Some of y’all requested to see my invisible zipper method, so here it is! Just a head’s up – this is a fairly picture-intensive post. Sorry! You have been warned!
Invisible zippers are not necessarily my favorite type of zipper (because only a seamstress would have a favorite type of zipper, amirite), but they definitely have their pros. I like them sewn into the side of slim-leg pants, into the back or side seam of a wiggly dress, and concealed in the seam of a pencil skirt. While I love lapped zippers and I think they are a beautiful touch, sometimes your zipper needs an invisibility cloak. This is where the invisible zipper can rock your world.
Invisible zippers have this reputation for being fiddly, and I totally disagree with everyone who believes that. They really aren’t any more fiddly than a lapped or centered zipper – in fact, in some ways, they are actually easier to sew into a garment. It definitely helps to have an invisible zipper foot, but you can easily sew those suckers in if you have a regular zipper foot and you can move the position of your needle. I think most of what gives invisible zippers so much hate is that it can be difficult to close up the bottom of the zipper after you’ve sewn it in – the seam allowance is off, there’s a little bump under the zipper stop, and dealing with facings is kind of weird.
So, this is where my tutorial comes in! First off – this is not some kind of earth-shattering method I have discovered and patented. I learned this way during my stint at Muna’s, and it’s super similar to the standard method that we are all familiar with (although I find it a lot more foolproof, personally!). Not sure if this is a RTW method or not – I know most of what we did there was based off RTW standards, but I’ve never sewn invisible zippers in a factory so your guess is as good as mine (if you know, speak up, yo!). Try it for yourself and see what you think!
You will start with an invisible zipper and the seam that it is going to be sewn into. For this tutorial, I’m just using scraps, but this method can be used on anything – skirts, pants, dresses, etc.
Press your fabric and interface along the seamlines of each side, if desired, using either fusible interfacing or sewing in interfacing or silk organza. I did not for this tutorial, so be prepared for wrinkles. The zipper seam should be completely open from top to bottom at this point.
Finish both sides of the seam as desired. Mine are serged, but you can also pink or use a zigzag stitch. I’ve also had some luck with encasing these in seam binding, but be warned that it can get bulky!
Starting with one side (I usually do left first), lay your zipper on the fabric with the right sides facing and the zipper teeth pointing away from the raw edge, keeping the top stop about 3/4″ away from the top edge (or your seam allowance + 1/8″, assuming you will be adding a hook and eye at the end). I don’t use a lot of pins here, just one to keep the zip top in place.
Using your handy-dandy invisible zipper foot, start sewing the zipper to the fabric. To keep everything along the correct seam allowance, you can use the markings on your throat plate (the silver doo-dad under the needle that has measurements etched into it) to line up the raw edge of your fabric and the zipper will fall into place exactly along the seam allowance line. So simple, but y’all wouldn’t believe for how many YEARS I sat there trying to mark the seam line on the fabric and sew the zipper on top of it. DUR. Just use the throat plate guide! Argh, Lauren!!
A few words about the mighty invisible zipper foot:
- The are awesome and worth every freaking penny. The Bernina ones get pricey (I think I paid like $40 for mine, ughf), but most other manufacturers are closer to the $15-$25 range. WELL worth the price if you want a gorgeously inserted invisible zipper every time.
- Some shops sell a sort of “universal” invisible zipper foot that is plastic. Don’t buy that shit, it’s a waste of money and you will likely end up throwing it out the window in frustration (join the club!). Save up and get the real thing, or stick with your regular zipper foot.
- You may also use a regular zipper foot to insert your invisible zipper. This works best if you can move the needle position, but you can still do it even without that. We did not have invisible zipper feet at Muna’s, and we inserted zippers just fine. You just push the teeth out of the way and sew as close as you possibly can. Pressing the teeth flat with an iron helps, but it’s not necessary and can sometimes result in you getting toooo close to the teeth, thus meaning you can’t zip the zipper!
Here you can really see that foot in action. It grabs the teeth and pulls them out of the way, which lets the needle get SUPER close without actually impairing how the zipper functions. Also, still on my 5/8″ seamline, hey-o!
Anyway, go on and sew your zipper as far as you can. You’ll get stopped at the pull if you’re using the special foot. That’s fine. If you’re using a regular zipper foot, stop somewhere at the zipper stop, aka, don’t go alllll the way down to the tippy toes of the tape.
Now close your zipper and mark on both sides of the tape where the stitching stopped. If you are matching stripes or plaids, you may also want to use this method to mark where the lines cross so you can match them when you sewn the other side of the zip.
Starting from the top, sew this side down, same as before. Use your seamline markings on the throat plate – if your machine doesn’t have them marked on the left side, measure it out and mark it with a strip of tape or a Sharpie. Do NOT start from the bottom and sew up – if you want your zipper to be nice and balanced and not have weird wrinkles or pulls, you need to sew both sides in the same direction.
After you’ve sewn both sides, test that zipper out! Make sure it doesn’t show when you close it, and that it slides easily. You’ll have a little open bubble where between the zipper and the closed seam, we’re going to fix that now!
Get out your regular zipper foot and move your needle all the way to one side. If your needle doesn’t change position, you can still do this, but you’ll just have to go reeeeeally slow.
Check your opening and make sure you don’t have one side that is longer than the other! This is where bubbles happen. If you marked everything correctly, it should not be a problem, but things can slip through the cracks from time to time. If one side is longer but only slightly so (as in, you can gently pull the top and bottom and it matches up flat), you will want to sew this next part with the longer side facing DOWN. The feed dogs will help ease that tiny bit of length so you don’t get a bubble.
Starting at the bottom, lower your needle on the stitching line you first created (the one below the zipper) and sew toward the zipper. Remember to backstitch! This can get kind of tricky with zipper bulk, so move the tail end out of the way with your finger if you need to.
Sew all the way to the zipper and try to get as close to the previous stitching line as possible, overlapping by a couple of stitches.
Here’s how mine turned out. The zipper is on the right (the side with the yellow marking), and the remaining seam is on the left. Obviously I didn’t do a super perfect job – there’s definitely a curve in the stitching, whoops! – but as long as you’re within 1/8″ here, it’s close enough.
To give the zipper some strength, we want to attach the tail end to the open seam allowance. I used to do this by hand, but why whipstitch when you can shove it under the machine AMIRITE? Flip the fabric away from the seam allowance and sew each side of the tape down (to ONLY the seam allowance!) with a few short stitches.
And that’s it! Easy invisible zipper, no bump at the bottom, no wonky seam allowance below. Also – see the little wrinkles toward the bottom? That’s from my super-lightweight voile not having some interfaced support. Whomp whomp. Make sure you interface if you are using a lightweight fabric!
Now, what about finishing the top of that zipper with a facing? Hold onto yer hats, I’ve got a tutorial for that!
(also, the sun was starting to set at this point, so whoops, pictures are worse than ever up in hurr)
Grab the facing seam allowance (at the top, the one with two lines of stitching) and turn it so it folds back on itself with both stitching lines facing up, and pin into place. The top stitching line should be about 1/8″ (or less) from the fold. This kind of hard to explain in words, so hopefully the picture makes sense!
Now stitch next to the zipper stitching line, about 1/4″ away (close enough so you catch the zipper; far enough so it doesn’t interfere with zipping abilities), from top to bottom. The fold that you just pinned down with be stitched into place. I like to sew where I can see the stitching line from the zipper, so I can make sure that I’m getting it at the right distance.
Give everything a good press, sew in a hook and eye, and admire your handiwork.
So there you go! I think this method is a little more fool-proof, and I love anything that can be accomplished 100% by machine. Hopefully some of you will find this tutorial helpful when it comes to conquering those invisible zippers. Also, isn’t that corner-turning trick AWESOME? You can use that with any corner that needs a sharp point. The extra fabric actually helps keep the corner nice and structured, and is less likely a develop a hole over time (as would be the issue if you trimmed down those seam allowances too aggressively). If you’re experiencing deja-vu, it is very similar to the method Tilly posted about a couple of years ago, except with stitching to keep everything in place.
If you have any questions, holler at me in the comments! Or we can just discuss your thoughts on invisible zippers