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Trouble with invisible zippers

sewingwahine | Posted in Fitting on

Aloha Everyone–

It seems that every time that I insert an invisible zipper in a dress that needs a lining, the top of the zipper ends up pulling in towards the inside of the dress (pulling the top of the dress with it).  I thought that it was the bemberg lining that I was using, but it happened again with a costume that I sewed using a cheaper, polyester lining.  We’re going to be wearing our hair up with this costume, so I need the zipper to look good.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Mahalo nui loa



  1. FitnessNut | | #1

    Hi, Niky.

    Tell us how you are inserting the zipper at the top and also how you are sewing the lining at the top of the zipper. Maybe that might provide a clue as to why the top of the zipper is pulling. If I understand your description properly, you are saying that the zipper is curling toward the inside of the garment? Is that correct? Does this happen before you attach the lining or only afterward?


    1. sewingwahine | | #2

      Hi Sandy--

      I'm inserting the zipper before I sew a seam, as per the instructions from the invisible zipper foot.  This problem only seems to happen when I insert a lining, but not always (the other costume that I recently sewed that was self-lined with fabric didn't pull).  On this dress, I slip stitched (or at least my sad attempts to slip stitch) the lining to the dress and there was no problem.  The problem seems to have occured when I sewed the foundation to the dress, completly finishing the top of the bodice.  I suspect that my problem has something to do with sewing the top of the garment.

      Yes, the zipper is pulling to the inside at the top.  I'm trying to find a descriptive way to portray what's happening, but nothing is coming to mind.  Thanks in advance for any help that you may give.  I'd like to be able to wear this costume out even when I'm not dancing (it's a purple satin strapless ball gown), so I'd like it to look good.


      1. CTI | | #3

        I feel for you! I gave up invisible zippers after that curling effect* happened once too often (switched to buttons with their own problems!) but in retrospect, it sounds like the lining is a bit too tight or loose, or the back needs some darts to be more form-fitting, or the areas where the top meets the fabric and lining could use some reinforcement lining. You might be able to fix it using stays. At the time, I always attributed it to my body not curving where the pattern expected it to, but I believe it may have been a mix of the fabric and lining as well. 

        *It just occurred to me I might not understand the "pulling to the inside" effect.

        If this is a side view of your back |

        does your zipper look like the curve |) or |(

        or more like in a back view, where if your back looks like this |  |

        the zipper curves like this | () | (exposing the teeth)

        or this | )( | (curving the zipper away from your body at top and bottom)? Sorry if this is even more confusing!

        I've had those zippers pooch out at the bottom and dig in at the top and I'm fairly sure it was because I didn't do enough interim fittings or didn't understand how to do those zippers properly.

        If I can relearn these zippers properly I'll be thrilled, and I hope you find a solution.

        Edited 11/24/2003 9:15:23 PM ET by CTI

      2. FitnessNut | | #4

        I have to think about this....

        So far the only things I have been able to come up with may or may not be linked to the problem. Is the lining cut the same as the face fabric....if it is smaller anywhere it would pull.

        One thing I do when I insert an invisible zipper is turn down the top zipper tape above the stop on an angle towards the raw edge and sew it down (clear as mud?) I find that it causes problems if I keep the tape straight and it is sewn into the seam that finishes the top edge of the garment. Then I sew the top edge and the lining together, pivot and sew the lining to the zipper tape about 5 mm (between 1/8 and 1/4") from the previous seam. Trim across the corner and understitch the top edge before turning and pressing the lining to the inside.

        I learned to sew invisible zippers in design school sewing classes and hadn't ever done one successfully before that, despite having a sewing history dating back 30 years. We learned to sew the seam until 2 cm (3/4") below where the zipper opening was to end (there should be a notch here) and press the entire seam open, including the zipper allowance. You then sew the invisible zipper right sides together, with the coil on the pressed seamline, curling it open with your fingernail just ahead of the foot. You sew exactly to your notch and backstitch. Pin the other side of the zipper into position - it sometimes helps to close the zipper and mark the notch position on the other side of the tape, as well as any other points that must be matched. After pinning, check to make sure everything lines up before sewing. Then use a zipper foot to close that 2 cm opening below the zipper. Press lightly from the right side, fabric permitting, of course. After many samples and much practice since then, I can insert an invisible zipper in just a few minutes....heck, I hardly do any other kind these days!

        I've been rather long-winded....sorry. Hope this helps. I can't recommend doing practice samples enough!


        1. sewhat | | #5


          Thanks for the step-by-step instructions for inserting an invisible zipper.  It is very helpful and encouraging.  I hate putting in zippers because they take so long, so I am going to give invisible ones a whirl. 

          When you are sewing in the zipper, what foot do you use on your machine?  I have always used the appropriate plastic foot that comes with the installation kit, but have read somewhere about using a different one, and I don't remember which one it is.  My experience with invisible zippers has been very limited, as you can probably tell.

          Have a great day, and happy sewing. 

          1. FitnessNut | | #6


            I use an invisible zipper foot manufactured by Bernina, which is the machine I have. It works just about as well as the one for an industrial machine. Prior to that, on my older machine, I used the generic plastic foot (probably the same one you have), but I found that it didn't hold the fabric and zipper as tightly to the feed dogs. I suspect that this might be the origin of some of the problems people have with invisible zippers. If things are "moving" under the foot, I recommend doing more pinning to keep things in place. Under normal circumstances, I use one pin for the top of the zipper on the first side I sew and two pins on the second (top and notch), plus anywhere I need to match, for example, when the zipper crosses a seam.

            I have a book that suggests using a regular zipper foot, which might be an option if you're having difficulty using the plastic one. I found it difficult to keep the coil unrolled because there is nothing to hold it away from the needle....you end up stitching too far away from the seamline. But that was just my experience. Others may fare better.


          2. sewingwahine | | #7

            Thanks for your great suggestion, Sandy. I've tried using my zipper food when inserting invisible zippers, but I find that that cheap plastic foot works the best. I've been using them in skirts with no problems, but there must be a fiting concern that is causing the curve in the zipper. I do have an interesting back, it's wide at the shoulders, but narrow between the shoulder blades, along with a lovely curve caused by years of slouching.

            This is probably why it's important to spend the time to fit your pattern before you sew it. The problem is that when I sew costumes for myself, I'm too lazy to do so!! I still have to insert the waist stay, and I'm hoping that it may help the fit a bit. In the meantime, I'm going to try your method the next time that I put in an invisible zipper.

          3. SewTruTerry | | #8

            Hi Niky

            Another thing to consider is that with the satin especially you may be slightly off grain at the top of the zipper or perhaps it starts a little further down and that is causing some stretch that the zipper doesn't have.  Try interfacing the fashion fabric along the stitching area before putting in the zipper the next time.  This will then give a little more tooth to the fabric and allow the feed dogs to do there job without the fabric scooting on you.  I took a class a year or so ago from Cynthia Guffey from Baton Rouge and she always puts in zippers invisible or not by hand and so I have become a convert to the by-hand method as well. It really does not take much longer to do it by hand than by machine if when you do it by machine you are not satisfied with the results and have to rip out several times. Plus it is just as strong because you are doing a pick stitch or in other words taking a small (read minute) back stitch every time.

          4. SewNancy | | #26

            I use a narrow zipper foot  as per instructions from La Fred's Daphne pant.  Before this I had trouble getting them in.  She says to leave seam unsewn, but  I am going to try your method.  The pants were worth buying just for the clear instructions and illustrations.


          5. carrotbug | | #22

            Hi Carla.  I didn't have an invisible zipper foot when I recently installed my first invisible zipper on a black knit pencil skirt.  I used the pintuck foot and it work perfectly.  The groove was just large enough to hold the zipper teeth and I adjusted the needle position to sew close to the teeth.  Good luck.


        2. dregan | | #10


          I do love invisible zippers, but have had a problem numerous times that I don't understand.  I iron the coil like it says, etc., and follow directions that comes with the zipper.  I make sure the coil stays in the correct hole in plastic foot.  When I try to use the zipper, it doesn't want to open or close because it must be somehow I sew too close to the coil?  That's all I can think of, but sew exactly where it tells me, I think.  I have had to reput in a new zipper, because the zipper broke trying to open it-this happened twice!  Any suggestions?

          Also, in your explanation, are you saying , that you sew the seam below the zipper up to -forget what you said, but think 3/4 inch from the notch?  Did you say then you sew the top zipper tape by folding it halfway and stitching it down?  You didn't say to sew the seam before putting zipper in, did you?  or did you?  Then, you sew right to right, and are sewing by having zipper pull on the seam line where you sewed it or ironed it?  I hope you can give me some suggestions, because even though I have this problem, I still always use invisible zippers, but worry it may break when I'm wearing it.  Again, any suggestions?



          1. FitnessNut | | #11

            Boy, Deb, it sure sounds like you have your problems with those invisible zippers! May I suggest that you sew some samples on some easy to handle cotton squares until you are satisfied with the results? Then try a garment.

            Yes, I sew the seam together first (which is exactly the opposite of the directions) to 3/4" below the notch. I do not iron the coil open....every time I have done this I have had problems. Sew right side to right side, aligning the coil with the pressed seam line (you could mark it another way if you like, but I find that pressing is enough for me...and fast and easy since I have to press the seam open anyway). Open the coil up flat with your fingernail as you are sewing. This way, the channel is on the seamline and that is where your stitches will be. If you sew any closer to the coil, you will have problems and I suspect that is what is happening to you. After sewing in both sides and closing the zipper to make sure everything is perfect, I fold down the top zipper tape and sew it, and then close the hole at the bottom with a regular zipper foot. When folding the tape, I am angling it towards the seam allowance to get as much of the tape as possible away from any seam that will finish the upper edge of the garment to eliminate bulk and lumps.

            I know this is not the method in sewing books or on the instructions that come with the foot. I didn't have success either with those. This method was learned in an industrial sewing class at design school and I have been doing it since then. It has become my preferred zipper application.

            Hope this helps. Try it out and let me know.


          2. dregan | | #12

            Thank you, thank you, thank you!


          3. dregan | | #23


            I still am confused when you say you sew the seam before inserting zipper.  You mean you sew the seam below the notch, correct?  You don't sew the seam together or basted together the seam where the zipper goes, do you?  I'm pretty sure you must not.  I haven't gotten much sewing done and haven't even inserted an invisible zipper since the discussion. I have to deal with constant pain and unable to sit on right buttock which makes it very difficult to sew, but I love the clothes! My project that is cut out is a pair of capris(wonder why we say pair of capris or pants?Ha!)  Anyway, it is difficult for me to have zipper in back because of arthritis in hands and so want to change zipper to front or side. I actually haven't done either of the other types of zippers, so am vacilating which to do. I'm adding side pockets which the pattern doesn't call for, so am not quite sure how to put the zipper in side with pockets?  Do you put the zipper on the back pocket?  I'm a little leary to do the fly front zipper to show so well in front-may have to wear long blouse if it doesn't look too good!  I have watched Sandy Betzina's video which is great if I had it in front of me when I sew!  I also have her book which isn't as clear to me as video. Any advice ?  Would invisible or flap zipper be best on side with pockets? It probably is just preference there.  Thank you for past and future help.


          4. FitnessNut | | #24

            Hi, Deb. You answered your first question correctly....I only sew the seam together below the notch, until about 2 cm (3/4") below the notch. Then when I insert the zipper, I sew just to the notch on both sides. After making sure everything lines up perfectly, I can close up that final 2 cm. It makes it much easier to control the whole process.

            As for the side zipper with pockets, I'm not sure I understand what kind of pockets you plan on using. If you are doing inseam pockets, I don't see why you couldn't do an invisible zipper application. You would be putting the zipper into the seam that joins the pocket (the layer closest to the body) to the pant back. It might require a little ingenuity, but I think you can do it. My main concern would be any areas where there is a transition to the pant front. Invisible zips don't really like riding over bulky seams, so it would be best to avoid them if possible here. I think it depends on the placement of the actual pocket pieces on the pant.

            Hope this helps.


          5. Millineress | | #27

            Can anyone help with the end-of-the-zipper issue? Some writers on this thread have suggested sewing down to the notch, then backstitching, but I have been unable to get that far, because the zipper pull prevents the needle from reaching the notch. What to do when the zipper must be sewn as it is closed? How to get past the zipper pull at the top?

          6. Elisabeth | | #28

            Sometimes I can put the needle in the down position, lift the presser foot, and gently zip the zipper pull past the needle.

          7. SewNancy | | #29

            Are you talking about an invisible zipper or a regular coil zipper?  If the latter is the case just buy a zipper at least 2 " longer than your opening and have it extend past the seam waist or neck etc.  Open it to put on the facing or waistband and then just cut off the excess.  Don't, of course cut this off before sewing over the seam or you could ruin your zipper!


          8. enidshapiro | | #30

            I am taking a class at Fashion Institute of Technology.  We just put in an invisible zipper.  The Professor had us leave the end of the zipper (about three inches) dangling in the inside of the skirt.  Worked like a charm. 

          9. FitnessNut | | #31

            My professors had us tack the dangling end to the seam allowance, so it doesn't move about freely. Just a few stitches on the machine will do the trick.

          10. SewNancy | | #32

            This is what I do, doesn't poke up to mess up side seam smoothness.


  2. JulieP25 | | #9

    Hi, Niky,

    I have used a 3groove pintuck foot and move my needle so it would stitch beside the zipper coil. You still need to press the zipper so the coil lays flatter.  I found sewing these zippers requires some practice and patience. But the reward is great.  jules

    1. sewingwahine | | #13

      Mahalo (thanks) for all of the suggestions that people have given me about my invisible zipper problem. I'll be sure to print them off and use them the next time that I am working with invisible zippers. In the meantime, as I'm too lazy to take the dress apart, I'm going to insert the waist stay, and just remember to wear my hair down whenever I wear this dress in public. At least it's a costume, so that the zipper problem shouldn't be too noticeable in public!!

      1. SewNancy | | #14

        Thanks for all the info on invisible zippers.  I use a zipper foot to sew my invisible zippers in and find it gives the best results.  Even after putting in at least a half dozen I still am confused as to where to put the top stop of the zipper in relation to the seam.   I have seen them in ready to wear without any space and no need for a hook and eye but that doesn't seem to work well for me.


        1. FitnessNut | | #15

          Ready to wear frequently places the top stop of the zipper right below the seamline, so there is no room for a hook and eye. If it works, do it. I usually place my zipper down a bit to allow room for a hook/eye. It really depends on the garment....what I'm making most of these days is evening wear and bridal and it is best to have the extra security of a hook and eye at the top of the zipper. At least, that is my preference. It really is up to you.


          Edited 12/2/2003 12:54:33 AM ET by Sandy

          1. SewNancy | | #16

            Thanks for the info.  I am about to make a skirt without a waistband for my daughter and am putting in an invisible zipper.  I will put it lower.


          2. HeartFire | | #17


            Thank you for the inof on the invisible zippers, I will try your method next time, but like one other post said, I have learned that the fastest and easiest way to put (a regular) zipper in is by hand. I have sdone this on silks, velvets and other woven fabrics.  I used to hate zippers and would have to rip them out a dozen times, now they are perfect the first time.  I use Gutermann silk thread to insert them, (when I can get the right color) it just seems to melt into the fabric.  I reccomend eveyone to try a zipper by hand, I will nevver go back to putting one in on the machine


          3. enidshapiro | | #18

            I agree.  I also put sleeves in by hand.

          4. HeartFire | | #20


            I'll have to try thta next time (sleeves)


          5. FitnessNut | | #19


            I also put in zippers frequently by hand, on certain difficult to handle fabrics (like velvet) and on special occasion garments, such as wedding dresses. But these are garments that aren't likely to see hard wear or a washing machine. For those, I prefer the additional security of machine stitching. I try to match the application method to the garment. That's one of the great advantages we have in making garments ourselves.


          6. SewTruTerry | | #21

            I am also one that will never put another zipper in by machine but if you feel that it is not secure enough you can also then top stitch or reinforce by machine.  In that way when you are stitching the zipper by hand use a basting type stitch and then you know that there will be no slippage of the material or the zipper.

          7. suesew | | #25

            I wouldn't put the zipper in lower if you are using a waistband. The waist band will take place of the need for a hook and eye. I use my Viking buttonhole foot to put in invisible zippers. The grooves are just the right size for holding the zipper down. I never press them open and I never sew the seam first. I love them.

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