August 4, 2009

Don't Fear the (invisible) Zipper

Today I am going to talk about the dreaded zipper. I know there are many of you out there who despise them....really they are not to be feared! Honestly, I avoided learning how to install an invisible zipper for a long time because I thought there was some sort of magic that I didn't know, so I continued to put in conventional zippers until I designed the Sabrina Tunic. I decided then and there (this was just LAST SPRING, people!) that I had to learn how because I didn't want that tacky "take a look at where I put in my zipper" thing going on down the back of my new tunic! It isn't that I hadn't put an invisible zipper in before, but you have to think a little differently to get them in correctly, and I let that cloud my judgment....well, I am SO OVER that now, and I can't imagine putting in a regular zipper on any clothing garment anymore.

This was the inspiration for this post as well as a recent email conversation that I had with someone asking if my tunics required the installation of a zipper and that she really didn't get along with zippers too well. I encouraged her to master this technique, as it will open doors for you if you can think...."An invisible zipper? Ah, that is no sweat!"....So without further ado.....Don't Fear the Zipper!

You will notice in the following photos that I use a regular zipper foot. I HAVE an invisible zipper foot, but I prefer to use my regular one. Why? I learned the hard way that some zipper teeth get along with the grooves in my invisible zipper foot and some don't. What I found was that the length of the zipper teeth vary from one brand to another, making some brands grip too tightly in the foot grooves. For example, my foot works great with Coats and Clark zippers, but not so great with Unique by YKK. I found that no matter what I did (change the stitch length, pull the fabric/zipper combo through), my fabric would pucker...gasp! No amount of ironing made it smooth. This was enormously frustrating, so I taught myself how to use the regular zipper foot with any type of invisible zipper and I haven't look back since. I encourage you to try this if you have experienced this puckering before....or even if you haven't, since most of you have a regular zipper foot and are under the mistaken impression that you have to have a special foot for these things. Yes, it takes practice to get as close as the other foot automatically puts the needle, but you can do it!

It is also important to note that you can substitute an invisible zipper for a regular one in just about any article of clothing. Just remember NOT to sew the seam where the zipper will be placed. I also find that it is much easier to sew a zipper into something where not much construction has taken place yet, so for the back of a skirt, I would install the zipper before sewing the side seams, for example.

Here goes:

1. Finish the raw edges of the fabric to receive the zipper.


2. Unzip the zipper and place it face down on the ironing board. Open out the zipper teeth away from the zipper and press it flat.


3. Place the zipper along one side of the fabric, right sides together. I like to start with the piece that will be to the right of the zipper. It does not matter which side you start with. Place the zipper stop about 5/8" - 3/4" below the top edge of the fabric. The zipper tape may extend beyond the fabric edge depending on the brand of zipper. (some have more tape extending beyond the stop than others) Have the edge of the zipper tape even with the finished edge of fabric.




4. Move the machine needle to the FAR RIGHT position and have the needle in the "needle down" setting if you have that. Begin at the top of the zipper, getting as close as possible to the zipper teeth. Backstitch at the beginning and end. Stitch alongside the zipper teeth as far as possible, stopping when stitching becomes difficult next to the bottom of the zipper.






5. Zip the zipper closed and lay it flat against the wrong side of fabric that you just attached. If there are seams that you have passed in the process of stitching the zipper, use a removable marking pencil to place a mark where the seam is located on the unattached portion of the zipper tape. This is very important, as it helps you to line up the zipper to the other piece of fabric and have your seams meet nicely once the stitching is complete.



6. Open the zipper once more and turn all pieces to face right sides up. Line up the remaining piece of fabric to the side of the zipper. Turn under what will be the seam allowance and slip the remaining side of the zipper underneath. This will put the right side of the zipper against the right side of the fabric. Match up the marking with the seam and pin that spot in place. Check the top of the zipper and pin it in place exactly as the other side was sewn.




7. Stitch the remaining side of the zipper in place in the exact same manner as the first side, only move the needle position to the FAR LEFT. Check your work on the right side of fabric to be sure that the seams and upper edges of fabric meet up appropriately.







8. Zip the zipper closed and match up the edges of the seam below. Pin in a couple of places to hold the fabric together.


9. Move the needle position to the FAR RIGHT again and stitch the seam starting at the lower edge. Have the finished edges of the fabric at the 5/8" marking on your throw plate. Continue stitching until you have stitched just slightly past the original stitching for the zipper. This line of stitching will be slightly to the outside of the original stitching. Backstitch.






10. With the wrong side facing up, press the seam open. Turn the piece over and gently press the seam, including the fabric to either side of the zipper flat.


11. Back on the wrong side, stitch the zipper tape that extends beyond the stitching along the bottom to the seam allowance on either side.




And that is it! You have successfully installed an invisible zipper! Now all we need is more cowbell...... : )

Happy Sewing!

56 comments:

jona said...

Beautiful!! I LOVE installing invisible zippers. It's so much easier than I thought it would be and so much easier than installing regular off-to-the-side zippers. Great tutorial!!

Becky said...

I have been sewing for 40+ years and still can't quite get the invisible zipper right. Your directions are the best I have read yet! Thank you!

san said...

Thank you for the great tutorial, I haven't used invisible zippers much the past few years, but they look great where needed. Could I post a link to it on my site? Let me know, thanks!

Dorsie said...

I put off doing 2 invisible zippers in bridesmaids dresses until I was so stressed that I almost gave up! Then I found your tutorial, tried it the first time, and both dresses look fantastic! Thank you thank you!

Kay said...

Oh Dorsie! I am so thrilled to hear that your zipper installation went well. Thanks for leaving such a great comment, and now you don't have to "fear the zipper"!

Crochet Fun Hub said...

Thank you for the great tutorial!

juliemf said...

What if I have already sewn my seams? (I am putting this in a satin dress).

Kay said...

Hi Julie!

If you want to install an invisible zipper, then you will have to undo the seam that the zipper will be a part of. If you have already sewn the side seams, that is fine, as they don't figure into the installation. Hope this helps!

Obscure Moon said...

Wow, that tutorial was incredibly helpful. I did this once before when I knew nothing about sewing but was totally sure I knew everything. :P

Thank you very much!

~Lunara

P.S. I am totally loving the Torii Tunic. That is just all sorts of stylish. ^_^

PaTcHwOrK jEnN said...

Thank you SEW MUCH! I just put an invisible zipper in my neices wedding gown and it went super fast! can't wait to install more zippers!


PS If you have a chance to vote for in Barb's Go giveaway please do. thanks.
http://bejeweledquilts.blogspot.com/

elizabeth said...

Did it! I had a little trouble following the directions. A few of them were a little confusing. But it came out beautiful! THank you!

dkat said...

Just finished putting in my first invisible zipper. It was a Coats and Clark and I had the special foot but it didn't work on my machine. You saved the day. I followed your directions and put it in using my regular zipper foot. Thanks to you I conquered my fear of the invisible zipper!

Rachel Ailin said...

Thanks so much for this tutorial! I had no idea how to install an invisible zipper with a regular zipper foot, but I felt confident it could be done.

Jeanine said...

Thank you so much for the great tutorial! I didn't get it perfect, but it is better than any of my previous attempts. :)

Sarah and Jane said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful zipper tutorial. I only own a regular zipper foot so now I will try your method.

Sylvia said...

I also, didn't know how easy this actually was.. My sister asked me to make her daughters halloween costume this year, and I did.. but didn't know how to do an invisible zipper, so I didn't. I wish I would have read this before because I could have totally done it! Thanks for the information for the next project.

-Sylvia
Antique Jewelry

Sara said...

Thanks for the fabulous tutorial. I just finished the Monique dress and the zipper couldn't have been easier!

Melissa Schuette said...

Kay, thanks to your assistance, I have now installed my first truly invisible zipper. The instructions on the zipper package are unfortunately insufficient and difficult to decipher.

Cheers!

Anny said...

Oh my... This was exactly what I needed! I was going to look up how to do this later today so that I could install an invisible zipper in a dress I want to make. These instructions were so easy to understand!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Treva Copeland said...

I did it! Thanks for the great directions with pictures!

Elizabeth said...

I have never even inserted a zip, let alone an invisible one and have only really been sewing for a few weeks...I am so proud of myself - it looks great. Thanks for the very easy to follow instructions and pictures.

eye_on_sparrow said...

This is a great tutorial. I love invisible zippers they are so much easier to install than centered zippers and they look much more professional. I do mine the same as you but I don't use any kind of zipper foot just my regular presser foot. I have taught young girls in my 4H group how to put in invisible zippers and the judges at the fair ar always impressed with their zippers.

Kim said...

Thank you SO much! I just sewed my first invisible zipper with my regular zipper foot and it was a breeze with your help! I can't believe I was scared this whole time, that and the sewing machine store told me I "had" to have the invisible zipper foot which I didn't want to spend the money on.

marie-madeline studio said...

I thought the same thing about invisible zippers! My friend finally talked me into trying one, and I don't think I've installed a regular zipper since. These are much faster! Wonderful tutorial!

xx Apphia

prttynpnk said...

Bless you! Those directions are great!

Unknown said...

I'm making a friend's wedding dress- silky brocade fabric with lots of metallic thread in it... (headache city). The plastic invisible zipper foot does not fit my Bernina so I borrowed a machine just to install this zipper. IT LOOKED AWFUL! I took it out twice and decided to go old installation route- it would show but look better than what the "invisible installation" had been. I happened on this web site... what the heck, i've taken the dang thing out so many times whats one more? I tried this and its beautiful! I've been sewing for over 40 years and I love learning something new. I'm bookmarking this page!

Mom said...

I posted on facebook yesterday that I was going to attempt to put my first invisible zipper in. My mother warned me how hard it would be and friends told me I was "very brave" to even try. I followed your tutorial this morning and put a total of four pillows together - complete with invisible zippers - in no time. Thank you for making it looks so easy and for the great pictures. They were a godsend!

Ann-Michelle said...

OMG! Your tutorial is awesome! I've been sewing for 30+ years and could never get the invisible zipper quite right. I worked with all types of fabrics and garments and really wanted to step up the finish of my garments. I played around with different feet and different zippers. They never looked right. :-( When I found your tutorial I was determined to find a way to do it. Tried it after reading it one time. It was easy and my skirt looks fantastic!! Never will I fear the invisible (or any zipper) again! Ha! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

pcampbell said...

I didn't know you could use a regular zipper foot with an invisible zipper! I've been avoiding them for awhile because I couldn't remember how to do them and wasn't sure I could find the invisible foot that I own. Thanks so much! Can't wait to try one.

Rachael said...

This would make a great YouTube video for those of us that need to see it done! But thanks for the details!

kris said...

Bless you! I spent two days and 5 stores along with online shopping trying to find an invisible zipper presser foot for my machine. Then I happened across your post and just popped that zipper right in (4 times on 4 skirts for my daughters for Christmas) - it was splendid!

Renee' said...

I just discovered your website today, and I am excited to try out your patterns! I love your style! I think I will try the invisible zipper too! Thanks!

David Caron Design said...

This is awesome! I'm sharing this with my fiancé.

David Caron
David Caron Design
Atlanta Business Video

Miss Jay said...

I am new to sewing, so have been trawling hardout to find the easiest instructions for invisizips, this is it, so thank you! BEST ON THE NET!

Wendy said...

Okay, I know this is an old post, but I recently found it and had to tell you what a godsend this tutorial was! I have struggled with zipper installation for as long as I've been sewing, and never been happy with my results, and I was really worried when I found myself in the middle of a project that required an invisible zipper. But I followed your instructions and it turned out perfect the first time! I will NEVER do a standard zipper again, this method is so much easier and gives a much more professional-looking result. Thank you for sharing it!!

April said...

I am sooo excited to have found this post! An aquaintance asked me to fix an invisible zipper in a dress for her and I've done a good bit of sewing in eight years, but I've never put in an invisible zipper at all! I read a couple other tutorials that insisted on an invisible zipper foot and was kinda' bummed that I was about to spend any profit on a new foot. Then this!!! Excellent tutorial! I can't wait to try this!

Janet said...

Thanks to your detailed instructions, I got the invisible zipper sewn into my pillow cover on the first try using my regular zipper foot! I haven't sewn much since my high school and college days and now have the time to get back into it. Please know how much I appreciate your help! I look forward to exploring the rest of your blog.

Jeanettec said...

Great tutorial. I've put in invisible zippers before, but your instructions are by far the easiest. My zipper looks GREAT, on the first try. Thank you so much for sharing. And I simply love the Bebe dress. I can't wait to make one.

MoMR said...

Thank you so much for posting this excellent tutorial! I put the zipper in the other day without assistance and it was a disaster! (And yes, swearing was involved.) This afternoon, I found your site, removed the zipper and started over, following your instructions. It looks pretty close to perfect! I will definitely be passing on your site to my friends who sew. JD from Calgary, Alberta

Helena said...

Thank you! I don't have a zipper foot and thought I wouldn't be able to put in the invisible zipper I had already bought, until I came across your tutorial. Worked like a charm - many thanks!

D Ragsdale said...

Thank you for sharing this tutorial! I have been sewing for 35+ years and have never even attempted an invisible zipper. I am in graduate school and don't sew much any more except for an occasional skirt. My last skirt was the Emaline, and I wish I would have done an invis. zipper. I am now making 6 skirts for my daughter's wedding and needed to know how to do this because the invis. zipper matched better. Now I can move forward without purchasing a new foot. Thanks so much!

Larissa Araripe Rand said...

Thank you so much for this tutorial! I had an "oh-no" moment when I realized I had accidently bought an invisible zipper for a pillow but just had the regular foot to work with. But then I found your tutorial and it was so easy and practical. The invisible zipper is a favorite now! I hope it's ok that I mentioned your tutorial on my blog - I posted a link to your site. It's just so worth sharing!

Unknown said...

You're just a gem!! Thank you for your tutorials. I have been sewing and creating for so long but I am now trying to focus on my technique rather than doing things 'my way'. This is going to be so helpful. Thanks again :-) - Monica

Sean Rasmussen said...

Home made sewing can never be this simple! Loving the blog and the tutorials that you set here. Another good motivation to those bloggers who just started! They can write about and focus on the things they loved the most and for this case, it's your sewing! Keep up the good work!

Deborah said...

Many thanks for this excellent explanation. I sew only rarely and the last invisible zipper I put in was a bit of a nightmare. Wish I had seen your blog first!!! Today's zipper went in perfectly thanks to you.

Robyn said...

I need to put a short zipper 5"-7" in the neckline of a sweatshirt. Can I use an invisible zipper?

Kay Whitt said...

Robyn,

Putting in an invisible zipper requires that there be an open seam that you finish once the zipper has been installed. I don't think an invisible zipper would work in this application.

Anonymous said...

I would like to try your invisible zipper installation tutorial for the installation of a zipper in the back seam of a skirt. However, the zipper I have purchased is a standard - not an invisible - zipper. Should I give it a try with your invisible zipper instructions or would I be better off going with a lapped zipper application until I can get an invisible zipper to try on the next project? Thank you for your suggestion and time!

Kay Whitt said...

As far as I know, this installation technique is for the invisible type zipper only. I would recommend that you do the lapped installation method this time and try this out when you get some invisible zippers in your stash!

bobbincat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bobbincat said...

You'd better come over to my blog and check out the invisible zipper in my LBD, thanks to the helpful advice here! Thank you very much!

Leslie Davis said...

I just wanted you to know that I come to this link each time I need to sew a new pillow.

Every pillow you see in my blog, is made with this tut!! I'd love for you to visit.
thank you!!

Amelia Godissart said...

Great instructions! I have sewn for 30+ years but the last 5 or so I have spent mostly quilting. Your tutorial is easier to understand than the instructions that come in the zipper package!

Kitchen Madonna said...

I am trying to make your Monique dress and have scoured the internet for pattern reviews and tutorials. I am having a problem with your zipper instructions which call for a 20-22" zipper and your instructions reference the manufacturer's instructions and your blog for the photo tutorial for invisible zippers.

However, that does not tell me how to install such a long zipper (the bodice is only 13"). I left the waistband open in the back, figuring that would be long enough.

Please be so kind as to help. I need to wear this dress to a social occasion here in sunny Florida.

Thanks so much,
kitchenmadonna@mac.com

Carolyn H said...

I am making The Marilyn Dress. Haven't made a dress in many years and haven't done an invisible zipper since the 60s! I put off putting in the zipper for several days. Your directions made it easy!!! Bernina makes an invisible zipper foot, but you know how much they cost & didn't want to make that investment for one dress!
Carolyn

Lyric said...

You've written this blog post succinctly, cleverly and even cutely. Okay, I want to try it. But, in addition to my angst about it all, I am working on a 1925 hand crank sewing machine. I am so very glad you commented about using the regular zipper foot because I do not believe my machine even has a "zipper" foot.

I hope I can do this.

Thank you for sharing this tutorial.

Cheers,

Lyric