Reap What You Sew

Do your own up­hol­stery, Part III: Pip­ing

Street Rodder - - Contents - By Chris Shel­ton Pho­tog­ra­phy by the Au­thor ■ ■

Do you own up­hol­stery, part III: Pip­ing

If you’ve fol­lowed us though the first two parts, chances are you know how to stitch some­thing other than your fin­gers to­gether. If you’re just join­ing us and are in­ter­ested in do­ing your own trim work, you will need the pre­vi­ous two parts of the story. In the July is­sue, trim­mer and in­struc­tor Jerry Glasgow ex­plained how to set up a sewing ma­chine and in the Au­gust is­sue he showed how to join materials with the ba­sic seam styles.

Now it’s time for one of the tasks most peo­ple find some­what in­tim­i­dat­ing: Pip­ing, aka cord­ing or welt­ing. If you’re not fa­mil­iar, pip­ing is that, well … pipe-shaped bit of ma­te­rial of­ten seen along the edges of pan­els be­tween the top­ping and the side pan­els of the seat in many cars and on most fur­ni­ture. It can strengthen cor­ners but for the most part it’s an or­na­men­tal de­tail. But it’s a de­tail used so of­ten that we’ve sort of come to ex­pect see­ing it on up­hol­stery jobs. In fact, I don’t know if I’d call a tuck-an­droll job com­plete with­out pip­ing sep­a­rat­ing the flat pan­els from the pleated pan­els.

While we’re not go­ing to call pip­ing dif­fi­cult, we will ad­mit that it takes a lit­tle more prac­tice and per­haps a touch more tech­nique than the other tasks we’ve shown. Af­ter all, you’re sewing three things to­gether through (usu­ally) four lay­ers. In our es­ti­ma­tion, it de­serves an en­try of its own.

And that’s ex­actly what we’ll do.

The task re­quires welt cord, usu­ally hol­low. You’ve seen miles of the stuff if you’ve ever been to an in­door car show (pro­mot­ers use it as the “rope” be­tween stan­chions to keep spec­ta­tors

away from cars since it’s cheap and un­ob­tru­sive). It comes in 1/32-inch in­cre­ments from 3/32 to 6/32, al­though 5/32 inch is prob­a­bly the most fa­mil­iar.

Pip­ing re­quires a spe­cial foot and nat­u­rally there’s a de­bate about it. Of­fi­cially it re­quires a cord­ing foot. A cord­ing foot is usu­ally a reg­u­lar foot with one side el­e­vated to ac­com­mo­date the thick cord/pip­ing. But there’s another type of cord­ing foot that’s ba­si­cally half a reg­u­lar foot. In fact many trim­mers make their own cord­ing feet by grind­ing the side off a con­ven­tional foot where the cord­ing will pass (ba­si­cally the el­e­vated part in a con­ven­tional cord­ing foot). The thing to take away from both styles is that they let the nee­dle get as close as pos­si­ble to the welt cord. You can take any num­ber of ways to get there. In fact, some zip­per feet work. If there’s any­thing close to a rule, it’s to make it so the nee­dle is clos­est to the left edge of the foot since you’ll do most of your work to the left of the nee­dle.

Mas­ter pip­ing, and hon­estly it’s not ter­ri­bly hard, and you’re well on your way to trim­ming like a pro. It just takes prac­tice. Lots and lots of prac­tice, and maybe a stitched fin­ger­tip once in a while, if you’re lucky.

■ Here’s how the welt lines up with the main panel. Note how the stitch comes close to the welt cord and some­what snugly cap­tures the cord­ing. The cord­ing shouldn’t move around in­side the ma­te­rial.

■ Cut a piece of fab­ric wide enough to wrap around the welt cord and cre­ate a “tail” the width of your fa­vorite seam al­lowance (re­mem­ber that one?).

■ Here’s how the welt lines up with the main panel. Note how the stitch comes close to the welt cord. Don’t get dis­cour­aged if the ma­te­rial doesn’t fit the cord snugly. This is only the start.■ Now flip over the as­sem­bly and lay it on top of another piece of fab­ric so the fin­ished sides face each other and the pip­ing is be­tween them. This is the part that takes some fi­nesse: Get the stitch as close to the cord as pos­si­ble—as in get this stitch line in­board of the first stitch line (the black stitch is the bot­tom stitch from the first step).

■ Here’s what we mean by getting the sec­ond stitch line (orange) in­board of the first stitch line (black). Tighter is bet­ter.

■ Flip the panel back over and this is hope­fully what you see. The first stitch can be pretty loose on the welt cord but so long as the sec­ond stitch is very tight to it, the pip­ing will come out su­per tight around the welt cord. This is some­thing to aspire to and it may take some prac­tice. ■ But take care to not cut too far. This cut ex­tends be­yond the stitch line and that will ex­pose the cord­ing and re­ally weaken the pip­ing.

■ As shown last month, box­ing pan­els will merely curl when forced to fol­low a ra­dius. Pip­ing won’t. Cut re­liefs in it along the ra­dius to make it bet­ter con­form to the shape.

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