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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Invisible Zipper Fiasco

I'm an intermediate to advanced quilter, but a novice seamstress. So when I committed to making dresses for my best friend's nieces to wear in her wedding in May, I knew I was going to need plenty of practice. I had already made a practice dress months ago, using this Simplicity pattern.
 It turned out way too tight, in part because I had no understanding of ease: wearing ease. Rookie mistake.

With the wedding quickly approaching (and the fabric purchased) I decided to give it another go. This time the practice dress was for my daughter, using cotton fabric I already had on hand. The purpose of this trial run was to make sure that I could get a good fit with my new understanding of ease. Having already measured the applicable part of the pattern to ensure there would be enough wearing ease around the bust (the only fitted part of the pattern) I chose the appropriate size, and the dress came together rather quickly.

It turned out very cute, if I do say so myself. Here it is finished.
However, before this came the invisible zipper. Who knew that of all the many steps in the process, this would be the most frustrating. Usually YouTube is my savior when it comes to my "how to" queries, but this time the results were less than stellar. Don't get me wrong--there were plenty of good, basic tutorials on installing an invisible zipper between two pieces of sample fabric, which is great if you don't have the first idea how to begin. Sewing the zipper into an actual garment (in my case a dress) is another story. With the zipper in, the back of seam of the dress looked puckered and lumpy.
 It doesn't actually look very bad in this photo, but you can see where the seams on the back of the bodice are not lined up, which made the dress pucker badly in the back when worn. 
I ripped it all out, and tried again.
I also dismantled the bodice and bodice lining because I had taken it in a little too much at the side seams.
On the second pass the zipper looked better, but still not great. I decided to call it a night and pack it in, and as I was cleaning up my sewing mess, I noticed that the invisible zipper came with instructions. Hmm . . . So, hoping the third time would be the charm, I ripped again. Between trying to fit the dress to my daughter, and getting the zipper installed correctly so the back seam was smooth when zipped up, it actually took five or six tries.

Here's what I learned in the process:

1. Read the directions that came with the zipper. This sounds basic, and it is. I'm more of a visual learner, so sometimes I gloss over this step. However, as it turns out, the directions that came with the zipper were more specific and easier to follow than any videos I watched.

2. You may have to alter the pattern directions to suit the zipper you are using. The dress pattern I used called for a regular zipper, which in turn called for a different method of sewing the zipper into the back seam. With an invisible zipper, you finish sewing the rest of the seam AFTER you've sewn in the zipper. When I make this dress again, I'm going to baste the back seam for the fitting, and open it up again when I install the invisible zipper for a nice, smooth finish.

3. Use the invisible (or concealed) zipper foot made for your machine. Another one may work, if it is adjustable, but the proper one will work better and make the job easier.

4. Baste the zipper (and the rest of the seam) in place first, try the garment on to make sure it fits, and that it looks smooth when zipped.  That way, if any corrections need to be made, the task of ripping will be much quicker, and a lot less frustrating! Ask me how I know. ;~) When you're satisfied with the fit and appearance, stitch the zipper in place and finish the seam.

I'll be making this dress again soon, so stay tuned for an invisible zipper tutorial.

1 comment:

  1. you have made my day. I have just started dressmaking and my invisible zip is wavy and sticks out in the middle. Maybe I need to be more patient and keep trying lkke you did