Tiny piping is a pretty and inexpensive design element that also provides structural stability. Pre-made piping is wonderful, but it’s also easy to cover cord and make your own – that way you can use any fabric you want. Here are some tips and tricks to making piped binding neatly and precisely as shared by Sue Pennington Stewart in our May/June 2011 issue of Sew Beautiful:
1. Choose the tiniest filler cord you can find, such as baby piping cord. Small cord means smoother curves and less bulk. I have even used crochet cotton or size 3 perle cotton as filler cord.
2. Cut bias strips of fabric to cover cord. Cut at least 1 inch wide for a 1/4-inch seam allowance, or at least 1-1/2 inches wide for a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Wider is easier!
3. Piping is a cinch to stitch with a 5-groove pintuck presser foot! With fabric strip wrong side up, place filler cord along lengthwise center of strip. Fold strip with cord and fold to left and raw edges to right.
4. Place cord under groove in presser foot just to left of center. Place cord and fold to left, and raw edges to right. Move needle position to left so that needle will stitch snugly against cord. Now, for this first stitching, move needle position one “click” back to right. You want first stitching close and second stitching closer. Stitch piping, avoiding stretching fabric, and making sure filler cord stays snugly up into fold. The grooved foot will do the rest. This is “close” stitching.
5. Trim piping seam allowance to required seam allowance for your project. For bindings, that will almost always be 1/4 inch.
6. Stitch piping to binding first, before applying binding to garment.
7. Depending on weight of your binding fabric, decide if you want a single-layer binding or a double-layer French binding. For lightweight batistes and silks, I use a French binding (folded before applying). For a 1/4-inch wide French binding, I cut bias strips 1-5/8 inch wide and press in half lengthwise. Twill used on dress shown would have been bulky with that many layers, so I used a single layer binding. For a 1/4-inch wide, single-layer binding, cut bias strips of fabric 1-1/8 inch wide.
8. Stitch prepared piping to binding – to both raw edges at once for a French binding, or to only one raw edge for a single-layer binding (as shown) (fig. 1). Place raw edges of trimmed piping even with binding raw edges. Again, place cord of piping under same groove on pintuck foot. Now move needle one “click” to left. This is “closer” position. Stitching should be just a bit closer to cord than previous stitching (see white dash line in illustration).
9. Place right side of piped binding strip to right side of garment edge that is to be bound with raw edges even. Piping is sandwiched in between garment piece and binding (fig. 2). With a regular or open-toe foot, stitch right on top of stitching closest to cord. Sew precisely the same distance from raw edge all around to insure an even finish; otherwise, you will end up with thick and thin spots. To mitigate this, you may try preparing your pattern and bias with a 1/2-inch seam allowance; once stitched, you can mark a precise distance from stitching line and trim edge evenly to 3/8 inch or 1/4 inch.
10. Stitch again 1/8 inch away, within seam allowances.
11. To eliminate bulk, use tweezers to pull out end of cord at seam lines or where binding will be wrapped under at center back opening. Clip off just a bit more of cord than seam allowance or amount to be wrapped under. Slide cut end of cord back inside piping tube by pulling it from other end. This helps eliminate bulk.
12. Press binding and seam away from garment piece (fig. 3). Do not clip seam allowances.
13. Wrap binding firmly and smoothly a round seam allowances. The trick to smooth, un-wrinkled binding is to have seam allowance firmly “stuff” binding. For single-layer binding, fold under 1/4 inch on long raw edge.
14. Folded edge of binding, for either French or single-layer binding, should slightly cover stitching line on inside of garment. If it does not, very slightly trim seam allowances. Sparingly use water-soluble glue stick to hold inner edge of binding in place. Press with a warm iron to dry glue.
15. With fine thread to match piping color, stitch in the ditch of piping/binding seam from right side (fig. 4). This will catch folded edge of binding on wrong side. You may use either a grooved foot or an open-toe foot for this stitching. A grooved foot will “grab” the piping and do the guide work for you.
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