Studying Theatrical Costume and other adventures in London - sewing, fabrics and events.

Tag: piping

Class 31: Period bodice – fitting and finishing

When I got in to class I got on my costume to fit the bodice and work out what what left to do.

Fitting the bodice. You can clearly see it needs a placket.

Fitting the bodice. You can clearly see it needs a placket.

There were a number of things I needed to fix/amend/do:

  1. piping – sort out the ends at centre front so they can be tightened (next time use smaller gauge piping, preferably cotton as it has better grip)
  2. hook and eye fastenings
    • stab stitch through to better hold in place
    • stitch around so that none of the metal on the hoops show
  3. still to do:
    • front placket/modesty panel
    • softener around neckline
    • cuffs – made to look like it is the chemise showing through

Ends of the piping

When I was applying the piping I couldn’t quite remember how Claire had asked us to do it, so I had finished it like this:

Opps! Piping finished the wrong way

Opps! Piping finished the wrong way

Opps! Folded back incorrectly

Opps! Folded back incorrectly

What I should have done is unpick the last bit of piping and turned it in so that the cord would be free to hang out and be tightened.

The correct way to end the piping

The correct way to end the piping

To correct it I had to:

  1. unpick the top and bottom hooks and eyes, and some of the piping
  2. turn back the piping end
  3. reslip stitch the piping
  4. put back the hooks and eyes

It seamed to take ages when it felt like I had so much left to do.


I spoke with Claire about the fichus and we looked in some of the books in class. Some fichus are much larger than others, but as mine would be tucked in to my dress, only a small one would be necessary.

Fichu pattern from 'Period costume for stage and screen'

Fichu pattern from 'Period costume for stage and screen'

Neckerchief pattern form 'Evolution of fashion'

Neckerchief pattern from 'Evolution of fashion'

Next week we will be working on:

  • hems and draping
  • using button hole elastic to join the skirt and bodice

Homework 30: Period bodice – piping

Making folded piping

First I had to cut out the bias strips and make the piping. Claire had suggested for fabrics that were not too thick, we should make the bias double width and fold in half to make the piping. Using the folded edge on the inside looks better.

12cm bias strips joined and folded ready to make in to piping

12cm wide bias strips joined and folded ready to make in to piping with a 3cm wide edge.

I then marked where I wanted the cord to sit, and pinned the bias round the cord. I made sure the folded side was slightly longer than the open edge so the open edge would not been seen later.

Placing and pinning the cord in to the bias

Placing and pinning the cord in to the bias

Once it had all been pinned in place, it was quite quick to sew in to piping. I was careful to make sure I didn’t catch the piping as we need it to be able to slip so it can be pulled tight.

Using a zipper foot to sew close to the cord

Using a zipper foot to sew close to the cord

Placing the bones

It is really important to put in the bodice bones in before sewing the piping as the piping will close the channels. I had measured the bone channels and ordered pre-finished lengths from Vena Cava earlier in the week. Unfortunately, I had forgotten one pair, so I had to cut two from a left over continuous length I had from a previous project.

 2 steel bones. The top is cut from a continuous length and finished with zinc tape. The bottom is precut and finished.

2 steel bones. The top is cut from a continuous length and finished with zinc tape. The bottom is precut and finished.

Be careful when cutting the steels as they tend to be very tough and unless you have some serious metal cutters, it will take a fair amount of effort. I need both hands to cut, and the loose piece tends to spring off at some rate, so make sure no one is  in the firing path.

To finish the ends so they would not be sharp or cut through the materials, I used zinc tape,  like a roll of fabric plaster,  you can get from the chemists. Zinc tape helps to stop the steel from rusting and is fairly sticky, but make sure it is securely stuck so that it does not come out in the channel when you are placing the bone.

Smoothing the stomacher line

I decided that the stomacher point stuck down too low, so I decided to smooth the line from the side front to the stomacher. I will follow the grey line when applying the piping.

Smoothing out the stomacher line

Smoothing front lines - side panel

Smoothing front lines - Stomacher

Smoothing front lines - stomacher

Applying the piping

On to the piping on the bottom edge. I pinned the piping place and used a zipper foot to machine stitch as close to the piping edge as possible. I took the pins out as I went along with the machine.

Using the zipper foot to sew the piping on to the bottom of the bodice

Using the zipper foot to sew the piping on to the bottom of the bodice

The tricky part was the point at centre back as the fabric was quite taught and it was hard to get the foot to follow the line. Claire had said that if you had a lot of trouble with it you could snip in to the bias seam allowance, but you shouldn’t really. I didn’t have to in the end.

Centre back point. Bias pinned in place ready to be sewn.

Centre back point. Bias pinned in place ready to be sewn.

In some places, I had not gone close enough to the edge, so I had to sew again. I didn’t have to unpick, as the second line would cover the first.

Where the stitch line was not close enough to edge

Where the stitchline was not close enough to edge

Once I was happy with the stitching, I cut back all the excess seam allowances so that I could turn the folded bias edge back.

Seam allowances cut back

Seam allowances cut back to reduce bulk

Seams graded (cut back) at the centre back

Seams graded (cut back) at the centre back

After doing the bottom, the top edge was much easier and quicker.  I now had to finish the front opening edges before I could slip stitch the bias on the inside.  I knew Claire had said we should leave long cords, but I couldn’t quite remember how we were meant to finish the piping at the centre front, so I did the best I could and would ask on Monday.

Top and bottom piping applied, but not yet slip stitched.

Top and bottom piping applied, but not yet slip stitched.

Front opening and fastenings

The front opening hem was done in a similar way to the vertical seams with the under layers cut back and the top fabric seam allowance folded under and slip stitched. This should have been pretty straight forward, except I ended up snipping the top fabric a bit before I had realised it had been caught. It was too much of a problem and I just hand stitched it closed.

Opps! Repairing an accidental snip

Opps! Repairing an accidental snip

After neatening the front opening, I slip stitched the piping in place on the inside of the bodice.

Next I worked out how many hooks I would need if they were to be spaced 20-25mm apart with the top one and the bottom hooks placed next to the piping. I ended up using 11 with 22mm spacing. I used pins to mark where the centre of each hook should be placed.  Hooks should go on the left side, eyes on the right.

First hook in place, and pins used to mark where the others should be placed.

First hook in place, and pins used to mark where the others should be placed.

Although I was fairly sure that these would be in the right place, I only sewed 5 stitches around each loop and the hook neck in case they would have to be moved. Doing 11 sets of the hooks and the eyes still took about 5 hours of hand stitching.

On the eye side, I made sure the pin was correctly positioned for the corresponding hook when attaching each eye. The eyes should be set back slightly so that when the fabric gives when fastend they do not show.

Eyes set slightly back. Pins marking the eye spacing

Eyes set slightly back. Pins marking the eye spacing

I didn’t have a chance to stab stitch, but thought I would do that after the next class when I would know for sure that the hooks and eyeswere in the right place.

Class 30: Period bodice – sleeves, piping, seam neatening, and fastenings


Today Claire checked the calico sleeves we had fitted, and explained when we put in the real sleeve we should mount the top fabric on to lawn to stop it from stretching and add a facing on the cuff using a 2-4 cm bias strip. Remember to always set the sleeve in to the bodice, not the bodice in to the sleeve.

The sleeve seams can be overlocked if they need to be finished quickly or seams can be turned back and hand slip stitched for a better finish. The facing and the seam neatening should be done before fitting the sleeve to make it easier to handle.

Claire also gave us instructions for seam neatening on the sleeve and the bodice, and what we had to do for the piping that would go round the top and bottom of the bodice, and what fastenings to use. I spent the rest of the class helping with fittings, and cutting out the sleeve layers.

Seam neatening

For the vertical seams:

  1. trim seam allowance
  2. grade under layers
  3. turn back top layer
  4. and slip stitch.

For the armholes:

  1. trim to 10mm seam allowance
  2. pin
  3. hand tack in place


This would be used on the top and bottom seams. It helps to reinforce these edges and having the cords in the piping, allows you to ease in the the neckline if it slightly gapes or does not sit flat against the body.

  • use 00/01 cotton piping
  • pipe all the way round from edge to edge
  • for lighter fabrics double up by folding in half. The folded edge will give a nicer finish on the inside.
  • do not under cut the cord, leave long to give you something to grab
  • to finish unpick slightly, turn back the bias fabric and then resew to the edge


My bodice will have a centre front opening where the two centre front edges meet,  so I will just be using hooks and eyes up the front. There openings could be laced or where the fabrics overlap, hooks and bars would be used.

Buttons were rarely used as funtional fastenings in this period. As buttons were often used on military uniforms and so were considered quite unfeminine.

  • hooks should be placed on the left side as the actress would be dressed by someone else
  • placing should be roughly 25mm apart. Close to the edge, but set back slightly.
  • for fittings, use 5 stitches around each ring of the hook or loop to hold in place
  • once position is correct, stitch firmly in place covering the whole ring with thread. Use a stab stitch to firmly hold in place.

Class 3: Measuring and samples continued, plus bum pads

In the morning we remeasured, in different groups from last week, so that we could see the variation in peoples different techniques and workout if we were being too generous or not.

Afterwards we continued with samples:

Bias binding

Bias binding are strips of fabric cut at 45 degree angle (on the bias) to the grain of the fabric. You can purchase it in many colours and fabrics and it can come in flat, single or double folded strips.

Making your own bias strips

  1. Cut fabric straight on the grain and fold diagonally to find the true bias.
  2. Using the fold as a guide, mark parallel lines the desired width apart. Make sure you allow for seam allowance, or if making folded bias binding, allow for the amount you wish to turn over.
  3. If you wish to fold the bias, it is easier if you use a bias tape maker as a guide.

Joining individual strips

  1. Take two strips and mark a 6 mm seam line on each.
  2. Place strips right sides together and match the seam lines (not the edges)
  3. Pin, stitch and press open.
Joining individual bias strips

Joining individual bias strips

To make continuous strips

  1. Take the marked fabric, join the ends right sides together of set by one strip on each side. The marked line should meet the next and coil around so there is one continuous line (not lots of individual rings).
  2. Stitch a 6mm seam and press open.
  3. Cut along the marked line until you have one long strip.


Piping can be used to finish edges decoratively, but are often used on hems that need to be a little more robust, or on seams where a bit more structure is required.

To make your own piping

  1. Cut strips as you would for bias binding. The width measured our must take in to account the seam allowance and the width of the filling/cord used.
  2. Wrap the strips around the cord and match the raw edges.
  3. If you do not have a piping foot you can use a zipper foot to sew close to the encased cord edge. Be careful not to sew on the filler.
Making piping

Piping in the making

Piped seam

A piped seam

Piped hem

The layers of a double folded piped hem


Poppers/press studs

  1. Once you have decided where the popper should go, make a small back stitch to secure the thread.
  2. If the popper is on facing, make another stitch that  catches through the outer layer so that the popper is held in place.
  3. Work around sewing from each hole to the outside of the popper with 4 or 5 stitches for each hole.
  4. Once you have sewn on one side, use a pin through the centre hole to help you correctly place the other side of the popper.
  5. Sew on the other side of the popper in the same way as the first.
  6. When sewing more than one popper, alternate male/female sides. This will stop them all popping open if accidentally pulled.

Hook and eye (video instructions)

On both the hock and the eye, you should use 5 or 6 stitches to go round each ring. On the hook, you should also ensure the top of the hook is secured by a few stitches.

The hook is normally attached to the top layer of fabric with the hook facing towards the body.

Thread chain (to be used instead of eye with hook)

  1. Secure thread at the top.
  2. Using double thread, use basic crochet technique to create the desired length of your chain (some further instructions here).
  3. Secure at bottom of loop
Hook and eye, and hook and loop fastening

Hook and eye, and hook and thread chain fastening

Mini bum pad sample

  1. Cut fabric on the bias, this will give a smoother curve.
  2. Double stitch as the pad should be well stuffed and so the seams will be under strain.
  3. Lay fastening strips in seams on the inside when sewing.
  4. Do not sew to a point in sharp corners – make one ‘blunt’ stitch across. This will make it easier when turning out.
  5. When turning out and stuffing use a knitting needle to push in to the corners.

Double stitch around edge, leaving an opening big enough so you can turn though and add stuffing.

Snip in to the seams, so that when you turn though the edge will be smooth.

Mini bumpad stuffed and ready to go.

Petersham waistband sample

Hems and seams should be finished before the waistband is applied. This type of waistband is commonly used on gathered or pleated skirts or petticoats and is very durable.

Generally, you would try and match the colour of the Petersham to the garment, but in my sample it is black as I had run out of white. The Petersham goes on the inside of the waistband and the cotton tape on the outside. The Petersham could be covered with velvet ribbon for a more luxurious finish. Petersham tape is usually made out of polyester and is also known as grosgrain tape.

The tapes should be longer than the desired length of the gathers or pleats, so the ends can be turned in for a neater finish. On a real garment, the tapes would normally overlap at the fastening, so that a hook or button could be placed. The bottom of the Petersham is where the waistline should sit.

Pinning to the drop to the Petersham.

Pin to the gathers on to the Petersham, making sure the centre and the ends are in the correct place. The Petersham should be on the wrong side of the fabric.

Sewing Petersham on to the gathers.

Sewing Petersham on to the gathers.

Petersham sewn on to the gathers

Petersham sewn on to the gathers. You can see the stitch line is in between the two rows of gathering stitch.

Top of cotton tape sewn on to Petersham tape

Top of cotton tape sewn on to Petersham tape. When you do this, remember to turn in the edges of the tapes to get a neater finish.

Cut off excess fabric from the gathers

Cut off excess fabric from the gathers

Waistband sample ready for the cotton tape to be sewn down.

Waistband sample ready for the cotton tape to be sewn down.

Stitch in the ditch on the petersham side to catch the cotton tape.

Stitch in the ditch on the petersham side to catch the cotton tape.

Finished petersham waistband sample

Finished petersham waistband sample

Planning a petticoat

Claire explained the formula to create a layplan and draft petticoat pattern. Read my write up planning an 18th Century petticoat pattern.

Hand outs:

  • Information on bum pads
  • Page 28 from ‘Period Costume for Stage and Screen‘ : Bum pads
  • Seam neatening/Flat fell seam/French seam/hems/cutting&joining bias binding/piping/press studs
  • Tools, sewing machine and parts.


  • Make waistband sample and full size bum pads (x 2 pads) using pattern H from ‘Period Costume for Stage and Screen’.
  • Calculate measurements/dimensions for petticoat body and frill using formula.
  • Draw out layplan.

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