Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Zip It Good

My first pass at the CPH Zipper Experiment was a big, fat FAIL. Not because the process is difficult, because it really isn't, but because I'm an idiot. As they say, "Measure twice, sew once." Okay, I know that's not the actual saying. But it should be.

In summary, I thought I wanted the zipper to be 21". So I bought a 22" (they come in standard 20" or 22" lengths, naturally) clipped off the extra polyester teeth, pinned, basted, sewed the sucker in, tried it on, found it was choking me like a bad horror movie a bit too high, clipped off more polyester teeth, sewed it in again, didn't like how the top-sans-zipper-stop looked, thought for a moment, measured again...and discovered the length I'd now trimmed it to was exactly 20". *sigh* Ripping out a machine-sewn seam in fabric buh-lows. Ripping out a machine-sewn seam in your knitting really, really buh-lows. It ain't easy being anal. *sigh again*

Luckily, take two was much more successful! There are a few tutorials floating around the Internets on how to sew a zipper into a knitted sweater, but since several of you requested it, here's a step-by-step on how I did it:

What you'll need:
- Zipper (duh)
- Straight pins
- Needle and contrasting thread for basting
- Sewing machine
- Ball-point needle (I used a size 16)
- Zipper foot (Note for SJ: A zipper foot allows you to sew the zipper in close to the teeth, which a regular presser foot doesn't allow you to do.)


Step 1: Make sure you have the proper length zipper :P, and that it separates at the bottom. Test it out a few times, make sure it works and that it slides up and down easily. Wash and dry the zipper and the sweater in the same manner you will care for the finished item.

TIP: If you go with a zipper that has polyester/plastic teeth, make it easy on yourself and use a standard length or get one customized. Clipping off extra teeth and the top zipper stop can be done, but it just looks like a big hot mess IMO. If you go with a metal zipper, I've read you can easily remove the extra teeth and re-position the top zipper stop with pliers.

Step 2: Your zipper will have this bit of extra tape at the top:
Zipper Tutorial 01
You can go ahead and sew that in as is, but I decided to tuck it away, so it would look a little neater.

First, with the back side of the zipper facing you (heeheeheebackside), fold the top down so that it's perpendicular to the rest of the zipper. There should be something along the lines of a 45-degree angle up one side. Hand sew up that angled side. (This doesn't need to look pretty (obviously), no one's really going to see it.)
Zipper Tutorial 02

Next, fold the top down. Hand sew along the side edge.
Zipper Tutorial 03

Next, see that little flag sticking out? Fold that in, and hand sew along the inside edge. Get out your thimble, as it will be a little tough to get through the plastic covering the edge.
Zipper Tutorial 04
Do you have a flag? Not anymore!

Here's how it looks on the front side, once it's finished:
Zipper Tutorial 05
Now the extra tape is tucked neatly out of the way, but won't interfere with the zipper teeth.

Step 3: Pin that sucker in like there's no tomorrow. Ever see Zombieland? Rule #2 - the Double Tap. This is not the time to be stingy with your stick pins. Make sure it's pinned in well, and that the placement matches up on both sides.
Zipper Tutorial 06

With a 2x2 rib, it was easy to match up the fronts - I pinned one side, then lined up the knits and purls to pin the other.
Zipper Tutorial 07
Note: Some tutorials recommend basting the fronts together first. I chose not to do this as: a) I didn't want the border band sitting directly above the zipper (snag nightmare!), and b) I wanted to see where I was pinning the zipper in to get the right placement.


Step 4: Try it on and zip it up. Make sure it's the length you want and that the zipper slides up and down easily without getting caught on anything. Then go take some Advil, because leaning over and pinning all that crap in will give you a monster neckache.

Step 5: Using a contrasting thread and fairly long stitches, baste the zipper in, going down the center(ish) of the zipper tape. Once it's basted in, remove the pins.

Note: Your basting doesn't need to be perfect, you're going to rip it out later anyway. Your primary goal here is to overthrow the planet...ooops, sorry, wrong tutorial...um, to secure the zipper so you can remove the pins.

Here's how mine looked from the front:
Zipper Tutorial 08

And the back:
Zipper Tutorial 09

And the top:
Zipper Tutorial 10

Step 6: Try it on and zip it up. Again, make sure it's the length you want and that the zipper slides up and down easily without getting caught on anything. Because it's a helluva, HELLUVA lot easier to take out a basting stitch than a sewn-in seam. Ask me how I know this. Actually, don't. It's too soon.

Step 7: Insert the ball-point needle and zipper foot onto your sewing machine and move the needle position to the far right.
Zipper Tutorial 11

Place the right front side of the sweater under the zipper foot (the zipper should be on top of the feed dogs, as it will slide more easily over them than the knitting would). Sew the zipper in slowly, going from top to bottom. Since this is a worsted weight sweater, I used a fairly long straight stitch, set at 7.
Zipper Tutorial 12
Tip: My sweater was a little too thick to backstitch, so I just loosened the presser foot setting to "Darning" at the beginning and end and sewed in place for a few stitches to lock it in.

Repeat on the left front side.


Note: I moved the needle position to the far left and sewed this side in from top to bottom as well. It was kind of a pain with the bulk of the sweater sitting on the right, but my sewing machine has a tendency to push the top fabric forward more than the bottom fabric, even with the presser foot at the lowest setting. By sewing both sides in from the top down, I figured any fabric creep would at least be at the bottom edge, where it wouldn't be as noticeable. However, if your sewing machine is less than 35 years old, you could probably go ahead and sew the left front side in from bottom to top. :P

Step 8: Carefully remove the basting thread. Some of it may be caught under the machine stitches, so go slowly and don't rush this last part!

Once the basting is removed, hand sew along the top and side edge at the top of the zipper and the side edge at the bottom of the zipper for about half an inch, using either a running stitch or whipstitch.

Here's how my finished zipper looked from the back:
Zipper Tutorial 13

The top front (see how nice it looks with the tape tucked in? Aren't you glad you didn't skip that step? ;)):
Zipper Tutorial 14

And voila, the front!
Zipper Tutorial 15

Step 9: Try it on, jump up and down, and squeal for joy! See, it wasn't that difficult. In fact, it was pretty damn easy! I am SO happy with how this turned out. Totally worth re-doing after the initial fail!

It's been in the mid- to upper 70s the last couple of weeks (boooo!), but the forecast calls for 68 degrees on Thursday, so hopefully, I can show you the whole sweater soon! :)

13 Comments:

Blogger JelliDonut said...

Fantastic! Thanks so much. I'll need this shortly and I have a feeling you've saved me a lot of grief.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Bezzie said...

I skipped basting all together. Maybe next time (if there ever is one!)

So do we get fo shots of CPK w/zipper now?

2:56 AM  
Blogger turtlegirl76 said...

Thank you for the tutorial! Maybe someday I'll give this a shot. I do like me a zipped up cardi.

Question - why can't you just trim that top tape off?

4:31 AM  
Blogger SJ said...

Awesome, thanks for all the step-by-step and clarifications! I still don't have any idea what I'm doing on a sewing machine except for sewing up a simple hem or something, so a lot of this is still foreign to me, but at least I get what the weird-looking attachment does now!

5:47 AM  
Blogger knottygnome said...

congrats on your success. i'm impressed that you used the machine. the one time i inserted a zipper i did it by hand. it actually wasn't that annoying and i felt i had more control to prevent stretching and so on.

6:23 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

I'm so glad to see this tutorial, because one of these days, I'll finally finish my CPH, and I want to put a zipper in, too!

8:59 AM  
Blogger chemgrrl said...

You are a brave lady. That is all.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Brenda said...

Congratulations! I hope you had a nice cocktail after getting that done.
Looking forward to seeing the whole sweater.

Thanks for the tutorial! I've read a lot of people who insist that zippers in handknitting have to be sown in by hand, and I just don't see that being durable enough.

10:13 AM  
Blogger Jacey said...

Hmmm, maybe my almost finished CPH needs a zipper instead of buttons. Awesome job, Weez.

And also, I heart zombieland. It's one of my favorite movies ever.

10:27 AM  
Blogger AfternoonMoon said...

Gorgeous, thank you for such a detailed explanation. And gorgeously descriptive pictures.

Are you planning on blog linking that on Ravelry? I really think this is going to help many, many people.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Zonda said...

Woot! You did well! Thanks for the tips too! It looks fabulous...now of course we wanna see something other then the zippah! ;)

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Jeanne said...

Great tutorial - and I hope I never need it!

5:08 AM  
Blogger Batty said...

It did come out great, and thank you for the tutorial. I can't sew to save my life, but might be able to do this...

4:08 AM  

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