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Flat Piping Defines a Knit

Adding detail to a knit top is a fun way to keep tees made from the same pattern like the Tabula Rasa Knit Tee and Tunic, looking fresh and interesting. Flat piping is a great detail that is not difficult, but does require a bit more “seaming” attention than is usually used in classic knit construction. It adds excellent definition between fabrics that don’t quite match or prints that need to be defined, as in these For the Birds Tunics.

For the Birds Tunics - front view
For the Birds Tunics—front view

Love the Fabric!

I was gifted with some fabric from a sewing friend who had recently assessed and thinned out her stash. When the box arrived, one of my favorite fabrics was a beefy cotton and lycra jersey printed with sunflowers. Sunflowers are a favorite of mine now that the southwest of France is my home away from home and so the design gears began turning.

The fabrics after pre-washing. See the two options for the trim fabric.

Choose the Best Style

During a virtual Tabula Rasa Knit Tee and Tunic class, the top came to life. In addition to the sunflower fabric, a complementary contrasting knit of the same weight and coloration was used to create flat piping, pleat inserts and the Wide Neckline Variation’s neckband. Because the fabric had a very nice drape, a longer length top was appealing. The resulting long tunic is so fun, great with leggings or snug fitting Eureka! Pants. Because the weather was on the cool side in France this summer, I wore it there and look forward to wearing it long into the fall.

Three inches were added at the hem of my knit tee pattern to achieve this long length. Once the shoulder seams were stitched and the darts stitched in place, a tape measure was used to determine the length of the piping that runs from the front hem to the back hem at each side/sleeve seam.  

Adding length.

Creating the Flat Piping

Now, let’s look at how the piping was created and inserted. The fabric used for the trim was so fun, but it had some challenges. There was a stripe and it had strong lime green in the print that did not coordinate well with the base fabric. By folding the fabric along a certain part of the widthwise stripe, most of the lime green accents were hidden. That was an improvement that made the flat piping more appealing since the stripe and coloration could be controlled.

Flat piping is a fabric insert that is not filled with cording. The application is described at length in the final pages of the Tabula Rasa Jacket direction book. When using piping in a woven jacket, it is helpful to cut the piping on the bias, but with a knit, it is best to cut it along either the lengthwise or widthwise stretch, not the bias. I chose the optimally colored stripe and did not worry about the stretch because it was moderate. That way the print could be fussy cut as described above.

loose piping on the left, pinned piping on the right.

The finished piping is ⅜” wide and so the fabric strips were cut 2” wide to include a ⅝” seam allowance on each side of the actual piping. It is so much easier to insert the piping if it lines up perfectly with the seam allowance. Then once it is successfully attached, the bulk can be trimmed away as long as your pattern’s fit is reliable. 

Insert the Piping

The cut piping is pieced together, if necessary to achieve the required length, pressed in half along the desired stripe, and then pinned in place smoothly from front to back on the body of the tee. In a knit, the piping should be aligned uniformly, not stretched in place. This is why it is helpful to pin it and then stitch it honoring the pins. If you find the fabric is creeping, release some of the pressure on the presser foot (or use a walking foot).

Preparing to insert the sleeve/sides.

Lightly press the piping to the front/back before pinning the sleeve/side into each opening. Stitching this next step is easier from the body side. To guide the sleeve/side insertion, follow the stitching line which attaches the piping to the body of the tee. This technique keeps the finished piping a uniform width all along the seam if it has been attached with care.

Trimming out the extra bulk in the piping.

Press and Anchor the Piping

Double check that you are happy with the fit and the piping placement, then press the seam toward the sleeve/side according to the Knit Tee directions. Remember to trim out some of the flat piping seam allowance to reduce bulk. After I trimmed and serge finished the edge of the seam with a three-thread overlock, I topstitched the seam to the sleeve side unit to keep it all tidy.

Close up of the anchored seam from the right side.

Keep an eye on social media this week to see how those little pleats were inserted into the hemline. It was a little tricky experiment,  but it adds a bit of sass.

Happy Sewing, RAE

4 thoughts on “Flat Piping Defines a Knit

  1. Nice Especially like the pleat addition

  2. The asymmetrical hemline of the blouse adds such a
    modern twist. It’s the type of piece that may effortlessly
    transition from time to night. Blouses for women dressy casual long sleeve

  3. Is the piping made from a knit or a weave?

    1. Yes, it is a coordinating knit. That’s what makes it work and still keep its stretch.

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