Sunday, 26 April 2009

How to use an invisible zipper foot

I don't want to become a boring old sew and sew, but as Mr M has been on call all weekend, we haven't been able to go 'out and about' together, so while he has been tap tap tapping with his hammer, mending fences and gates in the garden in time for next weekend (when I will have something ridiculoulsly exciting to report to you) and making sure that Eggy and Peggy are 'safe' as it's been a bit like 'Chicken Run" around here of late, I've been left to sew the weekend away as my latest pattern obsession has taken shape. If you think this pattern piece looks a bit like a torpedo, just wait till you see the finished article.

Full picture tomorrow as it was dark by the time I finished. In the meantime, Here is an illustrated story for you on "how to insert a concealed zipper".

They are difficult! But they are worth it. The first one I did last week, was unpicked around 50 times for various reasons including sewing it on backwards, and unpicking the wrong side by mistake.. grrr!

The first thing to ensure upon embarking on a session with one of these, is that you are fully awake and preferably undistracted (remember... shit happens and so do back to front zippers).

Start by ironing your zipper so that it lies quite flat on the underside. This is so that the needle can get really close to the teeth of the zip when you sew it.

Next, sew a line to mark the seam allowance where you are going to sew your zip. It is best to do this on an open seam (ie, don't sew any of the seam until the zipper is in). The zipper teeth are going to sit on this line.

This is an invisible zipper foot. It is made of plastic, costs around £3.00 and is 'multi fit' - so it can be used on lots of different machines. Most machines are "short shank" and this foot is for short shank machines. It came with no instructions and took me a while to realise that the regular machine foot has to be removed in it's entirety in order to fit this foot. The brown base slides through the blue part in order that you can line up the needle properly.

In the (terrible) picture below you can see that the needle is right in the middle of the foot, the mid point being marked by a notch just behind the needle. The notch can be better seen in the picture above.

An invisible zip is sewn in an open position unlike a regular zip. Align the right side of the open zip to the right side of the fabric, with the teeth sitting just over the seam line that you have marked. Pin it in place and then baste. It is very important to baste the zip on before you machine. Trust me, it only takes a minute and will avoid alorralorra heartache later, not to mention a sore back and a sore head. In my experience, once you start unpicking, you can't stop! It's as if suddenly a curse arrives on the zip.

Here you can see how the zipper foot works. It has a groove which rolls the teeth of the zip over to once side whilst keeping everthing 'on track' and enabling the needle to sew really really close to the edge. This is the secret of the invisible zipper.

I now sew with a long machine basting stich... just to make extra sure. It's easier to unpick if you need to, and won't spoil the zip like a smaller stitch could. As you sew, you have to be careful not to sew over the teeth otherwise the finished zip won't close.

Because the foot is really quite cumbersome, you can't get right to the end of the zip like you can with a normal zipper foot. So just go as far as you possibly can on both sides.

When both sides of the zip are attached to your satisfaction (ie: so that when you close the zip you can't see it on the right side), and you have sewn over your machine basting with a stronger stitch, you can finish sewing the seam that it's on.

Sew the seam from the bottom to the top in the normal way, and when you get to the base of the zipper, pull it to the inside, so that your machine foot can sew right up the seam allowance to where you stopped sewing the zip. This will close the seam. (note that the zip is still 'undone' at this stage).

For a neat edge, attach your usual zipper foot and sew down the other side of the zip on the seam allowance.

This will give a secure and neat finish to the inside of your item.

Et voila! You should have a perfectly invisible zip !


  1. What great instructions. It all makes perfect sense now!

  2. Maybe someday if I muster up some courage I will move on from basic 4 sided things to more intricate ones such as these sewing wise. Thanks for all the info :)
    I hope you had a great weekend.

  3. oooh er Missuss....! My invisible zipper foot doesnt look like that... and I bought it at the same shop for the same price... it does have a groove to keep the teeth away from the needle but it looks totally different! Hope I can still do it!

  4. Excellent zipper tutorial, Julia! :o)

  5. Oh, I threw my invisible zipper foot away a long time ago! I'd had very mixed results with invisible zippers until I rediscovered an old Threads article which completely changed everything - no hand basting, two passes with a regular zipper foot, and the results are PERFECT. It's not up on the website but I've got it scanned and I'll email it to you...

  6. You remember my bag phobia? Well another one I have is zip phobia. I'll tackle it at some point, and when I do, you might be the first to know. As in "Julia .... erm ... how the hell?" x

  7. Oh now that really really is invisible - love your finished skirt too - good old Masons!

  8. That looks so neat! Really clearly explained too - I'll definitely have a go at this next time.

  9. Julia thankyou so much for this tutorial . I have just bought one of these feet for my machine !! I am definately following your tutorial next time you make it look so easy and it actually makes sense. I always make such a mess of these .