How to Make and Sew with Piping
Allie is the co-founder of Indiesew and creator of all things pretty on the site. Follow Allie and receive other Indiesew updates by subscribing to the blog.
Piping is the new pom pom fringe. I’m sure of it. There’s something about this simple trim that adds such a look of sophistication to handmade clutches, dresses and pants. Plus, piping lets you use contrasting fabrics while keeping your garments looking professional. Piping can be scary for new sewists. But it's not! Today we’re taking an in-depth look at piping and the options for sewing with it.
What is Piping?
Piping is a trim used in the seams of a garment, pillow, clutch or other item. It’s often used in a contrasting color to make the trim pop against the main fabric used. The Envelope Clutch
from the Indiesew Spring Collection
features grey piping around the perimeter of the clutch body and flap.
Like bias binding
, piping can be purchased at your local fabric store or can be made by hand. I love store-bought (or pre-made) piping for the time it saves me. I find most of my piping at thrift stores for around fifty cents a piece. Thrift store piping tends to be vintage and often in great colors you can’t find in your fabric stores.
How to Make Your Own Piping
But, you can also make your own piping! With a few extra steps, you can have piping that coordinates with your project and still looks totally professional. There are a few special supplies you’ll need to gather, but once you have them you’ll be ready to make piping at a moment’s notice!
The first supply you’ll need is a piping foot. Yes, you can use a zipper foot for sewing piping, but I’ve found a piping foot makes the process a total breeze. It is worth the investment. A piping foot has two grooves underneath through which the piping travels. Make sure to buy a piping foot made for your brand of sewing machine.
Next, you’ll want to pick up some cording. For this tutorial I’m using 1/8” polyester cording, but you can also use cotton cording in varying widths. I find that 1/8” cording or smaller looks best on garments. I like to always have a couple yards of cording on hand.
Finally, cut a long piece your piping fabric on the bias. For this tutorial I cut my bias piece 1.25” wide, which was ideal for the 1/8” piping. For this tutorial I’m using quilting cottons from P&B Textiles
. Cut your cording 2” longer than the length of your piping fabric.
Now, to make the binding, sandwich the piping between the fabric folded in half, lengthwise. Move your sewing machine needle as far right as possible, but so that it still travels through the hole of the piping foot. Sew with the piping under the left most groove using a basting stitch (stitch length of 3.5 or greater). Make sure the piping is pushed tight against the edge of the fabric.
Ta da! You’ve just made yourself some piping! Now, let’s sew with it.
How to Sew with Piping
The process for sewing with store-bought piping and handmade piping is the same. I’ll show you photos of both processes so that you can see what they look like.
1. Press the seam allowance of your piping so that it lays flat.
2. Lay out your piping and the two pattern pieces you'll be sewing together. Make sure your piping is at least 2” longer than the seam length.
3. Set your stitch length to a basting stitch with the needle centered.
4. Align the raw edges of your piping with the raw edge of one piece of fabric, right side up. Baste the piping to the fabric with the piping traveling through the left-most groove of the piping foot. For store-bought piping, that should look like this:
With this particular store-bought piping this basting stitch falls to the right of the piping's basting stitch. That’s okay, but not ideal. You’ll see why in a bit.
For handmade piping, it should look like this:
When using my handmade piping, you’ll notice that my second basting stitch falls to the left of the original piping stitch. This is ideal, so that the original basting stitch doesn’t show when your seam is finished.
5. Once your piping is basted onto one piece of fabric, lay your second piece of fabric on top with right sides together. Your piping will be sandwiched between. Change your stitch setting to a normal stitch length with the needle as far left as possible. Make sure the needle can still travel through the hole of your piping foot.
6. Sew your fabric-piping sandwich, keeping the piping in the left-most groove of your piping foot. Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end. For both handmade and store-bought piping, your seam should look something like this:
7. Trim any piping that extends beyond the end of your fabric.
8. Press your piping seam allowance up. Then press your fabric wrong sides together so that the piping creates a finished edge to your seam.
9. Here, you have the option to topstitch your piping if you like. Sew over your now exposed piping, making sure it travels through the left-most groove in the presser foot. Take a look at our topstitching tutorial
for tips on making your topstitching beautiful!
Congrats! You just attached piping to a straight seam. Your piping should look something like this:
Using Piping on Curved Seams
But will the seams you're finishing with piping always be straight as an arrow? Likely not. The Envelope Clutch, for example, features curved, piped seams. Let’s tackle that.
1. Gather your supplies. In this case I’m using two pieces of curved fabric and store-bought piping that is a bit longer than the curved seam.
2. Baste your piping to your curved seam as explained in step 4 above. Sew slowly around the curved areas, lifting your presser foot up and down as you need to readjust the piping and fabric as you sew.
You may notice your curved piping lifting away from the fabric. This is normal.
3. Just like we do with curved seams in garments
, we need to snip into the piping to make it lay flat around the curve. Snip up to, but not through, your basting stitch.
4. Now create your fabric-piping sandwich. Sew the seam as explained in step 6 above. When you’re done sewing, snip around your curves, up to but not through the seam.
5. Turn your curved pattern pieces right sides out, and press. Trim an extra piping that extends beyond the edge of your fabric.
You did it! You’re finished curved and piped pattern pieces should look like this:
Did you know that the Envelope Clutch features an inner zipper and optional card slots? For our Spring Collection clutch we used P&B Textiles Color Weave Medley
for the outer fabric and Fontaine Collection
for the inner contrast fabric. Add a vintage, metal zipper and this is one clutch you’ll be using all spring long!
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