Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ta-da! Tuesday--Day Seven: Invisible Zipper Perfection

The picture of that seam is so beautiful. :)  Happy sigh.  It looks like it's a little bumpy around the seam allowances, but that's just a pressing issue.

After having been a sewing teacher, college sewing lab assistant, and just working with seamstresses in general, I've found that a lot of people are nervous to attempt invisible zippers.  I used to be one of those people.  My technique has changed a bit over the years, partly from a change in equipment and partly from simple preference.  I have now found my own favorite way to insert an invisible zipper.  If there's anything I've learned in my years of sewing and teaching it is that there are very few things that only have one "right way" to be done.  So try a few different ways, find what you like, and work it until you perfect it.

Before I get started just let me say that it isn't necessary to have a special presser foot for an invisible zipper.  I started off with a cheap, generic plastic foot that included a roller.  That was great as I was learning, but I don't use it anymore.  Too often it ended up sewing too far away from the teeth and showing tape when it was sewn or too close to the teeth and making it so I couldn't zip the zipper.  A regular, general purpose presser foot and a steady hand are all you really need.

Start off by opening up your zipper and lightly ironing the teeth open.  Don't set your iron too hot or you could melt the teeth.  I may or may not have found this out by sad experience.
Use the iron to uncurl the teeth so you get a little valley between the teeth and the tape.
I like to lay my zipper down along the seam line and mark where the zipper will end.  Mark about an inch up from the zipper stop, not the bottom of the zipper tape.  After I have that position marked I move the zipper out of the way and sew the rest seam from that point to the bottom of the garment. You'll need it for later.

Now match the top of the fabric with the top of the zipper tape and pin in place.  If you place the zipper tape along the edge of a serging line it will usually give pretty close to a 5/8 inch seam.  The single pin at the top is all I use on the first half.  Stitch in the little valley between the teeth and the tape.  The presser foot will hold the zipper open.

Here's the part that kind of rocked my world.  I happened to be looking at my extra presser feet and took a better look at my satin stitch foot.  It has a little notch in the middle that creates a groove on either side.  Perfect for an invisible zipper.  It made the tape lay flatter and the needle go perfectly into the valley, all while avoiding the shifting of the zipper, which is the only downfall of using the general purpose foot.  Dude.  It's totally my new invisible zipper foot.  But the regular one still works great too.
L-O-V-E the foot!
Sew from the top down until you get to the seam by the zipper stop.  You can sew until the needle touches the seam but don't go past that.

Now comes one of the more critical parts: matching sides.  Close the zipper and pin the zipper tape at the top of the other side.  Flip the fabric to be right side up.  Move the fabric as necessary so it lays flat where the zipper meets the seam.  Hold it in place with your thumb and flip it back over so the wrong side is up again.
Make sure it doesn't pull in one direction or the other.
Pin the zipper to the seam allowance where you've held it in place.  It'll be a lot easier to pin it parallel to the zipper at this point.  Trust me.  If you have any other seams or things to match along the length of the zipper (waist seam, yoke, etc.) repeat the process you used to line up the bottom of the zipper.

Pin the rest of the length of the zipper by matching the centers between any unpinned portions.  Eyeballing it usually works just fine.
You'll replace the parallel pins with perpendicular ones after everything lays smooth.
Open up the zipper all the way to the bottom, taking it down past the original seam.  Once it's open you can put in your perpendicular pins and remove the parallel ones for easier sewing.  Be careful with the pin and the first stitch at the bottom of the zipper.  That's the one that determines whether or not it puckers at the end of the seam.  It's the trickiest part of the whole process.  Match the valley with the seam line and insert the needle as close as possible to the top of the first seam.  Lower the presser foot and sew the seam all the way to the top of the zipper.

If everything has gone well, the stitches on the zipper and the rest of the seam will match up perfectly...or at least pretty darn close.  Feed the zipper pull through the itty bitty space still left from leaving that inch of zipper unsewn.  Pull the zipper up to close it and admire your results.

No hole and no pucker.  Ta da!
Invisible zippers really are my favorite to put in.  I use them for everything except a fly on pants or for bulkier projects (like wedding dresses) where an invisible zipper would just break open.  Give this method a try, practice, and let me know if you like it!
Now I just need a sharp needle that doesn't pull the threads while I sew...

What things do you have to show off?  Today is the seventh day of my challenge so...one week down!  Ta da!

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  1. This is how I sew invisible zippers and I'll never go back to the old way! Great tutorial!

    1. Thanks! I tried several different methods before finding out that this is my favorite. I'm never going back either!

  2. Wow, you make it look so easy! Thanx for the tip!!