Hello! Stephanie from Stephie B’s Designs here again today to share a great how-to on invisible zippers! Sewing zippers is intimidating enough as is, but an invisible zipper?! I know what you’re thinking. but together we’ll tackle this. 🙂
This tutorial also comes just in time for the release of Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop’s brand new dress, the Ruby Party Dress. It is sooooo beautiful! It’s available from size 3m-12 years, can be made using several options to achieve a ton of looks, and like all PAB patterns, has easy step-by-step instructions to walk you through till the end. Although it was released during the Holiday season (and you can make amazing formal party dresses with it!), it can be used to make lovely year round. In fact, today I’m sewing a sweet little Spring dress for one of the twins I’ll be having in a few months, just in time for her arrival.
Before we start, I highly recommend you check out this Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop blog called Zippers 101 for more information on types and when to use them. Its a great breakdown of the who, what, when, where, and why.
Ok! Time to dive in to invisible zippers!
Prepare the Zipper and Garment
Once removing the zipper from the package, prepare it for installation by pressing it from the wrong side so it lays flat. I always use high heat (the cotton setting) and have never had an issue with the teeth melting, but stick with what makes you comfortable.
The teeth naturally curl over to the wrong side of the zipper, but you want them on the right side when you install it. Pressing the zipper flat will also help you sew as close to the teeth as possible, especially since we’re not using an invisible zipper foot. In the image below, you can see the difference between the pressed and not pressed sides of the zipper tape. This is looking at the zipper face down (wrong side up).
If your garment is not fully lined, I recommend finishing the edges of the exposed raw edges with a serger, zig-zag stitch, or pinking shears.
For the Ruby, because the bodice is lined, I chose not to finish the raw edges of the bodice, however I did finish the skirt with a serger as seen in the picture below.
Lay out the Zipper
Unzip and lay one side of the zipper tape face down on the right (as in right/wrong) side of your garment. If the pattern calls for a specific seam allowance, use a ruler or seam gauge to ensure it’s in the correct position. Use pins, washable glue, or washable tape to hold the zipper in place as you sew. I used washable glue.
Once you reach the zipper pull, zip it up slightly to ensure the bottom of the zipper is also in line with the raw/finished edge or flush within the seam allowance as you pin/tape/glue it in place.
Sew the Zipper
Attach your regular zipper foot to your sewing machine and change your stitch width to a setting that will land the needle as close to the zipper teeth as possible. In order to swing my needle as far to the left as possible, my setting was 1.5mm for the stitch width (as shown in the picture below).
As you can see below, I started with the left side of the dress, and was able to align the right side of the zipper foot along the right side of the zipper tape, aiding me in keeping a straight line as I sewed.
Starting at the top of the zipper, sew in place as close to the teeth as possible, stopping when you near the zipper pull. Work slowly to maintain control of the zipper, and use your fingers to keep the zipper in place and lying flat.
You’ll have to work slowly, holding the fabric and zipper tape in place as you near the zipper stop.
After the first side is sewn, zip up your zipper and align the two sides of the garment so they match up perfectly prior to adhering the second zipper side onto it. Make sure your zipper tape is still face down against the right side of the garment and that it hasn’t twisted.
Hint: If your garment has a waist seam or other defining seam or feature, mark its placement on the unsewn side of the zipper tape and adhere the zipper tape to the garment up and down from that point. You may have to pull and tug to align everything, but alignment is critical. As you can see below, I marked the waist and top of the band on my Ruby.
Once you have proper alignment on the second side of your garment, adjust your zipper foot and width to line up with the other side of the zipper tape. For this side, I used a 6.0mm stitch width to move it as far to the right as possible.
Note: Some sewing machines cannot offset the needle to both sides – meaning you can’t set it very far to the left or very far to the right, which is necessary for this zipper installation – so you may not be able to move your needle into place along the second side. If that’s the case, start sewing at the bottom of the zipper and sew up.
My sewing machine does allow me to set the needle with very wide margins on either side, so I was able to get close to the teeth while sewing from the top down.
After sewing, zip up the zipper to ensure both sides are aligned and working properly. If not – use a seam ripper and try again!
Once both sides of the zipper are right where you want them, do a happy dance, then sandwich the remaining (bottom) portion of the zipper tape within the seam allowance and pin in place.
Starting 1/4”-1/2” above the zipper stop and overlapping your previous stitches, stitch down the remainder of the seam. Try not to catch the bottom portion of the zipper tape or it will not lay flat after pressing.
Press the seam open…
And sew the remaining portion of bottom to each side of the seam allowance.
Does it need to look pretty? Not at all! 🙂
Last but not least, finish sewing your garment according to the pattern instructions and admire your work.