A recessed zipper, also called a set-in zipper, is a type of closure generally used on tote bags and handbags. Totes are great projects to make at home using personal sewing machines. Once the bag is sewn, the only thing left to do is to put in the recessed zipper by using the techniques outlined below. When done on Janome sewing machines like the Janome MC8900, a sturdy and attractive recessed zipper is the final step necessary to complete a strong, useful tote or purse that looks professionally made.

Step 1 - Make and Attach the End Zip Tab

A recessed zipper requires a fabric grab tab at the end, as the zipper tape itself is only attached along its length by using trim strips. This tab can be made by sewing a small pocket that is slightly larger than the width of the tape and has the seam edges tucked inside. The tab should then be slid over the end of the tape and sewn on, stitching across the opening and the contained zipper tape.

Step 2 - Make the Trim Strips

Trim strips are strips of fabric that are made in much the same way as the zip tab. They are used to join the zipper tape to the tote bag. Beginning with two strips of fabric that are as long as the tape and twice the width, the strips should be folded and pressed so they are wrong side in, to prepare for sewing. The two ends should first be folded about a half an inch and pressed down. Next, both side edges of the strip must be folded in so they meet in the middle, then pressed down.

Step 3 - Sew on the Trim Strips

The pressed trim strips can then be sewn onto the zip tape using sewing machines like the Janome MC8900. First the tape is slid in between the folds of the trim strips, leaving a space of about one-half inch after the end tab, then pinned into place. Next, the zipper should be opened and at the open end, the teeth should be pushed under the trim strip on both sides and pinned into place. Using a zipper foot, the edge of the trim strip is stitched so the tape is sandwiched in between and secured between the strip. This must be repeated for both sides of the zipper tape, enclosing it on three sides with the teeth tucking under the trim at the opening.

Step 4 - Sew the Trim Strips Into the Tote

Once the trim strips have been stitched onto the zip tape, the strips must be stitched into the tote lining itself. Open the zipper and lay one side on top of the tote lining, with both pieces turned right side up. For the liner, this will be the inside of the fabric since the inside is the finished side. The trim strip should be positioned so it is about an inch down on the liner, pinned into place, and stitched. Repeat this process for the other side of the tape. Once both sides are stitched, the zipper should close easily, making a nicely set-in closure.

Although this technique requires a bit of planning, putting in a recessed zipper by using sewing machines like the Janome MC8900 is not very difficult. The result will be a beautiful handbag or tote with a professional closure that has been sewn in just like any commercially made bag. Putting in a recessed zipper is a useful skill that anyone using Janome sewing machines at home can learn in order to improve their sewing skills to create beautiful handmade items for personal use or gift giving. People will be amazed at the look of these handmade projects by using this technique!

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