Put that Piping in Your Garment and Look Smokin’

In the July Sew Chicago neighborhood group meeting, Liz H. presented “architectural and decorative” applications for piping. “Piping can be functional to add stability, but it also is a great design detail in seam lines, necklines, cuffs, and more,” explained Liz.

You can purchase ready-made piping, but it is limited in the color and width. To take full advantage of piping consider making your own. If it’s for a garment, it’s easy to use the same fabric which would allow the piping to add some depth while blending in. Another approach is making the piping in a complementary pattern or color to your primary fabric.


    • Once you know the length of the piping piece you need, giving yourself a few extra inches to overlay the ends, measure and cut a bias strip. Why bias? Because it gives you the flexibility to manipulate the piping around curves.
    • If inserting directly into a seam, you can simply fold the bias in half and press, or enclose the raw edges by folding them in to the center and pressing again.
    • Open the strip and place the rat tail or cording in the center. Then close it up like a taco.
    • If you have a piping foot use that or use the narrow zipper foot (the one that looks like a ski).
    • Place the cording as close to the foot as possible and try to move the needle as close to the cording without stitching into it. Then sew and admire your work.


Liz explained that making your own piping gives you a lot of creative freedom in designing a garment, but it also can add support. Some examples of how to use piping’s as structural support include:

  • Stabilize a neckline
  • Stabilize a seam between bias and on-grain fabrics
  • Sharpen an edge with a facing
  • Edge a white garment’s sleeves with polyester piping for easy cleaning
  • Support shoulder seams on a fluid fabric garment
  • Make a patch pocket firmer and easier to attach

When uisng piping as a decorative detail, consider the following applications:

  • Use stripe fabric for a railroad, linear, or diagonal look
  • Use a complementary color to pull highlights from tweeds
  • Add to a jacket vented sleeve for a chic look
  • Outline patch pockets
  • Texturally emphasize seam lines with the same fabric or color
  • Apply a couture technique and use piping between the facing and lining in a jacket

Piping may be considered mandatory for pillows and Western shirts, but it also can breathe new life into a tried and true garment pattern. The next time you’re looking for that little nudge from same old dress to smokin’ new dress, add a little piping!

One thought on “Put that Piping in Your Garment and Look Smokin’

  1. Wow, it only took me half the night to find something on stumbleupon that I like. Great blog! I’ll be checking up to see what’s sewin’ in Chicago!

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