Today? We bust out our zip-fly! (or, if you want to try something from my archives – a button fly!)
(this .gif does not imply endorsement of JCVD’s pelvic dance moves)
So – for a beginning sewist, or someone new to trousers or jean-sewing, I think a zip-fly looks pretty scary. But they really are relatively simple. Nothing I say will make you believe that, but after you’ve done about five or six of them – especially if you more or less use the same method – the process becomes a lot less mysterious. I almost always ignore the pattern’s fly, and draft all my own pieces (as I did when we marked our pattern).
Let’s talk fly anatomy. Here, you see my finished fly from the inside of the jean. On top of the assembly (on the right-side of the jean), you see two rows of stitching down the shield. To the left, you can see the topstitching lines on the facing – and the facing is finished by serge.
Get used to the terms “overlap”, “shield”, and “facing” – learn what it is they do. On the overlap side – usually the left – your facing (which faces the body) gives the fly its folded edge, and provides strength and a clean finish. The overlap is finished with a row or two of topstitching from the right-side of the jean. On the other side – usually the right – you have the fly shield. The shield is merely a piece that more or less mimics the topstitched shape of the overlap, and keeps the zipper teeth from catching skin or undergarments.
Ready to get started? First, we want to shorten our zipper. Below, you can see my shortened zipper, which I’m about to step you through. When we finish, I want the top zipper stop right at 1″ from the top raw edge, and the bottom zipper stop about 1/8″ short of the marked fly intersection:
So, how do you shorten a zipper? All you need is a wire-cutter and set of pliers!
First, you mark both the location of the top zipper stop, and 1″ above that (ignore my steamy camera lens, here – think of it as zipper glamour shots!):
Here my assistant (husband) is carefully removing the top zipper stop, by bending it and releasing it from the twill tape:
Next, he cuts the teeth from the 1″ space we’ve marked, using a wire cutter. You don’t have to remove the teeth above the top marking, as we’ll be cutting the twill take. But for goodness’ sake, do not zip up your zipper at this stage or you’ll pull the stop right off the top! (Ask me how I know this!)
Here is our finished zipper, ready to install:
Can you shortcut this process and either lop off the bottom of the zipper, or sew over the teeth at the top? Yes Other Barry, you can. But zipper-shortening only takes a few minutes and I like the results far better than the other two methods (which I’ve employed before).
Now – let’s construct our overlap! Remember, this uses a facing. I like to pre-finish my facing by interfacing it, cutting diagonally just below my intersection mark, serge-finishing, then tying a knot and pulling the serge-tail into the backside of the facing.
I then pin my facing to the front left side of the jean. I will be stitching from the top right down to the intersection point, and firmly backstitching. Remember how I made my facing and shield a little long on top? Better that, than a too-short facing! We’ll trim any excess when we install our waistband.
Here is the same structure, pinned, and shown from the backside (note interfaced front piece. I am allllll about interfacing fly structures!):
OK! After stitching, go ahead and trim the facing piece down to 1/8″. A good way to remember which seam to grade more severely, is we we generally leave the seam allowance closest to the public, the widest seam allowance.
Now, gently press the facing and seam allowances away from the jean front…
And topstitch at 1/8″!
We’re done with the left side of the jean!
Pin the zipper to this folded edge. You want the fold to be about 1/8″ from the zipper teeth, and the zipper stop about 1/8″ from the cut edge:
Costruct your shield by folding in half, right-sides together, and stitching the long curved edge. Trim and grade, turn right-side out, and press. Now, you want to pin this shield right behind the previously-pinned zipper assembly. This is what it will look like from the backside (you can see the zipper bottom sticking out at right):
To keep my stitching nice and straight, I stitch halfway down, set the needle, then zip the zipper up before continuing. Always looks perfect! We are stitching right to the bottom of the zipper, then doing a firm backstitch.
When satisfied with this, go ahead and flip the assembly over so you are looking at the underside of the shield. Stitch the seam allowance to the shield, using the zipper foot to be nice and parallel to the seam you just made:
Now, we are joining the jean half. We will be pinning the jean crotches, right-side together. We sew from about 1″ away from the inseam, right up to the intersection point:
Open the jean. We’re about to secure just the loose twill tape to the facing only. This is something I have messed up countless times. Now I could do it in my sleep. But I’ve messed it up lots, so don’t worry if you get it wrong.
To get started, go ahead and bring that gorgeous folded overlap right into alighnment with the right side of the jean. The loose side of the zipper will naturally fall into place. Pin it to JUST the facing – making sure not to pin it to the jean front:
Now – using a zipper foot again – stitch the twill tape to the facing, stitches 1/8″ from teeth as before:
You can tell in the picture below, I am not catching the jean front – it’s at the left of the picture. As I’ve said, this seam we’re installing the zipper tape to the facing only. Make sure to securely backstitch this seam.
Now, go ahead and zip up the jeans, and pin the front to the facing. Before stitching, make sure your topstitching will catch the facing. Go ahead and topstitch, going slowly and making sure your needle doesn’t strike the zipper stop at the bottom!
One last thing.
Jean sew-alongs are always telling you to stitch a bartack. But – where? If you look at ready-to-wear jeans, you can find bartacks all over the place.
Let me explain what a bartack is generally trying to do (besides the style aspect). It is providing some strength and support, to protect that intersection point of the fly. That intersection point has an awful lot of seams meeting there. If you were to zip and unzip these jeans, and stand up and sit down, that point is going to get a lot of strain. The bartack generally secures the bottom piece of the shield, to the facing and front on the other side (as marked below). Again, there can be more than one bartack in the fly, serving as both function and style. In general, the more bartacks, the more “rugged” the jean is. Since I was doing a dressy “trouser” style jean, I didn’t create a bartack. But I marked – for you! where it would go:
OK! So like – YOU ARE AWESOME, as you just assembled a jean fly!