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Zippers on curved waistbands

bangie301 | Posted in General Discussion on

Does anyone have any tips  on reducing bulk on pants/skirts where zipper meets a faced waistband.(Zipper comes into waistband area at waist side seam)  I consider myself to be an advanced sewer but everytime I make such a pant/skirt it ends up looking very homemade and sometimes the zipper topstitching gets swervy at the intersection of seams. I’ve tried the seam grading with no luck. Also, where to tuck away the facings- on a lapped zipper application, the lapped side facing falls in the way of the zipper path.  Also, since the zipper is applied at the side seam on hip curvature the zipper doesn’t want to lay flat but waves a bit…Please help-I’m going crazy!


  1. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #1

    To reduce the bulk in hidden areas like seams in zippers, I snip the seam allowances and press them open underneath.  This gives a somewhat smoother and less bulky joint area for the zipper to be sewn over.  I will also use a clapper to pound the seam flatter before sewing the zipper in to make it less bulky.   Clappers are what tailors use on wools to reduce bulk in seam to make turning easier, and to make bulky edges flatter.  It is a wood tool you use like a hammer, over a press cloth with a bit of steam and heat.  It works well on most materials.  Just test a sample first to see how much pressure you need to use, and you do not actually hit it like a hammer.  You use gentle pressure or a tapping motion.  tee hee  Otherwise you leave marks on the fabric.

    My friends here on Gatherings insist that an invisible zipper is the best solution for the problem that you are having!  Then there is no topstitching at all.  And as the zipper is not as inflexible as a lapped insertion, it will not be as bulky and wavy either.  I have several pants and skirts with invisible zips, all in the side seam.  I like the look, and none wave.  As I have yet to finish my first invisible zip insertion (update coming soon), I cannot give you further details, however my research indicates that this is the route to take with a side seam. 

    When sewing the facing to the side of the zipper, you manipulate and pin the fabric gently back from the zipper path and sew it down by hand.  This means a slightly diagonal angle to the top of the edge of the facing before getting it to go straight down beside the zipper.  As long as it is neat and tidy, the job is done.  If you must have straight lines, then snip into the facing a bit, and then sew the edges down as you would a hand appliqued motif for a quilt.  This will give you a lovely inverted L shape, and a nice finish as well.   BTW  I do not like sewing in zips and have been putting off trying this zip all summer!  But I am almost at that point in my garment now and have to bite the bullet so I can get on with more fun stuff!   Cathy

  2. Josefly | | #2

    Good advice so far. You do know about using fusible interfacing in the seam allowances where you're installing a zipper into a curved seam? It makes for a flawless application - no waves. You can use a very lightweight interfacing, so as to decrease bulk, and cut the strip just a hair wider than the seam allowance is, so that the seam line is covered, say 3/4" for a 5/8" sa. It prevents that curved or angled line from stretching while you're sewing, thus preventing the waves. Trim the sa's joining the pants or skirt to the waistband before applying the interfacing. Then after the zipper is installed, clip the sa's as Cathy suggests.

    1. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #3

      Josefly, thanks for the stabilizing idea.  Never tried that.  I always just staystitched the curved edges.  Forgot to mention that also, must have been the late hour.  Thanks!  Will try that on some of my really "flighty" fabrics.   Cathy

      1. bangie301 | | #4

        Thanks everyone for the tips and pointers.  I was staying up very late trying to overcome  all those challenges but finally decided to ask for help, go to bed and see what you all came up with.  I've now got to decide if I want to tear it all out and start over again or not.....! I'm working with a heavy stable knit in black, thus you see where the bulk is coming from.  Will let you know who wins- the pants or me!

        1. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #5

          Hmm, do you live somewhere where the neighbours are close?  My advice at this point would be to open the back door, take a deep breath, then YELL as loud and as long as you can.  Then when you feel a lot better, take the zipper out, knowing that you have friends here who have been where you are.   tee hee.   Oh, and here is a hug to make you feel better in case the neighbours might phone the police....((()))   Cathy

          1. Josefly | | #6

            Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha...I can hardly type. This is the best sewing advice I've ever read. I wish my neighbors weren't so close. I've been told that another alternative is to get on the expressway in your car with the windows rolled up and scream your head off, but I'm not sure how safe this is.The seam allowance interfacing works well for any side seam zipper installation, whether the fabric is light or heavy. The fusible interfacing adds little bulk. It's practically impossible to install the zipper into the rounded hip seam without stretching it as you work with it and sew, since the seam above the hip is actually on a slight bias, which tends to stretch just with handling.bangie301, I think with your knit, even though it's stable, the interfacing is especially called for. (And I believe an invisible zipper would work even better with the knit.) Don't despair. Think of zipper removal as part of the zen of sewing. If you do remove it and start over, I would steam the area gently before applying interfacing, giving the fabric a chance to return to it's original shape. A lapped zipper application may need a wider strip of interfacing on the lapping side - I'm not sure of this, though. Anyone else?

          2. bangie301 | | #7

            Thanks for the suggestions What I actually ended up doing was undoing the lapped side only and interfacing it. The other side just had much too small stitching to undo and I did end up with snags on the lapped side -aargh! The interfacing helped quite a bit.

            For the facing, I just could not make it work right on the lapped side. So I took out a really old sewing book to seek out a solution. I found one! What I did was to flip the lapped part of the zipper (before it was topstitched down) back on top of itself and sewed the waistband across the width of the lap. I turned it right side out and I had a self facing of sorts for the zipper. The rest of the facing was sewn to the waistband and trimmed back a bit, flipped over and it now lays down just to the side of the zipper tape on the inside. Worked like a charm! Wish I could draw it for you- hope you can visualize what I did. 

            For the bulk at seam intersections, I just trimmed as much as I could and used lots of steam. This knit just didn't want to obey! Rather than lay down, it just sprung back up as soon as I lifted the iron!

            After all that I had to handstitch the inside waistband down. No stitch in the ditch here- too bulky.  I spent about 3 hours on all this - I didn't want to be a quitter-and now they are finally done. To tell you the truth, I don't care if I ever see these slacks again !!

          3. Josefly | | #8

            Oh, that's so frustrating, after all that work. You know, I think we've all had that happen - I've got things I've been so discouraged with and disappointed in that I couldn't make myself finish. Some people call these "wadders," a good name since mine are wadded up among my fabric scraps. At least you finished your slacks.It sounds like you found a good solution for the facing. Thanks for the description of what you did. Recently, with some synthetic fabric that wouldn't press flat, I found I got the best results if I steam-pressed, then put something heavy over the still-hot fabric - I think I used books, to hold it in place until it was absolutely cold, then moved on to the next part and repeated. Somehow, the cooling while being held down helped the fabric stay flat. After you've tried Threadkoe's (Cathy's) suggestion of screaming, maybe another attempt at pressing this way?

          4. Stillsewing | | #10

            My mother who was an absolute perfectionist when sewing and took her time with all her projects, always put completed garments at the back of her wardrobe when finished for some time and did not wear it until she had almost forgotten it!
            Nowadays I tend to do the same helps to forget the trauma of the ripper!

          5. bangie301 | | #11

            That's a great idea-maybe someday I'll like it again...

        2. sewfar | | #9

          Don't despair about taking the zipper out. I have been "unsewing" and generally undoing my work so much lately that I have gotten quite good at it. In fact I think I am actually getting a sense of satisfaction as it seems to be the only thing I am doing well lately. Maybe I'm doing too much sewing under tension...me not my machine's tension !!
          I agree with using an invisible zipper here. So much easier. There is no generic zipper foot to fit my machine and I do not like the machine well enough to invest one more penny in it and their foot. I have had good success using the buttonhole foot to put the invisible zipper in.

          1. bangie301 | | #12

            It wasn't so much the ripping out as it was that it was black knit that snagged easily (which it did) and was hard to see the stitches as they embedded into the fabric. Even from the zipper side it was quite challenging. But it's all over now as you'll read through the discussions. The pants are fine except the snags in the placket area( I didn't want to run out and buy an invisible) but I am still trying to get over  the ordeal. Lesson learned- don't work on dark fabrics in the wee hours of the night!

          2. sewfar | | #13

            Boy, do I know what you mean about the dark stitches. Someone told me that running a line of white chalk over the seam line would make it easier to see the stitches for removal. I wonder if the seam would have to be pressed open first to give an idea where to find the stitches in the first place!! You have the absolute best idea...only sew when wide awake. We are all so busy, I wonder when that would be ?

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