Monday, March 15, 2010

Piping Tips

I'm almost done with the Rooibos dress by Colette Patterns, and it has really sewn up nicely. It's classified as an Intermediate skill level pattern, and one of the things that makes it so is the piping detail. It's optional, so if you're a beginning sewer, or have never sewn with piping, leaving it off will make it doable. If you want to try it though, there aren't any instructions on how to make piping (you can buy it pre-made).

I like to make my own, however, and it really is easy. First, I measured around the neckline and the tops of the pockets, and figured out I needed around 53". I used a cotton crochet thread, which makes a lovely "baby" piping, and figured I would need to cut 1-1/2" strips to give me enough to fold over and have a 5/8" seam allowance. It's important to cut bias strips so that it will curve easily. You will need to connect your strips with a 1/4" seam allowance. If you've never made bias strips for binding or piping, I suggest googling a bias strip tutorial for more complete instructions.
Using your zipper foot, encase your piping cord/thread in the bias strip. Here you can see my crochet thread to get an idea about how thin it really is. I didn't completely follow the suggestions for the piping in the pattern. First, I didn't baste it to the neckline. I just pinned. Baste if you're more comfortable with that. Second, I started at the shoulder seam rather than the center back. I think the connection will be less noticeable on my shoulder.
I pulled out and cut off about an inch of the cording, and folded over the end, and this is my starting end. I started sewing about an inch from that folded end so that as I come around to finish, the other end will be tucked in here, and will look like it's a continuous piece.
 In the picture above, you can see that as you reach the corners of the collar, you will need to do some serious notching and clipping. If I make this again, I plan to change the neckline and will probably leave off the collar. If I do use the collar, I would start the piping and the far right point continuing around the back and ending before the collar, leaving it unpiped. I think the piped collar doesn't look as sharp as I would like it to.

 The picture on the left shows right before the sewing is ended (I don't sew over the pins if I can help it, contrary to what the picture shows). Finally, you can see how I tuck that loose end into the folded over end. Once finished, it will look like a seam.

When you're finished sewing, turn the seam allowance to the back and check to see what it looks like. You want the piping to be flush to the fashion fabric without any stitching showing. I wasn't 100% happy with my collar points, so I flipped the bodice over, and, sewing from the other side so I could see the contrasting thread easier, I forced the needle as close to the piping as I could get it, without sewing through it.
Can you see the ridge of piping to the left of the stitching? To make it even easier to see and sew close, I ran my fingernail next to the piping to make the ridge more prominent. Ripping out the other stitching is unnecessary.

If you are new to piping, but still want to give it a try, just pipe the top edges of the pockets. There are a slight curve, but it will give you a good try at a new skill. The piping is a great detail, and takes your sewing to the next level.


  1. Great tips, thanks. Sometimes I use my cording foot when I am sewing in piping. I love the crisp neat look that piping gives to garments.

  2. Great photos. Very clear.
    I especially liked the one that showed how far you have to clip into the binding to get around corners.

    Often when I am forced to do something "dramatic" like clip that far down I begin to doubt myself and wonder if I am doing things correctly. That is why it is good to see another sewer's work. Thank you.



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