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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Piping Basics

I thought at some point I did a piping tute on the blog, but evidently I haven't. Because I have decided on so much piping on my latest project it made sense to share my methods. I will do this in two parts. The first will be the basics and the second tute will be on inside and outside corners.

You will need strips of bias that you can cut and put together as shown in this tutorial. There are many ways to cut bias (another tute another day) but I find that method is quick for the shorter strips usually needed in garment making. You will also need a filler cord. There are lots of personal preferences here, but I like #3 crochet cotton, hard to find. A poly can work well and you won't have to worry about shrinkage with that. What I use is something that is no longer available that was recommended to me by a smocking teacher about 5 years ago. I am still working off the same ball of yarn. It is not too firm, not too soft. I don't like rat tail as it is usually rayon, shrinkage,  and also does not turn corners tightly enough in my opinion. I put a pin in the photo so you can judge the diameter of the cord. Since 95% of my piping is mini piping on children's garments, this small diameter works best. Drapery cord comes in lots of diameters and works well.
I cut my strips using a rotary cutter and an acrylic ruler with a 45º marking. The straight of grain is lined up with a vertical line on the cutting mat. The 45º line is then lined of with a horizontal line on the cutting mat. This will give you the true bias. Once you cut the first strip just use your ruler to continue cutting 1 1/2 inch strips on the bias. Once cut stitch them together in the length needed as per this tute. ETA: This sort of cutting is for short strips which are often what is needed in sewing for children. In the tutorials are a method for cutting miles of bias, if you need a lot.

I then place the cording ball in my lap with lots of cord unwound freely. I then run the end of the cord around my neck . Now I start to place it inside the folded bias strip. I use a 5 space pintuck foot. The corded side is placed into the center slot. I then reposition my needle to the right, using number #3 if you have a Pfaff. I start stitching with needle down. Every six inches  lift the presser foot and let the fabric relax. Failure to do this can give you ripples. I use a 3.0 stitch length. As I do each pass on the bias the stitch length gets shorter. Two reasons: first, often in placing the piping strip, a marriage needs to happen between a starting and ending part of the strip. The larger stitch length allows you to easily rip out the stitching , stitch the two ends together, and then replace the the needed length of cord. It also makes for easily undoing the stitching to remove the cording from any seam allowances. Cording should not ever cross a seam allowance. Always pull it out and remove it. The second reason for the larger stitch length is to reduce bulk in the stitching line. You will be using three passes of stitching before you are done so by making each pass a smaller stitch you will get the needed strength and reduce some bulk in the stitching line.
Once the piping is all stitched take your fingers and run them down the length of the piping removing any ripples or stretch that can happen while stitching. Do this before installing in the garment.

One of my most favorite notions it the Darr Piping Ruler. It has various slots underneath where you fit your corded side and then proceed to cut with a rotary cutter for a perfect seam allowance. In this case I am using a 3/8th inch SA. The ruler just keeps sliding up the piping as you cut. I LOVE THIS TOOL!

Here you can see where the piping will be installed around the curve of the sash. For any piping installation, Wonder Tape is invaluable. It is a sticky, narrow, double sided tape available at the chains. For this curve I notched all around the curved area. Then the Wonder Tape was applied to the piping. The piping is then flipped over and placed with the raw edges matching. This is a 3/8th inch seam.

Back to the five space pintuck foot on the machine. Stitch the piping down with a 2.5 stitch length, center slot, 3 mils for needle position on a Pfaff. Try to get your stitch a hair in from the first stitching.

Place the other pattern piece on top of the one you just attached your piping to, piping sandwiched in between. You could use more Wonder Tape her if you'd like but I think it would add a bit more bulk, but it would eventually wash out. Don't use pins as they will distort.
Back to the machine. Set up your needle position to the center now and the piping cord in the center as well.

Now, FLIP THE PIECES OVER so the piping stitching line is ON TOP. This is your guide. I visually line up the previous stitching with the right side of the center pintuck tunnel and stitch a hair within with a 2.0 stitch length. A 1.5 stitch length is good for maneuvering tight curves and corners. But do a test to see what needle placement works best for your machine.
If you click on this image you will see how the stitching is extremely close but not directly on top of each other and seams are graded.

Turn, press, and voila! I use the straight end of  wooden spoon to get in tight spaces and push the piping out while steam pressing.

Next post will deal with inside and outside corners as well as a Madeira application. ...Bunny


  1. Bunny,
    This tute is all I needed, tnank you so musch for it
    I ccan't wait reading the second part

  2. Thanks for the tutorial! I had always avoided piping, since it looked like it required more attention to detail than I was actually capable of! But you make it seem so simple, I will definitely try it now!

  3. Thank you, Thank you, thank you! Consider it bookmarked!!!
    Happy Mother's Day, too!

  4. Bunny - your fabric and contrast are gorgeous...adds to the excellent technique!

  5. I must get one of those piping rulers! I love bias strips and piping. I do many of the same things you do - including flipping it over after basting it so that you can use the basting line as a stitching guideline.

  6. One of my next projects has piping, and I haven't done it before. So thank you for this timely tutorial.

  7. Thank you so much for this awesome tutorial on piping. It will help me improve on my piping making for sure. Can't wait for part two :)

    Vail in MS

  8. Bunny - Thanks so much for the piping tutorial. I have always tried so hard with small piping and I often get ripples. I am thinking that your tip of lifting the presser foot every 6 stitches to allow the bias to relax will solve that problem for me. Thank you! Claudia W

  9. Bunny. This tutorial stands the test of time. Thank you for doing this.


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