Hand-picked Zippers

Three Options for Hand-picked Zippers

One of the things I absolutely love is to hand-pick a zipper however I’ve not had many opportunities to use this technique.  That changed with the recent surge in sewing wedding garments and now I think I’ll use this method in other garments, even pants.

Since there are great tutorials on the web and specifically because most point pack to Susan Khalje, there’s really not much for me to add.   If you’re interested, Threads Magazine‘s article by SK describes the technique beautifully and the title says it all: “A hand-picked zipper is worth the effort”.

Now for my three samples:

1. Side zipper

The first is the side zipper in Megan’s wedding dress.  Because I was nervous about the zipper breaking on the day of the wedding, I decided to use 2 rows of stitching on each side of the centered zipper and a double strand of waxed silk thread.   Two rows of stitching wouldn’t have prevented the zipper from splitting but it made me feel better. Maybe I put in a second row because hand sewing is so calming that I couldn’t stop sewing?  In the end the two rows of stitching afforded a nicely finished appearance.

Side zipper with 2 rows of hand stitching (not pressed)
Up close

2. Replacing a Machine-sewn Zipper

The second was on Deb’s wedding dress.  The dress was beautifully constructed except the lapped zipper stood out straight and completely exposed the teeth of the zipper.  As a part of the alterations, she asked if I could do anything to make it look better.  With the yards of fabric in a finished gown, I couldn’t imagine putting the dress on my little sewing machine table.  Besides, as you can see in the photo below, there was some beading which needed to be removed for machine sewing.

My first attempt at hand sewing didn’t look good – even with a double strand of thick silk thread, the stitches sunk into the fabric and looked like snags or fabric flaws.  That’s when I decided to use small pearls.  Unlike Susan Khalje’s tutorial, I stitched the pearl as a part of the back-stitch.  I think SK adds the pearls in a second round of stitching.

Deb loved it this small change to an already beautiful gown.

Machine sewn zipper replaced with pearls and hand picks

3. A hand-picked invisible zipper?

The third one was in the dress I wore for Shaun and Deb’s wedding. The fabric had some distressing in it and the dress bodice was ruched. A machine sewn zipper wasn’t in the cards anyway. The problem was that I planned to use an invisible zipper and that’s all I had on hand. So I improvised and hand-picked the invisible zipper.  Instead of stitching 3/8″ from the edge, I sewed about 1/8″ from the center edge, again using a double strand of waxed silk thread.  It worked very well and I’d definitely try this again.

Hand-stitched Invisible zipper

If you haven’t tried this technique, give it a try.  It’s much easier than a machine sewn zipper and less frustrating than pulling out the stitches if you didn’t get the zipper in straight.  This is way easier than you think.