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How to sew a lapped zipper

Lapped zippers have been in use for a long time as they were historically used to hide unsightly metal zippers from view in vintage sewing patterns. They are a great skill to learn and add to any modern garment as well as retro sewing projects. This technique suits skirts and trousers as well as dresses. Install the zipper before completing the facings or linings of your garment.

A lapped zip creates a polished finish that disguises the closure on a dress, skirt or trousers. It’s easy to install and will look fantastic on your garment.

This technique is covered in your step-by-step instructions that come with Butterick 6556, but can be swapped into any project with a regular or invisible zipper if you wish. Enjoy our in-depth guide to installing these cleverly hidden zippers.

1. You’ll need a regular zip for this tutorial and co-ordinating thread for topstitching. It’s also best to finish the raw centre back edges before you install the zip with a zigzag stitch or on an overlocker.

2. Mark the exact length of zipper opening on the centre back seam allowance, using the zip as a guide. Sew the seam up to the base of the zip. Change to a longer stitch length and baste the rest of the seam allowance closed. Press open.

3. Open out the right-hand side of the seam allowance and place the zip on top face down. The top stoppers should sit below the seam line at the neckline.

4. Using a zipper foot positioned to the right of the needle, machine-tack on the stitching guideline woven into the zipper tape. If you can’t see the guideline, just stitch at half the width of the tape .

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5. Position the zipper foot to the left of the needle. Turn the zipper face up, forming a fold in the seam allowance that sits close (but not too close) to the teeth. There should be 1-2mm gap between the
teeth and fabric. Stitch close to the folded edge through all thicknesses. Do not attach the end of the zipper to the neckline facing.


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6. Turn the garment RS out and flatten out the zip behind the fabric. Hand-baste in place quickly, ensuring the waist seam allowance is secured.

7. Position your zipper foot to the right of the needle and top-stitch the zip, starting at the base. Pivot the corner, then sew alongside the zip. Use the side of your zipper foot to feel the edge of the zip through the layers of fabric.

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8. You will now be able fold the facings and top of the zip to the inside. Arrange it so the zip ends are hidden behind the facing seam allowance and slip-stitch the facing to the zipper tape. Unpick
your basting.

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