How to Insert an Invisible Zip

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Last week we talked about how to insert a lapped zip, and this week we're talking about invisible zips!

For the Felicity Dress, I instruct you to use a lapped zip, but you are more than welcome to use an invisible one if that's what you prefer, or it's what you have on hand.

Before we start, you do not need an invisible zipper foot to insert an invisible zip. While it does make it easier, you don't need one. What an invisible zip foot does is open the zipper teeth out from the zip tape for your needle to stitch as close to the teeth as possible - but you can do this yourself with your fingers using a standard zipper foot and taking your time. If invisible zips are your preferred zip however, you might find it useful investing in one.

Below on the left is my machine's standard zipper foot and on the right is my invisible zipper foot. You can see that the invisible zipper foot has two channels running along the bottom. When inserting your zip, the teeth go into one side of the channel, which opens them up for a close stitch.

So, let's get started!

1. To make sure we place our invisible zip as accurately along the seam line as possible, gently press your seam allowance toward the wrong side of the garment on both sides.

2. Open your zip and place it face down on the right side of the garment with the zipper tape in the seam allowance and the teeth along your pressed seam line. Pin in place.

Note - I aways find initially trying to figure out how to place the invisible zip counter-intuitive, but once you see how it's supposed to end up, it all makes sense!

3. When inserting an invisible zip, you want your stitching to get as close to the zipper teeth as possible by opening them up.

The invisible zipper foot does this for you, but if you're using a standard zipper foot, you'll need to open them out yourself. If using a standard zipper foot, you might find it helpful to gently press the zipper teeth out with a warm iron (you don't want it too hot, otherwise you'll melt the zipper teeth).

Start your stitching from the top of the open zipper tape, working your way to the bottom.

4. Stitch as close to the bottom of the open zipper as you can, then back-tack.

Because I was silly and used white thread (!!), you can't see my stitches that well, but here they are anyway.

And what it looks like on the outside...

5. Now we need to repeat the process for the other side. This is where you need to be extra careful that you are lining up your zip correctly, so that when it closes, your seam won't be out, resulting in unmatched sides (this is always where I run into trouble, so take your time!)

On this side I'm using my standard zipper foot, if you're doing the same, you'll be opening out your zipper teeth so that you can stitch as close to them as possible. Go slowly...

6. Now that both sides of your zip are attached, we need to stitch closed the bottom of the seam. Right sides together, pin them closed while pulling the bottom of the zip out of the way.

7. Using your standard zipper foot and starting from the bottom of the hem, stitch your seam closed, getting as close to the bottom of the zip as possible by holding the zip out and away from the seam. Back-tack at both ends.

8. Gently press your seams and marvel at your invisible zip!

Okay, confession time - I find invisible zips annoying to use. I know the theory of inserting them, I know how to insert them and I've used them plenty of times in the past, but I personally find it really hard to insert them quickly, neatly and cleanly into my garment while still matching up waistline seams and/or pattern matching fabric.

Stitching in the first side is fine, but when it comes time to insert the other side, because I can't baste the seam shut first like I can with a lapped zip (which results in two perfectly lined up sides and a matching waist line seam), I always tend to slightly skew the other side of my garment. The waist seams rarely match perfectly, which I find annoying, and I always end up with a slight bubble at the bottom of the zip because the fabric isn't matching.

Any tips on how to stop that? Maybe I'm doing it wrong... perhaps practicing invisible zips needs to be on my list of sewing goals for next year :) Oh well, at least lapped zips work for me every time and I like them.

Do you have a zip preference?

9 comments on "How to Insert an Invisible Zip"
  1. Great tutorial! One thing that I do to help make inserting invisible zips less of a pain is to hand baste them in. You could hand baste just the second side (first zip up the invisible zip to match the tops) and then sew it, and it should be a little neater.

    1. Hey Ali - this is such a great idea, a but of a 'doh!' moment for me, hehe *blush :)

  2. I find invisible zips annoying too, but I think they're the only all-machine zipper application possible for lined garments.

    One thing I do is after sewing one side, first baste the other side of the zip at the waistline, bottom of the zip, and top of the zip. If and when they match up, I sew "real stitches" again at the same spots - as in AS CLOSE to the zipper teeth as possible. If you skip this second step, your seams may end up not matching when you sew the whole side down with only baste stitches (you know when that means invisible zips really suck haha). However, even sewing small real stitches at the three critical points takes several times - but it does beat having to unpick a whole side of the zip 3 times! :p

    1. Hey Michelle, they are the only all-machine application indeed. I guess I don't mind hand sewing in lining when using the lapped zip method, but yes, basting, just like Ali mentioned above. I can't believe I've never thought of that... hehe.

  3. Hi Jen

    I haven't tried this method, but intend to the next time I need to insert an invisible zip, as it looks as if it will prevent the bubble at the end and help with lining up seams.


  4. I prefer invisible zips, just because that is what I am most familiar with. I used an invisible zip on my Felicity Dress because that's what I had on hand and I was in a time crunch. It worked out really well! As for matching the waist seams I always make a mark on the second side of the zip (the unsewn side) where the seam is and this helps match it up.

    1. Great idea Elizabeth - making a mark would save hand basting and be just as effective :) And I'm always a fan of using what you have on hand and your favourite techniques!!

  5. When I took home ec, they taught us to sew the seam shut, using a basting stitch where the zipper is going. Then press open the seam. Then lay the zipper face down centering over the basted seam and baste in place. Then, IIRC (I don't use a lot of zippers), open the seam and, using the zipper foot, sew in place. Apparently no one else in the sewing world uses this method I was taught in the early 70s, but I continue to do it because I can't understand exactly what is going on in the alternate methods and how you would get your zipper properly centered.


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