Hand picking a zip is a satisfying, well controlled and yes, even fun way to put a zip into your next project. It actually takes less time than you would imagine and because you have so much control, it is sooooooo easy to match patterns, waist seams etc. Try it on your next project or make a small sample like I did to practice. I’ve used horrendously unmatching thread and organza simply so that you can see the technique better…but you’d use matching stuff, or not!
I learned this technique from Susan Khalje’s couture dress course – which is fabulous and if you haven’t taken it yet…what are you waiting for???!!
I always start by reinforcing the zipper seam by hand basting in a small strip of on-grain silk organza (you can use fusible interfacing too, but I like the organza for its strength). Baste it right along the stitching line and a few cm beyond where your zipper will stop. The zip in the picture is simply placed there so you can see that the organza strips go a bit beyond the zipper bottom. This is because I like how the organza reinforces that point where the centre back seam stops.
Sew the centre back seam up to the point where your zipper stops.
Give the centre back seam and your zipper opening a light press…now you’re ready to start hand sewing!
Begin the zip a couple cm below the top of the back neck so that you can put a hook and eye at the top. Fold over the zipper tape at the top and pin it to your fabric so that the top of the tape arcs back a bit from the seam. This is to compensate for the bulk of the zipper pull and make sure that you don’t see it.
Continue pinning down the zipper so that the edge of the fold just covers the opposite side of the zipper teeth. The folds don’t meet in the middle exactly…they actually form a ‘dome’ (more on this later). This is to compensate for the slight pulling on the zipper when you wear the garment. When you pull on the zipper slightly horizontally, the folds will lie flat and you won’t see the zipper…clever!
To strengthen the thread, run it though a brick of bees wax and then under warm iron to melt the bees wax.
Now, with one side pinned, we pick/prick stitch. For info on the pick/prick stitch see here. This is essentially (as Susan Khalje put it) a baby back stitch. First, I make a couple small stitches in place at the top – this makes sure this area, that takes some stress, stays put.
Continue to pick stitch all the way down the length of the zip
Finish stitching a few stitches past the zip stop point.
Now, make a few back stitches and cut your thread. Now we’re going back up. This is a bit trickier because in order to gain access to your stitching, you need to pin a bit and stitch a bit. I usually put a couple pins in, undo the zipper till that point and then stitch a bit. Take out the pins and pin a bit more etc. Now is where you build in your ‘dome’. This takes experience, but as I said before you don’t want the two folds to be touching exactly, you want them to form a dome so that your folds lie flat when you wear the garment
Keep going till just before you reach the top. Undo the zip and stitch the top just like you did the opposite side. Fold the zipper tape under and make sure it arcs back a bit. Again, how much depends on your fabric and just comes with experience. You can baste some possibilities in and see how it works before you commit with pick stitches! Pick stitch in place and end with a few stitches in place to secure things and cut your thread.
There, that wasn’t so hard was it? :D
Have you tried hand picked zips? Do you want to?
Relax and Enjoy,