Sammy’s Top Tips : Zips

Right, it is that time that I am sure some of you have been waiting for, today I am going to be revealing our top tips about those pesky fasteners that lots of people are a little scared of… Zips. Warning its going to be a long post so go and get a cuppa and we will get stuck in.

What kinds of zips are there?
Nylon Dress/Skirt are the most commonly used. Don’t be put off using these in soft furnishings (cushion covers) and craft projects though, it simply refers to the weight of the teeth. They are light weight and durable with metal runners and usually come in a wide selection of colours. They have a metal or nylon stopper at the bottom.

Concealed or Invisible zips are used predominantly in clothing for their hidden appearance, or rather lack there of, Light weight and inserted (usually with a specialist foot) so that the opening simply appears to be another seam. With a narrow light weight coil to the inside of the garment, a dainty metal runner and droplet tag they are perfect for evening wear. If used on very light weight fabrics like chiffon they do have a tendency to get fabric caught in the runners and given their delicate nature, can split if put under too much strain.

Open Ended zips are a section all to them selves as there are a few different types, You can have them in different weights (light weight to chunky to metal) and teeth in different materials, but the one thing they all do is split completely in half. Imagine the front of your hoodie or rain jacket, the zip has a metal or plastic slot on one side where you place the end of the other side before pulling the runner up. This slot enables the teeth to level up before joining together and for the zip to come apart.

Metal zips are the most hard-wearing of zips and come in short lengths for jeans and work-wear and longer open ended versions for waxed jackets and heavier garments.

Decorative or exposed zips are a relatively new idea, usually the tape that hold the runners is printed or edged in some way and designed to be shown on the outside of the project or garment, rather than being hidden n the inside.

There are of course lots more variations, but these are the main ones that you will come across.

How do you choose the right zip for your project?

It can be confusing when you are faced with a wall of zips at your local haberdashery, or pages of choice online but most of the time you can find the information you need in your pattern. If not there are some simple ways to decide which type of zip would be best for your project.

  • Measure your project before you go to buy your zip. They can be cut down to size, but you don’t want to buy on that is too short. 
  • Think about the weight of fabric you are using and choose the weight of zip accordingly.
  • Do you want the zip to be hidden or on show as a feature? if you are nervous about making a neat job, pick a decorative zip to take attention away from wobbly seams.

Do you need a special foot on your sewing machine?
You don’t NEED a special foot, but it does help when sewing in zips using your sewing machine to have a zip foot or a concealed zip foot. The zip foot shifts from side to side to enable you to get as close to the zip teeth as possible. Whilst the invisible zip foot helps to ease open the gap under the teeth where the stitching will go and be hidden from view.

Do you have to sew them in with your sewing machine?
Not at all, if you are nervous or unsure of sewing something tricky with your machine, you can stitch in your zip by hand. Some times it is easier, when replacing broken zips, to sew it in by hand.

My pattern said to put it in this way, but I would rather do it differently, is that Okay?
Sometimes the person who has designed the pattern has given the style of zip for a aesthetic reason, for instance a side zip on a pair of trousers without a waist band will most likely ask for a concealed zip, in order to keep the look of the hip and waist area as smooth as possible. In this case it is up to you, have the choice to change it to a regular one if you feel the look is not so important to you i.e. if you will always wear them with a top that covers the zip. However occasionally the zip is chosen for a practical reason, for instance strapless bodices will often call for an open ended zip in order to be able to get in and out of the garment whilst getting a super fitted finish. In this case it would not be a good idea to alter what the designer has requested.

My Top Tips:

  • Take your time. Don’t rush putting in a zip, and don’t do it when you are tired, it’ never going to end well.
  • Tack it first. If you can tack it in by hand first, it will give you a guide and help to stop it from moving round as you stitch.
  • Use quality product. As we always say with haberdashery, you get what you pay for, use the best supplies you can afford. 
  • Use existing garments as a guide. If you are unsure of how it is meant t look, or if it is the right place, check on a piece you already own to give you a clue. 
  • Practice makes perfect. If you see some cheap zips at a car boot or charity shop, pick them up and use them to practice, particularly using your zipper foot, or invisible zipper foot on your machine, with out the pressure of completing a project.
I hope that has cleared up some of your questions and maybe given you a little more confidence when thinking about tackling zips in the future. If you have any questions that I haven’t answered in this ask me in the comments and I will do my best to answer them. 
 
Sammy xxx

Sammy’s Top Sewing Tips Vol. 2

I’m back with a second round of sewing tips for you today, these are quite a mixed bag but they are all things that I tell our customers all the time, so I’m sure at least a few will be helpful for you too.

Zips: Not sure about which size zip you need, don’t panic Zips can be cut to size. If you buy one that is too long, as long as you stitch across the ends to stop the runner from coming off you can cut off the excess to make it the right length for your project.

Patterns: Make your patterns last longer by tracing them off onto greaseproof paper rather than cutting out from your pattern sheet. It means you never cut anything important away and if you need to make adjustments you don’t spoil your original pattern papers.

Pattern Sizing: The big brand patterns, Simplicity, McCall’s etc, often work from fashion sizing measurements, not retail sizing measurements. You will often need to make up your patterns in a larger size than you would buy in the shops. If in doubt always check the body and garment measurements on each pattern and make to the size it recommends for your stats.

Fabrics: Always wash your fabric before you start a new project, even if you aren’t using cotton fabric (which can shrink when washed) or the project you have in mind won’t be washed afterwards, it is still worth giving it a rinse and an iron before you start to get rid of any dust or creases.

Tools: Invest in a small ruler, it is helpful to have a small measuring tool to hand so you don’t always have to reach for your tape measure.

Storage: Rather than a pretty but not totally functional sewing basket for all your machine parts and sewing notions, why not invest in a toolbox or vanity case. The mix of large and small compartments are perfect for keeping all those little bits and bobs in order.

Button Holes: Pop a pin at the end of your buttonhole to stop cutting too far and ruining your buttonhole.

Machine Stitching: Always check your machine top and bottom tension before you start to sew. If you have a machine with a removable case dangle it with the bobbin inside, if it shakes down slowly its perfect, if it falls it’s too loose and if it doesn’t move it’s too tight.

Seams: Always press your seams as you go, you will never regret it later.

Seating: Make sure your sewing machine chair is at a good height for your machine and is comfortable. But do make sure you get up and take breaks every so often, so you don’t get too stiff.

Equipment: Always try and buy the best equipment you can afford. Cheap haberdashery is usually cheap for a reason. This is most important when referring to thread. The time it takes to make a garment to have the seams pop the first time you wear it is not worth the saving!

That’s it for this round, but if you have any questions feel free to add them in the comments!

Sammy x

Sammy’s Top Sewing Tips Vol.1

I have gathered together some of my favourite sewing tips for you today, I love learning new sewing tips and tricks, they can make the time sat at your machine or rumageing through your stash so much more relaxing and enjoyable. Some may be obvious or seem like common sense and others are true light bulb moments, but whichever they are for you I hope you enjoy them and put them to use in your own creative pursuits.

Threads:

  • If you’re not sure which colour to use on a jazzy fabric try and stick to the most dominant colour or the colour of the background. If there isn’t an obvious choice go for the darkest colour, it will always show less that a lighter thread.
  • The same theory applies when trying to match a thread colour in general, if you can’t find a perfect match go a shade darker as it will show less.
  • Threads will always look darker on the reel than off it as a single strand. Guttermann threads have a little magic trick to help, their bottoms are loose so you can twist them to free the thread loose to check it against your fabric.

Machine needles:

  • Most brands of machine needles will fit any domestic sewing machine. When you are looking at needles their sizes (ie. 90/14 or 80/12) refers to the thickness of the needle and therefore which fabric they should be used on. The lower the number the finer the needle and the finer the fabric you will sew with that needle. 
  • There are different needles for different types of fabrics too. Jeans needles are especially for working with Denim and densely woven fabrics, Ballpoint needles can be used for jersey fabrics, but also for silk. Stretch needles are for use with Lycra or swimwear fabrics and quilting needles are designed to go through lots of layers at once. Try and stick to using the right needle for the right job. 
  • We advise that you mark up your needles so you know which are which when they are out of their packets. I use nail polish, but you can use coloured sharpies. The sizes are written on the needles but it is so tiny it can be hard to read. 
  • If you have put a specialist needle in,  remove it when you have finished the job and put it back in the packet so you don’t forget which needle is in your machine. 

Tricky fabrics:

  • If you are sewing with waxed fabric or pvc, leatherette or anything sticky you will need a Teflon foot to get a smooth stitch. Not go one of those? Dive into a drawer and use some trusty Scotch magic tape (the one that is slightly misty) to cover the bottom of your normal foot. It is a great alternative until you can get a hold of the real thing. 
  • Sewing jersey or anything stretchy or slippery? Sandwich your fabric with tissue paper to get an even stitch. Or use scraps of interfacing which you can then remove by tearing away when you have finished.
  • Tack, tack, tack. It may seem laborious but it will be worth it in the end.
Patterns:
  • Taken your measurements but still unsure which size to cut out from your pattern sheet? Take a garment similar to the one you want to make that you like the fit of and lay it over the pattern pieces. This will give you a good idea of whether you are on the right track with sizing.
  • If you are working with tricky chiffon or jersey fabrics try cutting out your pattern with a rotary cutter and mat. It stops the fabric from moving around as much as when you use scissors. 

Scissors:

  • Always keep your best scissors for cutting only fabric, cutting paper (even pattern tissue) will blunt them faster. Also avoid using them on beaded or sequin fabrics unless you remove the embellishments from your seam edges first. Avoid wired edge ribbon too.
  • Don’t waste your money on cheap scissors, especially pinking shears. Generally speaking you get what you pay for with scissors. A good pair, well looked after should last you a lifetime. 

Thats it for this round, but I would love to know any of  your top tips for sewing. Is there anything else you need or want to know more about? let us know in the comments and check out some of our other tips and quick guide posts by searching ‘tips’ in the search bar. 

Sammy x