What is piping in sewing ?
Piping is a decorative sewing technique of using a cord covered with fabric strips . You can use piping to decorate fabric edges, hems, scallops, seams, necklines, openings as a decorative feature as well as a strengthening element.
Make piping cord
You just need a fabric strip and some cord to make this decoration. 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. 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
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. 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.
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 inch wide( or according to the width of your cord ; here you need extra 1/4 inch on either side for foldingand 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 to 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
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. Donot 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 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.