Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

Tips on Piping

1 Comment

Piping is a technique that I have definitely grown to love after making my Viale Skirt in black cotton twill with white piping.

Of course, using the piping to pick out the pocket entrance and yoke, does mean that a fair deal of accuracy is needed for this to look good, so I thought I’d share some tips I found helpful on piping here.

I found this useful book in the library – Home Sewing Couture Techniques by Kenneth D. King – and there is a whole section on piping.

1. Materials to use

I tried to find some ready-made piping in shops and also on-line, but the choice was rather limited. There is lots of piping cord available but it is quite rigid and my guess is that it is used for furniture. So, not wishing to look like the latest offering from DFS, I decided to give this a miss.

The recommendation in Kenneth D King’s book is to use rat’s tail and bias binding to create your own piping. Rat’s tail is very flexible and this makes it a good choice for piping on clothes. And with using bias-binding to cover the rat’s tail, you can choose whatever you can like. I chose a white satin bias-binding.


Rat’s tail is approx 2.5 mm in diameter

RatsTail and Bias Binding

Selection of rat’s tail and bias binding

2. Adjustable zipper foot

There are piping feet that can be used, but my poor old Singer has a very limited array of accessories, so I used an adjustable zipper foot and placed the piping close against the side of the foot as I stitched. Worked like a dream….

3. Piping using two different sewing positions

Kenneth D. King suggests using two different positions with the adjustable zipper foot when sewing the piping into the garment; one position is very near to the rat’s tail piping and the other a bit further away. When you sew the piping to your first fabric piece the farther piping position is used. When stitching the fabric piece to the other side of the piping, the nearer position is used. This will mean that the piping is tight against the fabric of the skirt and that all your previous stitching isn’t visible.


Add the piping to the first fabric piece using the farther positioning.

Viale_Piping inside

Piping has been sewn onto both fabric pieces and it is possible to see the stitching line at the first (farther away position) and the stitching for the second fabric piece which is nearer the rat’s tail.

4. Accurate joins at seams

I found trying to get my piping to join together at the side seams especially tricky. The first helpful suggestion I can make here, is to make sure that the piping is tight against the fabric of the skirt on the front and back skirts, before you start. This will prevent the piping shifting so much as you sew those side seams. I also found it helpful to hand tack the front and back skirts together and add several stitches at the point where the piping on the front joins the piping at the back. The side seams can be stitched with a walking foot to ensure the piping continues to line up.

5. Trimming seams

The piping and the pockets can make the skirt all a bit bulky at the side seams so I trimmed away a lot of fabric. Because there are three lines of stitching on the piping, it is possible to trim really close to the piping.

The Home Sewing Couture Techniques book is really handy if you wish to take your sewing to a whole new level. It’s not often that I praise a sewing book (in fact have I ever praised a sewing book?) I seem to have made some poor choices in sewing literature over the years. My only reservation is that there are a few rather lurid garment designs in this book, but this is haute couture! Once you get past that, the techniques are spot on, and very well explained.

There is a lot about piping, of course, in the book. This also includes double piping and piping around corners and curves for the more adventurous.There are other fantastic techniques too including a section on making tiny hems and seams on sheer fabrics and how to make a fool-proof lapped zip.  I haven’t tried these techniques, but I think they will be helpful. All in all, a worthwhile book which is easy to follow and there aren’t many books out there that make you feel like a pro!


Finished Piping

Author: steelyseamstress

Sewing a new wardrobe

One thought on “Tips on Piping

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s