summer dress in double-gauze: the skirt & zipper

Hello, hello, hello! We are in our penultimate post! Just one to go, after this!

summer-dress-in-double-gauze-badgeFirst we assembled our supplies, then prepared the pattern for cutting. We then finished the bodice, sewing gathers and darts, and interfacing our center back. Today, we sew our skirt and install our invisible zipper!


Work It! First, if you are sectioning your front from three panels, go ahead and join and treat your seam allowances, before proceeding (you can see my joined panels here). Interface the center backs for the skirt pieces and the insert pieces, all along the zipper installation length (just like we did for the bodice).

Now, remember when I talked about marking all our pleats? And that it’s only the outer two lines and the center line that matter, as we won’t be ironing or sewing along the fold-lines? Today we get to pin and baste all those pleats! 

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: Preparing Your Pattern

If you plan to baste by machine before joining, pin right at that 5/16″ basting line, just 1/16″ from the stitching line. If you plan to pin-baste then join (as I’ve done), pin at 3/8″:

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

Here’s my front, all pinned and ready to pate. You will notice I use more pins that I usually do. The more I secure the grain, the more accurate the pleats (note, too, my joined front panels):

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

Now join the three skirt sections (the front, and the two backs) to the three insert pieces (the front, and the two backs). Sew slowly as it’s easy to shift darts and folds when you sew them:

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

Next, go ahead and join the inserts to the bodice. Finish these six seams. Then set the seam with the iron, and gently steam press them. Shown below, I have serge-finished, and pressed the seams toward skirt and bodice. Note the center back has already been interfaced fro zipper installation. I backstitch such that there are no tails in the center-back, and this edge is finished perfectly:

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

Now, we’re ready to install that invisible zipper!

Before we start, I can say my experience shows there are three main issues with invisible zipper installation:

1. Installing with the stitching line either too far from the zipper teeth (so the zipper shows in the finished garment), or too close (so the zipper won’t close)
2. Installing the zipper without checking to make sure you haven’t twisted one side (the only way to fix this is to rip out a seam)
3. Ending up with a “bump” at the bottom, after installation

I plan to address all of these issues in my install.

Let’s talk about the third issue first. I have not found a tutorial online (yet) that demonstrates how to install an invisible zipper without ending up with a little bulge/bump at the bottom. Plenty of tutorials talk about the bump, but I notice they don’t show a picture of the finished, bottom of the zipper on an actual garment! I think it’s very difficult to machine-stitch the entirety of a garment’s invisible zipper without ending up with a bit of clumsiness there.

So, two things.

First: literally. And I mean:

no one will ever notice this little bump, except you. So if you don’t end up achieving a bump-less invisible zipper, don’t worry about it. You’ll get better with time, and it ain’t a big deal anyway.

Secondly: this bump bothers me (like any good stitcher), and the best method I’ve found involves a bit of hand-finishing, for a great result:

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper
Enough talk. Let’s get started!

Time for ye olde invisible zipper foot! And when I say “ye olde”, I mean it! Below you can see a generic (universal) invisible zipper foot from the thrift store. I purchased it for less than a dollar and it works just fine! By all means, use the invisible zipper recommended for your machine. But if you don’t have one, one of these universal kits is just fine – and very inexpensive:

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

(I am also loving the fact I’m about to install a zipper that’s the same color as the one pictured on the package!)

There are a few different technologies for invisible zipper feet, but in the case of this foot, the blue plastic piece has a beveled insertion point that allows you to slide the white piece any distance from the furrows (the little “wheel”-shaped appendage on the front of the foot). Being able to position the furrows means you can put your stitching any distance from the teeth.

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

Even though the package indicates you do not need to iron the zipper teeth flat, I have found better results when I do (the invisible zipper package illustrates how to do this). After I iron the teeth flat as close to the bottom of the zipper as I can, I pin in the zipper. Vertically, the top of the zipper tape lines up with the top raw edge of the neckline. Horizontally, invisible zippers are installed with the zipper public-side down, tape edge toward the seam allowance, on the right-side of the fabric. I place my zipper in a position such that my stitching line will meet the fabric along the pattern’s stitching line. So if, for some reason, I had a 1″ seam allowance you’d see a lot wider margin on the right of the zipper tape, instead of the 1/16″ you see here:

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

Once you’re sure your zipper is placed appropriately stitch slowly, about 1/8″ from the teeth. As I mentioned, it’s easy to stitch too close or too far from the teeth. Experience will help with this. If you’re new to the invisible zipper scene, don’t worry too much. After this first seam, you can zip the fastening up and make sure the stitching line is properly placed. The zipper foot guides it all quite beautifully, and your interfacing keeps the fabric from shifting:

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

I stop the machine-stitching about 1″ from the bottom of the zipper (as marked by pen on the zipper tape), then carefully backstitch:

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

Next, I pin the other side of the zipper seam, carefully matching up the zipper so the seams will match once it’s installed. I will be stitching down to the same vertical location as the other side. After pinning but before stitching, make sure to flip the zipper to the wrong side of the garment and ensure you can zip all the way up and down. Ask me how many times I’ve twisted one of these babies up, while installing! And finally – stitch in the same direction you applied the first side. This is good practice (if a bit annoying because that means the bulk of the garment will pass near the machine head. But it will ensure the waist seams line up. Because even with all that interfacing and carefully pinning – and even with hand-basting! – the double-gauze’s shifting grain is pretty dern reactive.

Right before stitching:

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

Here is my machine-installed zipper so far. Note that if I swing that zipper pull under to the left, I can zip it up and everything (so far) is peachy!

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

Here is a photo of how well the insert seams line up, once I zip. Also note the zipper is completely hidden away:

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

Now, it’s time to finish up that skirt seam. Pin and sew the center back of the skirt, up to about an inch away from your previous stitching lines. Note that even with a zipper foot (not the invisible zipper foot used above, but an actual zipper foot), you can see that stitching by machine will likely distort the grain at the zipper termination. So I stop and carefully back-tack about 1″ or 3/4″ from the previous stitching line:

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

I then steam press this seam. Shown here, pushing this seam toward the top of the dress, you see the 3/4″ gap between these stitching lines:

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

I then close this gap with very fine, even whip stitch. UBER CLOSE UP:

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

And here is the finished result!

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: The Skirt & Zipper

OK! One last sew-along post. We’ll be installing our sleeves, side seams, neckline, and hem! Join us, won’t you?



Comments are closed.