Thursday, September 17, 2009

Continuous piping

Sorry I have been "absent" for several days. Just a thing. Thanks to all who emailed to make sure I was okay. Since a friend asked me about a method of piping application I use, I decided it was a good thing to write a tutorial post about.

We already know that I have a plethora of pet peeves. :) One of them is lumpy, bumpy piping. For me this goes hand in hand with sleeves that are inserted flat. I HATE that seam allowance that is visible at the sleeve cuff or edge. HATE IT! I always, even in doll clothes if I can, insert my sleeves into the garment in the round. In other words, I sew the garment side seam, construct my sleeve and then insert it into the garment. I think it looks and feels more finished as well has to be more comfortable. 

I also seem to enjoy making things more "fiddly". Why do it quick and easy when you can take the long road around? One of the finishes I do that could be considered more fiddly is continuous piping. Nothing screams "loving hands at home" to me more than bumpy piping joins. So this is how I do it. Lots of pictures to follow. You know me, if one picture is good, a dozen must be better.And as always, click the photo to enlarge and descriptions are below the photos.

First assemble your supplies; we will assume we are making a lined cuff with piping at the edge. Shown in the top photo.
A note about piping, I almost always make my own piping. I can use a smaller preshrunk cord and a better quality fabric than Wright's does. That said there is some premade piping that I do like, Susie's Ready to Sew piping is made from Imperial batiste and or broadcloth. It is often available at your favorite heirloom shop. I am not knocking the Wright's if that is what you like. Just not my thing.

Assemble your piping by inserting cording inside bias strip lengthwise, fold strip over cording and stitch by machine. I use an edge stitch foot, so I can ride the blade of that foot along the cording that is encased in the bias strip. You can also use a piping foot, open toe foot, buttonhole foot or applique foot. Whichever you are most comfortable with. I use the bamboo skewer to hold the sides of the bias together. There are specific tools for this that you can purchase but will admit that I can usually lay my hand on the three cent skewer more often than the $3 special tool. And if I lose the skewer I am not upset. I just grab another one.

Trim the seam allowance of your completed piping to 1/4". I use the piping magic tool and a rotary cutter. My cuff is using a 1/4" seam allowance.

I have already sewn and pressed open the seams of the sleeve cuff to form a continuous circle. Do the same to the cuff lining. On small baby clothes I find it easier, to turn the cuff or sleeve wrong side out, then stitch from "inside" the circle. Matching your raw edges, stitch piping to cuff. I don't start at the beginning of the piping, I start about 1/2 to 3/4" in from the end. You will see why later.

Continue stitching to within 1/2 to 3/4" of the end of the piping. Take cuff out from the machine. This will be the result. You will have partially attached piping to your cuff. Don't panic.

Fold back and butt the folded piping ends together where it will join. Mark with a blue pen.

Unpick the stitching that you used to make your piping only far enough back to be able to stitch a seam where you marked the piping bias strip. If you look closely you can see where I removed the stitches in the piping. Pulling the cording out of the way, stitch on your marking, trim the seam and press open.

Laying your two cording ends next to one another, trim both. 

Ta-da, your piping cord is ready to encase again as you finish stitching your piping to the cuff.

Fold the bias back over your cording, holding with your tool. Stitch the rest of your piping to the cuff to complete the circle. 
Insert the cuff lining, with right sides together encasing the piping between the cuff and lining, match raw edges. Here is where my skewer comes in really handy. I "mark" with the skewer the lining fabric right up next to that cord that is underneath. It forms a valley of sorts. I run the blade of my edge stitch foot right along that valley. I find this more successful than using the first stitching of the piping to the cuff as a guide. There is only one layer of fabric here over the piping, so it is easier to "see" the impression of where the cording is under there.

Turn it over and you can see where my second stitching of attaching the lining is inside my orginal piping attachment. So no pesky stitching showing on the right side. (You guessed it, another peeve.) Turn right side out and press.

Voila!!!!! The dark line is under the piping seam so you can tell where it is.  Now doesn't that look better than that trying to tuck in the piping ends or overlapping the ends?  I think so too. 
I hope this helps you. Let me know if you have any questions.


  1. Martha, this is the same way I do piping, whether for tiny cuffs, or upholstered cushion. It is just smoother, and not as uncomfortable, especially if your children are "sensory kids" like mine are. Anything that itches won't get worn. And bumpy, lumpy itches.
    Good tutorial! I know it will be a "lightbulb moment" for many sewists.

  2. I have done piping this way sometimes, and I should always do it this way. It is so much more finished looking.

  3. Yep, the lightbulb is glowing here for me! Your method looks so much nicer than the way I've been doing it.

    I never really understood why you couldn't just make it easy on yourself & put the sleeve in while the garment was flat. Your explanations helped to convince me to do it the *right* way.

    Good thing you're anal compulsive & have so many pet peeves, Martha. LOL Thanks for the lesson!

  4. Goosegirl, I would never have thought of the sensory issues of some children. That makes perfect sense.

    Julia, thank you. I do feel like it is more finished looking too.

    Retta, I had to laugh about my compulsiveness. If only it spread over into the state of my house. LOL It really could use some compulsive attention. I am glad the tute was helpful to you.

  5. The part that amazed me is using the skewer to "mark" the fabric, and the fact that it works better than flipping it over and stitching on/near the previous stitching line. Hmmmmm, I'll have to try that. Now to find skewers. Thanks!

  6. designdreamer, thank you. That is what I enjoy so much is sharing and learning from one another. For the skewers, I get them at the grocery store. 4 billion for $2

  7. Great tute, Martha. Thanks so much. By the way, your seamless smocking is working out well on my bishop. Check out Martha's seamless smocking tute too! It's great.

  8. Thanks Bunny. Glad the pleating is working for you as well.

  9. Oh wow, this is wonderful. I posted a note on my blog about your tutorial, so I hope you get lots of lovely hugs from people who appreciate your talent.

  10. Jeannine, thank you. Hope it helps.

  11. Thank you for the tutorial. I am returning to my machine after the birth of my first grandson. I need all the assistance I can get! I would love to know how you create such beautiful collars like the one on the blue and yellow Michie bubble. I have trouble with them meeting in the front and back properly. I have the piping ruler and continue to practice. Love your blog!

  12. Marta me encanta su blog, pero no hablo ingles, espero que siga entreteniendonos y enseñandonos cosas, desde España una admiradora de su trabajo.
    Besos carmen.

  13. Janet, thank you so much. AS for the collars, a trick I use to get them to meet in the front is, I stitch them together at the center front before I attach them to the neckline. Then they can't move. LOL

    Carmen, Conductores de tranvía, agradézcale tanto. Me siento tan sofisticado tener a invitados internacionales.

  14. Thanks for the tip about using the bamboo skewer to mark the stitching line. I always wobble when I'm trying to stitch just inside the first stitching line.

    I always enjoy your tutorials.

  15. Thank you Martha for this wonderful tutorial. I have just finished my first smocked dress (for my 2 yr old grand daughter) and used your piping method on the sleeves and neckline. It looks great and provides a lovely finish.
    Cheers from a very cold Toronto, Ontario.

  16. Linda, I am so glad you found it helpful. I would love it, if you would send me a picture. May this be the first of many dresses for your granddaughter.

  17. I have been sewing now for over 30 years and never once have I seen this method shown. The "nicest" way I have seen (I think Vogue) was to say to overlap and taper the piping into the seam. This is truely the best way I have ever seen. Thank you for showing me the way.

  18. like swing machine and make clothes so good. Continue to bags keep posting. Thanks a whole lot much.


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