Saturday, 1 October 2011

Zippers and Welt Pockets

As I mentioned in my Blue Denim Miss Chalmers Skirt post here I used a couple of techniques that turned out brilliantly for me.  I thought I would chat about them a bit more here so that I can link everything up to my Techniques page.


First up the zipper/facings method.  Here's what I wrote in my last post about this and if you scroll down there's a picture of my test piece.

"I used this method from Kathleen Fansella's Fashion Incubator site to attach the ordinary zipper to the skirt and facings.  As I have mentioned before I have never been happy with my zips.  I have always wondered what I'm doing wrong.  I decided to do Kathleen's tutorial and downloaded her small pattern pieces for the test.   My test came out brilliantly.  I now realise what I was doing wrong.  I have been folding back the zip wrong before stitching the top edge.   Kathleen's facing pieces are slightly smaller than the main pattern pieces at the shoulder.  You sew the zip to the main pattern piece at the centre back and then sew the facing on at the centre back.  You then fold back the zip towards the facing but pulling out the facing piece so it now lines up with the shoulder.  You then sew the top edge.  Another revelation is that the centre back edge above the zip should overhang the edge below the zip.  The stitching line below the zip is not supposed to meet the stitching line above the zip.  In future I will adapt my centre back pattern pieces to do this."

My test:

Zipper Test

I meant to take a photo of the back as well but forgot!  There's not much to say except I really love how neat it is.  I'm loathe to rip the zipper out and spoil it!  In fact my test came out better than the actual denim skirt.  That's probably because the denim was thick and so unwieldy to fold back and sew.   I also love this fabric and the combination with the red zip!  I don't know what fabric it is but it is lovely and soft.  I just wish I had enough of it to make a skirt or dress.   I don't remember buying the red zip.  I have no red fabric so I'm not sure why I bought it!

Update: Thanks to one of my readers I've been alerted to this tutorial on Pattern Review.  It's basically the same as Kathleen's method but uses an invisible zipper.  It also shows how you can "over hang" the lining / facing when sewing it to the zipper to get very much the same result as Kathleen's method but without having to cut the facings / lining out smaller. Check it out - there are photos on the Pattern Review tutorial but you need to click on them.  Check out the comments to this post for more information. 

Update: 29/12/13 - Here is another link to a step by step tutorial using this method. It uses a facing but the same principles apply to lining.  Read my post here about how I finish off the the lining into a triangular shape so it lays flap against the bottom of the zipper tape. 

Welt Pocket

Next up the welt pocket.   Here's wrote I wrote about this in my last post.  If you scroll down there are some pictures of my test piece and the final pockets.  

"I made up one practice pocket on the muslin and was so pleased that it looked good.  I was on a bit of a pocket roll and decided to add a welt pocket at the back.  The back of the skirt has no gathers and apart from the waistband is a bit bland.  I thought the welt pocket would add interest.   This was with some trepidation given my last experience with welt pockets on my Forever Skirt.   I made a test using the same method as last time, where you cut out a separate welt strip, sew that on first and then add the pocket pieces.  My test did not come out brilliantly because the welt strip came out too big for the gap in the skirt.  I did not want to ruin my skirt in this way but was sold on the idea of welt pockets.  I then looked at the tutorial on Burdastyle by the member wzrdreams.  There is something wrong with the Burda site at the moment so this link is to my Forever Skirt on Burdastyle where I have linked wzrdreams' welt pocket tutorial.  This tutorial uses the same strip of fabric to make the welt and the pocket.  I followed through the tutorial on another test and it worked perfectly.  

I have used quite a heavyweight denim and so it is quite bulky having the pocket pieces all in the same fabric (but not bulky enough to make it a problem).  I'm sure the tutorial can be adapted to have the pocket bag area in a slightly lighter fabric, such as batiste or even lining material.   Instead of having one piece of same fabric for the welt and bag, you can work out how much shell fabric you will need for the exposed welt plus seam allowance and then cut out this and then attach the remaining lining sections.   I may try this in future.    I am also pretty sure the same tutorial and principles can be used to make a more vertical welt pocket for the front of the garment. Something I may also try in the future.  Having found this method I would not want to go back to the other method of sewing the strip separately."

Here are my test pieces and pictures of the final pocket:

Test Welt Pocket - Front View

Test Welt Pocket - Back View

Final Skirt - Front View

Final Skirt - Back View
Again there's nothing very much to add.  As I mentioned this method uses one piece of fabric which is effectively folded in a particular way to make the pocket.  In my test piece I did a double layer of topstitching all around the welt.  In the final version I did a single layer.  The topstitching was fiddly to do on the machine.  I couldn't get into all the corners and so had to join them by hand.  I was going to put a double layer of topstitching along the bottom of the pocket and join it up at the ends but was nervous about going any further and ruining it!

I had visions of my seam binding looking really neat and proudly showing off pictures.  As I mentioned in my last post it was difficult to sew it around where there were 4 layers.  As you can see it hasn't attached around the pocket area!   I debated whether to show this picture as it doesn't look great but I decided to show it.  This is a warts and all blog (sometimes).  

Other news - we are finally having some great weather here.  It has been the hottest end of September here in the UK since 1895 and more weather records are set to be broken today, on the first day of October.  I am wearing my Blue Polka Dot Crescent Skirt with my Velour T-shirt as I write and we are making plans to go to the beach today!  

I bought this book on Monday:

New Sewing Book

I now have several sewing books that I very rarely read.   What I decided to do with this one is leave it in work and read it at lunchtimes.   The book is very well written.  There are two sections, the first is a history of haute couture, what it is etc and the second section focuses on the sewing techniques.  I'm being good and reading the book from the beginning instead of just heading straight for the sewing bits.    I think it's nice to read around your hobby a bit. I've surprised myself by finding the background and history to haute couture a fascinating read.  I've picked up on some design ideas that are interesting and may develop further.   I don't know if I could be one of the "premiere mains" in a couture house (I think that's the expression - the book's at work so I can't check - the head sewist).   There seems to be way too much hand sewing involved in haute couture for my liking.   I presently fall into the "why sew by hand if you can sew by machine" category but you never know I may be won over by the end of the book.  

We had glorious weather last week as well and I found this great place to read my book near work.  It's a little children's playing area with benches practically in the middle of Norwich but with no-one around!  Here it is:

Place to read on sunny days
The red tape - I haven't stepped into a crime scene - it was cordoning off the children's climbing frame as it was under repair.  

Finally I opened the lounge door today and next door's cat peered in.  He's so cute.   The step is quite high so when I walked into the room all I could see was his face and eyes looking up at me.   I grabbed my camera and took these photos of him:


Dante looking cute

Happy sewing and enjoy the sunny weather.  


  1. Katy, you have no idea how your explanation of KF's technique helped me understand it better. I've read it many times but didn't get it.. That was pre-zipper era. ;) Now I know the basics of applying zippers and your explanation made perfect sense.

    It also helped clarify how Belinda on PR get same smaller facing by letting it overhang... I have read her method time and again but didn't really figure out the overhang part until now. I guess she keeps the facing / pattern piece exactly the same size but shifts the facing such that it overhangs... then cuts of the extra SA.... and now the facing has been made smaller!! :)

    Thanks again for the wonderful gist of KF's technique. IT clarified a lot for me.

    1. I'm glad the explanation is helpful. When I have light bulb moments like these I always try to explain them in detail. I don't always take pictures but even with pictures I think a detailed explanation is necessary as this sort of thing cannot always be understood from photos alone.

      Thanks for linking Belinda's explanation - yes she seems to do it the same. I did her overhang thing on my Burda slip dress ( see my post here She did 1.5 cm overhang though I think ( look at her photo) - I didn't do that much. You're right - overhang is easy to understand once you know but if you don't I think more explanation of overhang is necessary so as to not leave people wondering.

    2. Geek that I am I have looked into that 1.5 cm overhang thing a bit more. I've looked at Nancy Zieman's technique (I have her A-Z technique book) and she indeed trims of 1.5 cm from the centre of the facing (lining if you're using lining). She then stitches the facing to the zipper with a 6mm seam allowance. To complete the picture her zipper teeth lined up to a 1.5 cm marking on the outer garment (so the stitching line for the outer zipper is a couple of mm in from that). All this produces the nice lip covering the zipper when it's turned through to the right side. I haven't thought about measurements much before but I might do a tester with these measurements.

      So Belinda's 1.5 cm measurement accords with Nancy's so I think I can be a bit bolder with the amount of overhang in future!

    3. Right. Just looked at the seam allowances on Kathleen's method to see how it compares. She explains her seam allowances used here (where she explains how you can adapt a commercial sewing pattern to do the test)

      She uses 1/2 inch seam allowance on the centre back edges and 1/4 inch at the neckline. She removes all seam allowances from the centre back of the facing.

      The removal of the seam allowance from the centre back of the facing suggests that her method is similar to Nancy and Belinda's. Slight differential in the seam allowance used when attaching the facing to the zipper though - Nancy 6 mm and Kathleen 1/2 inch - few mm difference. May be worth testing both to see how they turn out as it's hard to visualise without actually doing it.

  2. Oooooohhhh!! Thanks for the more geeky stuff! I love it..

    I did read your Burda slip zipper method yesterday night as well...That's what made sense about the overhang... but when I looked again, I couldn't figure out where I read it. Thanks for pointing me to the Burda slip post..

    Instead of altering your facing (or lining) pieces to make them smaller I just place my facing (or lining) piece slightly beyond the end of the zipper tape (and beyond the edge of the bodice piece) by about 5 mm and then stitch it to the zipper tape.

    This was my big lightbulb moment - aha! that's why Belinda did the overhang thing... So far I've been thinking that she increased the facing 1.5 cm beyond seam line and it didn't make sense at all...

    Thanks so much, again, Katy! I am so thrilled to finally figure this stuff out!!

    1. Great! Thanks as well for alerting me to Belinda's tutorial and the 1.5 cm overhang. I can't wait for my next zip to test this out!