The Donna Skirt: Lapped Zipper Application in a bias side seam-Part 1

This topic will span 3 postings. I’ve added lots of photos so you can see how the zipper installation went as the process progressed. The zipper is sewn into the left hand side seam of a half circle skirt cut with the straight grain at center front. The side seams fall on the bias.

I used a nylon coil zipper and a double strand of thread to hand sew the zipper in.

I had to do things differently for this lapped zipper application because the side seams of The Donna Skirt fall on the bias.

When working on the bias there are special considerations to keep in mind. They may require extra time but the reward is there at the end of the process.

1. The bias has a lot of stretch. The fabric must be handled with care. Extra care is needed to prevent distortion of the seams and details of the garment.

2. Stay observant and make any adjustments as your garment construction is underway. A bias cut garment or one with a seam on the bias is almost like a living being–one that makes several demands that must be met if the overall effect of the design is to be preserved.

3. A lapped zipper can usually be done with a closed seam. I chose to open the seam half-way through the process because it made it easier to do the stitching.

4. I’m using a 6 ounce cotton denim. The fabric is not too heavy and has the right amount of body to hold the flares of the half-circle skirt nicely.

5. Seams that fall on the bias often do not need elaborate finishings. The raveling will be minimal in many cases. To avoid stretching the seam out of shape, use a pinking shear or hand finish if you want. The finish will depend on your fashion fabric.

I used a combination of some techniques from “The Vogue Sewing Book” and “Couture Sewing Techniques” by Claire Shaeffer.

What I’m offering here is less of a tutorial than an explanation of how I handled the quirky things that happened as I put the zipper in.

Working on the bias is always different because each fabric is different. The one goal I had in mind and that drove all my decisions was to have the zipper remain flat in the seam without any gaping or distortion caused by the bias stretch.

1. Have several colored threads ready to use for basting. I marked the back piece of the skirt B to distinguish it from the front which I marked F. The half-circle skirt uses the same pattern piece for front and back. This photo is of the front.

2. To minimize stretch I stabilized the side seams using poly organza cut on the selvedge. The length of the strip was sewn from waist to hipline using a small running stitch inside the seam allowance.

3. Close-up of strip used to stabilize the seam.

4. View from the right side of the fabric. The stitching line is traced with pink thread.

5. The back skirt side seam will have the stitching line traced in pink thread from the wrong side. Thenm Tailor’s Chalk was used to mark 1/8 – 1/4″ in from the stitching line. I used the pink thread again to thread trace the chalked in line. Next, but not shown, a strip of organza selvedge was hand stitched in place as was done for the front.

6. View from the right side of the fabric.

7. Baste the side seam from the hipline down to the end of the seam. Claire Shaeffer recommends using Lap Basting when sewing a seam on the bias. It permits the fabric to be handled easily without pulling caused by tension that occurs when just one line of continuous basting is used.

To lap baste, I used Tailor’s Chalk to mark lines every 6″ along the inside of the seam. Then at the end of every 6″ line I measured back 2″. The basting stitches run for 6″ using one length of thread. Begin with a knot for the first line of stitches. When the 6″ mark is reached, leave a 1 1/2-2″ tail on the thread and then cut.

Begin a new line of basting stitches 2″ back and leave a 1 1/2 – 2″ tail on that as well. Stitch until the 6″ mark is reached and then repeat. At the very end back stitch loosely and cut leaving the tail at the end.

8. The lap basting made a definite difference in the way the seam was sewn. I had no pulling or distortion. Removing the basting stitches was very easy.

9. Remove the basting and trim the seam. Note: I used a 3/4″ seam allowance to allow for any possible fraying that might occur. I was very glad that the denim was fraying only a little bit. I think using the pinking shears was alright since the fabric is firm and the pinking will not show on the outside.

10. I used brown paper strips under each seam before steam pressing open. I had to clip the seam right below the hip line to get it to lie flat.

Next: Sewing the zipper into the skirt.