Sew an Invisible Zipper Without a Special Foot

IMG_3336Almost every tutorial on invisible zippers call for a special invisible zipper foot. I’ve installed plenty, and see no real need for that foot. I’d be willing to try it out, but it’s not something I’m dying to add to my collection of sewing machine accessories. I use my sliding zipper foot (which happens to be the one I use for all zipper applications because it allows me to sew so close to the zipper teeth.) If you don’t have one of these, you should. If you have to choose between one of these and an invisible zipper foot, I absolutely recommend this one. It works for any zipper you can imagine. Well, at least for any zipper I can imagine.IMG_3372IMG_3321

Here’s the invisible zipper I used for this skirt.

(Remember: you can always shorten a zipper, but you can never lengthen one, so if you’re not positive of the length you need its’s best to get it a little longer.) The inside of the zipper package will give you instructions saying you must use an invisible zipper foot. I bestow upon you the permission to toss that constraining little piece of cardboard into the trash whilst chuckling madly and saying “Your demands have no power over me!” You know, or something like that. (If you literally do that, put it in the comment section and I’ll officially nominate you as Duke or Dutchess of this blog for a day!)

‘Nough said. . . now let’s get down to it.

Step 1: Iron the zipper teeth outward. 

If you’ve never seen an invisible zipper, this is an odd step, but once you open up the zipper package, you’ll notice that the teeth are turned inward so they are more perpendicular to the zipper tape that parallel to it. Flip them over with your finger and hold them down while you iron on a low setting.Do not iron directly on the teeth, just on the tape. The teeth can melt or warp, leaving you an unzippable zipper. Nobody wants that.IMG_3322Step 2: Pin one side of the zipper in place. 

The right side of your zipper goes onto the right side of your fabric and then it will flip out when you iron the seam allowance under. Make sure that the stitch line will be right on your seam allowance. This is easy enough to do. Just measure from the edge of your fabric 5/8″ or whatever seam allowance your pattern calls for, making sure the zipper teeth are just beyond that mark. (You don’t want to sew into them.)IMG_3323

IMG_3324See,  5/8″ puts me stitching just inside the zipper teeth. That’s where you want to work.

Step 3: Sew the first side of the zipper into place.

This zipper foot will get you right up beside the teeth. Just be careful not to sew into them, because then you won’t be able to zip it. Even if the stitches get too super close to the teeth, they can catch the zipper pull so it gets stuck. I always check to make sure it zips after I sew each side to check for that.IMG_3325Step 4: Pin the other side into place.

Use the same measuring method as before. Remember, the teeth should be facing the part of the garment that will show, not the seam allowance.


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Make sure the two sides of the zipper line up, like the picture below. if you have one side sewn on and one side pinned and then figure out the tops don’t line up, just take out the pins and line it up better. If you sew without doing this, you’ll be scradoodled and nothing but a good round of seam ripping will be able to turn things around for you.

IMG_3327Step 5: Sew the second side in place. 

I prefer to sew down one side and up the other, but to each his own. Who am I to judge? So long as the thing gets sewn in there with a straight line and without puckers, nobody cares which direction you sewed. Unless you are on an online sewing forum, in which case people will hunt you down and hen peck you until you conform to whatever “tried-and-true” method of directional sewing they subscribe to. C’est La Vie. (Ahh, the Internet-Land of a trillion sewing opinions, all of which claim to be the only way to do it. )

IMG_3328Step 6: Make sure the zipper zips up. 

Please.

Don’t skip this step.

Don’t even breathe until this step is completed.

It’ll save you heartache, I guarantee.

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Step 7: Sew below the zipper. 

Again, only if you completed step 6, people!!!

Pin from the zipper down to the hem and stitch at the same seam allowance you sewed the zipper at. This seam allowance from second line of stitching will be about 1/8″ bigger right beside the zipper pull, because you can’t sew on top of the pull. If that doesn’t make sense yet, it will when you go to sew. Just move the garment over a bit until you can sew without hitting your zipper and when you stitch down from there, go back to your normal seam allowance. Once everything is sewn and ironed, this little zig isn’t even noticeable. (See the last picture on this step.)IMG_3330IMG_3331IMG_3332IMG_3373Step 8: Iron the seam.

Be careful ironing over the zipper. If your fabric is very light, you should strongly consider using a press cloth so you don’t melt or warp your zipper teeth.

This is when it all comes together. If you’ve never used an invisible zipper before, you’ll see in this step where it gets it name. You really can’t tell it’s there except for the zipper pull. It makes a beautiful seam.IMG_3335IMG_3336IMG_3334IMG_3333Step 9: Sew the edges of the waistband down so the zipper tape can’t flip out and become visible.

(This step is only if you are making a skirt or pants with a waistband.) You can do this by hand so the stitch isn’t seen on the outside, or by machine if  you don’t care about that. Now, since I don’t mind stitch lines on my waistband and this is such a busy fabric, I went ahead and used my machine. If you feel like that defeats the purpose of an invisible zipper, you’re certainly entitled to that. In that case, hand stitch the sucker down.IMG_3338
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Step 10: (Optional) Sew a hook and eye above the zipper.

To clarify, this step isn’t really optional to me. I’m not going to insist that you do it, but I almost never make a skirt or dress without either a button or a hook and eye above the zipper. I’ve seen ready to wear garments made like that. The trouble is, the zipper does what it was made to do. It zips…and UNzips! Taking a few minutes to sew on a hook and eye is a small price to pay to avoid the potential embarrassment of a skirt coming unzipped on me or-worse- on a client!

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IMG_3342The Moral of the Story? 

When someone tells you there’s only one way to do something and you’ll need their special equipment in order to do it, proceed with skepticism. What’s more powerful? Their wonder tool or your creative genius?

. . . I thought so.

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