Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Zippers: a Field Guide

Ah, the Zipper. It is a wonderful invention, and makes life oh so much easier. From skirts to coats to purses, it is simply an amazing convenience. And yet there are those who curse its name. Why, do you ask? Is it those times when the metal teeth bite at the knuckles? Is it the errant jeans zipper that refuses to remain up? No, it's not that.

The Zipper is maligned because it can be difficult to coax this contraption into a garment without loosing one's mind. I have wrestled with this dilema, and come out on top. There are just a few simple things to remember when tackling a zipper insertion.

Use a zipper foot. It should be adjustable so that you can sew on either the right or left side without having to flip the garment around. Some are skinny, some are T-Shaped. If yours annoys you, find one that you like. No sense in trying to befriend something that aggravates.

Follow the seam allowance recommendations. There are times to be footloose and fancy free, this isn't one of them. Too little allowance and your jeans look like a Rolling Stone album cover. Too much and you end up playing Where's my Zipper Pull when all you want is to pay the check and get back to work before you're late.

When possible, follow the instructions. Read them all before you begin, out loud. You don't want any surprises. If you are working without instructions, dig around for a pattern that has a similar zipper placement and use those. This might just be for me, but I am a very visual learner and this is no time for heroics.

If you find a technique that you love, staplegun it to the wall. You can always cover those holes with paint when you move and the landlord will never know. If you find a technique that you hate, cross it out with a big black marker so that you never go down that path again. *okay, those last two tips apply to all sewing instructions. Especially pockets.

Make sure your zipper is being placed on the straight of grain. This will help prevent that awful puckering that screams Look At ME! I'm wonky! No one wants a wavy zipper. If your fabric is lightweight, consider using some interfacing. If you are putting in an invisible zipper, buy the plastic zipper foot sold by the manufacturer. This will save you hours of aggravation.

First make a sampler. Then, remember to put the zipper in before you sew the rest of the seam. I know it sounds odd, but if you don't, you will end up with an odd little bubble below your zipper. And that kinda kills the point of an Invisible Zipper, doesn't it? *Invisible zippers are almost always sewn on a curved seam. They get to be the exception to the straight of grain rule.*

And in the end, if you find that no amount of coaxing gets that darn Zipper into place, take a deep breath. Get some ugly fabric and play with different methods. You'll find one that works for you.

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