love it so it’s great to have options on how to execute it! 😀

  6. Tanit-Isis

    That’s a beautiful, lovely little lapped zipper. I am one of the people who has thus far been defeated by them—I mean, I’ve done them, but never had them turn out nicely. It’s adorable! The tutorial looks good, also, but then with the lapped zippers I find it’s the execution, not the instruction, that trips me up… (obviously I need to suck it up and just actually practice. 😉 )

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      I find them much easier than even centred zips ( and definitely invisibles) because if it goes wonky it’s usually just on the second side of the zip, so less to unpick or redo!!

  7. Janet

    Spooky! Just the way my Mum taught me to do a zip. In fact, she recently sent me step by step photo instructions a bit like yours so I could post a tutorial. No need to bother now – can just point people to your nice instructions! 🙂

  8. Lynne

    This is great!! I hadn’t the first idea how to do a lapped zip, and you’ve explained it really easily. Thanks for taking the time to do this! 🙂

  9. LinB

    Nicely put. Clear, concise instructions. This is the way we did all zippers in the 60s and 70s — it was the centered zip that caused palpitations and conniptions. I like a lapped zip. I also like a hidden placket for button closures.

      1. LinB

        They’re great! Just a long rectangle folded, do the buttonholes, insert behind button band or facing for a mysteriously fastened blouse or dress — or button fly on men’s trousers, if you lived in the 19th century. You can use mismatched and/or hideous buttons, with impunity. I sometimes use mismatched, hideous buttons, but with trepidation.

  10. liza jane

    You know, I’ve never actually put in a lapped zip. But this looks so simple! I really like how the zipper is sewn to one side first like and invisible zip so you don’t see any visible stitching. Thanks for this!

  11. Roobeedoo

    Very clear! And doing the first bit “inside out” is a very clever trick indeed!
    But… how come you don’t end up with a bit of a bumfle at the end of the zip where the seam begins? Surely if you are pulling the left hand side of fabric over the centre line, this will knock it out of alignment with the seam below? If you get what I mean…?

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      I know what you mean, but the lapping actually meets the same seam allowance that is taKen in the seam already made, if you see what I mean….it’s actually really neat. Honest…!

  12. Meg

    Great tutorial! I’m working on a friend’s bridesmaid’s dress right now, and I was totally stumped on what to do with the zipper until I saw this. Thank you!

  13. JacqC

    Thank you so much, this totally made sense to me and I’ve just put a zip in perfectly first go (a zip I had previously unpicked 4 times!), I could hug you! Happy Sunday 🙂

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  15. Jenna

    Thank you so much for this! I put in my first lapped zip last night, despite having put in numerous invisible ones I have just been scared of this so have never managed to figure it out. It worked first time with no unpicking! Thank you!

  16. Elsa

    So great I’ve found this TODAY! I was planning to sew a lapped zipper to my friend’s bodice and Tadah, I found this. Now I feel confident enough to do this.
    Many thanks for these explanations.

  17. Anne

    Thank you, you have broken the spell which was causing my zip installing procrastination! It went in like a dream and looks very professional (compared to my previous attempts!). Now I can tackle the rest of my to do list, which all require zips.

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