Happy Monday everyone! Today I’m going to show you how I hand-picking a zipper, on my Picnic Dress. I used a combination of Gertie’s tutorial and my own experience, since I’ve handpicked a few zippers earlier this year.
If you’re just joining us now, here are links to the first few posts on this dress:
- Next up: The Picnic Dress
- Gathering an Edge Using Machine Stitches
- Understitching: A Step-by-Step Demo
- Sewing a Waist Stay in a Full-Skirted Dress
So, back to hand-picking the zipper. First off, I love this technique! I find it equally as strong as a machine-stitched zipper, and I love the control you have over the zipper placement. It’s easier to line up seams this way, too.
Hand-pick your zipper following the steps below:
First, prepare the opening for the hand-picked zipper. This can be as simple as serging or zigzagging the edges.
In my case, I finished the skirt opening by sewing it to the lining and turning right-side out. (I explained a bit more on how I did this on the Twin Spruce Dress here.)I serged the bodice back opening edges:
I also turned under the facing edges on the bodice and stitched them, turning right side out for a clean finish. This gives such nice top edges and corners, too!
Now you’re ready to insert the zipper.
Take your zipper and unzip it a couple of inches. Turn the top edge under as shown in the photo below.Line up the top edge of the dress with the folded edge of the zipper:Pin through the dress and the zipper tape:Continue pinning all the way along the zipper opening. Unzip the zipper as you go. Once you reach the bottom of the zipper, zip it up! This will make sure that your edges meet, when you pin the right side of the zipper to the dress.
Starting back at the top, turn under the top edge of the other side of the zipper. Pin it to the top edge of the dress, making sure that the top edges line up. Pin all the way down the right side of the dress. Yay! We’re ready to start hand-sewing now.Thread a hand-sewing needle with thread, doubling it and tying a knot at the end.Now, start at the top of the zipper, looking at the inside of the dress. You’ll see the turned-under zipper tape. We’re going to tack that part down so it doesn’t stick out, before we go up and down the length of the zipper.
After the extra tape has been tacked down at the side, continue tacking along the top edge. Be careful not to catch any of the bodice front fabric in your tacking, just the facing!Ok, we finally get to start the actual hand-picking now! Poke your needle through to the right side of the dress, about 1/4″ down from the top edge, and 1/4″ in from the centre back opening.
Now, make a tiny, tiny backstitch in the zipper tape – this is also called a prickstitch! The backstitch part that shows should be super small, and the part where the needle comes back out through the fabric should be about 1/4″ away from the first hole.
And repeat! Continue making backstitches like above, or prickstitches if you like, spacing them about 1/4″ apart.This is what the inside of your zipper will look like – large stitches along the zipper tape. It’s normal! The outside is the tidy part.Keep handstitching all the way to the bottom of the zipper.
Once you reach the bottom, zip up the zipper a little ways. Make your last backstitch across the zipper, instead of continuing down. (This is hard to put into words, look at the photo below for a better explanation!)
Now, start working up the zipper, towards the top of the dress opening. I like to only zip up the zipper for an inch or two, so I can get my hand in there to hold the edges together.
This is how I’m holding the garment with my left hand. (I’m stitching with my right.) Sometimes I think it helps to see how people are actually holding their sewing projects, instead of just seeing the hands-free photos…Keep going, all the way back up to the top. I like the hand-picked zipper method because it’s easy to line up the seam! You can ease the fabric into the zipper as needed to really make sure the seamlines line up. Mine are only off by a fraction of an inch – once I press the zipper it should steam nicely into place.When you get close to the top, check how much fabric is left between where you’ve stitched and the top edge. Now is your chance to ease or stretch. Ease in any extra fabric by pushing just a touch of extra fabric into each backstitch, if there’s too much fabric compared to the zipper tape. Stretch the fabric just a tiny bit between each stitch if needed, if the zipper tape is longer than the fabric left.
(Does this make sense? You can’t unpin that top pin, or your top edges won’t line up! You have to make it work below the top edge.)Once you get to the top, poke the needle through all layers to the wrong side of the garment. We’re going to tack down the extra zipper tape again at this edge.
All tacked down. No floppy or escaping zipper tape on our dress, no way!All done! Give the opening a light press or steam and you’re ready to move on to the next step on your dress.
Here’s the lovely, tidy finished zipper:Here’s another quick peek at the inside stitching:
And here’s a full-length shot of the zipper:What do you think – would you ever try this? Do you already hand-pick some of your zippers? Did this tutorial scare you, or make it seem easy? I hope some of you who’ve never done zippers this way are encouraged to give it a try!