This was a question posed on twitter last week, and I replied yes, you can, but it’s hard to convey just how to get it done well in 140 characters. So while I was making up a Gabriola for Daughter No2 in chiffon, I thought I’d photograph the process of inserting the invisible zip with a French seam. Strapped in? Here goes!
First of all, stabilise and support the fabric to carry the zip. If you’re using a French seam in your fabric, chances are it’s fine, soft and not very strong. I used a 3cm wide strip of a fine sheer polyester fusible. You can buy the same interfacings that I use from Gill Arnold via the post. Then sew in the zip as you usually would. Once it’s in, the fun can begin.
Snip the seam to the zip stop mark or the base of the zip stitching. Make sure you do not snip past the limit of the seam allowance, or you’ll be in trouble later.
Now you can align the seam edges together, with wrong sides together and sew the first part of the French seam, from the hem up to the snip. Trim that 1cm seam down to just under 5mm, neatly. Press to one side and turn the fabric over to enclose the raw edges and sew the remaining 5mm of the French seam. Work from the hem up to the zip stop and sew as far as you can with the machine.
The last part of the French seam needs to come as close to the zip stitching as possible, without distorting the seam. You will probably have a gap of at least 5mm. This isn’t a problem, you’ll stitch that shut from the outside by hand.
I use a ladder stitch to close the hole, going up and down the ladder a couple of times to make sure the stitching is strong enough to survive Daughter No2 yanking the zip down too hard!
I hope that helps anyone wanting to use a French seam and invisible zip. It’s a technique I’ve used a lot and it seems to work fairly well for me. I’ve just about finished the skirt now, just waiting to see how much of the hem needs to be chopped to make it even. I am hoping to be able to submit it and a Renfrew for The Monthly Stitch’s Indie Fan Girl category in Indie Pattern Month. If I get the hem sorted in time & I’m happy with it, look out for it to vote! 🙂