Add a Pretty and Secure Edge with a Pickstitch

I prefer to put in a zipper by hand. Closures are so critical to the look of a garment, and I just like the result I get when putting the zipper manually. That's how I fell in love with the pickstitch.

I'm sure you've seen the pickstitch on beautifully tailored garments. It's a stitch with an indented look that you'll often see around the edge of a collar or lapel on well-made suits. 

The pickstitch on this jersey dress
zipper is so much more subtle than
a machine version would have been.

While also being pretty, the pickstitch is also marvelously secure because it has a little backstitch, and the backstitch is one of the most secure stitches around. (You could sew an entire garment together using a backstitch, but that's another post!)

Being such a pretty and secure stitch makes the pickstitch the perfect stitch for installing zippers. You get a lovely, couture stitch combined with a tough-as-nails attachment. It's especially great for attaching a zipper to fragile fabrics and I recently used it on zipper for a jersey dress I was sewing. Here's how:

1) Pin your zipper to your garment, aligning it just as you would for machine-stitching. 

2) Hand-baste the zipper to the garment about 1/8 inch from where your final line of stitching will be and remove the pins. (Basting ensures that you won't get stuck by the pins as you hand-sew the zipper and makes a more reliable attachment than pinning. Love basting!)

3) With the zipper open, begin your stitch at either the top or bottom of one side of the zipper. Using a double thread with a secure knot, bring your needle up through the wrong side of the garment. (I like to make my first stab between the zipper tape and garment, so that the knot is nested and hidden between the two layers.) You want your line of stitching to be similar to a machine-stitched zipper, about 1/4" away from the edge.

4) Come back down through the right side of the fabric and the zipper tape, making this stab just a smidge behind your initial stab. This is called a half-backstitch.

You can barely see the stitches! 5) Point your needle so that it come up about a 1/4 inch forward of your first stab, coming up through the wrong side again.

6) Make the half-backstitch again, repeating the process along the length of the zipper tape. Do the same for the other side of the zipper tape. (I like to start on the same end of each side to be sure that the zipper is stitched evenly.

Here is what the right side
of a pickstitch looks like.
Here is what the wrong side
looks like.
Here is a side view of the









7) The key to a pretty pickstich is to keep that 1/4" stitch spacing consistent and also keep your line of stitching straight.

8) When you finish the pickstitch, knot your thread securely and then make a bar tack at the bottom of the zipper stop to the seam to secure the end of the zipper. 

I hope you fall in love with the pickstitch like I have and use it well. It's so easy and can be used as an edge finish in many projects, not just garments. 

Want to learn more great techniques? The back issues of Stitch are on sale in the Sew Daily shop!

Do you have favorite hand-stitch? Let me know on the Sew Daily blog!

Happy stitching!

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Sewing Stitches

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

9 thoughts on “Add a Pretty and Secure Edge with a Pickstitch

  1. I see this recommended all the time but no one says how to keep the stitches on BOTH sides straight and equal. The simple answer is place a piece of 1/2 inch wide clear tape down the center of the zipper laps and use it as a guide. When you are done pull it off and have perfect lines.

  2. Is it possible to sew in an invisible zipper by hand? I’m working on a silk charmeuse dress that calls for an invisible zipper. I’ve put so much time in on this dress and really don’t want the zipper to mess it all up. Suggestions?

  3. I am unable to see this work clearly. Could you post photos of the same technique with a zipper of contrasting color. It wouldn’t be pretty but it would show the detail much easier! Thanks

  4. “You can barely see the stitches” is correct! I actually cannot see the stitches….lol Could you show it again on a lighter colored piece of fabric please. Thanks much.

  5. I have posted some rough drawings. Let me know if these help. Sorry abou the pic! My phone camera is not always the best! You are absolutely right: The key is in keeping the stitches on the back even. FYI, I always do this with invisible zippers and in fact the one on this dress is invisible! With accurate picks and stitches, it will look stunning on charmeuse! The beeswax tip is spot on!