I love piping. It is fun and easy to make, and piping in special fabrics add an instant polish to any garment. Piping is an easy way to finish shaped hemlines (as on my Japonisme jacket ), to outline appliqué (as seen on my chinoiserie skirt) as well as to provide detailing and support in seams (as seen in many Victorian bodices, and Rowena’s 1840s bodice).
To make 1 metre of self-fabric piping you will need:
1 metre of piping cord in your choice of size (you can find this at most sewing and haberdashery stores. It comes in sizes from teeny tiny to very large, depending on the effect you want).
1/2 metres of a fashion fabric of your choice. Thin, tightly woven fabrics work best. You can use velvet and corduroy for piping, but I would recommend starting with a fabric with a smooth finish and easy handling. I do not recommend beaded, sequined or embroidered fabrics.
1. Cutting bias strips:
You’ll be cutting bias strips about 1 inch wide (I just use the width of my ruler as a guide) from your fashion fabric until your strips, added together, equal just over 1 metre.
To find the diagonal bias, first find the lengthwise grain of your fabric and mark a line along it.
Then find the widthwise grain of your fabric and mark a widthwise line which intersect with the lengthwise grain line. Your two lines should form an exactly 90 degree angle.
Measure out and mark 5 inches from the point of the intersection along each line.
Lay the edge of your ruler so that it connects the two points, and draw a line.
Ta da! You now know how to find the exact bias of the fabric. You can follow this line to make your bias strips:
2. Sewing your bias strips:
Straighten the ends of your bias strips so that each end is cut precisely along the grain of the fabric.
Sew the bias strips end to end, right sides together, until the strip is one meter long.
Iron the seams open.
3. Sewing your piping:
Fold the bias strip over the piping cord, wrong sides together.
Set your piping foot or zipper foot (or any other foot where you can get the needle on the outside of the foot) down on the fabric part of the fabric and cord sandwich. The edge of the foot should sit right next to the cord and the cord should be pushed right to the fold of the fabric. Make sure your needle is positioned so that your stitch line will fall close to, but not on, the bump of the cord.
Ta da! You have piping in whatever colour and fabric you desire!
As inspiration, here are a few of my projects that feature piping.
An underbust corset with seams highlighted with piping:
My chinoiserie skirt, with the appliqué outlined in piping:
Rowena’s 1840s ensemble, with piped detailing on the bodice:
The Polly Oliver jacket, with gold piped seams: