Designer Touch: Adding Piping to the Clothes You Sew

piping tutorial on the McCall Pattern Company blogPiping is a chic and affordable way to take your garments to the next level. When I was originally planning this shirtdress I wasn’t thinking of adding any kind of trim to it, but Carlos Correa, Vogue Patterns designer, convinced me to try piping in a contrasting color. He was right (as usual!), because the piping really makes this dress. Take a look at how a little piping wows up these two designer pieces:

Etro silk blouse with velvet piping. (Net-a-Porter)
Etro silk blouse with velvet piping. (Net-a-Porter)
Barbara Bui blazer with piping. (Net-a-Porter)
Barbara Bui blazer with leather piping. (Net-a-Porter)

What I also love about piping is that it’s really affordable, as trims go. All you need is some cord and generally about a half yard or so of contrasting fabric. And making it is easy. Here are the basic components and steps to creating and adding your own piping:

Cord: How thick/round you want your cording to be is up to you, though generally the smaller sizes of cording will look and work best. I usually buy my cording at Jo-Ann Fabrics in the home decor section, and I always get the smallest width available (1/8″). Preshrink the cord first if it’s all cotton.

Fabric to cover your cord: Make your piping pop by choosing a lightweight, contrast fabric. If your garment is a solid color, then try piping in a small print or stripe. Take the time to play with different options before you commit.

McCall Pattern Compangy blog
A test swatch I made first to determine width of my bias strips.

Bias strips: Chances are you’ll want to add piping around curves, like collars, pockets, princess seams, armholes, etc. In that case, cut the fabric strips to cover your cord on the bias. The give in a bias cut will keep the fabric covering the cord smooth and free of puckers. If you’re only piping straight seams or edges, then you can cut on the grain.

To determine the bias strip width measurement, you can use the formula of width of cord (1/8″, for example) plus two 5/8″ seam allowances. Important: Before you go cutting your strips to a calculated width, snip a small test bias strip first and make a sample piping. Here’s a tutorial from Dritz on cutting and joining bias strips.

McCall Pattern Company Blog
Your piping’s seam allowance size should match the size of your garment’s seam allowances. In most cases this will be 5/8″. This is a photo from Oliver + S showing a 1/2″ seam allowance for sewing children’s clothes.

Sewing machine foot: You are so lucky if you already own a piping foot or cording foot. Having a special foot definitely makes this easier, and one day I may actually invest in this foot for my Bernina 350PE. You can use a regular foot or zipper foot, however, as I did to make the piping for this dress. Just stitch as close as possible to the cord, stitching slowly and stopping often to make sure the cord remains centered in the strip.

Applying piping to your garment: The piping goes on the right side of the garment, with the seam allowance edge of the piping lining up with the edge of the garment. Pin in place. Stitch to the left of the piping stitching, close to the cord:

McCall Pattern Company Blog
Position your machine’s needle as necessary to stitch close to the cord. Photo from Oliver + S blog.

When it comes to corners and curves, clipping your piping’s seam allowance helps. Plus, stitch slowly in these areas and turn your machine’s wheel manually for even greater control.

McCall Pattern Company BLog
Don’t forget to clip at corners and curves. This will help your piping curve and bend as necessary.

The bonus to working with contrast piping is that the thread you use to apply it will stand out from your fashion fabric and be very visible. So, when you’re making a collar or placket and you have to join two pieces of your garment together (like the top and bottom of a collar), it’s easy to see the stitching where you attached the piping—then just stitch on top of or inside the piping stitching. 

Piping a shirt or shirtdress: Adding piping to a shirtdress or shirt placket is straightforward. Simply add your piping to the edges of your shirt (right side of fabric), stitching at the 5/8″ seamline, before you add the placket piece. Attach the placket piece as directed, then fold and baste the placket in place as directed. Instead of slipstitching the placket in place, you can machine-stitch the placket in place by stitching in the ditch between the piping and the placket.

Other places to pipe include the collar, armholes, cuffs, and sash or belt.

McCall Pattern Company blog

Want more on how to add piping to garments? We’ve got a great article from Vogue Patterns Magazine that tells you how to make and apply piping. Download it here:

Your Email (required)

Click on the link that says Piping Article and it will begin downloading. (In exchange for providing us your email we may add you to our newsletter mailing list, which you are free to opt out of at any time.)

The August/September issue of Threads magazine also has a helpful article on piping; plus there’s this tutorial from Oliver + S with lots of visuals.

• • • • •

REMINDER! Our Shirtdress Sew-Along Facebook group is still open if you’d like to join it. Don’t worry, participants are at various stages of their shirtdress construction so you don’t need to rush to catch up. Or, you can just lurk if you like! [8/22/16 update: This group is now closed as the sew-along is officially over. All shirtdress construction information and tips are located on this blog.]

And don’t forget—shirtdress sew-along participants are eligible to win an Oliso smart iron and some other cool sewing goodies. Detail here about the giveaway (scroll down to end of post).

Sewing Patterns As Just The Starting Point

Do you ever buy a sewing pattern knowing full well what you’re going to make won’t look much like the pattern photo or illustration? If so, congratulations, you’re thinking like a designer.

We actually love seeing our customers put their own spin on our patterns. We’re really impressed when you think beyond the pattern photo or illustration and make something that’s your own design. Look at Nikki of Beauté J’Adore, for example. When we saw how she was able to take a sewing pattern as a starting point and then turn it into a garment that looked like it came straight from the runway, we thought “gotta have her as a pattern designer!” And we’re pleased to say that her first patterns for McCall’s will be available in the Early Fall collection (coming soon).

Most of the time I’m happy to sew the pattern as is. But every so often I get the urge to play designer. That urge struck me this season when I saw this Céline resort ’16 collection in a store window on Fifth Avenue. I fell in love with the idea of combining cotton shirting with a minimalist design.

Céline sewing inspiration: On the McCall Pattern Company blog

So I took this Vogue® Pattern and let it be my starting point:
Vogue Patterns V9185With some cotton shirting I bought at Metro Textiles and Beckenstein’s in the Garment District, and V9185, I made this tunic:

Vogue Pattern V9185 as made by Meg Carter. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
Vogue Pattern V9185 as made by Meg Carter. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
And I’m so pleased with how this top came out. I wore it to work this week and got more compliments on it than anything else I’ve made recently. Carlos Correa, the designer for Vogue Patterns, told me I did a better job “designing” this pattern than he did. Tatyana, our head dressmaker and a fabulous designer in her own right, asked if I minded if she made a top just like mine with her own fabric. Be my guest!

If you want to make a top like this using V9185, here are the modifications I made:

  • Omit the back overlay (piece 4) entirely
  • Cut a single layer of fabric for the front overlay (piece 5)
  • Omit the lining
  • Omit the center-back seam (place the CB seam on the fold)
  • On the front overlay, stitch a narrow hem around the top (shoulder), the outer edge, and the bottom. Don’t finish the neck edge or the part that is sewn into the front seam
  • Add sleeves if desired (mine are bracelet-length)
  • Finish the neckline using your preferred method. I bias-bound mine
  • To make an opening for your head, you can make a decorative facing like I did. Cut a rectangular piece of contrast fabric and press the side and bottom edges under 1/4-inch. Pin the right side of the facing to the wrong side of your top, at the center back neck. Stitch a narrow opening, slash between the stitch line, and turn the facing out. Press and stitch in place on the right side of your top

Follow all other directions as is. Here’s a closeup of the neckline:

Vogue Pattern V9185 as made by Meg Carter. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

What about you, readers? Do you stick to the pattern as is most of the time? Or do you feel like a pattern is just the opening chapter for you. Discuss!

MPC10GreatGiveaways-Social[2]Enter our Mother’s Day Giveaway! So many cool prizes for home sewers. Enter here by April 27, 11:59 pm Central time.