What is piping in sewing?
Piping is a decorative sewing technique of using a cord covered with fabric strips. In clothes, you can use piping to decorate fabric edges, hems, scallops, seams, necklines, openings as a decorative feature as well as a strengthening element. In home decorating projects piping is used to decorate pillows, slipcovers, curtain tie-backs etc.
In clothes it is used in a number of ways ; It is used mostly on necklines, with a contrasting coloured fabric. But self same fabric piping can also take on a beauty on necklines.
In this pant, it is used on the side seams – When done in a complementary colour it can really enhance the beauty of the garment.
Make piping cord
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You just need a fabric strip and some cord to make this decoration. A zipper foot attachment on your sewing machine is another requirement.
If you are professional sewist, you will know the importance of pre-washing. Prewashing applies to the cord to be inserted inside your piping too.
The fabric strip for making the piping can be cut diagonally ( bias tape) or on the straight grain ( parallel to the selvedge). You can use any size cording – just make sure that the surface is somewhat smooth. Usually cotton cable cord is used. If it is very twisted the piping will not look finished.
If you cut bias tape (fabric strips cut at a diagonal angle), it will be flexible and stretchy enough for sewing around corners and adjusting to stretchy seams. Checkout the post for making bias tape for more details – there are many easy ways to cut a bias strip. If you have a big project you will need long lengths of continous bias tape and all the tips to easily cut them will be welcome.
For attaching to straight edges you can use fabric strips which are cut anyway- lengthwise, crosswise or by the bias.
Piping filler cord
You can use cotton yarn cord (cotton cable cord) available in white color as the filler cord for your piping. Polyester cord is also used. For upholstery piping with thick fabrics you can use a thicker cotton cable cord. You can also use thicker paracord for a thicker filling. Many use soft and thin rayon cord. Another variety is waxed cord – this is best if you want stiff piping
Learn about the different types of cord here. If you do not have cord, you can follow the tutorial here to make cords yourself from thread yarn etc.
How to make piping cord with Single fold bias tape
You can use a single folded fabric piece or a double folded piece for the piping. For attaching on seams with a facing you can use a single fold bias tape. On edges you can use a wide double fold bias tape and it can form a facing for the edge.
For making single fold bias tape suitable for piping cut the bias tape 1.5 inch wide ( you need space to insert the piping cord and then some 1/2 inch or more seam allowance. So calculate according to the size of your cording) . After sewing along the cord as explained below sew the edges with a zig zag stitch or a serger.
How to make piping cord with Double folded bias tape
For attaching on a seam or neckline without a facing double fold bias tape works best ( here the cut edge will be folded to the inside)
- For making a double fold bias tape suitable for piping cut the bias tape 2 inches wide (or according to the width of your cord; here you need an extra 1/4 inch on either side for folding and turning inside along the edges).
- Lay the cord down the middle of the bias tape wrong side up. Fold the bias tape with the cord inside
- Now attach the zipper foot on your sewing machine
- Place the presser foot so that it is lying just outside of the enclosed cord when it is down. Ensure that when sewing your needle is not piercing the cord and that you are not sewing it too close to the cord. A snug fit is enough.
- Stitch the whole length. This is your piping cord
If you feel that the two stitching lines you make along the piping stiffen the seam, you can skip this step and hand sew the piping with basting stitches first.
Sewing Fabric piping
How to sew piping to the hemlines or edges
Finish the edge of the fabric with a folded edge finish or serger finish.
Keep the piping on the hemline or where you want the edge finished cut edge of the fabric along or just inside the cut edge of the piping on the RIGHT SIDE. ( ie the folded edge of the piping with cord is facing the body of the fabric) Pin in place
With the zipper foot again on the machine stitch on top of the earlier made stitching line along the cord. Ensure that the stitching is inside the earlier stitching line.
Turn the seam allowance to the back. Top stitch the piping in place.
On curves, you may have to clip the seam allowance. Clip the seam allowance on the piping cord up to the line of stitches. Do not clip further than the stitching line of the piping.
To attach piping cord to an outside curve, place it onto the right side of the main fabric matching the raw edges. Pin it in place, clipping the seam allowance to ensure that the fabric lays flat.
To attach piping cord to an inside curve, work in the same way as an outside curve allowing the seam allowance to overlap where it is clipped.
How to sew the piping along neckline
If you have a bodice which you are sewing attach the piping with a facing so that the neckline will look better structured. Make the piping to a length 1.5 inches more than the total round of neckline.
You can sew the neckline piping two ways . Before the shoulder seams are joined or after the shoulder seams are joined
Method 1 After bodice shoulder seams are joined
Join the shoulder seams of front and back bodices . Press the seams open.
Keep the piping on the right side of the bodice neckline. When pinning piping, start from the center of the back neckline. Overlap the edges at the end as in the picture below.
You can add facing to this neckline by joining the facing of front and back bodices at the shoulder seams and keeping it on top of the piping . Pin in place. Now turn the bodice inside out and stitch from the inside. (This is done so, so that you can see the stitching line. You can keep the facing on top of the piping and stitch but as you cannot see the stitching line you will not have a guide, this is why stitching from the inside works)
Method 2 Before shoulder seams are joined
The Alternative way is to finish the piping for back and front bodices first and then stitch the shoulder seams together.
Make the neckline facing for front and back with as usual.
Keep the piping along the finished edge and top stitch in place separately
Remember to clip the piping every other inch till the stitching line.
Keep the facing on top. Stitch in place. You can sew this from the backside so that you can see the stitching line of the piping and sew on top of that. Clip the seam allowance of facing.
Turn the facing and piping to the inside and top stitch.
Now join the shoulder seams of front and back bodices
How to attach piping on scallops
Checkout the post on making scalloped edges for mor details on scallops
You cannot attach piping to scallops the same way that you do for other edges. Cut the scallops on the fabric edge with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
Clip the seam allowance every 1/2 inch and especially along the inward corners.
Turn the edges inwards folding it to the inside. press in place.
Keep the double folded piping under the turned edge. start pinning along the edge and as you reach the corners clip the seam allowance of the piping corp also. Then over lap the piping cord at these scallop junctions. pin in place.Top stitch
How to attach piping to a V neckline
Check out the post on different ways to sew a Vneck for more details on this.
How to attach piping to a slit
Cut out double folded bias tape in the length you want for the slits. If you are cutting bias strips cut it 2 inches wide.
Fold the edges 1/4 inch to the inside on both the edges and then press in place. After this fold it by the middle. Insert your piping cord inside.
Sew along the cord with a zipper foot to make your piping.
Sew the seam of your garment till the slit.
Trim the seam allowance of the slit edges to 1/2 inch if it is more. Open it up infront of you witht the seam allowance of one side opened.
Keep the piping on top of the edge, along the seam line.
Sew in place. Use the zipper foot to sew very close to the piping thread.
Turn the piping seam allowance to the back. Top stitch from the top along the piping with the zipper foot. Match thread with the main fabric.
Next stitch along the outer edge of the stitching line you just made with a 1/2 inch distance between them. This will catch the piping edge as well.
Follow the stitching lines shown in the picture below.
You can check out the tutorial for sewing other types of slits on your fabric here.