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Elisalex Dress Sewalong #7: Zippers, hems & finishing touches

Hellooo! And hoping you all had a wonderfully long Easter weekend, filled with chocolate, beer and cheer (but too much that you'll be having to let out the side seams of your dresses...)!

We had really hoped for at least one whole hour of sunshine to get some decent photos of our finished Elisalex Dresses on an actual body, however the weather here in London Town has progressively gone from bad to worse since the bank holiday. Snowing in April? Really??? One day guys, we'll have a seriously profesh workspace, complete with photography studio and in house haberdashery... Until then, we remain restricted by the current apocalyptic climate, so apologies for the dark and gloomy images in this here post. As soon as the sun comes out, we'll be back with more photos of Elisalex in her Elisalex's, for your viewing pleasure!

*If you've just joined us, you can find all the Elisalex Dress Sewalong posts here, and buy your Elisalex Dress sewing pattern here!*

In this final post we will be:

  • Inserting zippers, both standard and invisible
  • Hemming our skirts
  • Finishing off the raw edges left in the lining


The Elisalex Dress pattern calls for a 30" standard zipper. This is the exposed kind that will be visible down the centre back of your dress. We wanted to make a subtle feature of the zipper and so have recommended a zipper that runs the full length of the dress, from back neckline to hem, which if you go for the kind of zipper that opens all the way, you'll have a dress that can literally be peeled off you from behind... um anyway! You could of course opt for an invisible zipper instead (16" is ideal), which we have done for our blue short sleeved, tulip skirted variation:

elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

You can find our definitive tutorial on invisible zip insertion here.

For our red sleeveless Reversalex however, we've gone for the recommended 30" standard exposed zipper (this one is reversible too! A must if you're making your Elisalex Dress reversible - see this post for more info and where to buy reversible zippers). And it's an absolute doddle to put in:

  • Open and separate the two tapes of your zipper, right side facing you.
  • Lay your dress flat, right side out, so you can see the open centre back.
  • Take the tape on the right, flip it over to the wrong side and place it along the left centre back opening.
  • Pin into place, with the top of the zipper either perfectly aligned with the top of the back neckline, or just a couple of millimetres below to leave space for a hook & eye.

elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

  • Stitch into place from the hem up using a zipper foot.

elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

  • Repeat on the other side, flipping over the remaining tape to the wrong side to be pinned down the right hand side of the centre back opening. Stitch from the top down, making sure your zipper meets at the waistline.
  • Trim any excess tape at the top, and sew in a hook and eye to close the gap at the top (if needed - we didn't have to this time - anything to avoid sewing in those pesky hooks & eyes!!).

elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london


How you hem your skirt tends to be a very personal choice, and one which will depend also on the fabric you're using and whether or not you've chosen to make your dress reversible.

The quickest option is to hem by machine:

  • Press the hem in by 1/4", and then press in again by 1/2", or however much or little in order to achieve your desired length.
  • Stitch into place by machine using either a standard straight stitch or one of the fancy decorative stitches on your machine like we did. Make sure you test out any fancy stitches on a piece of scrap fabric first!

elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

If you don't want your hem to be visible from the right side, then you'll want to finish off your hem by hand:

  • Press the hem in by 1/4", and then press in again by 1/2", or however much or little in order to achieve your desired length.
  • Thread up a hand sewing needle with a length of thread. A 'catchstitch' works especially well when hemming this dress. Working from left to right, and on the inside of the dress, pick up a teeny thread from the fabric just above the folded in hem. Next pick up a few threads from the fold of the hem, moving diagonally down to the right of your first stitch, followed by another teeny stitch from just the fabric just above the fold to the right, and so on.
  • This hand sewing technique will hold up your hem whilst allowing some flexibility, and best of all - it's invisible from the right side!

For a super special hem, try finishing it off with bias binding or tape. Ensuring you have a hem that is passable for the right side on both sides is of utmost importance if you're making the Modular Reversalex:

  • Take a length of bias binding, Petersham ribbon, decorative tape or lace etc and pin it, right side facing you, to the right side of your hemline. Stitch into place.
  • Fold and press back to the wrong side and topstitch. This technique is shown in more clarity with pictures in this post where we were hemming our Charlotte Skirts!

From the "right side" you'll have a perfectly stitched hem, and from the "wrong side" you'll have a pretty added detail at the hemline!

elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

Finishing touches:

All that's left to do now is neatening off the raw edges in your lining.

If you've made the sleeveless variation, you'll have the easiest task - simply press in and pin the raw edges at the waistline and continue up the centre back openings, perfectly ensconcing the zipper between the shell and lining. Seal this flawlessly by hand with a blind slipstitch as shown in this post.

If you have also lined the skirt, for example, if you're making a straight up Reversalex, the you won't have to blind stitch the lining at the waistline as you will have attached this to the skirt lining's waistline. Instead, press in and stitch the seam allowance all down the open centre back, hiding the zipper tape between your two layers.

elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

*A word about finishing the exposed zip on Modular Reversalex's*

Unlike the regular Reversalex, who's entire zipper is hidden between the shell and lining at both bodice and skirt, the Mod Reversalex will have the wrong side of the zipper visible down the length of the skirt when turned inside out. We think this looks absolutely fine, as long as you secure the edges of the zipper tape down - you can do this either by blind stitching the edges of the tape down to the skirt, or you can machine topstitch down each side of the zip - this will work especially well if you've already topstitched the neckline as it will then allow the topstitching to flow naturally from the back neckline and down the centre back.

I sincerely hope all this is making sense - I think I may have frazzled my brain slightly keeping up with all these different variations and Reversalex's and Mods...! Any queries, just hit us up in the comments below!


Back to finishing the dress with sleeves:

If you've gone for one of the sleeved variations, you'll need to press in and blind stitch the raw edges at the waistline and centre back as above, and also at the armholes.

This is a little bit tricky, but made easier if you can do it on a mannequin. Snip the curves at the armhole of the lining as this will make it easier to fold it in. Press in the seam allowance and pin into place, hiding the armhole seam of the dress' shell. Stitch into place by hand with a blind slipstitch.

elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

Ummm... All done guys! Another Sewalong done and dusted. Once again, we've loved every minute and have come away with two new favourite dresses! Now if only the sun would get his damn hat on so we can go out to play...

elisalex dress sewalong - by hand london

*Join the party! More than anything, we LOVE seeing how you made it! We've already been blown away by so many of your smokin' hot Elisalex's, but we want more! Share your pictures on our Facebook pagetweet and Instagram us @byhandlondon using the hashtag #elisalexsewalong, upload to our Flickr pool and pin to our Elisalex Sewalong community board (leave us your Pinterest username in the comments below so we can add you) so we can include you and your Elisalex Dress to our big round-up next week!*

Comments on this post (6)

  • Aug 14, 2014

    Hello, I’m not too sure how to do the hem considering I’m using a 30" zipper?
    Help pls!

    — Fatima

  • Feb 19, 2014

    Hi, thanks for the great tutorial, but I can’t find any instructions anywhere on how to finish the top part of the zipper when you have no lining and no waistband.

    Please help.

    — Lyn

  • Apr 08, 2013

    All done! You should receive your invite via email. Can’t wait to see your dress!

    — byhandlondon

  • Apr 11, 2013

    Great!! What’s your Pinterest username so we can add you? x

    — byhandlondon

  • Apr 08, 2013

    Hi ladies,
    I’m all done with my Elisalex and excited to share. Could you add me to the Elisalex Sewalong Community Board? My Pinterest username is siobhan4285.

    — Siobhan

  • Apr 11, 2013

    I’ve also finished an Elisalex dress and would love to share it with you via the sewalong community board. Could you please add me to this group too?
    Thank you!

    — Gabrielle

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