Fitting a centred dress zip like a pro

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Before I begin, a lot of the sewing demos available on the internet show an experienced seamstress using a sophisticated (and obviously expensive) machine. In this zip installation demo, I have deliberately used a basic Singer Serenade machine that I bought for €70 from Lidl, about 4 years ago. The zipper foot I am using is the one that came with the machine. The zip is an 8″ YKK nylon dress zip.

With the introduction of invisible zips for dress fastenings, the centred zip has fallen out of favour somewhat. However, it is still useful in shorter lengths for skirts and trousers, and for cushions, bags and craft work.

So, here we go … (all photos can be enlarged by clicking on them)

Centred zip application

First, sew your seam as indicated on your sewing pattern. Open out the seam allowances and press them flat – both the sewn and unsewn parts. (Pressing the seam allowance of the unsewn portion of the seam will give you a visible guide for the next step.)

Machine-baste seam
Machine-baste the zip opening on the seamline, using a long stitch

If you have a facing already attached, open it out. Now, pin the two edges of the unsewn opening together and machine-baste along the seam line, using your longest stitch and a slightly looser needle thread tension. Do not backstitch to secure the basting. Ideally, you want to be able to pull the threads out intact, before you start to sew the zip. Press the seam allowances flat.






Centre zip teeth over seamline
Carefully centre the zipper teeth over the seamline and pin in place.

Carefully place the zip face down, with the teeth directly centred over the basted seamline. Thread a needle and hand-baste (or ‘tack’) the zip in place, stitching just inside or just outside the guideline (if your zip has one), or in a straight line, about 1/4″ from the zipper teeth. You will need to manipulate the zip during sewing, so make sure you secure the ends of your hand-basting, so it cannot come undone. Now your zip is securely in place, you can remove that row of machine-basting.


Hand-baste zip in place
YKK zips all feature a helpful guideline. If your zip has one, use it to ensure a straight row of basting.







Mark the bottom of the zip
Mark the zip’s bottom stop with a pin to avoid sewing over the hard bar and damaging the needle.






Next, you’ll need to attach your zipper foot. If it’s like mine, you’ll find you can put it on so that the needle passes either to the left or the right of the foot. We’re going to sew from the bottom of the zip to the top, twice, so it wouldn’t normally matter which side you mount the foot first. For the purposes of this demo, I’ll be sewing the right side of the zip first, so I’ve attached the foot with the needle to the left.

Make sure to change the machine stitch length and tension back to normal settings. On the right side (outside) of your work, mark the bottom stop with a pin, so you can see where the zip ends – and to avoid bending or breaking your needle on the hard plastic bar!



Pivot 90 degrees to sew right-hand side of zip.
Pivot 90 degrees to sew right-hand side of zip, using basting as a guide.


First, you’re going to stitch across the bottom of the zip. Position the needle just above the pin, about 1/4″ the far side of the seam. Stitch across the zip and stop about 1/4″ away on your side. Lower the needle until it pierces the fabric, then lift the presser foot and pivot the fabric 90 degrees counter-clockwise, so the top of the zip is pointing towards you.






Lift foot to move slider
About 2″ from top, lift the foot and pull the slider clear to maintain straight row of stitching.

Assuming your hand-basting is straight and in line with the zip guideline, start stitching a fraction inside (or outside) it. About 2″ (5cm) from the top of the zip, stop. Lower the needle through the fabric again and lift the presser foot. Now pull the zip slider down past the machine foot. *Tip: if you didn’t have a guideline on your zip, it’s possible that your zipper foot is 1/4″ wide. Mine is. If you place the back edge of your zipper foot in line with the folded seam edge, you can use it as a guide. Otherwise, you could use a piece of low-tack adhesive tape as a guide and peel it off when you’re done.

Lower the presser foot again and continue stitching to the top of the zip. Backstitch a few stitches to secure the threads and change the position of the zipper foot, so that the needle is now on the right of the foot.

Change the foot positon
Change the foot position relative to the needle, to sew the left side of the zip.


Re-position your work, so that you can stitch across the bottom of the zip, directly over your original row of stitching, but in the opposite direction. Start 1/4″ the far side of the zip and stop about 1/4″ away on your side. Now, lower the needle through the fabric and lift the foot. Pivot the fabric 90 degrees clockwise and sew the left-hand side of the zip, sewing close to your line of basting and remembering to stop a couple of inches from the top to pull down the slider.




Finished zip from outside
The stitching of your finished zip should be equidistant from the seamline.



Backstitch to secure the threads at the top of the zip, remove all your basting and give the zip a press.
And you’re done!

Finished zip from inside
Here you can see the stitching relative to the guideline.











Stay tuned for my invisible zip demo.


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