Discover How to Finish Garments Like a Pro When You Handpick a Lapped Zipper

A lapped zipper is a splendid way to finish off a garment. It uses a regular zipper, and discreetly hides it from view with a flap that covers the zipper tape. When done by hand with a prick stitch, it’s almost impossible to see from the outside. It’s a lovely finish that you’ll often see on vintage garments.

handpicked lapped zipper

Photo via Rosie Wednesday.

Prepare the seam

First, we’ll do a few steps to get the seam ready to be sewn.

Step 1:

Finish your seams as you normally would. Here, I’ve serged the edges. You’ll also notice that I’ve done everything else needed to prepare the back, including stay stitching and sewing the darts.

finishing seams lapped zipper

Step 2:

Stabilize the seam. Here I’m using a 1/4″ fusible web bonding, but a regular interfacing will also work. If you’ve ever finished a zipper, only to discover that you’ve got one end longer than the other, then this step will become your best friend. It helps to reinforce the seam and prevent stretching that happens when you’re installing the zipper.
stabilize seam lapped zipper

Step 3:

Sew the seam up to the end of where the zipper will be. Make sure to back stitch at the edges.

sew seam for zipper

Create the lap

Step 4:

Next, we’ll be pressing the overlap and underlap. The overlap is the flap that will cover the zipper. The underlap goes right up against the zipper teeth.

In a center back application, as I’m doing here, the overlap is typically on the left side, although it doesn’t really matter. If you’re inserting your zipper on a side seam, you’ll want to make sure that the overlap goes from front to back, so your topstitched/handpicked side is on your front and you don’t see a peek of the zipper from your front.

For the underlap side, press under 1/2″. You can stitch this on the machine as you normally would a zipper. It won’t be visible (see step 5 below). For the overlap side, which is the side that will cover the zipper, press at 5/8″.

zipper press seam allowance

Stitch the underlap

Step 5:

For the underlap, position the folded edge directly next to the zipper teeth. You can stitch this by position, or by using the prick stitch we’ll review in a minute. You won’t be able to see this from the outside

Prick stitch the overlap

Step 6:

For the overlap, which is the part you’ll be able to see on the outside of the garment, we’ll be using the prick stitch. You might have also heard this referred to as a “pick stitch.” It’s essentially a variation on a back stitch that creates tiny stitches on the outside, and longer ones on the inside of your garment.

Position the zipper so it’s completely covered by the overlap. This stitch will secure the zipper in place, so make sure you’re catching your fabric and the zipper tape as you go.

Start by pulling your thread to the outside of the garment. Your stitches should be 1/2″ away from the fold. Then place your needle behind that spot, taking a small bite of fabric. Push the needle through, positioning it for the next stitch about 1/4″ away. Then repeat! Once you get to the end of the zipper, pivot to form a “L” at the bottom of the zipper.

For more detail on how to do this stitch, see “How to Hand Sew: The Prick Stitch.”

pick stitch lapped zipper

That’s all there is to it! Here’s the back of the dress, with the handpicked lapped zipper installed.

finished handpicked lapped zipper

You can hardly even see that it’s there! It’s marvelous!

This is just one of the many ways you could choose to install a zipper into a garment, and it’s one of my favorites.

Do you have a favorite way to install a zipper?

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