Zips... my nemesis no more!

Okay, let's be honest for a second. How many of us look at a pattern and decide it's not for us based on whether it involves buttons or zips?? I reckon quite a few of us. Anecdotally, most people prefer one over the other. I know there are plenty of people who get 'the fear' over buttonholes. Well I'm in the 'evil zip' camp. They literally make the soles of my feet sweat when I think about inserting them. 

At the start of 2022, I put 'inserting zips' into my New Year's Resolutions - to get better at them and not avoid them any more - and in fairness I have attempted them throughout the year with mediocre success. But FINALLY I may have cracked it. And I'm here to tell you how.

The main issues I've had with zips are:

  • invisibility... or lack of
  • mis-matching waist/horizontal seams 
  • neatness of finish

My most recent project was the Carmel Jumpsuit by Nina Lee Patterns (you can read my review here) and this was the make where I finally cracked the zip and everything went right.


Every sewist will tell you that you need an invisible zip foot to get the zip invisible. Effectively, the zip foot pulls back the zip teeth slightly, allowing the stitching and fabric to get right up close to the teeth. Then once the stitching has passed under the foot the zip coils up again and you're left with the fabric butting up against the zip teeth and nice neat stitching. (Here's my invisible zip foot.)

I've had many MANY MANY issues with my invisible zip foot. It is the same make as my sewing machine so it should work but it just doesn't. The foot rubs against the needle making the thread fray so badly that within a few centimetres it completely breaks off. I also have to hand crank the machine as it's too stiff and it regularly sews over the teeth meaning the zip won't shut. I. HATE. IT. Without a zip foot you cannot get the stitching close enough to the edge of the zip and it will show. (Here's what it looks like.)


On a whim I decided to use my piping foot. And hey presto [insert choir of angels and divine sun beams here] it worked! You can get just as close to the zip teeth as the invisible zip foot as it is adjustable, but it didn't give me any issues. Honestly, it's a revelation. You need to manually pull back the zip teeth with your hand but otherwise it was spot on. Voila! 



Another bug bear that I've never got right is matching a horizontal seam on both sides of the zip. Being slightly off is, well, off. But this time I picked up a little trick - so simple but invaluable.

Firstly, sew one side of the zip onto your garment.

Next, close up your zip.

Then mark your horizontal seam on the zip - I used a Frixion heat pen but in theory you could use anything as it shouldn't be on show when it becomes invisible.

Lastly, unzip your zip and match up your pen line with the seam line on your fabric. Baste and then sew together. 

Blow me down with a feather, it was spot on!



Lastly, my zips always looked like a dogs dinner on the inside. Some of this was a combination of the many, many, many attempts I had trying to sew them in - it looked like a spaghetti junction of threads and failed attempts. However with my jumpsuit, as I'd nailed 1 and 2 above, I was already starting from a neater entry point. The pattern was self-lined and so I hand-stitched the lining along the zip tape. But importantly NOT TOO CLOSE to the edge. I left a few millimetres gap. One of my mistakes in the past is sewing the lining too close to the zip so it then doesn't have enough room for the slider to run up and down. Giving it a few extra mm gap won't make any difference to the wearing but the zip can run freely. Here it is from the inside - opened and closed.


And BINGO! My first perfectly inserted zip. I was so happy I showed my husband - who looked at me blankly. Then I showed my brother who was staying with us at the time. Another blank look.

But I know that YOU get me!!

Happy sewing, Tanya xx