This is a continuation of a series called “Taking the Leap”, which I started last year and then promptly forgot about. The goal of this series was to highlight questions on how to get started with various types sewing projects. I am in no way an expert, but I will answer them to the best of my knowledge and try to point out the many, MANY resources available online for the beginning sewist. So, if you any intimidating sewing topics you want to explore, shoot me an email – sewfearless[at]gmail[dot]com – and I’ll dive in with you.
I’m slowly plugging along with the suitcase pattern. The first draft of the directions is laid out and I am working on digitizing the paper pattern. As I was going over the project photos, I decided the detail that really makes the suitcases is the handmade piping. So, I thought we could work through how to make and use piping you’ll be ready to tackle the suitcase pattern when it is finished.
Piping from Scratch
(from left to right: sweatshirt lacing, lacing covered in bias tape, 5/32″ cotton cording, cotton cording covered in bias tape, clothesline)
The first thing you’ll need to make piping is cording. This is the “stuffing” for the piping and it comes in lots of fun sizes – from small for details on clothing to “mondo” for funky home decorating projects. (Or you can fake it, and skip the cording.) Purchase cotton cording by the yard at your local fabric shop; Mine has it in the home decorating section. I experimented with sweatshirt lacing (found by the ribbon-by-the-yard), but it wasn’t as easy to work with as the cotton cording and not any cheaper. I’ve also heard of using clothesline for home decorating piping, it’s just a tad stiffer than the cotton cording I saw at the fabric store. The mini suitcases used 5/32 inch cording – small enough to be manageable, but substantial enough to give some support to the bags and oomph to the look. Buy a lot of it while you are there, because it doesn’t cost much and you will want to add piping to everything once you find out how simple it is to make.
Secondly, you will need to make “bias tape” – long strips of fabric cut along the diagonal of the fabric grain. Clear as mud? Head on over to MADE and check out Dana’s incredibly thorough Introduction to Bias and making Bias Tape.
I am going to recommend you do NOT use the method to make strips shown in that post. There is a better, more mind bogglingly awesome, way to make bias tape known as the continuous loop method. Using this method, one fat quarter of fabric will give you about 5 yards of tape. ka-RAY-zee!!!!! Jona has a lovely tutorial on how to do it. It looks a little nutso the first time, but trust us, it works great. (Want to know how wide to make the tape? Keep on reading, there is a handy equation found in the Coletterie post.)
Once you have the tape made, inserting the cording using a zipper or piping foot is laughably simple. Caitlin over at the Coletterie, will show you how.
Get your pipe in!
Your gorgeous handmade piping can be inserted into pretty much any seam you like. The Cottage Home gives us the step-by-step.
I found it easiest to baste the piping into place before sewing the two sides of the seam together, and I stretched the piping gently as I basted to keep it from waving. The bias tape stretched easily around the curved corners of my suitcases, but you may need to clip the seam allowances for sharper corners.
If the ends of the piping aren’t hidden within a seam, you will need to tuck the edges into one another like these Perfectly Portable Cushions at Sew, Mama, Sew or by tucking the ends down into the seam allowance as seen on Craftstylish.
Once the piping is basted, sew the seam as snug to the cording as possible without sewing through it. *Tip: Use a post-it note (as pictured above) or rubber band as a seam allowance guide when using a zipper or piping foot.* It might take a couple tries before your seam is close enough to the cording to make the piping look right. Just sew over the seam again until you are satisfied. Then turn the seam right side out, and admire your pretty piping!
See? That wasn’t so bad.
Karen Chockley Mitzel says
You’re the sewist with the mo-ist 🙂 Love this. Thanks! I’ve never tried handmade piping, but I want to now!!
The continuous loop bias tape trick has opened whole new worlds for me. I will never be the same. 🙂
Custom made piping and bias are what take projects from “ok” to FANTASTIC.. good job mama!
Yay for you! Handmaking piping does sound way harder if you haven’t tried it, once I ‘took the leap’ I never bothered buying it again. I find clothesline really easy to work with and super cheap it’s handy being able to send the hubby to pick up sewing supplies in the home aisle of the supermarket, somewhere they feel at home 🙂
That is definitely an advantage. 🙂
This is impressive! So, would you say that the major motivation for handmade piping is cost effective? I’ve always been delirously happy to just use store bought, but I guess if the store doesn’t have the right color or fabric of piping, it’s a good skill to have! Awesome job! p.s. I really enjoyed the MADE site. WOW.
It is a bit cheaper, less than a $1 per yard for the cording compared to more than a $1, but the real advantage is making it easier to match/coordinate with your project.
Handmade by Claire Bear says
I’ve never seen a post it note used as a seam allowance guide before. I’m going to try it next time the seam allowances are too small or too big for my magnetic seam allowance guide.
I’m going to try this today! I’ve been buying ready made bias insertion piping, but the colours are never quite right and it can make a project expensive. Thanks for such clear instructions.