The above photo is from my next book, Beautiful Knits for Beautiful Sticks, which will be available to pre-order from the 12th September. The pattern is Elegantia, a jumper that has a braided empire waist shaping and zip fastening.
I have always been a little afraid of inserting zips into my knitwear, and yet I love wearing knitwear with zips. This has made me determined to find an easy way to add zips to my knits. I have looked at several techniques and this is the one I used to insert the above zip and was very easy.
You will need:
- Cutting mat (or any mat that is flat and will not be damaged by pins)
- Four blocking wires
- Sewing needle and thread
- And of course, the zip
The first magical step is to block the knitwear. This makes sure that all edges are lying flat and have been pinned out to the correct size. If the zip is inserted before blocking, there is a risk that the zip will not lie flat after being sewn in.
Starting with the first side, the blocking wires are threaded through the knitwear. Elegantia has a two-stitch garter border edge for the zip attachment. The first blocking wire is inserted in the gap between the first (closest to the edge) garter stitch and the second garter stitch. Try to not push the wire through the yarn threads, but between the stitches. I weave the blocking wire in and out every 3-4 stitches.
The second blocking wire is inserted the same way but 3 stitches further in or the width of the zipper tape. When inserting the wires, try to keep the wire between the same column of stitches.
The blocking wires help hold the knitting flat whilst the zip in sewn in.
Then repeat the same process for the other side.
Next, put the cutting mat inside the jumper and line up one edge of the zip along the edge of the garment. The zipper teeth should be just visible, but not the zipper tape.
Pin the zipper tape to the garment between the two blocking wires all the way along. The cutting mat helps ensure the pins do not pin the tape to the other side of the garment.
Using the sewing needle and thread and on the wrong side, do a running stitch along the zipper tape. I found it easiest to sew along the teeth edge of the zipper tape first starting at the bottom of the zipper, and then back down along the edge of the zipper tape. Fold the top of the zipper tape over and sew into place just under the cast-off edge of the garment.
Try to make sure the needle comes up between two columns of stitches each time and then back down a row or two above so that when finished the sewing thread will disappear between the columns of stitches and not be visible.
Do not remove the blocking wires yet!
The back of the work looks like this after the first side:
Now repeat the same process for the other side. Put the cutting mat back into the garment, align the zip and pin the second side of the zip (with the zipper closed) to the other edge of the garment.
Sew the second side of the zip the same way as the first side.
The zipper should now be in place. For garments that need a coat-style zip (one which opens completely), you should now be done.
Elegantia uses a dress-style zipper that remains closed at the bottom end. If the zip is longer than the zip opening this will leave some zip hanging below. Usually these types of zips have a metal clasp at the bottom that stops the zip going down any further. My mum taught me to recreate these little metal clasps by sewing over and over the zip teeth with the needle and sewing thread. The excess zip can then be cut off.
And there you have it, an easy zip insertion. After learning this technique I am not going to be frightened of adding more zips to my knits.