A lapped zipper gives a tailored look. Only one line of stitching shows on the right side of the fabric. It’s easier to keep the stitching straight and to make sure the zipper teeth are completely covered. We prefer the lapped zipper for side openings and sometimes back openings.

1. Increase the zipper seam allowance to 1″, before cutting out your clothing. For example, if the pattern allows a 5/8″ seam allowance, add 3/8″ to the seam in the zipper area.

2. Mark the 1″ seamline at the top of the zipper opening on both the left and right seam allowances. These markings are very important.

3. Stitch the seam below the zipper opening, stopping at the dot that marks the zipper opening and its wider seam allowance. Lock your stitches at the dot by sewing in place several times with the machine’s stitch length set at 0.

4. Press the seam.

  • Press the seam open below the zipper opening.
  • On the left side, fold and press under the entire 1″ seam allowance in the zipper area. Use the marking and the lower end of the zipper opening to position the foldline.

  • On the right side, press under 7/8″ of the 1″ seam allowance to create the zipper underlay. The finished zipper laps left over right.

5. Insert the zipper.

  • Position the closed zipper under the zipper underlay, with right sides up, placing the bottom of the zipper at the base of the zipper opening. Place the underlay fold next to the right side of the zipper teeth. Make certain the zipper tab extends above the top of the clothing. With short zippers, you shouldn’t have to pin the zipper—you can merely finger pin (hold the zipper in place) and stitch.
Pins sometimes create dimples in the fabric, causing uneven stitching. Instead of pins, use strips of Sewer’s Fix-It Tape or transparent tape about 4” apart to position the lap. This 1/2″ wide tape keeps the edge perfectly flat and results in more even topstitching. When you’re finished, you can easily remove the tape, leaving no sticky residue.
  • Position the machine’s zipper foot to the left of the needle. Stitch next to the fold, from the bottom to the top.
  • Lap the left side of the clothing over its right side, matching the markings. Tape the overlap in place.

6. Topstitch the overlap.

  • Align a strip of 1/2″ wide Sewer’s Fix-It Tape or transparent tape along the folded edge of the lapped seam allowance. This provides an accurate stitching guide.
  • Slide the zipper foot to the right of the needle.
  • Beginning at the base of the zipper, topstitch along the bottom edge of the tape and up the side.

  • Remove the tape.

7. Complete the zipper insertion.

  • Move the zipper pull down into the completed zipper placket.
  • Attach the regular (zigzag) presser foot to your machine.
  • Satin stitch or bartack over the ends of the zipper tape at the top of the zipper reinforcement.
Nancy Zieman's Absolute Easiest Way to Sew A Lapped Zipper | Sewing With Nancy | How To Sew A Zipper
  • Cut off the excess zipper tape.

For more information on this technique and my other absolute easiest ways to sew, check out my book and DVD, The Absolute Easiest Way to Sew at Nancy’s Notions. See a collection of blog posts featuring my absolute easiest ways to sew a variety of projects on this link.

Watch Absolute Easiest Way to Sew (Part One, Part Two, and Part Three) on Sewing With Nancy online.

For a chance to win a copy of Nancy’s book and DVD, The Absolute Easiest Way to Sew from Nancy’s Notions, tell us where you would like to use Nancy’s lapped zipper technique.

The randomly selected winner of two tickets to Quilt Expo, and four fat quarters is Pat H.

Quilt Expo Each September in Madison Wisconsin

Her comment is: I have enjoyed Quilt Expo for five years now and think this project deserves our support. It is a tribute to Nancy that this work continues.


Happy Sewing,

Team Nancy Zieman

Nancy Zieman Productions, LLC.

Nancy Zieman Productions, LLC

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