Wednesday, 17 September 2014

5 Tips on How To Insert an Invisible Zip


After I posted my Silvia Dress a few of you lovely people requested a tutorial for the method I used to insert the side seam zip (which I am still so proud of!). It was my very first time inserting a zip in that fashion (where the seam is closed both above and below the zip) so I don't feel like quite enough of an expert to be volunteering up my slightly 'trial and error' method as a guideline for others to follow! However, I have picked up quite a few invisible zip tips from a variety of sources over the time I have been sewing and I think making use of these definitely made that tricky insertion more successful. I thought I'd share with you some of my favourites and those which I think have made the biggest difference in terms of accuracy and first time success.

  • Make the very first thing you do to press the zipper teeth away from the tape. Be gentle and use a cool iron as you don't want to melt the plastic teeth! This is one of the first tips I picked up (from some By Hand London pattern instructions) and I've been doing it ever since. On a couple of occasions I've forgotten and could really notice the difference. It means you can stitch really close in to the teeth which really affects just how invisible that zip is.

  • The next preparation step is to add a strip of fusible interfacing to the seam allowances where you are going to insert the zip. I first saw this mentioned in Lladybird's fantastic invisible zip tutorial and it really has changed how accurately my zips go in first time. You just need a slim strip the length of your zip on each side. It prevents your fashion fabric from stretching out as you pin or sew in your zip which means you don't end up with one centre back mysteriously longer than another and some serious misalignment going on.

  • One of the most notoriously difficult things about inserting a zip is getting seam lines to match up, usually at the waist or waistband. The instructions for Sew Over It's Betty Dress gave me a great tip to help solve this one. You sew in one side of the zip as usual. Then, before you pin or sew in the second side, do up the zip. Make a tiny snip or draw a tiny mark on free side of the zip tape at exactly the point where the waistband (or any other seam lines intersecting the zip) meet the centre. Undo the zip and pin then sew it in, making sure that mark or snip you made lines up exactly with the seam line on the second side.

  • Another Lauren tip which has made a subtle yet significant difference to the alignment of my zips is to sew both sides in the same direction. It's again to do with the stretching out of fabric and things shifting ever so slightly as you sew. You may have pinned the second side of that zip in perfectly but, especially if it's a long zip, the pressure of the foot and the differing feeds of the fabric and the zip may cause things to move enough to be out by just a couple of millimetres. If you sew the right side from top to bottom, make sure the left side is sewn top to bottom too.

  • The fifth and final tip is something I only really do if I'm working with a really tricky fabric or on a super special project. Sally includes some great instructions for invisible zips in her Capital Chic patterns which involve basting the zip opening closed before insertion. This means you've basically got not chance of misaligned intersecting seams (unless you've basted them wonky to start with!) and results in a perfectly neat and today finish. It does add on a bit of time but is definitely worth it if you're working with a fabric which really won't hold up to any unpicking or multiple layers such as lace and and underlining.

I know a lot of people dread inserting an invisible zip as they have a reputation for being tricky and a bit temperamental. However, I kind of love them and really believe there should be nothing to fear! I like the sleek clean finish they give to the outside of a garment and, as many of my projects have now involved them, I feel quite confident about putting them in without relying on my seam ripper! I hope these tips prove as useful for you as they have for me. Have you got any other zip tricks you can;t live without?!

UPDATE! Make sure to check out the comments of this post as there are some more great tips included in there!

14 comments:

  1. Great tips, thank you. I find pinning the second side correctly is the hardest part. The number of times the pieces were twisted when i finished ... UGH! Any tips for that?

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    1. I think the biggest tip is to really take your time and check and double check as you pin. I pretty much always insert my zips with the seam below still open and sometimes close the zip part way to make sure I'm not getting twisted if you get what I mean. You could also press your seam allowances under and lay the garment out flat inside out so there's no chance of getting twisted. Good luck!

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  2. I don't pin my zipper, I use 1/8" basting tape so that there is no moving around. And I serge the edges, so that I can line up the zipper against the thread of the serged edge, so I always have an even seam allowance. I'm not a great sewer, but the one thing I can do is invisible zippers...I do the first four things you mention in your tips, I haven't found the need to baste. I always use a longer zipper length than called for, giving me easy movement around the stopper. I've found the hardest part is actually getting the no pucker when you sew the bottom of your seam. I've seen instructions that have you sew the seam first and that has always been problematic for me. My technique, and I don't know why this works, but its the only way I get a pucker free seam is to sew the entire seam after except for three inches in between the zipper end and the rest of the skirt seam. Draw the seam allowance for the rest, and then its easy to guide your zipper foot in.

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    1. Ooo that basting tape sounds really interesting! I'm going to have to take a look at that as I've often thought when pinning that the pressure of pushing them through the zip moves things about slightly. Sewing the seam first has always been problematic for me too! I find it much easier to get everything lined up when inserting the zip and then close the bottom neatly and smoothly.

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  3. Having equal seam allowances also helps a great deal!

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    1. Great tip thank you! That should have been the very first on the list!

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  4. I've always had better success with invisible than regular zippers, but I couldn't do it without my invisible zipper foot. As for Stacey's questions about placing the second side correctly, I always close the zipper after sewing the first side and place/pin the second side on correctly with the zipper closed. That way the zipper won't get twisted :)

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    1. Thanks Nilla, that's some great advice! I've never tried to insert an invisible zip without my invisible zip foot and don't think I'd want to! That foot has been one of my best sewing investments.

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  5. Good top tips here! I love invisible zips and use them in preference to 'normal' zips just because they are invisible on the outside.
    I don't have a special foot so use my normal zipper foot and use my finger nail to hold the teeth out of the way and I go very slowly with brilliant results. Sewing in the same direction for both sides works very well.
    One tip I can share is to use tailors chalk on the right side to draw your seam allowance. I don't pin my zip in but place it as I go along. This way it just helps to have a visual line to follow.

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    1. I too prefer invisible zips! I love the clean finish. It's fascinating to hear everyone's differing techniques, thank you for sharing yours. I'm in awe of you managing to install them neatly with a regular zip foot and might have to try placing the zip as I go next time as pinning can be a little tricky

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  6. Great tips and ones I'll certainly use when I do my first invisible zip. Yes, I haven't quite got round to that yet even though I've been sewing for years but it's something I want to try.

    It's very interesting to see your fifth and last point about basting the zip opening closed. This is something I've been doing for ages when sewing normal zips in and it really is worth the effort. The basting doesn't have to be super-neat (mine certainly isn't!) so it doesn't take too much time. It's just something I do after I've basted the zip in place. I use a zipper foot and after I've stitched the zip in place, removed the basting and steam ironed the zip area, the zip opening edges are perfectly together and everything should be sitting perfectly flat and with edges together.

    Thanks for sharing your tips and I promise to try an invisible zip!

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    1. Fantastic tip thanks Joyce, I've been reading Clare Schaffer's Couture Sewing Technqiues Book and I've been hearing so much about the benefits of basting that I'll definitely be making more of an effort with it in future! Good luck with your first invisible zip!

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  7. I don't understand this method to tell you the truth. The way I learned was to baste the seam closed and then sew the zipper in. Just line the closed zipper up with the seam, pin and sew. Then take out the basting. Maybe my method doesn't come out as nicely? I've always been ok with it though.

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    1. O how interesting Annie, I've always done it this way! I follow your method with regular zips as it's easy to lay it down flat and then sew up the sides but with invisibles I like to sew it in open as I find it less fiddly. Maybe I'll have to give the basting method a try

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