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Make a Clean Zip-Front Opening for an Unlined Garment

Make a closure that looks good from both sides
Threads #197, June/July 2018
A cleanly finished zipper maintains a single-layer jacket’s sharp look. Pattern: McCall’s 6441, out of print. Fabric: scuba/mesh, JoAnn Fabric and Craft stores.

Today’s single-layer garments are a challenge to sew with clean and bulk-free openings and edges. A zip-front opening on an unlined jacket or coat often leaves the zipper tape edge showing on the inside; it’s then visible when the garment is worn open. Try the following solution to create a neat and streamlined opening for an unlined or even a reversible jacket or coat.

Fabric choices

This zipper application is a great option for bulky fabrics and sweater knits, mesh and open weaves, as well as sheer and lace fabrics. Also consider using it for polar and sweatshirt fleece, ponte and scuba knits, and double-faced and boiled wool. Quilted fabrics are appropriate, too, especially for reversible garments. 

Specialty trims

Trims that work well are leather, decorative elastics, and commercial and handwoven ribbon and flat braid. I buy rolls of precut Ultrasuede and wool felt. When using a self-fabric fringe treatment elsewhere on the garment, consider using a fringed strip as trim along the zipper. You can also substitute a decorative or shaped facing, applied to the garment’s right side. The trim should be wider than the zipper tape; 5/8-inch-wide to 1-inch-wide works well, depending on the garment fabric’s bulk. 

Teeth and tape

Choose heavyweight separating zippers, jacket zippers, and decorative plastic, nylon, and metal zippers. Buy the zipper to match the center-front seam’s finished length. 

Closure and finish variations

Once you’ve mastered the zipper technique, you’ll find many ways to adapt it. Consider replacing the trim with a facing or engineering a reversible jacket to get double the wear.

Substitute a facing

In place of trim, you can install a decorative facing that turns to the garment right side. In this case, begin by finishing the facing’s outer edge as desired.


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