The Last Zipper?

My last four sweaters have been zippered cardigans. Two of those were for friends. The third was Avast, and the fourth (as you can see off to the left there) is having its zipper installed as we speak. I’ve found that I prefer these kinds of sweaters to pullovers, mostly because of the wild temperature variations here in the Bay Area. Oakland might be roasting, but it’s cool and foggy in the city, and even on the freakish occasion that it’s actually hot in the city, it’s still freezing in my office. I prefer the advantage of the heating vent that a zipper provides to pulling a sweater over my head every fifteen minutes.

The problem? My sewing skills do not match my knitting skills. I can replace a button, sew on a patch and repair a broken seam, but my attempts at zippers have been fair to middling at best. The dirty secret of Avast is that I had to farm out the zipper to someone else. Oh, I sewed it in once myself, but the results made the sweater look like it was suffering a permanent shock wave. Surfers were flocking in from the coast to take a ride on the undulating front. I handed it off to a fearless expert, a woman who possesses the intestinal fortitude to actually run hand-knitted items through a sewing machine.

I’m having much better luck with my current zipper (which is for , so I can’t show you the whole thing yet) thanks to the summer issue of Interweave Knits, whose back pages feature a helpful little tutorial on how to sew in a zipper. Pinning, basting, stitching——each step with its own little diagram. So far, so good, but I know better than to go ahead and declare my days of sine-wave zippers over. That will only happen when the last stitch is done, the zipper is closed, and the front of the sweater lies as flat as a Kenny G saxophone solo.


  • Sean says:

    Of course you realize that those of us who already fear doing basic seaming are on ther verge of panic at the thought of sewing in a zipper…

  • K. says:

    Hee hee, “flat as a Kenny G saxophone solo.” Good one.

    I’ll have to pick up the summer IK, if only for that. My sewing isn’t terrible, but it definitely should not be mixed with my handknits.

  • Jessy says:

    handknits, through a sweing machine? *gasp* I wonder if my boyfriend is that brave, if so, when i ever get up teh courage to a zipper, I’ll pass it on to him.

  • Cindy says:

    Oh man, I can totally relate to zipper pain. I tried one once. Only once. I also read the little zipper tutorial in INTERWEAVE and thought perhaps I could give it a go. So, you can be the guinea pig! Thank you so much 😉 No seriously, I hope that the tips help and I will check in to see how it goes for you to see IF they help and if so, I might also take courage and try it out.

  • Anne Sheridan says:

    Had to laugh…thought of you when watching Halloween (the original of course). Have you wrote an article on the knitting connection in horror movies. A knitting needle in Michael Myers eye?! What could be a better weapon?! Happy Halloween. Miss your posts…must be busy with all your sweaters!

  • Sammy from St. Paul says:

    Hi all — here’s a great tip for sewing zippers into hand-knits. Crochet two chains the length of the zipper (one chain for each side). Machine stitch (or hand-stitch) the chain to the zipper. Now, use your wonderful tapestry needle, and your yarn, to stitch the zipper to the sweater. Check as you go, to make sure you’re not getting “stretchy” or “rippley”. Easier than trying to put the whole sweater through the machine, and nicer looking, too. Cheers!

  • yarn boy says:

    That’s a really great tip, Sammy. Thanks! Lining up a zipper to a chain is much easier (and less risky) than attaching it directly to the sweater. The down side is that not all sweaters look good with a crocheted chain on the inside edges. That seems fine for most women’s sweaters, but it’s a little too ornate for men’s sweaters.

    That zipper in the picture turned out to be a smashing success, by the way. I even got it on the first try. Thank you, Interweave Knits.

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