Art and Needlework by Rebekah

Art and Needlework by Rebekah: January 2013

Jan 30, 2013

1/30/13: Tutorial -- How to Replace a Coat or Jacket Zipper

If you liked this blog on Facebook or have been following me on Twitter, you would have known about my plan of posting a sewing-related tutorial soon. I haven't done one of these tutorials in about a year (last one made on 1/20/12!), so I thought it was high time I typed one up. Step-by-step tutorials and even generalized tutorials is my all-time favorite feature of sewing blogs of today and as I've said in the past, I wouldn't have learned so much about sewing in such a short period of time if it wasn't for certain blogs like, Elegant Musings, DixieDIY, Blog for Better Sewing, and A Fashionable Stitch. These five blogs are considered TNT (Tried & True) in my book and I always seem to be coming back to Sunni's pant fitting posts and Tasia's understitching and underlining how-to's.

Back to the main topic. Zippers. Broken zippers to be exact. Since my family has a farm, there is a lot of work wear in circulation and we all know what happens with work wear. It wears down and wears down quickly. We also know the sad but true story: before the pocket tears or the elbows need patching, the zipper usually sends the said work wear back to the far corners of the closet with a tear and a prayer that someday, someone will find a way to replace a zipper.

Happily, there is a way to replace zippers in windbreaker jackets and bulky, thick winter coats. Took me awhile to figure out the best method but I managed. I even took on a few orders the other year. So let me take you through my process. . .

For tools and supplies, grab tailor's tape, seam gauge, basting thread and needle, separating zipper (we'll get to details later), sewing machine and all-purpose thread, and most importantly, seam ripper,. 
These are the two garments I will be working on today. My sister's windbreaker. . .
and my father's winter coat.

So what's a separating zipper?
Well, it's this:
The white, separating zipper above makes it possible for you to open the zipper at the bottom. You cannot do this with a closed-end zipper, like the black one below:
You can easily distinguish between the two by the large zipper box that is located at the end of a separating zipper. And yes, it is referred to as zipper "box." You are going to be such a zipper lingo whiz after this!

Moving up to the top of the zipper you will find the zipper stops, which are the plastic or metal clips that are clamped onto the top to prevent the slider from sliding right off the zipper teeth. You can see the stops here:
Assessing the Problem
Before you even start ripping out the zipper, take a closer look and determine the real cause of the zipper not working. Who knows, maybe you don't need to replace the zipper! Look for these things:

1. Zipper teeth are missing or jagged
2. Zipper box is broken or missing
3. Zipper slider is loose and seems to be coming off teeth
4. Slider just can't seem to align teeth correctly
5. Slider doesn't smoothly glide up and down teeth

Problems #1 and #2 mean, without a shadow of a doubt, a zipper replacement. However, with #3, #4, and #5, there is hope in salvaging the old zipper. If your slider seems loose or is not aligning the teeth correctly, it could just mean that the slider is bent.
How to Fix a Bent Zipper Slider
Using long nosed pliers, pinch the slider slightly to make the gap smaller. Don't clamp down too hard! Remember, it's easier to make the gap smaller than larger. So pinch and test, pinch and test. If you just can't seem to make the slider work, you might want to replace the slider. It isn't the easiest job but it does save you the hassle of replacing everything. To do this, seam rip the top portion of the zipper when it's closed and snip off the zipper stops. Try to keep the zipper tapes' teeth connected! Carefully slide the new zipper slider onto the unopened zipper. Once the slider is on the zipper tape, clamp two zipper stops on the top and re-sew the top portion of the zipper.

Now about #5--slider doesn't slide up and down smoothly. There could be some miniscule flaw in the zipper but chances are the zipper, especially metal or brass ones, just needs a lube job. Have you heard about zipper soap? There are a number of good brands on the market. Like the McNett Zip Tech. Well worth a try!

Measuring the Zipper

To figure out what length your zipper replacement should be, you have to measure the old one. Use your tailor's tape and measure from top of zipper. . .

To bottom. . .

The jacket's zipper measures 25" in length. Write this down.

Sometimes finding a separating zipper in the right length is hard to do. Here is the typical scenario for me using the 25" size as an example.

I first check my stash. If I find one that is over 25" in length I will cut off the extra length at the top of the zipper and clamp on "zipper stops" using flat nosed pliers. Zipper stops were hard to locate a few years ago but now Amazon is selling them at a real good price. Check out the Tandy brand here. If, however, I find a zipper that is 1/2" to 1" too short, I'll use it anyway. I just center the zipper along the jacket edge; 1" deficit will not make much of a difference.

If I have no zipper I will check out my favorite notions sources, (Hobby Lobby, Joann,, etc.). Usually they are way over priced but sometimes I find them on sale with free shipping. That's when I snatch them up. When there are no good deals going on I will resort to. . .

I've been buying zippers from them for six years now and they have an expansive selection. They also will do custom lengths for a small fee and have fast customer service. So if you have any questions on zipper numbers, lengths, or best zipper for the job, feel free to ask.

Removing the Zipper

Hold on there! Before you grab for the seam ripper, grab a camera. This is the most important step in replacing a zipper: documentation. So get out your camera or phone and start taking shots of the jacket's zipper stitching. Knowing where the seams and stitching are is the best way for you to wrap your mind around the jacket's construction. I usually use my digital camera and make a video where I am dictating and pointing to the seams saying, "This seam is 1/4" away from the zipper teeth" and, "Topstitching begins 5/8" down from neckline." Things like this will prove invaluable when it comes time to sew in the new zipper!

Once construction research is done, it is time to rip out the zipper. Cut through a few stitches to make an opening and then run the seam ripper along the inside of the seam. Take your time at the beginning and end of the zipper because this is where a lot of tacking was done by the manufacturer. I broke many seam rippers by rushing the process. I also take a few photos when I'm seam ripping to see the "inner workings."

Pinning and Basting the Zipper

Take your new zipper and unzip it so you are working with one tape. For this coat I am just going to insert the zipper between the folded edges of the coat's Front and Back. I would traditionally seam the zipper to the Front edge by opening the fold and having raw edges even, but this coat's batting is escaping with a vengeance. (You should see what happens with a down coat! It can get messy!)

I pin the zipper in place.
After, I come back and baste the zipper by hand. You absolutely need to baste! There are so many layers to deal with and don't forget those pesky snaps, velcro, or windbreakers that get in the way. It is the surest way to make your zipper straight and to avoid bubbling. I try to keep my basting out of the line of machine stitching I will be doing later. Makes it easier for me to remove the basting.

( basting on inside of coat )
There is a little trick to basting in the second zipper tape to the other side. The trick is to zip up the zipper and start pinning the second tape in place at the very top.

( zipping up zipper )

( pinning at top of zipper )
Once a few pins are in place you can unzip the zipper and continue pinning the entire length. Pinning at the top when the zipper is closed will ensure proper zipper placement. Once you are done pinning, zip up the zipper again and see if everything is aligned (like necklines and hems), and check to see if everything is lying flat. If not, repin, and finally, hand baste.

With basting done it has come time for the actual sewing!

The hand basting did most of the work here. All I have to do for this coat is machine topstitch along the original stitching line like seen in the photo:

I am using a zipper foot for the topstitching. I like to stitch with a size 100 needle and all-purpose thread, preferably 100% polyester, (just because the coat's outer shell is of the same fiber content). Finally, I lengthen my stitch length to 3.0. Depending upon the coat's construction, I will topstitch again right on the fold edge near the zipper teeth.

So that's how I replace a broken zipper on a coat or jacket. It isn't that hard to do, save for time-consuming hand basting and working with such bulky materials. With a little bit of gumption, I'm sure any home sewer can tackle the job. Just go to your nearest closet and pull out the dusty winter wear and get cracking! The cold blast is coming!

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Jan 16, 2013

1/16/13: Knitting the Sweet Pea Coat

I'm back this week with my promised post on the jacket I'm knitting: The Sweet Pea Coat. My Ravelry project is here.

The Sweet Pea Coat was designed by Kate Gilbert for the Winter 2008 issue of Twist Collective magazine. The jacket is knitted using bulky weight yarn and it is done in pieces. The highlights to the design must be the wide, overlapping front that is closed with four buttons, (the hallmark of every sweet pea coat) the moss stitch hems and collar, and the very cute and useful pockets. 

The yarn I chose is the Knit Picks Full Circle Bulky in Fresh, which is a sage-y green color that has more green mixed in than gray. When I first pulled it out of the box I was a bit disappointed because I thought the yarn was going to be grayer than it turned out to be. It is, however, growing on me and I'm very happy with my color choice. It is also a single ply yarn and 100% wool.

I've always loved pockets so I was very much intrigued about knitting one. Once I got to the pocket instructions I soon found myself scratching my head and not understanding it one bit. Total knitting block. I went onto Ravelry to see if anyone else ran into the same pocket conundrum. According to members' projects, the pocket did cause them a knitting "hiccup" but all of them managed to make it through. Too bad they didn't leave any notes on how they got there! :(

I then scoured the Ravelry forums but came up with nothing. After all of this searching I did gather one bit of good information: other knitters had trouble and most of them left a note saying, "The pattern didn't make any sense to me, but I followed it anyway and I came out alright in the end." So I spent a good part of a Sunday afternoon with the pocket and after all was said and knitted, I had a finished pocket.

As soon as the pocket was finished I vowed to share what I learned in a blog post. This blog post idea soon turned into a video tutorial idea so I filmed the second pocket making and uploaded it to my channel.

See how I knitted the Sweet Pea Coat Pocket by clicking here.

Sweet Pea knitting has been coming along steadily. I have the BACK, RIGHT FRONT, 1 SLEEVE, and part of the LEFT FRONT knitted, blocked, and partially sewn. Just 1/2 of the LEFT FRONT and a SLEEVE to go. I've been having a little Sweet Pea vacation as of January so most of the jacket was knitted during my December "sprint." Not bad when knowing I started this project on 12/21!
[ the current status of my Sweet Pea Coat ]
I don't know if I'll go through with it, but I've been debating on lining this jacket. My reasons: it will make it easier to slip on and off, it will last longer, and, perhaps most important, it will give me the feeling of wearing a jacket instead of just a bulky sweater. What do you think? Lining yes or lining no?


Jan 13, 2013

1/13/13: More Knitterly Plans + Videos

The 2012-2013 winter shall go down in history as the "Winter of Knitting" for that is exactly what I've been doing since the temperature dropped. I've been knitting up a storm since the beginning of December and it doesn't look like it will stop anytime soon.

Finished objects (FO's) so far this season have been the Crenellated Hat for my nephew, the St. Germain Hat for my neice, and this crocheted amigurumi doll for my brother. The knitting that is still in the works are the Sweet Pea Coat for myself, Holi Mitts for myself (started last spring!), the crocheted afghan that uses the African Flower motif (started in May last year), and finally, a design I've been coming up myself. I also have yarn all set for two other projects: the Coesite Hat and these socks.

Whew! I knew there was a lot going on but after writing all of this down I'm thinking I must be crazy. Yeah, really crazy. I'm OK with it, though. This is how I craft and I typically get things to the finish line, especially when the yarn is working well with the pattern. And everything is so far so good!

Crocheting has been particularly enticing as of late. Catherine has been taking "crocheting classes" from yours truly and she's kind of smitten with this whole crochet thing. It is so exciting! It is wonderful to have someone to crochet along with, I tell you, but I am worried about her. Crochet can be one addictive pastime! :)

My Crochet Today magazine came in the mail a couple weeks ago and Kristen Omdahl's Ruby Sweater was featured. It is one striking sweater and Catherine is going to take it on! So we both got onto to order Brava Sport for the Ruby Sweater, more yarn for my Sweet Pea Coat, and a few different yarns for a scarf she can practice on. Would you want to see it all? We put together a yarn haul video all about this knitpicks order.

See the Yarn Haul Video - Part 1, here.

[ yarn that will be made into the Ruby Sweater ]
Speaking of yarn, I went to the New Ewe yarn shop on my birthday again this year. I bought yarn for the socks I mentioned before and I bought yarn for Catherine so she can make a scarf for me and a cowl for Bernadette. Catherine blogged all about her upcoming projects here.

We also made a yarn haul video about the yarn shop visit.

See the Yarn Haul Video - Part 2, here.

[ yarn I bought at the shop ]
I really want to talk about the Sweet Pea Coat I am working on so I will be posting about that later this week. I'm also going to reopen the wild world of jean making this week so wish me luck with that! And last but not least, a royal blue A-Line might see its beginning stages soon. It's going to be one crafty January!

So have you finished any knitting project as of late? I would love to hear all about it!

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Jan 4, 2013

1/4/12: Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013

Welcome to the 2012 Art and Needlework Awards ceremony where we will review the creations of 2012 and find out who was a step ahead of the rest and who has been nominated as the Best of 2012.

First up in our long and towering list of awards is. . .

Most Worn

These are my go-to pants. I wear them to the store, on walks, when company is here, and just around the house. They are so comfortable so I am always grabbing for them. I really, really need to make another one because come on, one pair can't last forever!

Cutest Crochet 

I entered the world of crocheted toys this year and this black cat, the first one I did, might just be the cutest of the bunch. His name is Allie and he is the crocheted version of the real life kitty of the same name and temperament.

Cyber Favorite

The Audrey Hepburn skirt that I made for my sister has become the number one favorite of the cyber folk. The skirt was actually made by using the skirt portion of a Vogue dress pattern so it was definitely a learning curb. I like the skirt a lot! Sometimes, though, I think it is favorited a lot because they're smitten with the kitty prop. Ah, it works every time. ;)

Most Fun to Sew

This is my most recent sewing project to date (finished on Christmas), and was so much fun to make. I think I enjoyed it so much because I was sewing right before Christmas, so I wasn't overly busy with anything. It was just me and sewing, nothing else. And there weren't many alterations to boot!

Hardest to Do (In Sewing)

Two awards! Gosh! These pants took every cell in my brain. Throughout most of the process I was groping in the dark and wasn't sure about the outcome, but I came out alright and made a wardrobe staple.

Hardest to Do (In Knitting)

Project: Ringwood Gloves

I may not have did a full fledged post on these knitted gloves I did back in May, but let me tell you, they were no small feat. Let me paint you the picture. Here I was knitting with thin yarn on small double pointed needles making ten, small narrow tubes while making sure to get the Ringwood stitch pattern in the right sequence, and because of the thin yarn and small needles, each and every inch took a crazy amount of time to knit. And did I tell you that I hadn't worked with such tiny double pointed needles before?! The task of knitting was not so sublime but the finished gloves are!

Most Popular Tutorial

Tutorial: How to Crochet Buttons

2012 was the year I started making YouTube videos on crafting. I did four in all: How to Find Fabric Grain without the Selvage, How to Find Both Ends to a Skein of Yarn, How to Make Quilted Potholders, and the most popular, How to Crochet Buttons.

Blogger's Frown

Project:  Jeans

The number one thing that is lacking in my wardrobe are jeans. Just plain old denim jeans that I can really work in and not worry about. I started making a pair back in June but didn't get very far, mainly due to busy summer months getting in the way and me not willing to start the project up again. I HAVE to get back to this because I am going to need them desperately in the next couple months.

Blogger's Favorite to Wear

The 1940s blouse is back again. Haven't gotten much of a chance to wear this one because it was just finished up last month, but golly, do I love it. The style is perfect!

Customer's Review

Had this made for my sister and she never stops saying how she loves it! It is her favorite skirt she owns and always jumps on the chance to wear it.

Best in Knitting

Project: St. Germain Hat

First hand knitted hat I made and I love it. Because of it, I'm going through a faze of hat knitting that looks like it is going to last for the remaining winter months. Which isn't a bad thing considering how little yarn a single hat uses!


What a full year! Even though there was a long span of time during the summer and fall months when I wasn't crafting at all, I was able to do a lot of the things I set out to do at the beginning of the year. I hope 2013 will prove to be close to 2012 in regards to crafting and I hope everyone will have a happy and healthy New Years!