Turning Fabric Tubes Inside Out

Everybody from time to time is faced with a situation where a long tube of fabric is called for in a design.  Usually the tube is sewn inside out and then it is necessary to turn the item right side out.  There are various techniques employed to achieve this and it can sometimes be quite difficult.  There seem to be several gizmos on the market which to me seem rather ineffective and expensive.

I use a technique employing my own gadget which cost pennies and can be made from rubbish that you or your other half has laying about in the shed.

I arrived at this need because I was making grocery carry bags and each one had two fabric handles.  I was making a lot of bags and clearly, I needed a technique for turning the sewn handles right side out. It had to be fast and effective …. and I needed it NOW.  A bit of head scratching and out to the shed where I found what I needed had the concept tested and proven and the finished ‘device’ on the job in under an hour.

You can think of this technique as the “Pipe And Stick”  method ….. because that is all that you need to do this job super fast.  This method is probably unsuitable for very fine fabric tubes, for which other techniques are employed … using either a hook device inside the tube, or sewing in a thread inside, which can later be used to turn the tube right way out.  For larger items though, this method is the best I could come up with.

I am not claiming to be the first person to think of this.  Heaven knows, original thought is a rare thing.  But I certainly haven’t heard it discussed elsewhere, or seen it in a book or on other media.  For me, this was just an adaption of the curly problem of turning sausage skins inside out! (Hobby farmer experience).  The method solved a major problem for me and I offer it here, just in case it is of some value to you.  It certainly beats wasting good money on yet another piece of junk; money that would be better spent on some new fabric or maybe an extra foot for your machine.  Here ’tis then, in pictures ……

My grocery bag handles start out as pieces of fabric, each 3 1/2 inches wide and 14 inches long.


They are sewn inside out into tubes which are sewn closed at one end.  Here you can DSCF1199see the device which is a piece of thin walled, aluminium tubing, 3/4″ in diameter and 15″ long together with a wooden stick which is about 1/4 inch square and 21″ long.  The pipe can be any material, so long as it’s reasonably thin walled.  PVC conduit is excellent and here, I used a pipe from an old wind chime.  The stick can be any stick-like object of suitable size … a piece of 1/4″ dowel say, or in my case, just a bit of pine that I buzzed up on my bandsaw.  Before turning, it helps to achieve a neat result if you trim excess seam allowance from your fabric tubes.  It is important that neither the pipe or the stick have any splintery or sharp protrusions.

Simply feed the fabric tube over the hollow pipe until you reach the closed end.DSCF1200

Insert stick into end of pipe that is covered by the end of the fabric tube.DSCF1201


As the stick is forced (gently) into the pipe, it will carry the fabric tube with it, turning it right side out as it does so.

Here you can see that the stick has emerged from the other end of the pipe, bringing with it the (now right side out) fabric tube.  Remove the fabric tube from the pipe with the stick still inside and use the stick to push out the corners of the closed end of the fabric tube for a nice, neat finish.


Looking good!


Total time to turn one handle  right way out and press ….. less than 15 seconds! (If you don’t stop to take photos).

So how small a tube can you turn using this method and how long can it be made?   In short, I don’t yet know.  But I did this to see.

Here is an unbroken length of fabric, 98 inches long and 2 3/4 inches wide.


I sewed it inside out into a tube 7/8 inch wide and sewed one end closed


Cut off excess seam allowance.


Here you can see my turning device, a 1/2 inch diameter pipe, 36 inches long and a 1/4 inch diameter ‘stick’ (piece of round steel, in this case) 44 inches long.


Same procedure …… insert pipe into open end of fabric tube and push it through until it reaches the closed end.



Insert the ‘stick’ into the closed end of the pipe and it will take the fabric tube along with it, turning it right side out as it does so.


In this case, the stick emerged from the open end of the pipe, long before all of the fabric tube had been drawn inside.  Simply continue to pull stick out of the pipe, bringing the rest of the fabric tube along with it.


Once again, while the stick is still inside the fabric tube, use it to push out the corners for a neat finish and then press your, now right way round, fabric tube.  Total time, go to whoa, including photos …….. ten minutes!


So we made a continuous fabric tube, 98 inches long and approximately 3/4 inch wide … and it was fast and easy.  I am fairly sure that, with appropriate smaller tubing and a finer push stick, it would be possible to make an even smaller width fabric tube of a similar length.  I will try to find some suitable materials to explore that at a later time.

In the mean time, I hope this information will prove of some value to you.  Doing this is much easier (and infinitely faster) than reading about it.  Keeping a couple of pieces of tubing and a push stick in your work room won’t take up any space at all.  But it really is a very effective way to perform this tedious chore; quickly, efficiently and without hassles.  I hope it helps somebody, that I have shared it here.

Best regards,

Andrew Caddle  2015-04-05



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