Hi! I’m Rachel and I have a recently-rediscovered passion for sewing.
One of the biggest milestones of my fledgling dressmaking career was putting in my first ever invisible zip. The invisible zip is legendary in it’s infamy, the most painful of all pains in the butt, but when put in correctly the invisible zip is sexiest and slinkiest of all notions. My aim for today’s cheatsheet is to demonstrate that the invisible zip need not by a source of fear but rather the means for achieving an effortless modern look in your garments.
For today’s tutorial I will be diverting from my pattern and adding an invisible zip to my Chardon skirt. My reason for doing this is that I do not want to distract or break from the strong geometric print. I am a big believer in the hiding or disguising of anything which doesn’t add to the design of a garment. The choice to add the invisible zip here allows for a continuation of the fabric pattern and leaves the garment feeling clean and uncluttered.
Without further ado let’s get started on today’s cheatsheet.
1. Making your nip (optional)
To begin, we will need to follow a similar route to the exposed or channel zip tutorial in ensuring that we mark the nip in your fabric. For those of you who are following a pattern this should already be marked for you however if you are drafting your pattern or need to make an adjustment you will need to add this step.
Lay your zip flat on the fabric, the top of your zip should meet the top of your fabric. With your tailors chalk make a mark roughly 5cm or 2 inches prior to the end of the zip to create a short tail. The tail is one of the key differences of the invisible zip and is vital for keeping the mechanism as invisible as possible.
2. Sewing your seam
Readers of the exposed zip cheatsheet may experience a slight feeling of deju vu for this section.
Once you have marked your zip you are ready to sew your seam. Taking care not to exceed your mark, stitch from your nip to your seam to leave an opening the same length as your zip. For the purposes of this tutorial my seam is 1.5cm.
Once this is complete press your fabric open. I like to press the entire seam here, including the zip opening, as I feel it comes in useful later on when lining up the zip to the seam but it’s entirely up to you.
If you have not done so already, secure your seams with an overlocker or a zigzag stitch – it will be a real pain to try and do this later on!
3. Press your zipper teeth
Technically this is optional but I would strongly recommend pressing back the teeth of your zip at this point as it will be incredibly helpful when you come to attach your zip to your fabric.
You are aiming for the following effect:
3. Aligning your zip
With the right side of your fabric facing upwards, open the zip and place it face down on to the fabric. Just to note, you will need to leave your zip fully open for the duration of this process and only close once finished.
Next up, this is where your pressed zip comes in very handy as you will need to line up the pressed edge of your zip with the folded seam of your fabric like so:
Once aligned pin and/or tack the left side of the zip to the right hand side of the fabric. The tail of your zip should be moved out of the way to the wrong side of your fabric.
Take care at this point to ensure your zip is flat against your fabric so as to avoid any unwanted puckering.
4. Attaching your zip
This tutorial uses an invisible zipper foot, also known as a concealed zipper foot, for attaching your invisible zip. You can order one online here or alternatively visit your local sewing machine supplies shop. UK readers, I purchased mine from the ever handy John Lewis (you’ve got to love John Lewis). I would definitely recommend investing in the concealed zipper foot as I feel it provides you with a greater level of control than the standard zipper foot and stitches as closely as possible to the zipper teeth.
Your concealed zip foot, once attached to your machine, looks like this:
The two gaps at the bottom of the zipper foot are for inserting your zipper teeth. Place your fabric and zip underneath the gap and bring the foot down to meet the fabric. I often find at this point that the pressed teeth do not want to go into the gap, if you are having the same issue unroll the zip as if to press flat and then bring the foot down quickly to trap the teeth. You may have to try this a couple of times before the teeth are secure.
Now is time for my favourite bit, stitching the zip into place. As you stitch you will see that the foot literally shows that invisible zip whose the boss, forcing the teeth out the way whilst stitching as closely as possible to them.
Here I go, take that zipper teeth! I must admit this bit gives me a bit of a power trip but you aren’t obliged to feel the same way!
Back to the stitching, sew your way down the zip stopping a couple of millimetres prior to your chalkline so as to give space to zip and unzip your garment – this is very important!
5. Aligning and attaching the right hand side
Turn your zip over and repeat steps 3 and 4 attaching the right hand side of the zip the left hand side of the fabric (as your look at it from the right side). I sometimes actually prefer to turn my fabric over the wrong side for this bit but this is up to you.
Close your zip and press your fabric. If required use your iron to force the fabric over the invisible zip on the right side of fabric, this will disguise those teeth.
You should now have a very happily attached invisible zip like so:
That’s all for today but pop back on Sunday to see my completed Chardon skirt.
Enjoyed this post? Feel free to post your own tips and tricks for invisible zips below.
After suffering what can only be described as a brain freeze when putting in the pleats for my Belladone dress I have decided that I need the practice and so have put together a little tutorial which I hope will be of use not only for myself but for my readers as well. Today’s Cheatsheet is the first of a series of posts walking you through the humble pleat.
To begin we will be looking at the inverted box pleat which is a key feature of my next make Deer and Doe’s Chardon skirt. The Chardon features no less than nine inverted box pleats making it the perfect opportunity for pleat practice!
Inverted box pleats are formed on the wrong side of the fabric, therefore we need to ensure all foldlines and pattern markings are made on this side of the garment.
Continuing to work on the wrong side, fold the fabric so that each set of foldlines meet to form a seam or underfold; the Chardon includes some very useful arrows to help with this. Pin and/or baste the fabric together at the foldline to secure the seam ready for stitching like so:
It is worth taking your time at this point so you can ensure that the folds are straight and correctly matched. I tested my pleat by folding it to one side of the fabric and checked to see that the top seam matched the top of skirt piece.
Once you are happy with the placement of your pleats it is time to stitch them in place following the instructions in your pattern.
Stitching complete, press the underfold of your pleat flat against the wrong side of the fabric. Turning the fabric to the right side, press again.
Here are my well pressed underfolds:
To keep those pleats firmly in place I would recommend topstitching on both sides of the foldline. With tailors chalk or a strategically placed pin, mark your starting point on the fabric. I would recommend starting from the bottom of the foldline and working your way upwards towards the waistline. This will flatten out the fabric and prevent any unwanted puckering.
Here I am topstitching my skirt with a 0.25 inch seam allowance.
Happy? Your pleats should look like so:
Have you tried making inverted box pleats? Let me know how you got on.
On today’s Cheatsheet we will be learning the basics of free machine embroidery or as I like to call it drawing with the sewing machine. I have to say I’m very excited about this post as once you’ve mastered the basics that’s where the real fun begins.
This post assumes you are all set up, embroidery or darning foot attached, feed dogs down and ready to go. If you need some further guidance on what you will need and how to cover your feed dogs if they will not drop, just click here.
Ready? Here goes.
First up, we need to decide what we will be drawing. For more advanced embroiderers this may come from the imagination or may even be a sketch made on the machine. For beginners I would recommend drawing or printing your image or text ready for sewing. The print out should provide a clear line and direction to follow with your machine, at this stage simplistic designs are best. As a word of warning for any sketchers out there, we will be ripping our paper away later so make sure you have copies.
Once you have decided on your image, I would recommend cutting away any excess paper so it will not get in the way of your sewing. You will then need to pin the paper to your fabric. Regular readers may recognise the fabric I am using today from my Anna dress – I hope you haven’t had enough of polka dots just yet!
In my previous post, I recommended purchasing an embroidery hoop as this will make moving the fabric even easier and will make the embroidery process a little safer. In this post I will not be using an embroidery hoop as I prefer working without one unless stitching an area with heavy detailing. This is a little risky so if you decide to follow this route just make sure you keep an eye on your fingers in the relation to the needle!
If you do decide to use embroidery hoop now is the time to attach it your image.
Once you have secured your image you are ready sew. Position your image underneath you needle and begin to stitch. Use both hands to gently move the fabric underneath the needle, pushing and pulling in the direction in which you wish to draw. It is important to go slowly at first, any hand movements should be careful and precise. Sudden hand movements may cause the thread to catch and lead to an unhappy sewing machine!
When moving between letters or sections in an image my technique is to turn the hand wheel so the needle is at its highest point and lift the foot. I will then move the fabric to the next starting point, drop the foot and turn the hand wheel so needle goes through all layers and continue to stitch. Once my sewing is complete I will return to my image and cut all connecting threads.
An alternative method would be to cut the threads and start afresh with each letter or section. I am not an advocate of any particular method as this is really a matter of personal preference.
Now your sewing is complete it is time to reveal your image. Carefully tear back the paper to reveal the text or image. Here’s mine:
Tearing is my favourite bit of the process as I think the result, even if only part way through tearing, can be fantastic. I personally love the above and it isn’t even half way through!
If you have managed to resist stopping mid-tear and you have torn away the majority of your paper you will find that you have some pesky bits left within your stitching. If you decide that you would like to remove these remaining pieces all you need to is to run the fabric under the tap like so:
And voila! You’ve just completed your first free machine piece.
Coming up next on Cheatsheet, we will be taking a look at free machine embroidery.
Free machine embroidery is a really fun and useful skill to learn. It’s a great way of adding detail to garments and can even be used to make wonderful pieces of art!
For those of you who are new to my blog, my sewing background is in Textile Art and it was during my A Level study of the subject in which I first encountered the embroidery or darning foot. To 16/17 year olds free machine was billed as drawing with the sewing machine and for a class full of art students it was an amazing discovery. As a group we experimented sewing/drawing through anything and everything – photographs, plastic, occasionally fabric and very unfortunately for a few of us this included a few fingers along the way.
From the start of this blog I have always wanted to share with you a few tips and tricks from my Textile Art study and for my first act I’m planning to teach you all to write with the machine.
In true Blue Peter style, here is one I made earlier:
The Cheatsheet free machine series will have its official launch next week so in the meantime I just want to make sure you have everything you need to begin.
Firstly and most importantly you will need to purchase an Embroidery or Darning foot – I’ve included a picture of one below. It is of course entirely up to you but I would recommend purchasing the official foot for your machine manufacturer. I have been caught out before by purchasing cheaper universal feet only to find that they don’t quite fit and fall off mid stitch.
Fitting your embroidery foot for the first time can also be a bit of pain but does get easier with time. To fit to my Janome 525s I need to release my presser foot and unscrew and remove the foot holder. The ‘hook’ (in lthe absence of the official name!) of your embroidery foot should wrap around your screw and be tightened into place.
To avoid the dreaded needle through the finger I would recommend that you purchase an embroidery hoop as this will make moving the fabric even easier. You may ask why I don’t use one, in my case I prefer not to use the hoop unless I am working on a image with heavy detailing – this is definitely at my own risk!
For those of you who can you will need to drop your feed dogs (or as I call them – teeth) so you can move the fabric freely underneath the embroidery foot. My feed dog lever is located at the back of the sewing machine.
I am aware that there are a number of machines which do not allow you drop the feed dogs, but fear not pre-May 2014 I too was in the same boat. Below is a crafty little guide for covering your feed dogs.
You will need:
1 x Hole Punch
1 x Piece of Plastic (mine is from a chocolate box)
1 x Scissors
1 x Sticky Tape
2. Using your hole punch, punch a hole in the middle of one of the shorter sides like so:
3. Attach the plastic to your sewing machine, the longer side of the plastic should cover the feed dogs and the needle should go through the hole you have created in the plastic. The image below isn’t great but should be able to give you an idea for the placement.
4. Get ready to sew!
This Cheatsheet will be continuing on Tuesday so in the meantime you should take a look at Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences for Textile Art inspiration. The Vanity of Small Differences consists of six tapestries which were woven by a computer controlled loom. We won’t be able to recreate such detail on our home machines but its a great example of what you can create with textiles.
Welcome to the very first edition of the Cheatsheet series! In today’s Cheatsheet we will be looking at the most pesky of all notions – the zip.
We will be focusing on the exposed zip, a version of the channel zip where the teeth are literally exposed. The exposed zip has been a fashion favourite for a number of seasons and can be a great way of adding detail or embellishment to an outfit.
In this post I will be using the exposed zip to add some interest to my new cushion covers, the technique will be exactly the same for your garments – I’m a particular fan of an exposed zip on a fitted dress or pencil skirt.
Before we begin we need to ensure we mark the nip in your fabric. For those of you who are following a pattern this should already be marked for you however if you are drafting your pattern or need to make an adjustment you will need to add this step.
Lay your zip flat on the fabric, the top of your zip should meet the very top of your fabric. With your tailors chalk make a mark below the end of the teeth and before the end of the zip’s tail. 2. Sewing your seam
Once you have marked your zip you are ready to sew your seam. Taking care not to exceed your mark, stitch from your nip to your seam to leave an opening the same length as your zip.
For the purposes of this tutorial my seam is 1.5cm. Once this is complete press your fabric open. I like to press the entire seam here, including the zip opening, as I feel it comes in useful later on when lining up the zip to the seam but it’s entirely up to you.
If you have not done so already, secure your seams with an overlocker or a zigzag stitch – it will be a real pain to try and do this later on!
3. Adding the zip
Where we go from here is up to you. You have two choices: you can follow the cheat’s route (CR) or the standard route (SR). I am going to go through each route here, it really is up to you which one you take as there are pros and cons to both. For your first attempt I would recommend the SR and moving on to the CR if and when you wish to.
For both routes your first step is as follows: with the wrong side of the fabric facing you, place the zip face down on the fabric and get ready to pin your fabric. When pinning it is important to keep your zip as flat as possible against the fabric to avoid any unwanted puckering. To make an exposed zip, the zip teeth should overhang from the edge of the seam (see below). For a standard channel zip, the teeth should be in line with the seam.
I would recommended opening the zip at this stage for ease of sewing and pinning.
This is where we will split depending on whether you are a CR or a SR. CRs jump ahead to step 5. SRs stay with me.
4. SR only:
Pin the left hand side of the zip to the fabric, the pins should only go through the first layer of fabric (the folded seam) and should not show through on the right side. (Optional) Tack your zip into place – this can be a good habit to get into, especially when you move on to invisible zips!
Using the zipper foot or half foot stitch the left side of the zip into place. If you have not attached a zipper foot before I would recommend attaching the presser foot to the left hand side of the zipper foot. To get a close stitch, line up the left edge of your zipper foot with the teeth of your left zip.
Once you have completed this side of the zip, follow the same process for the other side.
5. SR and CR
Turn your fabric over to the right side, pinning and/or tacking through your seam and zip.
Using the zipper foot or half foot, stitch the zip into place one side at time.
Once you have reached a point below the bottom of the zip, pivot or turn 90 degrees to sew a right angled corner. Pivot or turn again on the opposite side of the zip to turn and stitch up the opposite side of the zip.
As a general tip you may have noticed that I have half zipped up my cushion whilst stitching the seam. I would recommend this as it is a great help, especially when you are attaching the second side – the fabric will try very hard to pull together at this point so that extra control is essential.
The difficulty comes when trying to stitch around the zip. When doing this your first option is always to try and wiggle your way around the foot to undo the zip. If this is unsuccessful make sure your needle is in the fabric, lift up your presser foot and carefully unzip the garment. Once you have negotiated around the zip, carefully put your foot back and try your hardest to keep going in a straight line.
Last but not least press your zip. A zip can be ironed but as they are often made of plastic just make sure your iron isn’t turned up on too high a setting. If you were making standard channel zip here you could use your iron to force the fabric into covering your zipper teeth.
And there we have it! You should now have one perfect exposed zip.
Enjoyed this post? Feel free to add your own tips and tricks for exposed and channel zips.