Invisible zippers can be tricky and should be avoided at all costs! Just kidding, that wouldn’t make a very good tutorial now would it. But let me be the one to tell you invisible zippers are a heck of a lot easier than you might think. I promise as you practice you might even make them disappear. Did you like that pun? But really you can sew a great Invisible zipper.
If you don’t know what an invisible zipper even is, head on over to this post to learn all about the different zipper types. The stitches of the invisible zipper are not seen on the right side of the fabric, giving the illusion of not having a zipper at all, hence the name “invisible” zipper. They can be used for both fancy and everyday pieces of clothing. They can be found in skirts and pants. They can also be found on a woven top under the arm for when you need a little extra room putting on your shirt. Some nursing attire has invisible zippers near the bust to give you easy access for nursing your little babe. They can even be used for the Gabriela Pajama Suit or the free Duchess High-Low Skirt. As you master the invisible zipper your sewing world will open up.
Tools to Make It Easy
The key to the perfect invisible zipper is an invisible zipper foot. It is life changing! If you are going to sew a garment with an invisible zipper then just invest the little bit in the foot. Why is it so special? The foot has grooves that help the zipper to open so you can achieve the invisible look. It also positions the zipper teeth so they are very close to the stitch line. There are a couple of options for the foot. You can buy a metal one specific to your machine (mine was about $15). There are also plastic varieties from both popular brands and knock-off brands that fit most machines. No matter what option you choose, it is a must-have for your foot collection!
So let’s install a zipper!
It’s best to sew in your invisible zipper with the pieces of the garment flat, meaning they have not been sewn together. Also a big note, the zipper is sewn to the RIGHT side of the fabric. Most all other zippers are sewn to the wrong side.
Now prepare the edge. Check your pattern or the instructions for the seam allowance. Then you will want to mark your seam allowance on your fabric. You can use pins or a fabric marker of some sort. Marking really helps things line up correctly and neatly. You will also want to mark the top of the pattern. The top of the zipper isn’t generally sewn to the very top because of the seam allowance and having to finish the top edge. Check with your pattern.
The picture below shows a short marking indicating where I want the top of my zipper to be. The long marking (parallel to the fabric’s edge) is indicating my pattern’s seam allowance.
Now we will prepare the zipper. You will unzip the zipper and press the zipper teeth out. An iron can really help but watch your fingers and be careful as to not burn them. Do not use an iron for this if the zipper teeth are plastic or nylon. In this case, you’ll finger-press them outwards.
Now it doesn’t matter which side of the zipper you start with. You will just lay the zipper teeth along the seam allowance line you marked earlier. Then pin the zipper in place, if you are really worried about it staying it can be hand-basted as well. There are other interesting ways to keep it in place. I have seen sewists tape it down with scotch tape or even glue it down with a typical Elmer’s gluestick.
With your invisible zipper foot attached you will line the groove of the foot with the zipper coils. You will sew the zipper in place with a straight stitch until just before the stopper. You will want to backstitch as well to really lock the zipper in place. Remove the zipper. You just did one side, so we are halfway done!
You will repeat steps 4 and 5 with the other side. It is important that you sew the second side the same direction as the first side. Meaning that if you sewed from the top of the zipper to the bottom, you will want to sew the second side fromt the top to the bottom again. It might help to zip the zipper in the beginning so you can make sure the two pieces of fabric are lined up correctly.
The hard part is done. Now to finish the bottom of the zipper. You will want to switch to a regular zipper foot. Place the foot as close to the zipper stitching as possible. At this time you will be sewing both layers of fabric together. You will be sewing along your seam allowance stopping at the bottom of the zipper. Be sure to back stitch and keep the tail of the zipper out of the way.
You will finish the garment as instructed by the pattern.
I love invisible zippers. They can seem intimidating at first but once you get the hang of it they are very easy. I love having the versatility of being able to use one on a pattern. On a skirt or a nursing shirt, they can really elevate a piece of clothing. Now you can be awesome too and be an invisible zipper queen or king.
-- Originally written by Nicole Cook. Archived by Holly Hetzner