Add a Fine Touch of Faux Piping to Your Next Crazy Quilt

Cindy Thury Smith © 2010

Home - Articles  - Readers' Showcase  - Novices - Search-
One of the perks of teaching is that your students can surprise you and teach YOU something new. In a recent classes at Quilt University one of my students described a technique which results in the look of piping but is much easier to sew. She had been shown this technique by quilt artist Sharon Wright.

Narrow contrasting piping used in quilt construction has been popularized by Susan Cleveland and her “Piping Hot Binding” tool. Her tool and detailed instructions are certainly worth the purchase price and have inspired many to try this technique. For crazy piecing, however, with the many differing kinds of fabrics, corded piping can become extremely difficult. Faux piping is an alternative technique that gives the same sliver of accent color but is easier to sew and cheaper (you don’t have the expense of cording).

When making corded piping you cut bias strips of fabric, insert the cording into the strips then sew it in the seamline with multiple lines of stitching using a special presser foot. In the faux piping technique you will be working with strips cut on the straight grain of the fabric, no cording is used, no special foot is required and it is quicker because it requires less sewing.

This technique will work whatever width of faux piping you want to show: one half inch, one quarter inch, even down to one sixteenth inch (shown in the sample below).

To figure out how wide to cut your strips you take:

desired width of piping you want to show


1/4" seam allowance

x2  =

cut your strips this width

So if you want ¼” of faux piping showing you would cut your strips 1” wide then press them in half (wrong sides together) to get a ½” wide flap. But what if you want a very narrow sliver of piping to show; say 1/8” or 1/16”?

I found it hard to cut a narrow strip then fold it and press it in half perfectly straight. I found it much easier to cut a strip wider than I needed, fold it in half, press it crisply, then put my ruler on the pressed edge, measure back and rotary cut a new, clean edge.

To start, place your first patch of fabric right side up onto your foundation. Decide where you want the line of faux piping to lay and lay the folded edge of the faux piping along that path. Make sure the folded edge points toward the center of your patch.

To apply your faux piping gently open up the strip and sew directly on the fold line then fold the strip closed. Both raw edges of the strip should align and lay flat. Press.

Place your next fabric patch on top (right sides together) just like a normal sew and flip.

Hold this second patch in place with a few pins then flip the sandwich over so you can see the previous line of stitching. You will sew to the right of this first line of stitching whatever desired width of piping you want to show. If you want a very narrow piping use your needle position option to move your needle close to the line of stitching. I placed the mark indicating the center of my presser foot directly on the line of stitching then moved my needle position to the right. As I sewed I kept the center mark running down over the previous line of stitching.

The faux piping is very securely sewn down now. If you want to reduce bulkiness (all those layers of seam allowances) you can grade the layers, trimming each layer to a slightly different width. Then flip your top patch back into position and press.

If you are using faux piping in every patch seam line as I did in the blue/white sample block above, it does take more time to sew each block. An easier yet very effective way to use faux piping in crazy piecing would be to use it to outline each block before adding sashing strips or to use it to outline the quilt top before adding borders. I like the look of the very narrow slash of faux piping, I think it is very subtle, especially up close. Of course, a wider faux piping would have more visual impact and be easier to see from a distance. The choice is up to you.

Another option: I have a box of “experimental” crazy pieced blocks, all different sizes of squares and rectangles. I could lay them out, fitting them together like a jigsaw puzzle, and outline each unit with faux piping. It would highlight each block and tie the entire piece together at the same time.

Caveat: I have not tried using this faux piping on very thick fabrics, such as velvets or brocades or very slippery fabrics. I would recommend testing on thick fabrics and perhaps some basting on slippery fabrics. I also paid attention to stagger my intersections.


Quilt University

Home - Articles  - Readers' Showcase  - Novices - Search-

Copyright © 2002 - 2010, All Rights Reserved
Editor: Published by: Pretty Impressive Stuff