Gathering Threads

Scalloped Collar Tutorial

Posted by on Jun 27 2013, in Tutorial

One of the details that I really enjoyed sewing on my recently completed 1950s cherry print dress was the scalloped sailor collar.  I finished the edges with narrow piping, which helps to define the edge of the collar and set it off from the dress fabric.

This tutorial will show you how to sew piped scallops.  The examples show a collar but you can use piped scallops to good effect on a hem, around a sleeve cuff or even down the centre front of a garment.  Lots of possibilities for personalization. 🙂

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1″ wide bias strips (for garments with 3/8″ seam allowances) or 1 1/2″ strips (for garments with 5/8″ s.a.)
  • #3 crochet cotton or similar fine piping cord
  • lightweight interfacing appropriate to your fabric
  • sewing thread in two colours – one to match the bias strips, the other to match the collar or garment fabric
  • pins
  • sewing needles or fabric basting glue
  • tracing wheel and dressmaker’s tracing paper
  • pin tuck foot to fit your sewing machine
  • iron


1. With thread that matches the bias strips, make the mini-piping by encasing the #3 crochet cotton inside the bias strip (L 1.8-2.0).  The raw edges of the bias strips should meet and your stitching should be approximately a needle-width (1/32″) from the filling.   Keep the crochet cotton in the centre grove of the pintuck foot as you stitch.   Make enough piping to fit the circumference of your project.

2.  Now, prepare your fabric.  Cut two pieces of fabric at least 2-3″ larger on all sides than the pattern piece.  Interface the wrong side of one of the pieces with a lightweight knit or German interfacing.  You want to add stability, not stiffness.

3.  Lay the non-interfaced fabric square out, right side up.   Lay the dressmaker’s tracing paper on top, chalk side down.  Lay the pattern piece on top.  Carefully pin the layers together.

Tip:  If you are drawing the scallops yourself, it is easier to stitch scallops that have a wide, shallow profile.  Scallops or curves that are very tight or very small will require you to stop and pivot frequently and it make be difficult to create distinct points where the scallops meet if the angle is too acute.   If you are using a pattern that already has pattern piece(s) with scallops and are finding them difficult to navigate, redraw the scallops until they are sized so that you are comfortable sewing them.  The scallops on the vintage collar were approximately 1/2″ deep and 1 3/4″ wide.

4.  Trace all the cutting and sewing lines with the marking wheel.  Transfer any notches or alignment indicators, too.  Tip:  If your pattern doesn’t indicate the sewing line, mark it with a pencil and a ruler on the pattern before tracing it off.

Here is a close-up of the marked scallops, ready for the piping to be laid on.

5.  Beginning at the mid-point, pin the piping in place.  The piping should just cover the sewing line; the raw edges should meet the cutting line.  You will need to notch the piping so that it will lie smoothly around the curves.  Cut up to but not through the stitching every 3/8″ or so (it will vary depending on the size of your scallops).  At the sharp points, pinch the piping hard to create a distinct point and overlap the tabs, pinning in place.  Take your time laying out the piping.

6.  Now, baste the piping in place.  You can use a needle and thread and stitch a line of running stitch to secure the piping.  Alternatively, if you have it on hand, Roxanne’s Glue Baste-It works very well and has a very precise, durable hold.  I used Roxanne’s.  If you don’t have the specialty basting glue, go with the needle and thread method; a regular glue stick will not be secure enough.   You will be manipulating this fabric block a lot during the stitching and you don’t want the piping to move as you pivot and navigate. When you have finished basting the piping, it will look like this.

7.  Stitch the piping down using your pintuck foot.  (L 1.8-2.0) If you have a needle down function, engage it.  Lift the foot and pivot as necessary to follow the curves, letting the piping ride in the centre groove.  At the points, stitch into the corner as closely as possible.  Leave the needle in the fabric, lift the foot and pivot to meet the next scallop.

8.  This is what the scallops will look like from the wrong side after they have been stitched down.  You can see the sharp point at the intersection of each scallop.

9.  Lay the interfaced fabric square out, with the fabric side facing up.  Lay the piped layer on top, wrong side up, so that the piping is sandwiched in between.  Pin the two layers together.

10.  Change your thread to match the garment fabric.  With the pin tuck foot still in place, move your needle position so that it is approximately 1 /16″ to the left (the number of increments will depend on the sensitivity of your machine).  Stitch around the scallops.  (L 1.8-2.0) The piping should ride in the centre groove and your stitching line should be just outside the stitching line that secured the piping.  Lift and pivot as necessary to get the smoothest line.

11.  Trim as close to the second stitching line as possible.  Your seam allowance should be approximately 1/8″.  Clip the scallop points.  Cut right up to the first stitching line.  This will ensure the sharpest possible angles when you turn the scallops right side out.

12. This is what the collar looked like after trimming and prior to being turned right sides out.  I generally treat the interfaced side as the upper collar and the non-interfaced side as the under-collar, but which side you deem ‘the outside’ will depend on your application.

13.  Turn the collar right side out and press.  Take your time with this step.  Use a point turner or other pointy but dull object like a cuticle stick or chop stick to gently ease the curved scallops into shape.  Working from the centre out, I steamed and shaped one side and then the other.  At this point, the collar is ready to be inserted into the dress.

14.  Here is the finished collar, inserted on the cherry print dress.  The scallops are smooth, the piping is fully exposed and the points are crisp.