Questions and answers: piping, seam allowances, pompoms

How can I?

Sewers may frequently say these three simple words to other sewers, and it is often at an ASG meeting, gathering, or workshop. Most of the time the answer is simple and perhaps easily shared by a more experienced sewer worker. We have received some of these questions and we have answers.

HOW CAN I…pipe it so the seams aren't visible when I insert it?

The easiest way to solve this dilemma is to not sew it when you cover it! Measure the circumference of your piping cord and add 1 ¼” for seam allowances. Cut your piping covering fabric to this width to the length needed, plus an extra inch or two. This fabric can be cut straight grain or at an angle, depending on where the piping will go and the finished look you want. If it goes around curves, cut the covering fabric at an angle.

Cut a strip of iron-on canvas the same size as the covering fabric, noting that it may be necessary to join the ends to achieve the necessary length.

Place the iron-on strip on the wrong side of the fabric strip and wrap it around the filler cord. Using the tip of your iron, press the long raw edges of the piping together, pulling the fabric tight against the cord. When inserting, use your zipper foot and adjust the needle position so that it is as close to the cord as possible for perfect piping.

HOW DO I…finish the seam allowances on an unlined jacket made from a ravelly fabric like a silk suit?

Arrival in Hong Kong

One of the simplest and most beautiful methods for taming a Ravelly suit is called a Hong Kong finish. It's easy to do and makes the inside of your jacket look great.

Start by choosing a binding fabric: this can be a color to match your garment or a striking contrast if you prefer; it can be plain or printed, depending on how spicy you want it inside. Lining fabric works well for this technique because it is lightweight, but you can also use lightweight cotton.

Cut bias strips 1″ wide (1 ¼”-1 ½” for bulky clothing fabrics). This allows you to connect straight and curved seams without wrinkles. Assemble the strips with diagonal seams to obtain the length necessary and press these seams open.

Press the seam allowances of the jacket open (except the armholes). At the armholes, iron the seam allowances in one direction and tie the two edges together. Pin the binding to a single layer of the seam allowance, matching the raw edges. Sew with a ¼” seam allowance, being careful not to stretch the binding. Pull the binding away from the seam and fold it snugly over the edge of the seam allowance, then pin it in place. Sew in the ditch of the seam to secure the underside of the binding. Press, then cut off any excess binding width on the reverse side, leaving about 1/8″ beyond the seam.

Quick Tip: For even faster binding, use fusible thread in the bobbin for the initial seam line, then fold the binding strip over the edge of the seam allowance and press to hold it in place.

This technique can also be used on the edges of facings, pockets and hems for a beautiful interior finish. And it can also be used on reversible garments: instead of sewing in the seam allowance gap of a single layer, sew across the entire garment to flatten the seam. One side will show the topstitching and the other side will show the finished seam allowances.

Learn more about Hong Kong seam finishing in the article “Tailoring Tricks Part 3: Hong Kong Seam Finishing”.

HOW CAN I…make a pom pom for a fleece hat?


Fleece makes great pom poms because it doesn't fray, so just cut it. Decide on the final size of your pom pom and cut 30 ¼” wide strips of fleece to the length you determined. Cut an additional ¼” strip approximately 8″ long. This makes for a 4″ pom pom , you will need thirty 4″ x ¼” strips and one ¼” x 8″ strip.

Stack strips of similar size directly on top of each other and use the longest strip to tightly tie the center of the stack; tie securely. Stuff the pom pom and use the longer end of the strip to attach the pom pom to the hat, either in the seam as you construct it or threaded through a tapestry needle and attached after construction.

If desired, cut the ends of the pom pom strands at an angle.

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