Thursday, July 30, 2009

New Sewists Thursdays - Invisible Zippers

Before I get to this week's question, I would like to thank everyone who has submitted a question(s) to me either via email or left in the comments section here. I have to tell you that the ones submitted to me via email work best...especially when you put "New Sewist Question" in the subject line.

Okay so onto this week's question which is regarding the insertion of invisible zippers...something near and dear to my own heart!

Fran asks:
"I have recently put in two invisible zippers and, while I am happy with the concept, I am less happy with the result. The middle of the zipper looks great! I have the usual problem of trying to clean up the bottom of the piece below the zipper but I am pretty confident that with practice and trying a couple of different variations, I can make that part okay. I did print off a tutorial from Sewing Divas as well that looks helpful.

But, what I really struggle with is that both times I put one into a dress, the top of the dress where the zipper ended seemed to stand away stiffly and gape a bit as if the zipper was too heavy. The back didn't sit nicely close to the body at the top. The material was a lighter weight, but I wouldn't think that would make all that much difference. I wonder what I'm doing wrong.

I do put the zipper tape right up to the top of the cloth so the closed zipper comes to the top once the facings are added. Should I start it lower? Should I trim off the piece above the zipper pull that gets encased in the facing? Would interfacing help and, if so, how far in from the cut edge to you interface?

Any suggestions would be helpful. I'd really like to perfect this."

Fran ~ I can point you to a resource that's been very helpful to me. Stitcher's Guild has two folders on inserting invisible zippers with suggestions and helpful hints. First folder and in the second folder you will need to scroll down to Marji's second post where she shares several links on how to insert invisible and regular zippers.

Then for those of you that haven't read the awesome post by Els on how to insert an invisible zipper into a closed seam - here it is.

Now as for answers to Fran's specific questions...since I'm learning how to "perfect" this technique the same as you...the floor is now open. Please offer both of us and the other newbies advice on how to successfully complete this task!

Thanks so much everyone for talking back to us and Fran thank you for asking your question! I am sure that ALL of us will either learn something new or will have our methods reinforced! always, more later!


  1. Wow, I'm the first comment!
    I usually use the invisible zipper method that came with a "La Fred" pattern....okay I'm digging out the instructions
    Okay - cut two 1" strips of fusible knit interfacing (Such as Fusi knit or SofKnit - don't know if they still exist - use a good quality, lightweight interfacing). Pink hte edge that faces away from the center back seam. Fuse each strip to the wrong side of the (pants - or whatever you are sewing) at the zipper opening."
    Other than the interfacing, her directions are fairly standard. I find the interfacing really helps and pinking the edge (using pinking shears) stops the hard interfacing line from showing through.

    Hope this helps,

  2. I've been using invisible zippers since I was a teen (Homecomings, Debutant Balls, and Proms) I always use the YKK zipper roller foot. I bought it from Minnesota Fabrics years and years ago. I saw this one at Amazon:

    It has good instructions that I follow every time for a flawless invisible zipper.

  3. I am fairly new at invisible zippers too, been avoiding them for a while! Although I have found them to go in better than any other zipper I do, if you do a few things: Iron the zipper teeth flat, baste the zipper in first and when you use your zipper foot, move the needle out towards the zipper teeth to get your stitching really close.

  4. This month's Vogue pattern magazine has a very extensive article on how to install an invisible zipper and get the crossing seams to actually match. It is one of the open seam methods, but it adds some advice that I think will help a great deal.

  5. When I first started sewing, I didn't really know how to hand sew and didn't have the patience for it. I could never get a regular zipper in right, it always looked like a hot mess. When I found out about invisible zips, I fell in love. I will admit that sometimes the top does gap a bit, and sometimes I do have a slight pucker at the bottom, but I assume no one really pays attention to these things. I have to admit that as my sewing skills have increased, so has my invisible zip installation.

    I'm still terrified at the thought of a "normal" zipper install, but have no fear about the invisible zip.

    I think it all boils down to what you are used to. My mom has been sewing for most of her life, and I know she also struggles with invisible zip installation. And she is a whiz at "old fashioned" button holes too!

  6. Timely, C, as I am putting in an invisible zip tonight. Thanks!

  7. It's nice to know I am not alone in my fear of zippers! Thanks for the great advice. And happy sewing, everyone!

  8. The bubble at the bottom has always been my pet hate! I have rarely been able to perfect that to my satisfaction - and sometimes they come undone after a few wearings! I will follow the links with interest as I have to put one in the ball dress I am making - needs to be done today! Great timing :-)
    The elusive invisible zipper!

  9. There is a really nice tutorial on invisible zippers and facings on Kathleen Fansanella's website:

  10. Thanks Carolyn and everyone else for your suggestions! Fran

  11. Sherril beat me to it. I highly recommend all of the zipper tutorials at KF's site.

  12. What a great concept to answer or refer to answers to blogger questions! Thank you so much! I know I'll find helpful info and I'm planning on looking in every Thursday.

  13. I've used invisible zips for years. YKK are the best. I took a class with LaFred and her method works the best.

    always insert zip before you sew the center seam!

    interface the seam edge where the zip will be placed

    press the zip open as flat as you can

    using a zip foot, sew one line of stitching down the center of the zip tap to secure it place

    then press open the zip with your finger, move the needle over as close to the teeth as you can without touching it, and stitch

    put the regular foot on and sew the remaining center seam together at the bottom of the zipper foot

    then finally sew the tales of the zip to the seam and press.

    if you are sewing the zip into a dress with a bodice line. sew as instructed, close the zip and using a marking pen mark the line where the bodice seams meet on the zip tape. Open the zip and pin the zip at the point that meets the bodice seam and insert the zip making sure not to move this point. When you zippen the garment, it should line up.
    Hope this helps

  14. I use the closed seam method, basting the seam closed where the zipper will be. I use a zipper longer than I need and baste or steam-a-seam the zipper in place before sewing. This prevents the bottom bubble.
    I can also do a smoking fly front. But not a regular zipper or a lapped one.

  15. i learned as a teenager to do the standard centered zipper installation. Last year I decided that I needed to learn lapped and invisible zippers, and while I'm still reteaching myself with every install, I'm no longer frightened of them. Some day I hope to be able to install both "in my sleep"! No words of wisdom, just another person who struggles!

  16. I've been putting in several the last few weeks while making bridesmaids dresses. Three points: firstly, I've found using the cording foot from my Bernina works great and no ironing the teeth down is necessary. Second, make sure your zipper extends well below (like 1.5 to 2 inches) the end point. This reduces the "bump" that occurs at the bottom. You tack the unused part to the seams and make sure you whip stitch across the teeth where you want the zipper to end to stop the slide. Finally, and most importantly, sew from the top of the zipper to the bottom on each side.

  17. Hey Fran. I've read through the comments, and they all seem pretty good suggestions, I was just wondering: you state that the top of the garment stands away after the invisible zipper is inserted. Let me ask you: do you press the zipper flat as instructed BEFORE you insert it? I realize that the iron can't be too hot, but the zipper does need to be flat. I'd make sure about that before inserting the invisible zipper. Also, the seam allowances may need to be interfaced (and maybe a bit of the garment that lies either side of the zipper, maybe a scant quarter inch. If you have the time, a trial run of inserting an invisible zipper using a lightweight interfacing on the seam allowances, and maybe just either side of the zipper, on some long scraps of the fashion fabric may prove to be helpful. I do think, though, that your zipper may not be as flat as needed.

  18. Thanks for the shout-out tutorial "invisible zipper" in your post.

  19. Can I use regular and invisible zippers interchangably?
    Maybe a dumb question, but zippers are new for me!


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