The Barcelona Dress | Invisible zips & stripe matching

Invisible zips (sometimes called concealed zips) strike the fear into many a sewist, and our lovely Barcelona dress has an invisible zip and stripe matching! Sounds a bit daunting, doesn’t it?

Don’t panic, I didn’t get this right first time – I practised and I unpicked. More than once.

Do please remember that there is no such thing as the sewing police and perfection can be truly overrated if it’s taking away the joy and not adding to it. If it’s near enough, if you’re happy to wear it, it’s good enough!

This is a new-to-me method of inserting an invisible zip, which does prove my point that there is always more than one way of sewing something and you’re never too old to learn. This method closes the CB seam before you insert the zip rather than after. The benefit of sewing it this way is there is no bump at the bottom of the zip issue to worry about. I know…mind blowing! My normal method of invisible zip insertion (stitch down each side of zip, stitch up from the bottom to close the seam) was fine (and if you prefer/are happy with that method, carry on – we’re not doing brain surgery here) but after a day of testing methods, I felt this one was better at controlling the stripe matching situation, not to mention the dreaded bump at the bottom of the zip situation.

I discovered the original version of this technique when it popped up in my Instagram feed from Threads Magazine. The YouTube video is demonstrated by the delightful Kenneth D King. I’ve adapted the original technique a little bit to help with the stripe matching, I only close the CB seam to the bottom of the zip opening. The original method also closes the zip opening using a machine basting stitch. I also prefer to use an invisible zip foot, it’s just what I’m used to, but Mr King uses a generic adjustable zipper foot. The original video can be viewed here: YouTube LINK: Imperceptible Zipper by Kenneth D. King.

STRIPE MATCHING TIPS |

  • see our ‘sewing with stripes’ tutorial
  • Take your time!
  • Use lots of pins and pin ALL the stripes together.
  • My philosophy of stripe matching is “Never Knowingly Under Pinned”.
  • Remember you are matching them at the STITCHLINE, not the outside edge!
  • Take your time (it’s worth saying twice).
  • You may find it easier to mark in your SA with chalk or fabric marker pen.

INVISIBLE ZIP TIPS |

  • An invisible zip is always stitched from the top down to the bottom.
  • Invisible zips are placed RS of zip to RS of garment.
  • The coil (teeth) sits right on the CB line.
  • You never get to use the entire length of an invisible zip. You lose around 2.5-3cm (1″) as you can’t stitch right to the bottom because the zip puller is in the way. If you have a 56cm (22”) zip the finished length will be about 53cm (21”)
  • They are very easy to shorten, this method is actually easier if the zip is too long. Always shorten a CLOSED invisible zip AFTER it has been inserted.

And you can, of course, use this tutorial for both versions of The Barcelona, classic back or V back, striped or plain. Or any other pattern with an invisible zip, we don’t mind!

TOOLS |

Invisible zip, Invisible zipper foot, ordinary machine foot, ordinary zipper foot, and the usual sewing stuff!

ABBREVIATIONS | 

WSU: wrong side up | WS: wrong side | RSU: right side up | RS: right side | SA: seam allowance | CB: centre back

METHOD |

You will have already spot fused the zip area with fusible interfacing.

Press the zip |   Open the zip and lay on the ironing board with WSU. With a cool iron press the coils (the teeth) flat to uncurl them so they are easier to sew. WARNING! If your iron is too hot, the teeth will melt! Close the zip.

Close the CB seam | With RST pin CB seam together from hem to zip opening notch. Match the stripes together and pin to hold – remember you are matching them at the STITCHLINE. Tack or machine baste if you wish.

Close CB seam with 1.5cm SA using your normal machine foot. Start at the hem and stitch to zip opening notch and backstitch. Press the seam open and neaten before taking a minute to marvel at your stripe matching!

Place the zip | It’s really easy to get an invisible zip twisted as you pin it in. The RS of the zip will be facing the RS of the garment.

I find the best way is to lay the dress with WSU facing you, and then fold back the SA at the CB neck and use one pin on each side to hold.Place the zip FACE down on the dress, so WS of the zip is facing you. Open the zip a couple of inches and pin the zip tape to the SA on each side of the opening with one pin. This is just to place the zip without twisting it, we will pin the zip accurately to stitch in the following steps. The Barcelona dress has a 1.5cm SA so the tape of the zip will be narrower than your SA.Open the zip so the puller is all the way to the bottom. Start on one side of the zip, it doesn’t matter which side and place the top stop 1cm from neck edge. This is to allow space for the binding (I’ve placed a pin in the photo to show you where) and pin the tape to the SA. Keep the zip coil ON the CB stitch line.Once you have pinned one side of the zip mark on the zip tape the base of the opening so you know where to stop stitching. If you like you can also tack as close as possible to the teeth coil to hold in place.

Change to an invisible zip foot | Take a look at your zip foot and you will see 2 grooves or channels on the bottom of your invisible zip foot –  yours may not look exactly mine but you’ll get the idea. The coils of the zip will sit in one of these channels dependant on which side you are stitching. Choose the groove furthest away from the SA and so that you are stitching through the zip tape right next to the coil.Stitch | Stitch with the dress RSU and start with a backstitch at the top of the zip. Stitch close to the zip coil and roll the coil with your fingers as you stitch so it sits perpendicular to the zip tape as you sew. Do not stitch on the coil as your zip will not close! Stop with a backstitch when you get to your mark at the base of the zip opening.

Mark the stripes | Close the zip. Now carefully mark the base of the opening, the waist seam position and the stripe positions on the tape on the other side of the zip with chalk, tacking thread or a fabric marker pen. Take your time and do this accurately as it will allow you to match the stripes across the zip. Then pull the zip puller to the bottom of the zip again.Now to place the other side of the zip! Pin the zip tape in the same way you did before, making sure the coil stays on the CB line (it will help if you marked your SA) and take your time to match the stripes and waist seam to your markings. Make sure you also line up the top stops on each side of the zip or it will look uneven and stepped at the top when it is closed. Use a small stitch and tack the zip tape and the seam allowance together as close to the coil as possible.

TIP: If you want to close the zip to check your stripe matching after tacking but before you machine stitch permanently, you will need to unpick the last few centimetres of tacking at the bottom of the zip to get the puller back below the zip opening before re-tacking that last bit again.For overkill, and because I still found that the stripes moved a smidge, I went back and added pins horizontally across the zip to stop any stripes shifting under the machine as I stitched. I removed these as I sewed.Start at the top again, with a backstitch, and stitch the other side of the zip using the other groove of your machine foot. Go slowly and stop and backstitch at your mark at the base of the opening.

Close the zip to check puller will run up and down and all looks good before continuing.

If any of your stripes have shifted or you caught the teeth of the zip you can always unpick just a section and re-stitch. But please remember that there is no such thing as the sewing police – if you’re happy to wear it, it’s good enough!

Shorten the zip | If your zip is too long, it’s easy enough to shorten.

Always shorten an invisible zip after it has been sewn in and when it is CLOSED!First, we will need to create a new stopper at the bottom of the zip. Take a length of thread, double it and thread a needle with the folded end to give you 4 strands of thread to sew with. Knot the end.Start from underneath the zip so the knot is hidden and about 1cm below the opening and whipstitch (oversew) around the coil of the zip. You are only sewing through the zip, not the garment.Do this a few times to create a stopper for the zip before securing your thread.Leave about 3cm (1″) of tape below the stopper and then you just can cut off the excess zip.

Secure the zip |Change to an ordinary zip foot (sometimes called a half foot). We are going to anchor the zip tape to the seam allowance at the base of the zip. The point of this is to take some of the strain away from the zip when it’s being pulled up and also to stop it flapping around.Machine stitch through the zip tape and SA by stitching forward and backwards a few times in a straight line on either side of the zip to create a bartack. Make sure you are only stitching zip tape to SA and you are not stitching through the dress! You can do this bit by hand if you prefer, in the same way that you created a stopper.

Press | Give your zip a gentle final press!

Troubleshooting |

It’s very easy to get carried away and obsess over the things we make and sometimes we just have to say that will do. And it will do, it really will!

But this was a problem I had and the solution wasn’t what I thought it would be, so on the off chance it helps here it is…Now I’m sorry to say that I didn’t take a ‘before I unpicked it photo’, but those stripes on the skirt below the waist didn’t match. They weren’t out by a lot, but enough to be annoying. I assumed that I needed to move the stripes up or down the zip to get them matching to the other side. Once I had released that stitching I could see that I actually needed to move them to the right (the pins are my original line of stitching) and gain a few millimetres from the SA to get them to match. We had a saying in the Industry years ago – ‘wangle it’ which basically means can you bodge/fiddle something that should work, to make it work? So sometimes, when it’s necessary, we ‘wangle it’ and that’s OK.

So I moved those stripes across to where I wanted them and voila!

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