Thursday, February 4, 2010

It's a Sewing Miracle! (Plus Thoughts on Invisible Zippers)

Eeeee! Guess what?! Remember that skirt I had a meltdown over? I've managed to sort it out! It turned out to be an issue with the zipper, not the fit. It is snug, I'll admit. Um . . . alluringly snug, though. (I hope, anyway.)

It's from Vogue 783, a Couturier suit design that I got from The Blue Gardenia. Here's a little (slightly fuzzy, sorry!) sneak peek of the back, which has a really cool dip at the center back waistline.
It's a high-waisted skirt that's meant to be quite fitted, and even has a sort of built-in shaper that I made of hymo interfacing with a twill waist stay. Here's a picture, mid-construction:

I originally tried a 7" invisible zipper, which I promptly broke trying to zip up. (And then I cried.) Compounding all my issues was the fact that the zipper was also too short - I could barely get the darn skirt over my hips. Well, the next day I marched myself down to Steinlauf & Stoller and bought a 22" standard zipper. I cut it down to below-hip length and then did a lapped, hand-picked zipper insertion. I followed Susan Khalje's excellent instructions on hand-picking a zipper in Threads issue #89. (There's also a related online tutorial here.) With a lapped zipper, you first sew the right side of the zipper (the side that sits under the lap) in by machine and then hand pick around the lapped side.

It worked like a charm! The waistline is very fitted, but I like the look and it's not uncomfortable. The zipper feels very sturdy. I have Lindsay T to thank for her encouraging words on hand-picked zippers!

But on to a bigger issue: I think I've had it with invisible zippers. Does anyone else feel this way? It's like they're asking for malfunctions, the way the fabric is so close to the teeth. And I just don't feel they're sturdy or strong enough to withstand such a fitted, structured garment that you kind of have to pour yourself into.

What do you think? Are invisible zippers your friends? Frenemies? Or straight-up enemies? Do tell!

60 comments:

  1. Before I can completely celebrate your victory Dollface, I MUST see you in the VA VA VA VOOM! (Zippers are def not for the weak LOL) -Backseat Betty

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  2. oh god! FINALLY! i HATE invisible zippers. they curl, split, and can never really be sewn in properly - there's always that little bit right at the base of the zip. it is SO nice to know someone out there shares my annoyance with this type of zipper. another thing - they are supposed to make things look so 'nice' but i think they make things look cheap. i really do HATE them x

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  3. p.s the skirt looks absolutely lovely!

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  4. I like them as side zips on blouses. I can tolerate them as back zips on skirts. They are my enemies on side zips of trousers. Ridiculous things.

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  5. I have only tried them once all the stitchs broke first time I tried to zip it up.

    I never use them. I have been hand basting all of my zippers but I might try this method next time if I can get my stitchs to look ok.

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  6. Yay! That must be such a relief. The fabric looks beautiful and the dip at the back is gorgeous - I can understand why you were so upset about it!

    I'm a wimp when it comes to zips and admit to only ever using invisible (except for trousers). I'm never entirely happy with the results mind, so I really should bite the bullet and learn. Interesting to discover several of you hand-baste them. Maybe that's the trick to overcoming my fear.

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  7. How apropos - I spent yesterday afternoon sewing, ripping out, and sewing again a 22 inch, down the back of a dress invisible zipper - the problem is a waistline seam that won't line up. The difference is down to a 1/4 inch last time sewing - but that is unacceptable since the waistline seam is almost a design element in this Audrey H.- type dress. I'll give it one more try, and then go the hand-picked route. And then maybe only Lycra garments that stretch over my head from now on.

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  8. The fabric and the dip in the waistline are absoloutley wonderful! How great that you turned the defeat around to such a triumph!
    I'm not so familiar with sewing in English, but I think I get invisible and handpicked zipper, but I don't really get how the lapped zipper looks. A picture? When the skirt is ready in all it's beauty? =)
    I've used an invisible zipper in a slip, where I wanted a zipper that was as thin as possible. But other than that, no way. I dance and ride a bike in most of my clothes, they need to be durable.

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  9. For Petisita:

    I read on Erins dressaday blog that if you mark on both sides of the invisable zipper were the seam needs to be with pen or chalk it is a lot easier to line up waist seams. Hope that makes sense if not google it and hopefully you will find the solution.

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  10. glad this skirt came together in the end! the back shaping looks beautiful. Invisible zips are hard work. I use an invisible zipper foot and this makes things easier but not easy. Will look up the pick stitch method for my next because I hate the way you can't stitch the full length of the zip on the machine.

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  11. I sort of like invisible zippers... they're great for lightweight materials like cotton batist, imo. for tweeds ect. not so much though.

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  12. Invisible zippers are of the devil.

    Cute, cute, cute ensemble!

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  13. I think invisible zippers are fine in low-stress areas. When I use them, I usually baste them in first. If I don't baste, they never go in straight. It can be off by as much as a quarter of an inch.

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  14. I love the skirt!

    I normally only use invisible zippers. The most important thing I found is to use a proper foot - most machines have a distinct invisible zipper foot for their make/model.

    I found the plastic adjustable one sold at stores was not the right thing for making an invisible zipper work the right way. I bought one made for my machine and BINGO! I have gorgeous and easily inserted zippers.

    I do, though at times insert a lapped zipper.

    I love doing hand-picked zippers also.

    How about a picture of you in the skirt?

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  15. So glad you got it worked out! I like invisible zippers, but I usually put them in the center back seam - rarely in the side seam. But my invisible zipper foot is a dream, that may be why I like to sew them.

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  16. Gertie ~ I'm surprised you used an invisible zipper on a vintage garment. Personally I prefer a regular zipper but since I make contemporary clothing and almost all RTW has invisible zips in them...I have mostly changed over. Mostly because if I have an interesting feature in the back or two different colors I go with my strong points - regular or hand stitched zippers. I think you should have a repertoire of zipper applications to use for different garments.

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  17. Congratulations on on the skirt! It always feels like such a triumph when you can make something that didn't seem to work into something fabulous! So are you going to make the delicious jacket too?

    As for invisible zips, I actually love them - though not for everything. I find invisible zips super easy (most of the time), but learned the hard way years ago that they are for lightweight, low stress applications only. If I need something to be sturdy I use a regular zipper and do a lapped insertion. I've always done them completely machine-sewn, but will try that Threads method (hooray Threads archive DVD!!!!!!)

    I would advise not giving up on invisible zips altogether, they can be a really nice option sometimes. Just like with the muslin vs tissue fitting thing, it doesn't have to be just either or, keep as many options in your 'arsenal' as possible.

    Do you have an invisible zipper foot? That can make a BIG difference.

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  18. Glad you came up with a solution! Not to taunt you or anything, but I think you might feel differently about invisible zippers when you get your Bernina. I ruined so many projects pre-Bernina that I started putting all my zippers in by hand before I bought my 1080 this year; their invisible zipper foot is a dream. Still working on that "bit at the base" that Jacqueline mentions. . . so far I just leave a gap and sew that little bit by hand although I think there's probably a better solution.

    Looking forward to seeing the finished skirt!

    Marlena

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  19. Wow - I always hated invisible zippers! That little tab hanging at the top annoyed me - a good set-in zipper looks much better and is really not that hard to put in.

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  20. The big issue here is that you used a too short zipper. You need to use a zipper opening that is longer than 7" by the amount above the waist. If you had mentioned this when you first wrote about this I would have volunteered my very personal experience with this! An invisible zipper needs to be at least two inches longer than the total opening, to begin with.

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  21. Well the first thing I tried was a centered, handpicked zipper. The opening gaped when I wore it. So then I figured I needed an invisible zipper. And then that catastrophe happened. And THEN the lapped zipper occurred to me. Yeah, it was a learning experience all around.

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  22. YAY!!! I have to admit, I always buy my skirt zippers longer because I have too many instances of short zippers (usually the ones recommended on the pattern) making the opening too small to get the darn thing over my hips! :p Handpicked zippers are my friend though; I love, love, love doing zippers this way! :)

    On invisible zippers: I decided to abandon them years ago, after struggling far too long with their finicky ways. I know some swear by them, but I feel like I have more control over the plain, old fashioned zipper. The projects that tended to get messed up are the ones that had invisible zips. lol. I now almost always buy regular zippers and just adjust the pattern if needed to accommodate it.

    Oh, and thank you for the inside shot of the waistline reinforcement; I'm intrigued!

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

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  23. Thanks, Nancy. You are so right - the length of the zipper was one of the many problems with the first two insertions I did.

    And I agree that invisible zippers have their time and place. I'm just very angry at them right now.

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  24. Actually, I tend to buy normal zippers and then put them in like the invisible zippers. Works quite well, and is much more sturdy :)

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  25. Soooo glad you made that work. Sewing meltdowns are the worst. :)I am all for lapped zips. I found a tutorial thang in a 1950's Simplicity sewing mag and it changed my life. :) Love your blog...Looking forward to your next venture.

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  26. I'm glad you were able to salvage the skirt. Looks like a beautiful skirt. Love the curve.

    ~Sewjourner

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  27. I'm going to have to be in the hate invisible zippers camp...after having replaced many of them on RTW items! I only ever use vintage metal zippers on things I make or mend for myself and others. Stupid new zippers made of plastic/polyester/ whatever are just crap and break so easily. The quality is nonexistent! I search estate sales and thrifts for wads of vintage metal zippers, and they are usually rather cheap. I usually have on hand what I need. Haven't bought a brand new zipper in years!

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  28. I can never get invisible zippers to be truly invisible, so I gave up on them long ago. I think a well sewn normal zipper (lapped or not) look far more professional!

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  29. I always use invisible zippers unless working on a formal type gown. Why? Check your RTW, it's all invisible zips. I think a regular zipper just screams homemade.

    I would suggest studying the many invisible zipper tutorials on the web, and more importantly you MUST use an invisible zipper foot! I have one I bought for a couple of bucks made by the YKK corporation and it is the PERFECT tool for inserting my YKK zippers. I have used these on seams with considerable strain (including my dear wee angels dress) and have never had a zipper malfunction.

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  30. I'd say it's a frienemy for me...though we're working on peace talks since I've discovered that hand-basting it in as close to the actual seam as possible does wonders in getting it to line up correctly! I really do like the way that they look when put in properly, especially since I've always had trouble with getting the topstitching on traditional zippers to actually look equal on both sides when centered, and the lapped ones always seem to have something wonky going at the bottom. And I actually had a moment of sewing nirvana on one of my last clothing projects where I had the. perfect. invisible zipper. (Unfortunately, the dress as a whole was a wadder...even more unfortunate since it was a dress for my brother's wedding and I splurged on all this gorgeous, expensive (for me) silk charmeuse that I completely ruined, and have been trying ever since to figure out how to salvage even a bit of it!) Having the actual invisible zipper foot works wonders too, though basting it first still helps a lot.

    And I'm glad you worked out your skirt frustration!

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  31. I'm still such a newbie, that I don't have a whole lot to say on the zipper issue, but I'm loving that dip in the back of the skirt. Can we say hot mama?!

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  32. I've put in one invisible zipper (back of a dirndl skirt) and one lapped zipper (back of a dress) and the invisible ones are SO EASY. I hated how long the lapped ones took.

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  33. I can't even believe I'm reading this because I've had this very same problem recently. I almost always opt for a hidden zip. Those rotten little things. I do believe that they have a place. But I do think you are right about hidden zips not working with incredibly fitted clothing. I just finished a dress with the lapped handpicked zipper. Need I say I completely take your view of things. They are wonderful. And so much easier to put in. I will now be thinking twice and three times before ever using an invisible zipper again. And I can't wait to see that skirt on you! I'm so glad it ended up working out! Hip Hip Hooray!

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  34. Yay!! Nothing like a rescue. And I have tried invisible zippers several times, torn my hair out, and always gone back to a regular zipper. I made a skirt recently when I had thrown out my back and had to lay flat on the floor and I put the zipper in totally by hand. Looks great. Couldn't have done THAT with an invisible zipper. I avoid them like the Plague.

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  35. I would like invisible zippers to disappear! Can't wait to see the whole skirt!

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  36. Congrats on working out a solution to the skirt!

    I just discovered a way this weekend to insert an invisible zipper super-easily: I sewed the back of the skirt as I would for a normal zipper - i.e. I basted to the circle then regular stitched the rest of the skirt back seam. I pressed, then ripped out the basting. The pressed seam allowances left a *perfect* 5/8" line to follow. It also made the insertion so easy because I could see exactly where the zipper needed to lie (I would always get it screwed up when putting the zipper onto 2 separate, free-hanging pieces).

    Seriously - the zipper went in in under 2 mins. I've spent hours getting it to work before. I'm going to sew up a few more pencil skirts next week to test if this is a good method.

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  37. Wow, I never knew there were so many invisible zip-haters. I love them and use them so much I buy them in bulk (20 at a time). When they are put in correctly, invisible zippers really ARE invisible. I alsmost never use regular zippers unless it is in pants or jeans.

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  38. I agree with you completely - I hate invisible zippers for things like skirts, pants, etc. You're just asking for trouble. Not a fan of them for any zipper that might be under some strain on something very fitted!

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  39. So glad your skirt issue was not a fit issue and you got it figured out.

    I've only done an invisible zipper a couple of times. I need to practice, practice, practice so I'm no afraid of them.

    I am so glad we are not bound to the old undergarments. And now you know and are happy with control top tights and Spanx and can rest easy. It's good to try things and get it out of your system.

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  40. Wow, count me in the minority of invisible zipper lovers! I always use them when I can (though I can see how they wouldn't work when you need something sturdy). These are the extra steps I take to ensure that it works (all outlined in my sewing bible, the Reader's Digest Guide to Sewing):
    * Run a basting line along the seamline of each side to use as a guide
    * Baste the zipper in, making sure that the teeth fall right along your guideline
    * Use an invisible zipper foot to sew in the zipper! (My Viking foot was about $30 and has paid for itself many times over.)

    There's no way around the fact that getting around the little bump at the bottom is a bitch -- it just takes patience, determination and a willingness to curse and rip out seams!

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  41. count me in with the small army of invisible zipper lovers. i ALWAYS have problems with regular zippers - they go in crooked, or with weird bumps, and it always takes me several times to properly insert one. invisible zippers are easy peasy to put in, and they make everything look so nice and neat (i think).

    i found that getting the proper invisible zipper foot for your machine really does make a difference, though. i bought one for my pfaff, and even though it was $30+, it was worth every.single.penny.

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  42. LOVE that skirt! Beautiful!
    I like invisible zippers. I use them quite a bit, on almost every dress I make. But I also try to use old metal zippers that I pick up in thrift stores. I always use metal zippers for pants. I agree with some of the other gals that the invisible zipper foot makes the world a better place. lol. I wouldn't even try to put one in if I didn't have the foot for it. I did once and it made me want to scream and cry and throw things. But I have a strange machine foot fetish... the beauties.

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  43. Congrats on your skirt save! I'm with you on invisible zippers. Even with the right foot, they're still a pain, particularly if the placement is in the middle of a side seam. There's just no room for error there & I'm always puckering at the top or bottom.

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  44. For me, I have found a way to insert an invisible zipper with a regular zipper foot--you iron out the vertical 'roll' of the zipper around the teeth, then insert, and when you zip it back up again the zipper rolls to the back of the garment. It works on everything but very fitted garments, in which case the material pulls away from the zipper enough to be able to see the zipper tape, which drives me crazy. I just learned how to do hand-picked lapped zippers recently, and I enjoy the technique, although I'm still perfecting my form. :P

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  45. About the little bump on the bottom of invisible zips, I noticed this on a couple of RTW skirts and have used this tip ever since. Get a slightly longer zip; stop sewing before you reach the bump; stitch the teeth together at the point where you've stopped sewing; cut off the bottom part of the zip 1/2 inch below the stitch; enfold a little piece of fabric around the raw edge and hand-baste it flat so that it isn't scratchy. It's really easy to do and the result is very neat and flat.

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  46. Three comments: 1) I always use a longer zipper, often trimming it at both ends. 2) I've heard YKK invisible zippers are the only ones that don't break, separate, etc. 3) I took a course in the Islander series on inserting all kinds of zippers. They teach invisible zippers without a special foot. If you have access to such a course, I'd advise you to take it. Maybe it's on their CD?

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  47. I've had it with invizible zips. They are disgraceful. The one's I've used on things I've made are impossible to zip up, have holes right next to the teeth or can't stand the bulk of fabric. Even when you use the invisible zipper foot which uncurls the sipper so you can sew right next to the teeth.

    My cousin made my formal dress and went through 5 invisible zips because they all broke when she tried to zip it up, it wasn't even on a body or a maniquin it just broke. She finally got one to stay and it takes 3 people to get it done up.

    Your skirt looks amazing, I think I might get that pattern myself.

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  48. Hooray for the rescue!

    I'd never been great at zippers, any kind. Since I started school, I've thoroughly embraced the invisible zip. Though I haven't used it on a very fitted garment, or one made with fine fabric, I find the method we learned super easy. I'll try to get around to posting a tutorial, but in the meantime, here are the basics:

    1. Mark your fabric and zipper where the opening should end (if you have horizontal seam lines to match, mark your zipper for those too.) Make sure they line up when you sew.

    2. Stitch down the centre of the zipper tape before going for the gold.

    3. If you have one of those zipper feet with the two channels underneath, use the same one on both sides of the zipper. Your needle tends to be closer to one side of the hole than the other. Go as close to the teeth as you can without catching them. In thicker fabric, it's nice to leave a little millimeter. The fabric will roll a little to cover the zip. Don't press flat.

    4. When sewing the rest of the seam, stop 2mm below the end of your zipper insertion, but still in line with that seam. This is a little tricky, and at first I found it easier to do this seam before putting in the zipper. This little hole keeps you from getting a little pook, and also keeps the zipper pull from cutting the threads of the seam below.

    Invisible zippers are fantastic in wool skirts, let me just say. My next challenge is to make my regular zippers less Becky-Home-Ecky!

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  49. I never use anything except invisible zippers. Maybe I have just been lucky and one day I am going to have a bad wardrobe malfunction.

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  50. I love this skirt! The shaping is very sweet. As for zippers, I never use anything but invisible (except in fly fronts where I use regular). I purchased a specific foot for my machine that sews them right first time and I never have any problems. I buy zips several inches longer than I need and sew them in after the seam, like a regular zip. This was it eliminates any problem at the bottom of the zip. I wear all my clothes very fitted and so far have never had a problem with them breaking. It's worth paying more for a better quality zip, though. If you can get the ones with the cloth tape rather than the wispy nylon tapes, you might find them easier. I interface the fabric where I put the zipper also. I hope we get to see a picture of you in this skirt.

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  51. Really hate invisible zips. I know there are those that swear they are more professional or rtw, but I see so many that look way more "homemade" than a beautiful handpicked zip. I rarely use them.

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  52. I kind of just skimmed after reading the same post over and over. I'm just so shocked that invisible zippers are so widely hated. They aren't hard, it isn't difficult to make them perfect if you know what you're doing. They are plenty durable, and yes, I use them all the time in my "poured into" dresses and skirts.

    I used to avoid zippers altogether for such a long time, its a shame really. Hmm.. Maybe I'll make a tutorial. Can't believe so many people hate them... You just haven't been taught properly. :)

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  53. I'm very excited to see your new skirt, if that picture is any indication!

    Garnet

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  54. I'm so glad the skirt turned out wearable! It sure looks gorgeous!

    When it comes to invisible zippers, I'm just confused... I used to LOVE them when I bought my Bernina foot #35 (and from my reasearch, I can only find good words on this foot), but then suddenly something happened: The zipper started to get jammed in the foot, and I was thinking that maybe YKK had changed their dimensions? I haven't found a good, detailed tutorial yet, and that really annoys me. BUT, I felt a little bit better when I discovered that I can use the button-hole foot for the same purpose, although it doesn't "feel fair" to the #35 foot... Another problem I have, is getting the seam below the zipper to be perfect.

    So to Bellelass and all the others of you who love invisible zippers, and don't see the trouble, PLEASE make tutorials and spread the word!!!

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  55. I really, really want to get a tutorial up for you ladies. I feel it is my bounden duty. I'll get it this week.

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  56. Hand-picked zippers is one of the few techniques I recall from going to couture sewing school. Love the skirt!

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  57. I never saw the wonder in invisible zippers, and putting them in was never anything I aspired for. And then, I bought an invisible zipper foot for my machine. OH.MY.GOD. Life changing. I use them all the time now, since they are dead easy!

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  58. I love invisible zippers! But, they only work on the midrange of fabrics - i.e. no thin silks, no heavy wools. I have a stash of zippers, but lately have not been able to find the very lightweight invisible zippers made with a knit tape (instead of twill tape.) These work great and are less likely to buckle.

    My zipper issues have more to do with the location of the zipper on the garment. I prefer a side zip to a back zip and will usually adjust a dress to accomodate a side zipper. It just looks so much better. I do not understand formal clothing with back zippers.

    Another pet peeve is in RTW where an invisible zipper is incorrectly installed; meaning the bottom of the zipper was never tacked to the seam allowances. This is more of the norm than not. Usually this flaw results in the zipper being yanked from the garment as people try it on.

    Both of my DDs have an extreme waist/hip ratio, so I always put in longer zips than are called for. I'm glad you were able to perservere and have ended up with a tres stylish skirt.

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  59. I'm an apparel design student and in my draping class last term, i designed and made the pattern for a princess seam pencil skirt. it had these really amazing side pockets that were sort of a headache to figure out, and i was really thrilled with how it turned out in muslin. of course, i didn't sew the muslin together- i pinned it together. and it looked great.

    i had a very similar problem. when i made it in my final fabric, i put a 7" invisible zipper in the side seam. it looked great. of course, then i brought it to class the next day and got my dress form out to find that the skirt wouldn't fit over size 6 hips. it took three people to pull the thing on. I think 7" zippers are just not meant for anything that fits at the natural waist.

    after the class i ended up ripping the zipper out, taking the waistband off and making a new waistband lower so that it would actually fit me. and i put in a longer zipper.

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  60. Did you know that there are different weights of invisible zippers? #2 is the standard dress weight zipper. These are the ones that split easily. There are #4 & #6 invisibles also. All are available on a knitted tape instead of woven tape. The coil gets bigger as the size gets bigger. The bigger the coil, the easier they are to put into a dress, skirt, pillow or duvet. It takes a couple of tries to get an invisible zipper in, but I have videos on my website & also YouTube to show you an easier way to put invisible zippers in.
    Life is Short! Zip it Up!
    Alicia
    TheZipperLady.com
    YouTube.com/user/thezipperlady

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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