Invisible zipper tutorial pt.1

Owing to the generous contribution of one of our readers, Jinjer from the bay area, I’m pleased to include the following invisible zipper tutorial. As Jinjer makes frequent reference to it, you may want to review my centered zipper tutorial (pt 1 & pt 2) before starting this one. Thanks Jinjer!

Kathleen’s awesome centered zipper tutorial inspired me to adapt the technique to an invisible zipper. I came up with the following, which I feel pretty certain is right because:
A) It looks good
B) It’s pretty easy and
C) When I look inside one of my RTW dresses with invisible zippers, it looks the same. Well, it was the same except their seam allowance was 1/2″ the whole way down. How could they know where to start the zipper?

1) First, cut out your pattern pieces. Mine appear below; these look familiar don’t they? That’s because I traced around Kathleen’s templates (pdf download, you need the right back and left back neck facing pieces) for a centered zipper, and just moved the dot. Yep, that’s the only difference. Well that and that my version has seam lines for us idiots. Do me a favor and change the seam allowance on the facing template from 3/8″ to 1/4″-that’s what it turns out to be…

2) Now mark and cut your pieces. Below I’ve marked my shell pieces (I like Tailor’s chalk. It’s soft and easy to draw with). Note that I will cut my fabric out just inside the lines, i.e. I will cut my lines off (as Kathleen likes to say with some frequency). Also note that I’ll cut it out on the cross grain. That’ll become a problem later.

Below are all the pieces cut out. Except the interfacing, which I didn’t think I needed at first but remember that I said that the cross grain would be a problem? Anyway, the interfacing that magically appears later is a rectangle: 8 3/8″ by 1/2″

I don’t have an invisible zipper foot, so you’ll see my regular foot in subsequent entries. It’s pretty hard to sew an invisible zipper with a regular foot but not impossible. I mean, I can do it. If you’re using a regular foot, iron your zipper flat first. The zipper foot shown below is now on my wish list (This image from the Universal Sewing Supply catalog. I’ve never bought stuff from them but darn, they have a nice catalog):

3) Below you’ll see to sew from the bottom of your sample to the dot-3/8″ seam line at first. Sorry that my dot is nearly invisible; it was really dark in real life! Also note that the fabric appears to be a different color; that difference is due to photo editing (sometimes programs do that with auto balancing).

4) Open the zipper all the way. With right sides together, sew the zipper to the shell pieces (one side at a time) keeping edges aligned. Sew really close to but not through the zipper coils. In the picture below, I show the left piece being sewn. Note: I figured out the need for interfacing after this step because the fabric kept “growing” and the zipper no longer fit neatly in it’s little seam allowance space. Being the stubborn a_ _ that I am, I ripped it out and resewed it twice before deciding to try interfacing. Interfacing cured the problem ASAP.

Also note: at the end of the seam, you have to fold the zipper so that the tape lays flat as far as possible. You can’t possibly sew all the way to the bottom of the tape (you’ll never get the zipper pull past the needle!!!) so don’t worry about the gap. That’s why I moved the dot. I imagine that with that nifty invisible zipper foot, you’ll be able to get a little close than I did, so you might want to adjust the dot a little with that in mind.

When sewing the zipper to the right side of the shell, pull the tab upwards through the gap to fold it properly. This is really hard to illustrate and normally I would be pinching the pull between my fingers, not pointing to it as you see below.

5) Invert the pull tab so it points back down and zip up the zipper. It will look like this (pretty good, huh?):

6) Now switch to a regular zipper foot. Sew the zipper tape to the seam allowance from the point where you had to give up stitching to the bottom of the 1/2″ s.a. area (i.e. to the little jog in the fabric). Do this on both sides (below).

Your seam allowances should look like the photo below (except your interfacing will lie underneath the stitching lines…)

Tomorrow you’ll find part 2, with the nifty pressing jig I made up and the facing (which is pretty much the same as for the centered zipper) but before I go, you have to meet my helper, Cassius. I mean, even as a guest blogger, I can post a picture of my cat, right?

Feel free to write me and please visit my website. I hope you find this tutorial useful.

Part two of Jinjer’s tutorial is here.

Process review: lapped zipper
Lapped zipper template
Lapped zipper construction
Lapped zipper specs
Centered zipper template
Centered zipper construction
Invisible zipper tutorial pt.1
Invisible zipper tutorial pt.2
Shorten a separating zipper
Zippered welt pocket tutorial
Deconstructing a zippered pouch
Zippered welt pockets

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  1. Carol says:

    Great, Jinjer, I can hardly wait for part 2 with the pressing jig (o fellow gadget lover).

    I have the invisible zipper foot and find the ordinary zip foot you use later works just as well – set so that the edge of the foot keeps the needle out of the coils. You’re not going to get appreciably closer to the end with any custom foot.

  2. Ruth says:

    Question…. Are you sewing the seam allowance below the zipper before you actually put in the zipper? Most directions have you sew the seam allowance after putting in the zipper. I’m trying to process this in my mind because I’m going to be putting in the zipper in my daughter’s wedding dress soon.

  3. Sew Sweet says:


    When may I expect to find the part 2 for your invisible zipper tutorial? Where may I find it?

    Please use lighter coloured fabric for the second part – to make the dark thread stitching easier to see your work.

    Thanks for your help!!
    Sew Sweet (

  4. Robyn says:

    I realize this was posted some time ago and no one may see this, but I have been having trouble getting close to the coils without getting IN the coils. At least, I think that’s what’s happening. I’ll use my regular zipper foot (specialized one on the way) and get very close, but it certainly doesn’t LOOK like it’s touching the coils. Then it’ll zip and unzip a few times before getting completely stuck. I don’t know what’s going wrong, but this happened twice with two invisible zippers on the same skirt. I finally got so mad I cut the skirt off me and threw it away! I figure I must be getting into the coils, but if I sew farther away, it doesn’t look right. Any ideas?

  5. marilynn says:

    Robyn, I think your not pressing the coils of the invisible zipper open far enough. You should be sewing in the ridge left after you press them open, so you’re about 1/32 away from the coils. I have also had trouble with thick fabrics or fabrics that has bumps in it — the zipper won’t close. The invisible foot should help. Lotsa luck.

  6. kate setzer kamphausen says:

    Actually, Jinjer, I find there is no need to switch to a regular zipper foot at the end of the operation, when it is time to stitch down the leftover tape. The invisible zipper foot works just fine.

    Just my two cents’ worth! I looooove invisible zippers – they look so clean ….

  7. Cynthia says:

    I think my main problem is not ironing the zipper flat well enough. I don’t want to get the iron too hot but the coils just seem to flip back as soon as they get away from the iron. Does anyone have any suggestion?

  8. Lily Yang says:

    Thank you for the information,I have a question for you,do you use knit interfacing for knit for sewing zipper?

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