Here are our top tips for sewing a super neat waistband with an invisible zip. After the troubles I had with my denim skirt waistband I decided it was time for a crash course with Angela to really nail the key techniques - how to get sharp corners and a neat finish, plus how to insert an invisible zip that crosses a waistband seam. I was working on a lovely Simplicity vintage inspired pattern (2154) with our gorgeous Ohio fabric and this was the perfect opportunity to practise these techniques. I will, of course, blog about the skirt itself very soon.
Preparing the Waistband
The John Kaldor Ohio fabric I chose for this skirt is a cotton fabric with a slight stretch so Angela recommended using some waistband stiffener to structure the waistband and help it to keep it's shape. Simply iron it onto the wrong side of the fabric in the same way as applying iron on interfacing and it is suitable for most fabric types.
The waistband stiffener was narrower than my waistband so Angela recommended that I line it up with the edge of the fabric that would be attached to the skirt first to create the waistband seam. This is because I would be grading this seam anyway therefore reducing any bulk and it would give a nice crisp seamline.
Next fold the waistband in half lengthways, wrong sides together and press so you can see where the fold will be positioned when the waistband is finished.
Attaching the Waistband
Pin the waistband to the skirt, right sides together making sure the edge of the waistband with the stiffener running along it is lined up with the raw edge of the skirt.
Stitch in the perforations of the waistband stiffener closest to the seam allowance suggested by your pattern (they might not always match up exactly). The perforations were at 1/2" rather than the 5/8" seam allowance suggested by my pattern. This meant my waistband was 1/8" wider as a result, which was unnoticeable and the sharp fold achieved at the waist seam thanks to the perforations far outweighed the slight adjustment in the width.
Press the waist seam open and grade the seams making the skirt seam marginally shorter than the waistband seam.
Press the seams up towards the waistband.
Inserting the Zip
Press the zipper teeth open using a hot, dry iron being careful not to melt the teeth!
You can sew the back seam of the skirt before or after inserting the zip. Our preference is to sew the back seam first because it is easier to manouvere the back seam out of the way when sewing the zip in place than moving the zip out of the way to sew the back seam.
Press the back seam allowance where your zip will be attached (this is usually 5/8" check your pattern instructions)
Lie your skirt right side up with the waistband extended and seam allowance unfolded and mark where your zip stopper should be positioned, 1/4" down from where the fold in the waistband will be.
In the image below I have marked the fold in the waistband with the top blue line and 1/4" below this I have marked the second blue line representing where I want the zip stopper to be positioned. I used a chaco pen to do this.
I used basting tape to position the zip on the seam allowance (this is the thin white strip you can see on the seam allowance) and made sure the teeth lined up with the fold of the seamline. Basting tape is much easier to use than pins and you can remove and reposition the zip easily if you don't get it right first time. You remove the white backing to stick the zip down and all that is left is a clear, soluble tape that washes away.
If your garment is the right way out with the zip seam extended out and the zip is face down you will need to attach the right zip tape to the left seam allowance as you look at it (see the image below).
Use an invisible zipper foot* to stitch down the side of the teeth back tacking at the beginning and end. Slot the teeth of the zip into the relevant groove and move the machine needle to get close to the teeth taking care not to sew in the teeth or sew so close the zip won't open and close easily.
If you are unsure of how close to the teeth to stitch have a little practice first by basting the zip to a scrap of fabric and moving the zipper up and down to test it. You can easily unpick the basting stitch and then use the relevant settings to accurately sew the zip to your garment.
You won't be able to get all the way to the end of the zip tape because the zipper will be in the way. Stitch as far as you can and we'll come back to this later.
Mark the waistband seam on the zip tape you have already attached, close the zip and mark it on the other zip tape too. This will enable you to line it up when positioning the other zip tape. Remember to check the stopper is 1/4" from the fold of the waistband too. Once fixed in place with your basting tape check it matches up ok by zipping it up.
Attach your second zip tape use your invisible zipper foot to stitch it into place. You will need to position the teeth in the opposite groove this time and the needle will need to move across in the opposite direction to before. As before you won't be able to stitch right to the end of the zip tape because the zipper will be in the way, just stitch as far as you can.
You will be left with a little gap between the end of the stitching lines on the zip tapes and the back seam as pictured below.
To close this gap use a normal zipper foot* to sew a line of stitches joining the two seam lines back tacking at both ends.
Press either side of the zip from the right side and check there aren't any bubbles.
Next it is advisable to secure the zip tapes to the seam allowances. Close the zip so the zipper is out of the way and then use a normal zipper foot to stitch in the zip tapes to the seam allowance on either side.
Overlock the zip seams to neaten everything up.
Finishing the Waistband
There are several options for finishing the raw edge of the waistband. Our preferred method is to overlock the edge then stitch along the waist seam from the right side using a stitch in the ditch to secure it. This method creates minimal bulk at the waist seam and let's be honest less bulk at the waist can only be a good thing, right?!
You will need to overlock the unfinished edge of the waistband then complete the following steps before stitching in the ditch.
Pin the zip tape at the top of the zip to the side towards the seam allowance.
Now fold the overlocked edge of the waistband over the zip (the waistband will be right sides together) and line up the seam allowances then pin in place.
Use a zipper foot to stitch a 5/8" seam allowance (or whatever is specified by your pattern) through all layers back tacking at both ends.
To get really sharp corners don't snip the corner off! Leave the seam allowances in place and fold them back one over the other and hold them in place as you turn the waistband through. The stiffness created by the 90 degree corner sans snip will help you to achieve a much sharper corner. Use a bamboo knitting needle or something similar to manouvere the fabric into a point and voila!
Repeat the above steps on the other side to create your other corner.
Now pin the overlocked edge of the waistband in place and stitch in the ditch from the right side.
You should now have a super neat, well structured waistband that zips up like a dream and has sharp corners a set square would be jealous of!
*The sewing machine feet linked to from this post will not be compatible with all makes and model of sewing machine. We stock a wide range of accessories for many makes and models of machine please check our compatibility charts for full details.
Have fun sewing!
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