How To Take in a Dress with Piping

This formal dress has piping along the top edge:

It has to be taken in at the bust area, which means I need to address the piping:

I could take off all of the piping, make the alteration and restitch the piping down.

However, that would involve taking off the hook or eye near the zipper and fiddling with the piping at the zipper area.

Many of you would go that route.

But for some reason, I would rather eat mud than hand stitch a hook or eye back on.

And I really don’t like trying to match the ends so that the top of both sides meet again after you zip it up.

Silly right?

I know.

But we all have those jobs that we really loathe and that is one of them for me.

It may be that your dress would be easiest to alter that way.

Or, it could be that altering the piping at the armhole is your only or best option.

So, let’s look at altering the piping one step at a time.

We will end up making a seam in the piping, but it will be barely noticeable.

You’ll see what I mean.

First, take out the understitching on the wrong side of the top of the dress with your seam ripper:

Pull the lining away from the piping:

Then, take out the stitching that holds the piping to the dress:

Next, take a pair of scissors and cut through the piping, making sure you are cutting at the point where the side seam of the dress lines up to it:

Alter the bust area accordingly.

To see more detailed instruction on how to take in a bust area, see this post.

Once you’ve made the alteration to the bust area, you’ll now address the piping:

Take out about two inches of stitches on both sides of the cut:

Next, open that out and you’ll see the white string type material (the cording):

You’re going to trim that off 1/2 the total amount of the alteration.

If you’re taking in a total of one inch on the side seams, take 1/2 inch off of the cording:

Next, mark with a pin, the amount you want to take in.

You can tell the amount, because it will match up to the new side seam you just altered:

Next, pin the edges right sides together:


Stitch across the strip, parallel to the cut edge like this:

Be sure all parts are laying flat or you’ll have to rip it out and restitch.

This is how it should look on both sides:

Trim your seam and finger press it open:

Fold the strip WRONG sides together, like this:

The point of my seam ripper shows where I have tacked that down:

You don’t need to tack it down, but I like to so I don’t have to keep wrestling with the thing while I pin it to the dress.

If you took out a ribbon hanger from the dress in the beginning, this is the time to put it back in:

Next, line up the cut edge of the dress and lining with the piping sandwiched inside.

Make sure all these line up and lay flat.

If not, alter the areas that need it and then come back to this step.

Once they all line up, place a pin through all the layers:

If you’re doing an underarm alteration like this (as opposed to altering piping in a straight seam), you’ll notice that the old seam lines don’t match up.

You’re going to have a situation similar to this diagram:

So, you’ll need to line up the piping along a new imaginary seamline and then sew your new seam next to the piping:

I can do this quite easily because I’ve done it for so many years, but you can pin it or even mark it with a fabric marker if you’re not sure.

Do you see my new stitching line that I sewed with burgundy thread in the photo below?

Once you’ve checked the outside of the dress to make sure it looks good, run a second row of stitching either right on top of the first, or right next to it for added reenforcement.

On the outside of the dress, you’ll see a tiny little seam in the piping, but it’s hardly noticeable:

Here’s another example of one I did this past week:

If you need to understitch the inside of the dress, be sure and do that.

If you’re not sure how to understitch, look at the instructions at the end of this post.

I think you’ll find that you can use this technique on many applications from clothing to upholstery.

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4 Responses

  1. I am so glad you made this! I did this last year for a bridemaids dress and a wedding dress (same wedding) and I was unsure if that was the correct way of doing it. FEW!

    Ok, I can rest easy now. ;)

  2. EXCELLENT JOB OF HOW TO TEACHING. VERY EASY TO UNDERSTAND.

  3. hi you make things look so simple lets see if I can do it just as it looks, my daughter has a ball gown that is to big for her after her losing 2st she was regtertably going to sell it so Im sure she would be over the moon if It works …. fingers crossed

  4. Great job, Linda. I’ve done this same alteration several times and it works very well. Your explanations are very clear. Keep up the good work.

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