August 22, 2010

Pencil Skirt Sewalong - The Invisible Zipper Tutorial

I'm actually not the biggest fan of invisible zippers, but at the same time, I love the way they look. It's like there's nothing there. When inserted well, they look amazing so I've got a few tips for these babies, because in my opinion, invisible zippers are a rather weak fastening. Weak in that, they seem to rip apart the easiest, get caught on fabric, thread, you name it. OK, ready? Let's get started.

You will need the following:

  • a zipper opening (obviously something to put the zipper in, you know, like a skirt)

  • an invisible zipper

  • organza, fusible tricot or this fabulous fusible stay tape in the 1 1/4" width

  • an adjustable zipper foot

  • an invisible zipper foot - optional. I have inserted a zipper using this method with an adjustable zipper foot, but I always have such mixed results. This however is totally up to you.

Step 1 - Cut two 1 1/4 inch strips of your stabilizer a few inches longer than the length of your zipper. Apply it to your zipper opening. Below I've used this precut fusible stay tape that I have in the shop.

Step 2 - You will need to mark the seam allowance for the zipper opening. I prefer to temporarily press/steam the seam allowance in place, however, you can also use your own method for marking the seam line. To temporarily press something just give it a little bit of steam and finger press along your seam line.

Step 3 - Open the zipper with the zipper pull pulled all the way to the bottom of your zipper (if you need to shorten your zipper, do that first) and with right sides together pin one side of the zipper tape to one free side of the zipper opening. Stitch in place. As you stitch from the top of the zipper to the bottom (or to the zipper pull, where you can't stitch anymore) try to keep the zipper teeth out of the way of the machine needle with your finger. Stitch close to the zipper teeth being careful not to catch the zipper teeth. Backstitch a few times at the bottom of the zipper.

Step 4 - Pin the opposing side of the zipper the to the opposite seam allowance now. Repeat step 3 and stitch this side of the zipper from top to bottom.

Step 5 - Close the zipper. At the base of the zipper, pull up the free zipper tape with your fingers and spear a pin from one stitched side to the other. Stitch and backstitch in place with an adjustable zipper foot from just above the speared pin to the end of the garment.

Step 6 - Press your seam allowance open at the bottom of your zipper opening. Turn over and lightly press your zipper whilst closed. From here, you're finished! Zip your zip up and down, making sure it doesn't catch on anything and then sit back and admire your handiwork. You just inserted an invisible zipper!

A few things to consider:

Here's some of my thoughts on invisible zips. These are things I've found out through experience as I've used this zipper application a bazillion times.

  • DO NOT press open the invisible zipper (I mean that part right before you sew it in, you know, all those instructions that tell you to open up the zipper and then press the coil open. Don't do it). DO NOT put your iron directly on the coils either. I say these two things for two reasons. Every time I've pressed open the invisible zipper teeth, the coils have been stitched into the fabric and then they rip the fabric and have a hard time zipping up. Every time I've put my iron directly on the teeth coils to press out the wrinkles in the zipper, the zipper has come apart AFTER I stitched it into the garment and while I was wearing it. Yeah, just rips right in the middle of the zipper too. Rips right apart, I tell you! I've done this more times than I care to admit. Don't do it! If you have to press an invisible zipper, only press the tape.

  • Invisible zippers have to be stabilized, in my opinion. They are so likely to warp. By that I mean that they bubble or the bottom jets out and looks really funky. Stabilize the zipper opening with the organza, fusible tricot, or stay tape and you'll get a much better outcome.

That's about all I have to say about invisible zips. I admit, I do like the way they look. Enjoy!

May the force be with you.


  1. Oh, now I see! So pressing the teeth outward is what makes my zipper hard to zip up. Very useful information - Thank you very much!

  2. Argh! I know what you mean about invisible zips being the spawn of the devil...that being said, I definitely love the way they look on the finished product. Thanks for the tips and tutorial! :-) I never thought of stabilizing the seam allowance that you attach the zipper to, but I'm definitely going to give it a try next time. :-)

  3. Just wanted to say that even though I'm not doing the sewalong right now, I really appreciate what you're doing with this series! Part of my fall plan is to make a skirt from a sloper I ended up with after an online class in fitting I took last year, and while I don't know if it will be a pencil skirt persay (perhaps more of a straight skirt), I am going to have to adapt it enough to add a vent and all. So I will definitely be referring to this for the lining!

  4. Your fabric is SOOOO cute! I must have some! Where is it from?
    I need to get on the ball with this sew along! I am going to try to catch up tonight! Well, as much as I can since I am cutting on the bias and won't be able to sew any tonight. BUT, I will get caught up this week! I want to be able to post on the flicker page! :)

  5. i totally agree with you on the evils of pressing invisible zips. the first time i skipped that step was out of exhaustion-- then it was so easy i never went back.

  6. I love that fabric!! Where is it from?
    I'm starting my pencil skirt as soon as I get back from vacation!

  7. Hi Shivani,
    I wish I could say I actually bought this fabric. I did the invisible zipper tutorial on a skirt I had bought a few years ago. It's one of those cityscape skirts and is the most lovely silk. The skirt has never fit me quite right and so I unpicked the zipper and the waistband, trimmed the waistband and gave it a fresh new waistband stay. When it was time for the zipper, I used it as the invisible zipper tutorial. It is one of my favorite skirts. I'm so glad you like it too!

  8. This is very handy! I have already sewn up my back seam because I was concentrating on the vent. So I'm going to try your technique for this one.
    My invisible zip technique is very rough and ready. After many many failed and annoying attempts, I now line up the top of the invisible zip with the raw edge of the skirt, eyeball the correct placement on the seam then sew to the end of the opening (marked on fabric). Then I start at the top again for the other side and repeat. Then, close the zip. Put in the regular zipper foot and line up the needle as close to the last stitch of the zipper as possible and stitch the seam. Works pretty well! But the key is to stitch the seam below the zip after inserting the zip. And the funniest thing is, the less I think about it, the better it turns out. As soon as I start worrying about it, I get puckers and other problems!

  9. If anyone, I thought you could share my pain...
    I've been using your tutorial of the invisible zipper instalation quite successfully for 2 zippers now. Keep in mind there has been no pressing of the zipper of any kind...
    I was in the bathroom on day one of wearing new skirt, only to find that the middle of the zipper was gaping open. Eek, so I was able to get the zipper down and zipped it back up. So I thought I was all good. Well, I left the stall and did a slight bend for the soap only to have it gaping in the middle again. Noooo! So I then hunted down safety pins and have made the back of my new skirt look like frankenstein. Only to then have a snag on the back from the safety pins. I think my skirt is now for goodwill/dump, and I've only worn it once. :(
    I now officially loathe invisible zippers.

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