#RoyalWeddingSewAlong Zipper Insertion! (McCall's 7684)

Inserting the zipper gets its own week not because it is difficult--it's not!--but because people get so nervous about it and build it up and I think leaving it by itself gives you 6 days to procrastinate, 1 hour to do it, and 23 extra hours to be like, omg, that was way easier than I thought it would be. We're also going to tackle attaching the lining to the interior of the dress in a way I think you'll really like. Hint: no hand sewing!

This pattern calls for an invisible zipper, which is, I think, my favorite zipper to use now. A lot of that is because I spent the $40 and invested in an invisible zipper foot for my Bernina machine.

Best $40 ever--well, besides my bargain sale machine! If you have a Bernina and are wondering if the invisible zipper foot is worth the price, it so is. If you don't have a Bernina, you can use an invisible zipper foot too, they have some plastic universal clip-on ones at my local Joanns for $6 or, of course, you can order one specifically for your machine on amazon. I will say that I used to use that YKK zipper foot on my old Singer and it doesn't work as effortlessly as my current Bernina combo but it gets the job done!

We're going to start with the lining pulled up and out of the way again, just like it was when we attached skirt to bodice. We'll deal with the lining after our zipper is all done.

Place your zipper, face down, on the left hand side of your bodice. The teeth of the zipper should be right at the 5/8" seam allowance, so your zipper most likely wont be aligned with the edge of the fabric...

But the plastic stopper at the top of the zipper should be aligned with the seamline between fabric and lining!

Pin it down from top to bottom and you're ready to sew. First we're going to baste the zipper in using a long stitch length, our regular sewing machine foot, and (Alternatively, you could also do this by hand.)

Stitch along the zipper tape from top:

To bottom of your zipper tape:

This will help hold your zipper in the right spot while you sew it in, since you may want to have your hands free to help roll the zipper teeth in the next step. Gently roll the zipper tape outwards as seen below. It should rest nicely in the left hand groove of your invisible zipper tape, and with the needle set to the center, the stitches (back to your regular stitch length, don't forget) should fall right at the edge of the teeth.

As I mentioned before, you can help the teeth along as you stitch down the tape; I generally don't have to worry about that too much with my metal Bernina foot but I definitely did with the plastic one. When you get to the bottom, sew as far as you can and backstitch. Don't worry if it isn't all the way to the bottom.

The first half of your zipper is complete! Zip it up and admire your work: the plastic stopper at the top of your zipper should be nicely aligned with the top of your dress, and the zipper tape should be totally concealed beneath the fabric.

Before we start on the second half, a bit of preparation is necessary. A few years ago I learned a good trick from By Hand London that has made such a difference in my seams lining up across zippers, and I will pass it along to you today! Once you've sewn one side of the zipper, stop and zip it up past the waistline seams.

Mark using a fabric pen or pencil on the opposite side of the zipper tape exactly where the seam lines are.

Then, I like to fold the seam allowance of the opposite back panel down and pin in roughly to the right spot on the zipper, just to double check that the zipper isn't twisted up anywhere.

Leaving the bodice back pinned to the zipper tape, unzip the zipper.

Now you can carefully unpin the zipper from the bodice back and repin it to just the seam allowance (and here's the trick) making sure that the seamlines on this second half of the bodice are exactly on the marks you've made on your zipper tape.

The waistband seams are nicely aligned with my (hard to see) blue marks on the zipper tape.

If you start from these markings and then pin upwards towards the neckline and down towards the hem, you should end up with seamlines matching across the zipper. You can zip it up again if you want to check.

Install this side of the zipper the same way as the first one, first basting (I just used my invisible zipper foot this time, but I wouldn't recommend it, actually):

then switching to your invisible zipper foot to attach it.

(You'll end up with a bunch of fabric on the right hand side of your needle, bunched up in your machine. it's a pain, but I've always heard that you should sew both halves of a zipper in the same direction for increased accuracy and no twisting.)

Beautiful! Your zipper is now installed, with nice matching across seams. If your cutting and sewing has been accurate, it should also match up nicely at the top!

All that's left for this step is to close up the center back seam below the zipper, which should look like this from the outside:

And this inside:

Right sides together, pin the back skirt panels, matching notches.

When it comes to the very end of the zipper, I find it helpful to pin the two sides of the zipper tape together, pulling it away from the seams where the zipper attaches to the skirt fabric. That way you can see what you are doing! Also make sure the end of your zipper tape is angled out of the seam allowance side, not into your skirt. Here you can see the pins keeping the zipper tape out of the way and pinning the rest of the skirt seam closed.

Using your regular zipper foot (not invisible zipper) Get right up close to the end of the seamline attaching your zipper to the skirt. Starting just above the bottom of your zipper, stitch close to, but not exactly on top of, that seam line. (This accounts for the turn of cloth.) The regular zipper foot allows you to get right up close to the zipper, which you see below at the bump between the foot and the vertical pin.

Once you make it past the end of the zipper, if your seam line isn't quite at 5/8", you may want to gradually move in that direction ;)

Press your seams open from the inside of the skirt, and lightly press along the zip from the outside.

Okay, now for the lining! At this point, one option is to press the center back edges, and waistline edge, of your lining in 5/8", and then hand stitching your lining to the zipper tape and along the seam allowance of your skirt. You are totally welcome to do that! Maybe you love handsewing, I don't know. Personally, I'm not a fan, so we're going to do a bit more creative sewing to insert our lining with no hand sewing.

Start by pressing the bottom edge of your lining up 1/2".

Then, fold your lining to the right side of your dress.

We're going to pin in to the right side, sandwiching the zipper tape between outside fabric and lining. match the bodice waistband seam of the lining to the bodice. The skirt seam will not match up--remember, we pressed the bottom of the lining up 1/2", not 5/8", so it should have a slight overhang.

Pin in place, with the pressed edge still folded up.

Pin the rest of the way to the neckline of the dress.

At the very top, the seam where the lining and outside fabric are stitched together (and possibly understitched) should be rolled towards the lining side of the zipper. This way the lining won't poke out at center back.

Do the same for the other side of the zipper. If you did a good job matching your dress fabric across the zipper, there's no need to match the lining seams to each other--by matching each bodice waistband seam of the lining to that of the garment fabric, the linings should match across the zipper when you are done.

From the inside, it should look like this (that's my interlining showing, not my lining):

Using your (regular, not invisible) zipper foot,  sew along the teeth of the zipper (that's the bump to the left of the zipper foot), within the center back seam allowance. If you sew on the wrong side of the zipper, you'll totally enclose your zipper within the lining. If you sew on the seam allowance side, you attach the lining to the extrerior along the zipper tape, leaving the teeth exposed.

When you get to the end, be sure to leave the pressed edge of your lining folded up! Sew across the fold.

If you want proof that what you're doing makes sense (I don't blame you), flip your center back right side out really quickly, you should see a your zipper poking out along the edge of your center back seam, with a nicely finished lining.
Turn it back inside out and trim the excess zipper tape and the corner off, then press lightly, avoiding the zipper teeth.

Just like when we applied the zipper, the plastic stopper should be right at the top of the neckline, and the lining should be rolled to the inside of the garment.

Here you can see that the bodice seam of the lining's waistband matches across the zipper, and the skirt side of the waistband is a little bit longer than the skirt side of the fabric.

Do the same thing on the other side. When you zip up the zipper and turn your dress inside out; it should look like this:
Finally, let's attach the waistline of the lining to the waistline of the fabric. First, pin the bottom edge of the lining to the edge of the bodice. Remember, when we pressed the edge of the lining up, we only pressed up 1/2" not 5/8", and we'll make use of that now by allowing the lining to overhang the bodice by 1/8". I'm pinning from the interior of the dress to make sure it is precise, because we'll sew from the exterior of the garment and we want to catch the lining all the way around the waistline.

The side seams are a good way to keep on track; side seams of skirt and lining should match up:

Once your lining is pinned, you have two options: repinning from the outside, or glue stick!

I was always skeptical of glue sticks and sewing, but I've been converted--I'll be using that. I unpin a section at a time, apply the glue to the seam allowance, and stick down the lining, gluing it down so it won't move an inch. (The initial pinning step is probably unnecessary but I like to do it since it more easily reversible than gluing.)

Flip your dress over and stitch in the ditch all the way around your dress, being sure not to stitch all the way to the edge and over your zipper!! (If you do, you won't be able to zip it past the waistband.) I use my blind hem foot as an edge stitch/stitch in the ditch foot since it has a nice guide down the center, but you can use any foot you like and just go slow. Ideally, you'll be sewing right in the seam between waistband and skirt:

Because of the slight overhang of the lining, stitching along the skirt waistband seam should catch the lining at about 1/8", like this:

(Mine's not perfect, and that's okay!)

But it's practically invisible from the outside!

(f you don't feel confident in your ditch-stitching, you can always sew this portion by hand!)

Next week, the hem... you're so close! At the end of next week, your dress will technically be done, but I have some little optional finishing touches for the last week.


ps: in general, if you can't find an exact color match, go with the invisible zipper a shade too dark--it will blend into the shadow of the seam and be less noticeable than a lighter zipper.

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  1. Oh thank you so much for this Allie. I am going to be making my daughter's wedding dress this summer and the invisible zipper scared me to death! I have a Bernina machine and bought the 35 foot recently. Your post has been so reassuring. I will give it a go on another dress before the bridal gown, but I am certainly feeling more assured.

  2. A brilliant tutorial. I'm not making this exact dress but I think it will work just as well for mine.I've been putting off my zip insertion all week, but I'm invigorated by your instructions and will give it a go next week. Many Thanks.

  3. They make a double sided sticky tape that dissolves when wet called wonder tape that is better than glue stick.

  4. What a great tutorial! I found this so helpful and my zip looks perfect ��



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