April 11, 2014

Blast from the Past: Invisible Zipper Tutorial

I've decided that every now and then, it would be nice to have a blast from the past post - meaning a post that I've already published long ago and far away and that would be fun to showcase again. It also means that if needed, I'll revamp the post to include updated info. One thing I'm finding is that I receive a lot of email questions about things I've already answered in previous posts. But the person inquiring wouldn't really know that I've already answered that sort of question if they haven't read me for very long. So I thought, why not? I'll post an oldy, but goodie post every so often to keep things fresh around here.

Today's blast from the past is my invisible zipper tutorial. I also released a free Craftsy class last year that deals with all things zippers, so if you haven't, check it out. Without further adieu, my blast from the past this Friday:

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 closure. 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 or dress)

  • 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" 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.

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 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. Keep in mind that these are just my thoughts and you might have different ones - which is totally great too. I think we all have some strong opinions on invisible zips, here are mine:

  • I don't ever put my iron directly on the zipper coils. This includes pressing open the zipper coils so that you can get closer to the zipper coils with your regular zipper foot. Every time I've put my iron directly on the teeth coils, 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 (and I've seen it happen to others just as much because they did this very thing). 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, stronger outcome.

  • Don't use an invisible zipper on a garment that requires lots of stability or that is using the zipper to help keep something in place - aka a strapless gown, aka a bridal strapless gown with lots and lots of skirt layers. Since they're the weakest of all zipper applications, I've found that they don't do well in those types of garments. Better to have something much stronger and more durable and avoid a zipper blow out incredible hulk style.

  • Trim down bulky seams around a zipper. Grading, trimming and clipping corners are all good at helping keep invisible zippers zipping up and down without a hitch.

That's about all I have to say about invisible zips. What are your thoughts? I admit, I do like the way invisible zips look. Enjoy!

May the odds be ever in your favor.


  1. I have a question which has always puzzled me when it comes to reinforcing around zips.... How would I attach the organza? I get how something fusible would attach, but how would I attach the organza without stitching showing through?

  2. Ah! When you use silk organza, you'll baste the strips of organza to the zipper opening using a smaller seam allowance. Since the seam allowance is going to be on the inside of the garment, it won't show and once the zipper is inserted you can remove the basting stitches if desired. Since organza is stiff, its easy to sew with and usually won't slip and slide around so tacking it down at the seam allowance works just fine (or you could even use a fusible web to hold it in place too). Hopefully this makes sense!

  3. It took me forever to start using invisible zippers, but now that I have, I love them. I haven't experienced the splitting that you have, and fingers crossed I don't. My biggest learning curve was how to match horizontal seams across the zipper (like a waist seam). After ripping out a few zippers, I finally thought it through and posted my own tutorial (it's at http://homeon129acres.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/how-to-match-seams-across-an-invisible-zipper/ if you don't mind me sharing).

  4. I think it's pretty easy to put an invisible zipper on a two pieces of fabric. It's harder to attach it to the pencil skirt in progress. And of course, the real mastership - attaching that zipper to the skirt and its lining. It doesn't exist tutorial for that.

  5. You are right! It is pretty easy to put in a zipper on two pieces of fabric in the flat - which is why you put a zipper in a pencil skirt whilst keeping it in the flat for as long as possible. Also, in my Craftsy class there is a video tutorial for how to attach an invisible zipper with a lining - and I did it in a pencil skirt! Definitely check it out!

  6. Your tutorial is what taught me how to do an invisible zipper successfully! I must have referred to it twenty times when I first started sewing! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Sunni, thank you so much for this invisible zipper tutorial. I like the looks of them best in a dress especially. These other sewers that do the tutorials I think are in the selling business as much or more than teaching, and your way of putting in the precious invisible zip is just the best. Thank you! Doris

  8. Julia, your tip about basting is a good one. I would add that the basting only has to be in the area that the seams are in; much less to rip if you need to try again.

    I love invisible zippers and recommend them to all my students. They are so much easier to install and for young girls, my primary students, they yield much better results.

  9. Oh my goodness! At last! Just tried this method and it worked so much better. I still need some practice, but this is the best zipper I ever sewed! Thank you!

  10. […] this is the first dress that I put a zipper I’m not embarrassed of! I used this tutorial from A Fashionable Stitch and it’s the best zipper I have ever sewed! It was pretty easy, but I need add a few more of […]

  11. […] it, but I wasn’t going to do it again!).  I referred to both Lauren’s tutorial and Sunni’s tutorial, as well as the By Hand London Anna […]

  12. I finished my first ever hand made item of clothing last weekend - a Ginger skirt from Colette - complete with an invisible zip. I watched endless tutorials and read countless blog posts and practised a few times on a scrap of fabric. But I'm embarrassed to say that I broke a needle on my first attempt because nowhere did it mention that the needle setting had to be centred. Never underestimate the ignorance of a novice! Thanks for the tutorial.


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