10 Easy Steps for Sewing Professional Invisible Zippers

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10 Easy Steps for Sewing Professional Invisible Zippers

I’ve seen plenty of examples in garments where someone has painstakingly sewn their lining to their zipper tape by hand. It usually makes my fingertips ache. Why spend that time sewing on a lining by hand, when it could be done much more quickly and look more professional when sewn by machine? Don’t you want to use your extra time perusing Pinterest for photos of cute puppies and shoes you can’t afford?

I learned this method several years ago by a zipper-inserting wiz, named Rosa. It may be a technique that you’ve seen before, but I thought I’d share this method with you since I put this tutorial together for a class I taught recently. No one else in the class had used this method before, so even though it’s an old trick to me, it may be new to you. The instructions that I have written here are for a lined sleeveless dress with a side zip. This technique can be used in other garments and seams,  so don’t worry if you want to use it in a skirt instead of a dress. All of the photos in this post are clickable, so if you’d like to see a much larger image, just click the picture. Also, I promise that I would never actually sew a yellow dress with red thread and green zipper (I’m not that crazy, YET).

Step 1: Attach the lining and dress outer fabric together at the armholes, leaving the two separate for at least 2-3” from the edge of the side seam (or seam where the zipper will be placed). Clip, turn and press the armhole. Understitch if necessary, and leave room between the end of the seam line and the end of the understitching, so that you can reach the seam line later on.

Step 2:  *Read thru this step completely* Sew the fashion fabric from the zipper end point (usually marked as a dot) down to the hem. Sew the lining together in the same manner. On my sample the lining ends at the bodice waist, but if your lining has a skirt, sew it as described. If your dress has stretch to it, is slippery, or you aren’t experienced with bringing zippers down to a pre-sewn stop point, then save this step for later. You can sew up the end of the zipper with a regular zipper foot after completing the other steps if you are more comfortable with that.

Invis-ZipStpSewn-1Step 3: With the zipper closed, mark where the zipper tape will intersect with the waist seam (or any other available marking- like a notch) so that the zipper will line up once zipped closed. When marking this, make sure that the stops at the top of the zipper do not land on the armhole seamline. If you would like, you can leave room to sew a hook and eye at the top of your zipper, or if you would like your zipper pull to reach the top of your armhole, lay out your zipper accordingly.

Step 4Unzip the zipper, and iron coils open, to make the coils more easily fit into the invisible zipper foot. Do not make the coils flat, merely unfold them a bit. Your zipper should do just fine with the heat of your iron, but if you’re concerned, you can slowly increase your iron’s heat until the coils unfold easily.

Step 5Lay out the zipper and pin it to the fashion fabric, lining up the mark on either side of the zipper from Step 3 with the waist seam. Sew it on using an invisible zipper foot, sewing it on to the seam line. Remember, with an invisible zipper, the stitching line/seam line is just to the side of the zipper coils. Make sure that your zipper is being sewn onto the seam line by measuring from the edge of the fabric to the inside edge of the zipper coil. Also, double check that your zipper is not twisted incorrectly, or your zipper won’t work!

Invis-ZipSewn-1

Step 6: Once your zipper is sewn, pin your lining or facing to the zipper tape and fashion fabric, extending it by 1/4” past the fashion fabric edge. Using a standard presser foot (zigzag), attach the lining to the zipper tape, sewing it about 1/4”-3/8” away from the zipper coils by aligning the side of the standard foot against the coils. The standard foot helps to ensure that you don’t sew too closely to your zipper coils. You want to give your lining some space from the coils so it doesn’t get caught in the zipper as you zip yourself into the dress.

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Invis-LngSewn-1

Step 7:You may notice that there is extra fashion fabric slightly bubbling at the top of your zipper- that’s good! Fold the zipper over towards the lining, keeping the zipper coils along the fold of the fabric. This should take care of the excess fashion fabric, and everything should lay smoothly. Sew across the fashion fabric and the lining at the top of the armhole along the seam line. Your new stitching line should connect with your original armhole seam line, and not interfere with your understitching. If you can’t reach your seam line, you should unpick a bit of understitching.

Invis-Fold-1

Invis-ArmSewn-1

Step 8: Clip the top edge of the zipper and fabric if you feel it will be too bulky on the outside of the garment once turned. Fold the rest of the armhole fabric down towards the zipper tape, and pinch it between your thumb and forefinger while you turn it right side out. Push the fabric against itself while turning to get a nice sharp edge, or use a point turner to create a nice corner.

Invis-Clip-1

Step 9:  Complete the other side and press the zipper. If the top of the zipper does not line up, flip the taller side back out and shorten it as needed.

Step 10:  If you did not already finish the bottom of your zipper, do that now, using a regular zipper foot to get as close as possible to the zipper coils at the marked zipper stopping point. Sew the seam down to the hem on both the fashion fabric and the lining.

Taa-daah! You now have a beautifully sewn invisible zipper, with even edges and a nicely finished lining inside. Notice that I didn’t bother to finish any fabric edges on this Franken-dress. It’s not like I can wear it out!

Invis-Done-1

Invis-Done2-1Have you ever used this method to sew in an invisible zipper? Do you have any other tips or tricks for sewing your lining to your zipper tape?

  • I love invisible zippers right now, but I haven’t done one with a lining. Can’t wait to give this a try!

    • I hope you like it! There are a few other methods out there, but this always gives you the best results (in my opinion).

  • Yolanda

    Thank you so much for this! I sew for people, and occasionally have to do these. This will be very helpful.

    • You’re very welcome, Yolanda. I hope that you like how your zippers turn out with this method.

  • lauriJeanne

    I have used this method on special dresses, but for myself I have used lightweight fusible web, it works pretty well. Tho I will definitely try your way. Thank You

    • Hi, Lauri Jeanne! By “used lightweight fusible web”, do you mean that you used that to reinforce the area where the zipper was sewn on? I’ve used the fusible web in the armhole to combat stretching, and also used it along the zipper so the fabric didn’t stretch while sewn, but I’d love to hear if you use it somewhere else as well. Thanks!

      • lauriJeanne

        Hi Amy: Thanks for asking. On one dress the lining kept getting caught, no matter what I did, after I fixed the mistake in sewing, I took the fusible web and used it the way you use the stitching. how I came upon this was purely luck. But it does work. I’ve made several outfits for my daughter and she loves the side zipper, soooo much easier she says.

  • Saskia

    Hi,
    I tried it today on a dress, and it works! At first I was a bit confused by the fact that you have to pull the lining further over the zipper than the fashion fabric, but once I tried it it totally worked out.
    Thanks so much fr this tutorial!

    • Wonderful, Saskia! You are so very welcome. Yes, it can feel funny to pull the lining past the edge of the fashion fabric, but it all works out quite well!

  • Evelyn Gonzalez

    Thanks for your article. My daughter attempted a lined sundress (halter neck) and put in a lapped side zipper. It looked just awful, so I took it out. Now I have an invisible zipper I’d like to put in the dress for her.

    I’ve read your instructions several times, but I always get lost on step #6. This part just makes no sense to me: “Once your zipper is sewn, pin your lining or facing to the zipper tape and fashion fabric, extending it by 1/4” past the fashion fabric edge.”

    Can you explain this in another way so that I might understand it better?

    Thank you very much.

    • I’m sorry about the confusion! Once your zipper is sewn to your fashion fabric, you need to pin the lining fabric to the dress so that you can sew them together. When you pin the lining to the rest of the dress, you will want the lining fabric to extend past the edge of the fashion fabric by 1/4″. The edge of the lining and fashion fabric should NOT be lined up.

      This will mean that you have some extra fashion fabric that will slightly bubble up at the top of the zipper. That’s okay! You can click on the photo for step 6 to enlarge it if you’d like to check your pinning against mine.

      I hope that helps to clarify everything. Good luck with the zipper!

  • Evelyn Gonzalez

    Amy,
    Thanks a million for your quick response! Yes, I believe I understand how to do step 6 better now. I am going to try and put in the invisible zipper tomorrow AM, when my eyes are fresh!
    Thanks again!
    Evelyn

    • You’re welcome and good luck!

  • so glad I came across your tutorial! I’m about to sew a dress with a side zipper and lining; hoping I can manage to make it look decent with your excellent instructions! one question, though – it says at the beginning to sew armholes except those few inches, but what about the neckline? should that be sewn before the zipper, also? thanks so much for any help!

    • You’re very welcome! Yes, you will likely want to have the neckline sewn prior to inserting the zipper. It all depends on what your sewing pattern instructions call for, but mostly likely, the zipper is one of the last steps in constructing your garment.