Friday, March 31, 2017

Spring 2017 Sew-Along: Seams and Zipper

Welcome to week 5 of the McCall's Spring 2017 Sew-Along! This week I'm covering steps 14 through 24, which is a lot of information, so grab a cuppa and lets get started.

Week 1 - Announcement
Week 2 - Inspiration Fabrics
Week 3 - Making a Muslin/Toile
Week 4 - Darts and Pockets

The first thing to note is that I'm making the overalls view with the tapered legs. I'm wanting a traditional denim look for these, so am adding topstitching to the leg sides as well as switching up the mock-fly to look less mock and more real. If you are making the pants version like my co-host Meg and only need directions for the lapped zipper, feel free to skip to the end where I'll show you those steps.

Pictures are left to right, top to bottom.

1. You should have your pockets completed from week 4. I did front and back pockets. The front ones I cut 1.5" longer, cropped the corners to mimic the back pockets, and extended them to the side seams. You can do yours any way you please, or leave them off completely.

2. I'm starting with the left leg where the zipper is. As I'm adding top-stitching to the legs, I'm sewing the outer seams first. (If you aren't planning to add the topstitching to this area, follow the directions and stitch your inner leg seams first. It's easier to do the crotch seam.) This picture shows the right sides pinned together starting at the dot for the zipper opening.

3. I don't like large seam allowances flopping around on the insides of my clothing so I always trim them off. If topstitching, you want to only trim about 1/4" off. I'll show you why later. Finish the seam but make sure you don't overlock all the way to the zipper opening - you won't be able to get your zipper in.

4. Press the seam towards the back. Here I have a nice, crisp edge. I'm ready to topstitch.

5. I'm using my triple stitch and a honey-brown thread for topstitching. I've set the stitch length on the longest setting, which is 4 mm on my machine. The trick to perfect topstitching is always having a straight edge for a guideline and taking your time. For the outer line, I've set my needle position on 5 and am lining up the left side of the presser foot with the side seam. It's a little less then 3/8" from the seam.

6. Now I'm keeping my needle position on 5 but am lining up the right side of the presser foot with the first set of stitches. This is the edge-stitching. I've found it easier for me to do the outer topstitching first and then the inner, but you can do it however you like. If you only want one line of topstitching that is fine too.

7. Make sure you don't topstitch right up to your zipper opening. Actually, I had to rip out about an inch of topstitching when I got to the zipper, so you really want to leave about 2", not the 1" I'm showing here.

8. Here is the completed leg. It looks good! Topstitching makes me happy.

9. Here on the inside you can see I've caught the edge of my seam allowance with the outer topstitching line. This is why I only trimmed 1/4" away on step 3.

10. Now stitch the inner leg seam, trim and overlock the edge. You can use a zig-zag stitch or serger if you prefer. I trimmed this seam a little narrower since it won't be getting any topstitching. Press this to the back too.

11. Here I have both of my legs finished and I'm ready to start on the crotch seam. Don't trim away the fly like the directions tell you to in step 8 if you want the fly look. Or trim them both away like Meg did on her pants because she wanted a more streamlined look.

12. This circle on the front is super important. You're going to need it marked on the front and the back of your fabric.

13. You're also going to need to draw a line from that front dot up to the top edge. This line is called "Center Front" on the pattern piece.

14. Now layer the legs together with the right sides facing in. I'm stitching from the front to the back so that the inside vertical seams lay flat as I stitch across them.

15. Starting at the center front line you drew on your pants, use a long stitch length and sew right on top of the line. You can faintly see it in this picture. When you get to the front circle, change your stitch length to normal, backstitch a few times to knot it, and continue on around to the back. That front bit is basting and will come out later.

16. Here's the finished crotch seam. Check the inner leg seams to make sure they line up with each other.

17. Open up both sides of your flies (flys? LOL) and iron flat.

18. Edge-stitch on the left fly from the top down to the front dot.

19. Here you can see what the inside looks like. You only want to topstitch on that one side and not catch the right fly in the stitching.

20. Bring the right sides of the flys together and pin. There's going to be a roll of fabric on the right side. Pin to the left fly as flat as you can.

21. Sew a line of stitching down the flys keeping the presser foot lined up with that roll of fabric using a regular stitch length and stopping even with the front circle.

22. Stitch the flys together with a 5/8" seam allowance and stop as close to the front circle as you can get.

23. Sew the crotch seam again about 1/4" away from the first one. This is for stability so the crotch doesn't split open.

24. Now trim it and finish the edges like you did in step 3. This will be topstitched too.

25. Press the fly and the crotch seam towards the left leg.

26. On the inside, using the line of stitched you made in step 22, sew a guideline just to one side of it. I used a bright yellow thread so it can be easily removed.

27. Yellow guide stitched visible on the outside.

28. Topstitch the curved fly using the guide stitches. Make sure to end right at the front circle and the edge stitching you did in step 18.

29. Topstitch the crotch seam below the fly and the front circle.

30. See this line of stitching you did at the center front in the longer stitch length? Remove it stopping at the front circle. The longer length stitches are easier to remove so I always use them for basting.

31. As you can see at the front, this really mimics a fly.

32. Now we're getting ready for installing the zipper. Cut a notch in the side seam on the front just below the zipper opening. Be careful not to cut the side seam or anything past it.

33. I've added a bit of fray check to that area so it won't give me a problem when it's laundered.

34. I chose to do an invisible zipper for my closure. A lapped zipper is fine but it wasn't going to work in an area that needs topstitching. I'm not going to go into too many details for installing an invisible zipper. There are plenty of tutorials available for that. This picture is to show you the number one tip for getting an invisible zipper in correctly is ironing it flat from the wrong side.

35. I've pinned my zipper in place 5/8" away from the edge and am ready to stitch. Make sure you're using an invisible zipper foot and that you stitch right next to the zipper teeth.

36. I always leave the top of my zipper free. This really helps when you stitch it into a facing or a waistband and cuts down on bulk considerably.

37. Stitch the other side, close it and iron flat.

38. I stitched across the end, cut the extra off with pinking shears, and fray checked the bottom. Cut the extra fabric even with the zipper sides.

39. Overlock the fabric and the zipper at the same time.

40. Topstitching is a little tricky. Open up the zipper and press the zipper feet flat on the back side. When you topstitch from the front it needs to be as flat as possible.

41. Topstitch down the front as far as you can with the zipper open. Keeping the needle down, lift the presser foot, slid the zipper closed, and continue topstitching until you meet the topstitching on the leg.

42. I had to use a zipper foot for the inner line of topstitching. This I had to eyeball since there's really no guide point to use. Perhaps your zipper foot is different and you can line it up with something.

43. Give it a good, steamy pressing.

44. DONE!

Lapped Zipper

I'm using my muslin to demonstrate this type of closure.
1. Finish the edges and press the back seam allowance in 3/8".

2. Pin the zipper in, stopping about 3/4" from the top.

3. With the zipper closed and a zipper foot installed, edge-stitch along the edge. A few inches from the bottom you'll need to open the zipper to finish as it won't go over the zipper pull neatly. 

4. This is what that side looks like when finished. Obviously you'll want to use a matching zipper and thread. 

5. Press under 5/8" seam allowance on the front.

6. Close the zipper and pin the fold line over the first edge-stitching.

7. Stitch with a zipper foot and line it up with the edge of your fabric for a neat line.

8. Pivot your stitches at the end to make a nice 90 degree turn to the side seam.

WHEW!!! I'm pretty sure that's my longest post ever. Hopefully this information is clear. Ask any questions you may have and I will do my best to answer them.

Don't forget to join the Facebook Group! This is especially useful if you have fitting questions as Meg can get help from the McCall's team. 



  1. Your top stitching is perfection! What weight is your denim and what make and model is your machine? I have an old Bernina Record 830 that is almost 40 years old. I love it but it can't handle more than 7 oz denim. I have to use my new Janome for top stitching and it doesn't do great at the seam intersections. Thanks!

    1. Well, this has been in my stash for years and years so I'm not really sure what weight it is. I have a Brother NX-450. It's a pretty good machine with a few quirks. I don't love the button hole setting or the eyelet it makes, and it skips stitches on really thick fabrics. But it was a HUGE improvement over the cheap starter machine I sewed with for years so in comparison, this one is a gem. I'm not a machine fanatic though. It would have to completely break down for me to even look at a new one.

  2. THANK YOU so much for these very clear explanations! Extending the pockets to the side seams is a great idea. I'm impressed by your great topstiching skills, your overalls looks perfect

  3. Thank you for your hard work & excellent details & pictures! You are a meticulous sewer & deserve to get lots of recognition! Fantastic work!!!!

    1. Thank you Rosalind! I appreciate your kind words.