Fun with Upholstery Remnants: The Setup

My mom and I were at Hobby Lobby with one of my aunts the other day, going through the fabric section, when my mom suddenly spied a couple of tapestry-ish upholstery remnants. “Do you need that?” she asked, handing me one, a yard and a quarter of medieval-looking paisley.
“Sure!” I said.
“Does F need that?” she asked, handing me the other, three quarters of a yard of a different paisley with fun fringe accents.
So we bought them, and on the way home, I puzzled through what to do with them. There followed some digging online for instructions, a round of comparison shopping, a purchase from Dooley’s in Fredericksburg and an order from Hancock Fabrics, and some plotting of cutting strategies in Paint so as to make the most of each piece of fabric. That changed somewhat when I unrolled my fabric and discovered this little bonus:

This after I'd removed the first few inches of seam, for ease of illustration.
This after I’d removed the first few inches of seam, for ease of illustration.

I’m sure some people would be upset to find a join like that, but for me, it was perfect–the majority of the extra strip was just the right width for making piping, which I’d been planning to do anyway! And the main piece was longer than the wrapper had indicated, which left me enough extra to make more piping than I’d planned for one item… all the more decoration for other things. 😀 F’s fabric was also longer than anticipated, which solved the problem of how to cut a wide enough strip for piping from it.

I’ll hold off on posting about the big project until after I’ve given F her gift, but I thought other friends might appreciate seeing what I’m doing (and possibly having the chance to laugh at me for not knowing what I’m doing!). So I’ll share pictures and instructions as I go along, starting with the piping.

Since the ends of my fabric needed to be squared anyway, I decided to cut my additional bias strips from each end. Then I trimmed off the parts of the strips that weren’t wide enough throughout and joined them to make one long strip. To do so, I pinned the ends at a 90° angle, thus:

Ends aligned such that the selvedges wouldn't show.
Ends aligned such that the selvedges wouldn’t show.

Then, after marking a diagonal from top left to bottom right, I stitched and trimmed the ends, leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance:

Like so...
Like so…

That done, I pressed the seams open, trimmed errant corners, and set about turning the strip into piping.

Now, neither of my machines has a zipper foot, but one snazzy product I discovered in my online shopping was Clover Wrap ‘N Fuse Piping, which is part of Clover’s Nancy Zieman line (Nancy being the host of Sewing With Nancy, which I grew up watching with my mom and grandmother). The cording is covered with fusible webbing, which means making the piping is as easy as wrapping the fabric around the cording and pressing the seam allowance to fuse it in place. Not until I’d received it did I see that it’s intended for light to medium fabrics only! Still, I figured, given enough time and pressure, it ought to work well enough for me to get the fused piping back to the sewing machine and zigzag the seam allowance edge–a wise idea anyway to prevent fraying.

Pinning it to the ironing board as instructed
Pinning it to the ironing board as instructed

Well, it did, but “enough time” turned out to be longer than my back and knees could tolerate! So I tried moving the ironing board to the couch and lower it so that I could do this step sitting down and using the side of the iron, rather than the tip, as instructed. And even then, it took long enough that I gave up in favor of hand-stitching inside the cording for most of the length! So for F’s fabric, which was even thicker and stiffer, I didn’t even bother with the iron, just went with a wide zigzag stitch. (I have enough of the Wrap ‘N Fuse left to use for accent on a dress, I think, for which the fabric should be light enough to fuse readily.)
Then came the challenge of trimming the seam allowance on my piping, since the strips weren’t a uniform width. I decided in the end to use a piece of cardboard as my straight edge, pinning the piping to the cardboard with the cording a consistent distance from the edge and trimming.

Like so...
Like so…

Not a perfect solution, but good enough to take care of the worst unevenness. With that out of the way, I could zigzag the edges and call it good. Result?


If you’re planning to play along at home, I recommend just getting 3/16″ cording and possibly a zipper foot to save time and hassle. Basting spray might also be an option. Finally, I’ve used quilting thread because it’s what I have, but you might prefer to go with upholstery thread.

Completed projects:
Box cushion
Brush and pencil case


3 thoughts on “Fun with Upholstery Remnants: The Setup

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