How I Make Piping

When I mentioned that I had made miles of piping for the forthcoming Minoru jacket, I was asked how I do it.  I’m hoping that this will explain!  If you need anything in more detail or I can make it any clearer please let me know and I’ll do my best!

First up I make the bias tape.  I use the continuous loop method which is brilliantly explained here.  And I got just over 5 yards of 1.5″ bias tape from just under a fat quarter, so making it yourself is very economical, not to mention you get to choose the fabric!

Once I’ve made the bias tape, if I’m making piping I then just press it in half along its length.  If I plan to use it to finish an edge I use a bias tape maker as it makes what can be a fiddly job really easy and stops me burning my fingers.  If you don’t fancy tracking one of these down, you could try this amazing print and build at home version!

It’s really important to press and not iron because it’s on the bias and we need that stretch when we fit the piping and don’t want to pull/steam it out at this early stage!

Piping Foot

Now, there are people out there who have the patience to make piping with a zipper foot.  I’m impatient so for the sake of a few £s I bought myself a piping foot.  It basically has two grooves in the bottom to guide the fabric and piping.  There are two grooves to enable you to have the piping in the most convenient place when you insert it into a seam.

If you use a zipper foot you just try and sew as close to the piping cord as you can, it’s still pretty straight forward, I think it just requires an extra level of concentration and takes a little longer.

So here goes!

Cord into Fold

I place the cord snugly into the fold of the bias tape that I pressed in earlier.  I then fold the top of the tape back over it and using my fingers hold it as snuggly in place as I can whilst the feed-dogs pull the fabric and cord sandwich under the needle.  I use a stitch length of 2 when constructing piping.

Sewing the Piping

Here you can see the fabric and cord sandwich going through the groove on the foot.  I try and put about 8 to 12″ of cord in to the fold at a time as this helps speed things up and is manageable for me.  When there is a join in the bias tape, this needs a little extra care to make sure the cord isn’t pushed out of the fabric or not as tight to the fold as I’d like.

I then tuck the next section in and sew and keep going till its done!  I hope that explains the process.  It’s really quite simple if you have a piping foot, and with a zipper foot it just takes a little more concentration!

A Question About Give Aways

I’m plotting and planning a give away for my 30th Birthday in November.  And I’d like to make it a really good one!  I think I know what I’d like to give, and plans are well underway, but I would also like a bit of feedback on the process.

It’s common to see give aways that have entry criteria: you need to become a follower, or link back to the post on your own blog, for example.  Some of which mean that you get multiple entries.  Does this ever put you off entering?  Or do you like the option of having more than one entry?

What is a reasonable timescale to have a giveaway open for?  Is a week about right, too long or too short?  If there’s a multiple of a giveaway, would you prefer that you express a preference in your entry comment, or have a separate post for each item.  And should they run at the same time or one after the other?

I’m really hoping that what I’m planning will be exciting and something that you’d like to receive.  But sometimes the process is just as important, so I’d like to make that as enjoyable as possible too.  Any opinions you’re willing to share, advice or information you have on running a give away too, would be really useful.

A Pressing Matter

I have wanted / needed a pressing ham and a seam roll, well since I started sewing and realised FBA (full bust adjustments) were going to be a necessary and regular part of my life.  Princess seams are curvy, FBA’d princess seams are super curvy and don’t like being pressed on a flat board!  In fact it was just plain frustrating and led to me nearly steam-burning my fingers.  Big ouch.

One of Sunni's Beautiful Tailor's Hams. Click on the photo to visit her shop!

I have loved Sunni’s pressing aids for a long time.  Particularly when she did a mix and match option when she had her Etsy shop.  I loved mixing and matching my wool and cotton options and at $40US they were reasonable too.  But $30 shipping to me here in the UK was just ouch.  I can understand the cost, believe me as these are quality goods stuffed with sawdust so there’s some heft to them.  And shipping heavy things costs more than shipping light things.  But it’s still the same result: a little too much to make it a reasonable option.  Sigh.

So I investigated what was available locally and it wasn’t pretty, or of a quality I was willing to accept for the price demanded!  So that left me with two options, continue to have a frustrating curve pressing experience or make them.  Bet you can guess what I chose to do!

If you Google search for a tutorial on how to make a ham or seam roll you’ll get loads of results.  This is what I did though.

First up was a visit to Sewing Princess to get hold of her free tailors ham and seam roll pattern.

I used the green line as my template.  I cut two pieces of calico / muslin, a piece of wool and a piece of cotton for the ham and the same for the seam roll.  I’ve tried to co-ordinate my wool to my cotton, but I didn’t want them to be exactly the same, hence the different prints.

A Ham and A Roll

Now I have to be honest, this has been on the to do list since about April, maybe earlier?  What’s been holding me up is the acquisition of the wool I needed for one side of the roll.  I just couldn’t bring myself to spend a lot of money on a short yardage for this.  And I was concerned about the accuracy of the fibre content description on some eBay listings.  In the end it was Etsy who came good.  Some wool samples were being sold and for less than £5 I got half a dozen almost A4 sized bits of pure wool, or wool and cashmere fabric!

To construct my pressing aids I layered and pinned as follows:

Calico/muslin, Cotton with right side up, twist of ribbon with raw edges towards raw edge of fabric and loop towards the middle, wool right side down, calico/muslin.

I stitched around the edge, using my presser foot as a guide, leaving a gap of 1-2” at the end opposite the ribbon.  This is to turn it all the right side out and so that there’s somewhere to stuff the stuffing in.  I backstitched at the beginning and end of my stitching, as well as over the ribbon.  I then pressed to set the stitches.

Turning them the right side out was, erm, interesting.  If I were to do this again I would leave the gap in the seam roll on one of the long edges, probably somewhere towards the middle.  This was a lot harder to turn out than the ham, and having the ribbon at the opposite end made the process easier as there was something to get hold of and drag through the gap!  I used the blunt end of a knitting needle to help get the corners turned.  Then a bit more pressing!

Next up was stuffing.  Mine are filled with sawdust, provided by a friend who manages a boatyard where they restore old wooden boats.  This means cutting lots of lovely new wood and he provided me with a box of clean (ie no varnish or glue etc on the cut wood) sawdust.  He thought I was mad mind you, asking for a box of sawdust!

My bright and cheerful seam roll

I made a crude funnel out of card and used a wooden spoon to feed the sawdust into the funnel.  The first few were a bit of a challenge as the fabric naturally wanted to lay together.  Once the first few were in though, squeeze and tamped down with the handle end of the spoon, it got a lot easier.  Once it was full and tamped down firmly there was still a bit of a gap, but I couldn’t get any more sawdust in.  Because I wanted a really firm roll I added some pillow stuffing in the last ¼” of the roll before slip stitching the hole shut.

A rather zingy tailor's ham

I repeated the process for the tailor’s ham, and this was easier to fill initially.  Filling the corners at the wide end was more of a challenge and I ended up pressing sawdust into the corners with my fingers.  Some pillow stuffing also went into the end as well before I slip stitched it closed.  I wonder whether having the gap on a long side would have made the filling easier.  It may just be that it’s one of those fiddly jobs that you’re only going to get good at through repetition.  Not something that’s likely to happen here!

So, a bit of research and a little effort and I now have a set of pressing aids for the princely sum of about £5.  Factoring in my time though would make them a lot more expensive, but I had fun making them and learnt a few things.  And that’s one of the reasons I love sewing; I’m always learning.

Pins and Needles in My Arm!

Actually, there isn’t.  All because of my rather lovely pin cushion cuff / bracelet!

After wrangling the yardage of fabric a couple of evenings ago for my circle skirt, I decided to finally do something about my pins.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I need to put a pin in, or take a pin out my pin cushion is always in a slightly or very awkward place!  So, the solution seemed to be a portable pin cushion.  One on my wrist to be precise!

So I did a bit of Google-mooching and couldn’t find any that I liked that were for sale anywhere.  I couldn’t even find anything on Etsy that was what I wanted.  I then stumbled across a free tutorial from Keyka Lou.  I like Keyka Lou, I’ve bought a number of her bag patterns and they’re all very good and her pin cushion cuff tutorial was just the style I was looking for.

I did make a couple of alterations though.  The first being to add a small disk of plastic in between the calico and patterned fabric of the pad so that the pins couldn’t poke me in the wrist whilst I was using it, rather than putting the plastic in the cuff.  The hole in the centre of the plastic was to allow me to bind the pad with the embroidery thread.  My fabric is 3″ diameter and the circle is 1″.

Plastic circle ready to go into the empty cushion pad

The other was to add a layer of calico to the wrist strap to give it a bit more body.  I also didn’t top stitch it either as I sewed the pad on through a layer of cotton and calico, leaving the layer next to my skin free of thread or knots.  This meant that I needed access in thought the hole that I turned the cuff right side out.  I slip stitched the gap on the cuff shut once the pad was sewn in place.

And here’s my finished cushion!  I tried to photograph it on, but my arms aren’t long enough and all I could get in focus were my finger tips, so you’ll just have to admire it as it lounges on my sewing machine.

Finished wrist pin cushion

This used hardly any fabric and was made from some scraps I had lying around.  The stuffing is from an old pillow, and again hardly any was needed.  All in, it was a really quick thing to make and will make using my pins and therefore my sewing a little easier.

And on a completely unrelated note, you should pop over to So, Zo… as she has decided to give away the amazing refashion she did for Miss P’s blog.  If you’re a 30″ waist and a 40″ hip then the amazing pencil skirt she made could be yours!  Ah, my hips would fit, but not yet my post baby waist.  So, go.  Ask before Sunday night and maybe Zoe will provide you with her skirt!

Peg Bag Tutorial

This is my old peg bag.  It’s looking more than a little bit sad!  It’s had a busy life and it’s even busier now we have the little person, but as it was only a few £s in Sainsbury’s several years ago it has done very well.

This is the fabric for the new bag!  Bright and cheerful and from Ikea – I’m sorry I can’t tell you what it’s called, it was part of a bundle of remnants bought on eBay.   It’s a home dec weight material and has a soft canvas texture.  The lining is going to be  some plain red cotton that I’ve got lurking in my stash.

The design is quite simple and similar in shape to the old bag with a few tweaks, the biggest being that it is going to be lined.  This is going to be a luxurious bag for the pegs to live in when they’re not doing their peggy thing!  I’m hoping it’ll mean that it lasts a bit longer too…

I’m going to make it a bit bigger too as I want a larger hole to get the husband sized hands in and so that I can get more pegs into the bag.  We have an insane washing machine that will wash 9kg of laundry per wash, which is a lot, and our line will hold two of these washes!  If it’s all towels and sheets, that’s fine.  When it’s all socks and pants that’s not so good because you need a LOT of pegs, so a bigger bag is the way to go…

I’m also going to square off the bottom of the bag as I like the depth it will add, this is personal preference though and completely up to you!

I’m plannig to re-use the hanger from the old bag but you could always use a child-sized hanger.  Asking in your local supermarket (if in the UK) if they’ve got any destined for the bin is always an option if you don’t have stock from your own small person, or ask someone who does have a small person if you could have one of theirs (hangers, that is…)!  You can buy small hangers, but it makes sense to recycle them where possible.

What I used:
Hanger
Focus Fabric
Lining Fabric

If you’re using lighter weight fabric for the focus fabric on the outside of the bag, you may want to use some interlining to add some strength.  I’d suggest a medium weight woven fusible one.

  • First, decide on your bag size, this depends on the hanger width and how deep you want the bag to be, plus the seam allowance. 
    I wanted my finished bag to be 10″ by 14″ (before I square off the bottom) and my seam allowance is 1/2″, so I need my pieces of fabric to be 11″ by 15″.  
  • Cut two rectangles of this size from the focus, and the lining fabric.  Decide on which will be the top edge and mark the centre.  Make two further marks 3/4″ either side of the centre mark – this will be the gap where you thread the hanger’s hook through, so adjust as necessary!
Outline for my hand hole
  • Pin one of the focus and one of the lining fabrics RST (Right Sides Together) and then draw an oblong where you want the hole to be, making sure that it is centred and square. 
    My oblong is 2 1/2″ down from the top and 3″ from each size.  I’ll have a hole that is 4″ by 5″.  I’ve used disappearing marker to draw on the fabric.
Outline stitched and envelope pattern drawn, ready for cutting...
  • Next, stitch along the line you’ve just drawn as the oblong’s outline and iron the stitches to set them.
  • Then draw an envelope type pattern inside the oblong and carefully cut along these lines up to but not through the stitches around the edge. 
    I also trimmed out some of the excess fabric, making sure to leave at least 1/2″.
Lining pulled through and ironed
  • Push the lining fabric through the hole you’ve just made so that the focus and lining fabric are now WST (Wrong Sides Together).  Manipulate the edges of the hole so it’s lovely and neat and iron so you have a nice crisp edge. 
Top Stitching around the hole
  • I then pinned the two pieces together at the edges and top stitched about 1/4″ from the edge of the hole to help hold the layers and add some strength.
  • Pin the second piece of lining fabric to the first RST.  You’ll need to hold the focus fabric out of the way as you stitch the two pieces together:
    Starting at the right hand side of where the gap will be for the hanger hook to poke through, stitch around the edge of the fabric in a clockwise direction. 
Can you see the longer stitches after the back-stitching?
  • On the bottom edge after stitching a couple of inches of the bottom seam, back-stitch a little then lengthen your stitch length before sewing about 3-4″.  Shorten your stitch length again sew a few stitches, back-stitch then carry on along the bottom and up the side and across the top, back-stitching again just before the hole for the hanger hook.  Iron the seams to set the stitches then iron the seams open.
  • Square off the bottom by pinching the bottom corner flat so that the bottom and side seams line up.  Pin to hold this in place.
Measured, drawn and stitched to make a flat bottom and a 3D peg bag
  • Measure 1″  up from the corner along the seam and then draw a perpendicular line to the seam at this mark.  Sew along this line and cut away the excess fabric at the corner.  Repeat for the other corner then cut away your long stitches in the bottom seam.
  • Pin the second piece of focus fabric to the first, RST.  Make sure the lining is out of the way.
I'm pointing at the hole for the hanger's hook - don't stitch between the pins!
  • Starting at the right hand side of where the gap will be for the hanger hook to poke through, stitch around the edges of the fabric in a clockwise direction.  Back-stitch again just before the hole for the hanger hook.  Iron the seams to set the stitches then iron the seams open.
  • Square off the bottom of the bag as per the lining and clip the top corners of the focus fabric.  This will make sure you have sharp corners when you turn it the right way out.
  • Turn the bag the right way out by reaching up through the gap in the lining and grabbing the outer bag through the hole for your hand.
  • Slip stitch the gap closed in the lining.  Keyka Lou has some really good instructions on how to slip stitch.
  • Poke the lining fabric through the hole where your hand will go to grab the pegs and arrange inside the outer bag so it’s nice and neat.
Threading the hanger through
  • Put your hanger through the hole and thread its hook out of the gap at the top.
A funky new home for my pegs!

Ta Dah!  One very plush place for your pegs to live!  Believe it or not, this has the same number of pegs in it as the old bag so I’ve got lots of room to add more…