This is a photo diary of my costuming "travels"; where I've learned and struggled to make historical costumes for myself. They're not always pretty, but always fun, most of the time. And I want to share with others what I learn along the way. **You can find me on Facebook, or have my posts delivered to your email by signing up at the lower part of the right column.**

About Me

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HI, my name is Val. I'm a member of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, Dean Emeritus of 2018 Costume College; Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, and a representative of the San Diego History Center. I make my own historical costumes but don't sell any unless I get tired of one.The eras I've made so far are 1770 up to 1918. My favorite is the 1880s bustle.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

The 1830s Project: Part 4- Debunking Scary Piping

Yes, it’s tedious. Yes, it adds more time to making your gown. And it’s something you have to remember to do each time. But what a difference it makes!
I’ve never been taught how to do this but I’ve read some instructions and looked at pictures. I’m still not sure if I do it the *right* way but I figured out a way *I* can do it. And it looks good.

My first attempt was sadly quite bad. I have no photos to show just how bad. Then I tried my cheater method and I thought Hey! This is not bad at all and it wasn’t much work. This was my first attempt on an 1850s gown. It’s between the bodice and sleeve. Looks just like piping, right? It’s not. Just before I sewed the sleeve on I pulled a tuck back on the bodice seam allowance and stitched it, then sewed the sleeve on. This fabric was silk taffeta with a heavy cotton flatling so it had a little bulk. I imagine on lighter weight fabrics that might not work. So I was going to have to learn how to do it the proper way.
I’m better at seeing something done on a video rather than reading about it so I dug around and found this video.  Each photo has a link to that segment’s video.
These are the two cords I’m using. The Sugar ‘n Cream yarn, purchased at Michael’s, was what I used for doing my corded petticoat and comes highly recommended. I felt that it was a little narrow and soft for my bodice cording and instead bought the cotton cording next to it in the upholstery section of JoAnn’s Fabrics. Neither are very expensive.
Earlier I showed a few photos of how I was doing my piping on Cranberry but not how I sewed it on. So here is a step by step on how I came up with doing it. This one was just sewn in a folded over edge of a piece of fabric & afterwards I trimmed it down. Later I just cut strips of fabric 2” wide and stuck the cord in the middle.  My fabrics were leftovers cut along the selvedge edge. Someone might recommend using bias cut but this seemed to work just as well and I can use leftovers.
I pinned along the cord, then I sewed as closely and tightly to it as I could using my zipper foot.
This is from my black fabric but I trimmed the fabric down so it was half an inch from the stitch line of the cord. 
Now here’s the method I came up with. My seams are ALL 1/2 inch so if you’re using the 5/8 inch you would need to adjust for that. It will still work the same. I lined up the edge of my piping strip to the edge of my seam, right sides together and machine basted it on using my zipper foot. My finger is pointing to the pin that shows where I’m basting it.
I always have a bit of green tape on my machine showing the 1/2 inch I should be at.
Next I laid the other half of my fabric, in this case my skirt, right sides together matching the edges. I sewed my usual 1/2 inch seam again with my zipper foot snug up against the piping which you can see and feel as you go.
And voila! Piping!

I’m able to easily use this to finish the edge of my neckline without even having to do a facing by trimming  a bit of the seam allowance and folding the edge of the piping over and turning the edge about 1/4 inch under and slip-stitiching it down.
Here are some of my finished edges. Yes, I did decide to add some lace to the neckline of Cranberry. I found some in my stash that didn’t need tea dying.

It was normal for this time period of 1830s to also have piping down the center front seam but since I was doing some big adjustments on it I didn’t see a way I could do that at the time.

 Now back to work.
~ Val
ETA: If you'd like to see how another expert does this, check out Andrea Schewe's blog, especially for doing curved areas. 


  1. Gasp and away!!! I ADORE the blue cotton print!!! Swoon!!! Hmmmm....gets me to thinking! Thank you for posting this! It will come in handy!! Everything looks grand!!


  2. Dear Val,
    Yep, that's pretty much how I pipe too. Good call on not bothering with bias cut if you don't have it. Our forebears were practical, even when unpractically trimming the heck out of their dresses :}

    Very best,


    1. Natalie, that's exactly what I was thinking, that they would have tried to use all the fabrics and not waste any.

  3. Nice post Thank you very much. Your posting is very great.


I would love to hear if this was any help to you. Pretty please!