Matching Plaid; Making a Lapped, Fringed Seam

Today on Sew Much More, Susan Khalje welcomes fiber artist Helen Saunders, who shares seaming techniques for a pieced coat. She demonstrates a number of decorative stitching techniques: matching plaids; making a lapped, fringed seam; making a slot seam; embellishing with a double-piped seam and a couched seam; and making rope piping.

The coat comprises five fabrics: two plaids, two solids and a paisley print. In order to make visual sense of the various fabrics, Helen Saunders has decided to use six different seaming techniques to join them and provide transition between the colors and patterns.


  • Coat pattern of your choice
  • Variable yardage depending on section of coat
  • Cords and pipings
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Hand-sewing needles
  • Pins
Matching Plaid
In order to match a plaid as you cut, Saunders recommends cutting a single layer of fabric at a time. Here's how she matches her plaids perfectly:
  1. To match plaids, first match raw edges, right sides together. Position the fabric as it would be if you were going to machine-stitch a traditional 5/8" seam.
  2. Starting at the top of the seam, fold back the top allowance 5/8" (figure A). Match the first stripe or horizontal line in the plaid, and pin the folded seam allowance to the flat seam allowance. Continue this process the length of the seam. If the seam is on the grain line, pinning is usually sufficient. If the seam is on a degree of bias, basting is advisable.
  3. Stitch very close to the edge of the fold (figure B) and press the seam open (figure C). The advantage of this technique is that you can see both layers of the fabric as you are matching the lines.
  4. When cutting the pattern piece from the fabric to be fringed, widen the seam allowance on the edge that will be fringed to the desired width (figure D). When cutting the fabric piece, mark the seam line with scissor clips, chalk or basting.
  5. To sew the lapped seam, place the piece to be fringed on top of the other pattern piece, matching the seam lines. The wrong side of the piece to be fringed will be touching the right side of the other piece (figure E).
  6. Stitch on the seam line.
  7. To create the fringe, gently pull out the threads that are parallel to the seam line.

    Note: If the pattern requires that you sew more than one section of an area to be fringed to another before the lapping step, stop the machine-stitching at the seam line on the edge that will be fringed. Then trim away the seam allowance below the seam line. If you stitch to the very end of this seam, when pulling the threads to make the fringe, that stitching will prevent you from pulling threads all the way across.

Seamingly Creative Coat
Figure A

Figure B

Figure C

Cut away the seam allowance on the edge that you will be fringing -- otherwise the excess fabric will add too much bulk to the fringe.

Figure D

Figure E

RESOURCES: Folkwear Patterns 1-800-367-9692 The Spinster 1-800-772-2891 Seams Great 1-800-772-2891

Slot Seam

In this segment, Helen Saunders demonstrates a slot seam (figure A), a decorative seam showing a decorative underlay. This type of seam can be used to beautiful effect on sleeves (figure B) or down the front of a skirt.
  1. Cut a 1" seam allowance on the edges of fabric pieces where the slot seam will be used.

    Note: If there is a difference in the weight of the two fabrics, you may have to underline the more lightweight fabric.

  2. Machine-baste this seam. Press open. Cut the fabric that will be the underlay in the seam 2" wide.
  3. With the machine-basted piece wrong side up, position the underlay, right side down, on the 1" seam allowances, matching the raw edges (figure C). Baste in place.
  4. From the right side, machine-stitch 5/8" on both sides of the machine-basted seam.

    Note: Saunders recommends stitching in the same direction on both sides to help avoid causing a shift in the position of the fabric.

  5. Remove the basting stitches.

    Note: As a variation on this seam, rather than machine-basting the seam closed, the folded edges can be positioned so that more of the underlay will be exposed. With this technique, be sure to incorporate this extra width within the parameters of the pattern shape. Another possibility with this variation is to add ladder-style hand-embroidery stitches back and forth on the folded edges.

Ladder-stitching and beading by hand add an elegant touch to this seam.

Figure A

Figure B

Figure C

Double-Piped Seam

If one row of piping is beautiful, imagine the effect of two rows! It isn't as difficult as it looks.
  1. When using 1/8"-1/4" cording, cut 2"-wide bias strips for piping. Prepare first length of corded piping in the usual way; that is, using a zipper foot on the machine, and stretching the bias slightly, enclose the cord in the middle of the bias strip (figure A).
  2. To add the second row of corded piping, the first step is to lay piping #1 on the bias strip for piping #2, right sides together, with raw edges matching along one edge (figure B). You will stitch these layers together from the wrong side of piping #1, following the previous stitching line.
  3. Turn the strips over and lay the cording for piping #2 in position (figure C). Hand-basting before machine-stitching is highly advisable, as it is difficult to control slippage of the second bias strip if it is just pinned. It is possible to add a third row of piping, but if the piping is to be inserted in a curved seam, it does not go around curves well. Even with two rows, application of the piping works best if the seam is straight or nearly straight.

Figure A

Figure B

Figure C

Couching can be used to cover a seamline or manipulated into a design. To couch, use a zigzag stitch to sew over a thread or cord; monofilament or decorative thread mya be used for the zigzag, depending on the effect you wish to create.

A beautiful example of double-piping, expertly applied

Note: There are many variations to this technique. The basic approach is to lay a decorative thread, braid, rope, ribbon, etc., on the right side of a machine-stitched seam and then to stitch it down, usually using a monofilament thread and a zigzag stitch of an appropriate width. The monofilament thread is used in the upper threading path of the machine; regular thread in the bobbin. No adjustment needs to be made to the tension settings. The best foot to use on the machine depends on your machine's temperament. Oftentimes, the standard foot works just fine. It's often helpful to hold the fabric taut behind the needle as you are stitching.

Handmade Rope

Rope can be made from a wide variety of threads, ribbons, and yarns. The rope can be used as embellishment or closures, or it can be applied to a strip of sheer bias and used as insertion piping. There are two basic techniques for making the rope. One is for blended rope; the other is for barber-pole rope. In the barber-pole rope, each bundle of fibers is a separate color, and the colors remain separate in the finished rope. Two or more colored bundles may be used. This rope does not double back on itself, so the length of the original bundle is just the finished length desired, plus a bit extra. You will need a helper for this one.
  1. For a rope with two colors, attach both bundles to something that won't move.
  2. Twist one bundle until tight.
  3. Have your helper maintain tension on that bundle while you twist the second bundle.
  4. Tie the two bundles together, maintaining tension.
  5. Release the tension, 6" at a time, allowing the two bundles to combine into rope. Tie them together at the knotted end.

Handmade rope accents this section of the coat.
To make insertion piping from the rope, you will need a strip of sheer bias, 1-1/4" wide, either purchased already cut or made using a rotary cutter.
  1. Lay the rope down the middle of the strip. The foot to use on the sewing machine depends on the temperament of the machine. Oftentimes, the standard foot will work.
  2. Center the rope and bias under the foot, and then set the needle position to the right, so that the stitching line will just catch the rope (figure A).
  3. Stitch slowly, holding the rope taut behind the needle.
  4. When stitching is complete, fold the bias strip on the stitching line and lightly press.

Figure A

The Spinster 1-800-772-2891