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Anna Dress Sewalong #6: Zipper & finishing touches

This is it guys - the final post in the Anna Dress Sewalong! We're pretty damn pleased with our new Annas and we've already started seeing a flurry of beauteous dresses made by you, so we can't wait to make a start on putting together our round-up party post!

*Today we will be...

  • Inserting the invisible zipper
  • Showing you a quick fix for a gaping back neckline
  • Closing up the back seam
  • Hemming - showing three different techniques
  • Finishing touches and full linings

*To be taken to all the posts in the Anna Dress Sewalong, please click here*

Let's get straight down to business - the invisible zipper. Let us reassure the nervous among you, inserting zippers is actually very easy and straightforward once you've done it a few times (promise!).

Before you begin, you’ll need to change the foot on your machine to the invisible zipper foot. The invisible zipper foot is unique in that it has two grooves along either side of where the needle goes up and down and in an out of the fabric. These grooves, or tunnels, are what we need to feed the zipper teeth through in order to get our stitching as close to the teeth and as straight as possible.


If you are using an overlocker/serger to finish your seams, it’s a good idea to apply that to your open back seam now, as overlocking  a seam once the zipper has been inserted is a nightmare. Just make sure you don’t trim away any excess as you go as this will mess around with your 5/8” or 15mm seam allowance for your zipper and back seam.


Open the zipper as far as it will go, lay it face down and press the teeth away from the tape. Do this on a low heat, as the zippers are largely plastic after all and have been known to melt.

Place the right side of your zipper facing down and the right side of your fabric facing you. Then, place the right-hand side of the tape down the left-hand opening of your dress and pin into place. Bear in mind that zipper tape is not 5/8” or 15mm wide, so you will have to come a little further in from the raw edge in order to achieve the right amount of seam allowance. Double check this with a measuring tape if you’re unsure.


Starting from the top, position the raised teeth in the left hand tunnel of the foot, so that you are stitching to the right of the teeth.


Stitch until the foot meets the zipper pull (which should still be all the way down).


Gently press the fabric to reveal the side you have just stitched. Halfway there!


Now in order to be sure that the waistlines meet perfectly either side of the zipper, zip up your zipper and place a pin on the unstitched side of the zipper tape to mark the waistline.


Unzip your zipper and flip it over so it is lying face down onto the right-hand side open centre back of your dress, right sides together. Just as you did before, position and pin the loose zipper tape in place down the right-hand edge of your dress, starting with the pin you used to mark the waistline.


Position the teeth in the right hand tunnel of your zipper foot and stitch down the length of the zip.


Close the zipper and gently press. Done!


* Got a gaping back neckline? Well, here's a quick fix

A slightly gaping back neckline is very common, especially with kimono sleeve styles, which are by nature pretty loose fitting. If you have narrow shoulders or a small back, this could cause excessive gaping, in which case you’ll want to get rid of some excess fabric for a better fit. At the beginning of the sewalong we talked about various ways to alter your paper pattern to better fit your body and we linked to this awesome post over at Ginger Makes in which Sonja showed us how she fixed her gaping neckline. If you didn’t do this at the start, or only have a minor amount of gaping to correct, this cheater’s quick fix will help.

*Ahem* This may not be quite the “right” way, but at By Hand Studios we are quite partial to a quick fix, so long as it does the job...


When inserting your invisible zipper, instead of maintaining 5/8” or 15mm seam allowance throughout the centre back seam, simply move the top of the zipper further in than normal – here we’ve gone in about an inch and a half and then evenly come back to the usual 5/8” as we get down to the waistline.


Then just continue pinning your zipper as normal and stitch into place. Remember to repeat this process for the other side.

* Closing your back seam

To close the back seam, we need to swap to your regular zipper foot:


With right sides together pin the remainder of the back seam.


Start your line of stitching as close as possible to where the stitching finished on your zip, and continue to the hem. It may not align perfectly at first, and will certainly be a bit fiddly as the bulk of the zipper gets in the way – so don’t worry!


Once you've done that, your dress, inside out, should now be looking a little something like this:


If you’ve fully lined your dress, you’ll also need to close the back seam of the lining. Simply stitch the centre back with right sides together from the double notch (which should be level with the end of the zipper on the shell) down to the hem and press open. Then fold in and pin the remainder of the lining’s centre back seam to the inside of the zipper tape, ready to be handstitched when we get to the finishing touches.


* Hemming – three techniques

Seeing as we’re making three very different Anna Dresses for this sewalong, we thought we’d apply an appropriate hemming technique to each one and thereby take you through some alternative hemming options.

1. Basic machine stitched hem

 We’ve used a basic machine stitched hem on our orange silk noil mini Anna. This hem needs to be secure and hard wearing as this will primarily be a day dress (in which Elisalex will no doubt be running around after her little boy!). Plus, with 3/4 length sleeves hemmed by machine, a machine stitched hem will not look out of place.

Simply turn in and press the hem by about 1/2" or 12mm, and then press in again by 1/2" or 12mm (or by however much in order to achieve your desired length). NB Always try your dress on before you hem!


Now using a straight stitch, stitch into place.


2. Tape hem

For Charlotte’s maxi spotty fully lined extravaganza, we’ve gone for a pretty tape hem. This technique makes for a beautiful finish, both inside and out, without the need for hand stitching. See our full tape hem tutorial here (just scroll down a little).


3. Rolled hem

 Victoria’s dress is our pièce de résistance for this sewalong – emerald green silk charmeuse, maxi skirt with thigh high split. This dream of a dress deserved the perfect treatment throughout, and the hem was no exception. Rather than blind stitch by hand, we wanted to keep as much length as possible and add a little extra shwing to the hem. The rolled hem does exactly that – a teeny tiny hem with an ever so gently fluted finish. See our rolled hem tutorial here.



* Finishing touches

Just the last little bits now! All that remains to be done now is to secure down the neckline facing (or bodice lining).

Fold in the loose facing at centre back and pin to the inside of the zipper tape.


Now, secure with a blind slip stitch.


Now with just a few hand stitches, tack down the facing at the shoulder seams.




That's IT ladies! A huuuuuuge thank you to all of you who joined us for this sewalong. All that is left for us to do now is show off our own makes (see below) and ask you to do the same! Our blog comments are being extremely badly behaved at the moment (sorry), so please tweet us, post on our Facebook page , enter into our Flickr pool or tag us on instagram so we can see all of your lovely creations.









Comments on this post (7)

  • May 14, 2018

    Thank you so much for the zipper tutorial. I was at a loss on how to install a zipper on my silk tunic with facing and now I know how to, thanks to you!

    Great Job.


    — Stacy

  • Aug 22, 2016

    Hi Marika, it can be tricky getting an even hemline when all the panel edges aren’t on the straight and therefore quite liable to distorting/stretching… Your best bet is indeed to hang up your dress and measure the hem from the floor. Mark your hem and pin it into place and then try it on before you stitch it – just to check that you’re happy with the length on you! I hope this helps! ~Elisalex

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Aug 22, 2016

    What’s the best way to get a consistent hem “length” on my maxi Anna?

    I’ve got some pretty uneven panels all the way around, and I want to be sure the final hem is as even as possible.

    I don’t have a second pair of hands (and eyes) to help, so i was going to hang the dress up, and mark a consistent “height from the floor” all the way around – and then use that (once I’ve checked the length) to give me an even hem.

    Has anyone got any other ides?


    — Marika

  • Aug 05, 2015

    Hi,that is really perfect,love the third version ?

    — Mary

  • Dec 08, 2014

    Thank you so much! Now I can finish my first Anna Dress!

    — Sienna

  • Dec 08, 2014

    Hi Sienna,

    Thank you SO much for alerting us to this!! We’re on it now, and it seems that a bunch of past images have gone missing… Hopefully we’ll have it fixed very soon! Watch this space x

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Dec 08, 2014

    Hello! I’m not sure what’s going on, but I was able to view these images yesterday. Today, all the images on most of the anna dress sewalong posts are “access denied.” The images being hosted on Amazon are not showing up. Thanks!

    — Sienna

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