How to Make Piping for Sewing Projects
Piping adds a decorative finish to your sewing projects, including pillows, garments, and accessories. While you can buy pre-made piping to use, sewing it yourself allows you to pick exactly the fabric, pattern, and color you want. This project forms the piping out of cording and fabric. It requires intermediate sewing skills and should only take you about an hour, depending on how much piping you plan to use.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Measuring tape
- Scissors or rotary cutter
- Sewing machine with a zipper foot
- Iron and ironing board
- Matching thread
Measure the Cording
Cording is available in a variety of sizes; choose whichever you feel best fits your project.
You will need to measure the cording to determine how to cut your fabric strips to cover it. First, lay the cording on the tape measure at the amount of seam allowance you'll be using on whatever you're attaching the piping to. Wrap the tape measure around the cording and back to the end of the tape measure. The mark at which the end overlays the tape measure is the width of the fabric you'll need to cover the cording.
Cut the length of the cording to the measurement of where you want to insert the piping. Add a few inches to be sure you'll have enough.
Cut Bias Strips
Cut bias strips, pieces of fabric cut at a 45-degree angle to the fabric grain, wide enough to wrap around the cording with the seam allowance. Create enough to cover the length of your cording. Cutting on the bias will allow the fabric to stretch smoothly over the cording and around corners.
Join the Bias Strips
Sew together the ends of the bias strips using a 1/4-inch seam allowance, and verify that there's enough fabric to cover the length of your cording. Press the seam allowances to one side.
If you are using a heavy fabric, grade the seam allowances (trim the layers to different widths) to prevent a bulge.
Cover the Cording
Set up your sewing machine with your zipper foot.
Then, place the cording in the center of the bias strip. Wrap the bias strip around the cording, matching the edges.
Align the zipper foot, so the edge of it is against the cording. Sew the seam allowances together to enclose the cording. Allow the machine to feed the fabric under the needle, so you maintain a true bias grain around the cording.
Sew the Piping to the Item
Check that you have the correct seam allowance on the piping for the item's seam allowance. Trim or compensate for the seam allowance if necessary.
Using the zipper foot, place the cording on the seam allowance of the item, and sew the piping to the item. Always sew the piping to one layer before joining the layers that will enclose the piping. Clip where necessary to turn corners.
Finish the Piping
There are a few ways to finish the piping, depending on your project.
Ending continuous piping:
Continuous piping is piping that does not end, such as on the edge of a pillow or cushion cover. There are two equally acceptable methods to join the ends.
For heavy piping, sew the piping to the item, stopping about 1/2 inch before where you started. Trim the piping, allowing enough fabric to turn under and enclose the beginning of the piping. Trim the ends of the cording, so they butt up to each other. Fold under the fabric to enclose the beginning of the piping, and sew in place.
For narrow piping, sew the beginning of the piping with the end of the piping, dipping into the seam allowance. Continue to sew, joining the piping to the fabric. As you approach the starting point, place the end of the piping over the starting point and dip it into the seam allowance. Allow for a continuous visual line of piping on the outside of the seam allowance.
Ending piping in a seam allowance:
When the end of the piping will be enclosed in a seam allowance, such as when edging a collar, continue sewing the piping to the entire edge. Trim the piping from the seam allowance after all of the sewing of that area is done to prevent trimming the piping too short.
Enclosing piping in a seam:
Place the next piece of fabric under the piping, aligning the edges. Use the stitching that is holding the piping onto the first layer as a guide to sew the second layer of fabric. Be sure you sew exactly on the stitching that is holding the piping in place or just beyond the stitching, so the stitching won't be seen from the right side of the item.
Tips for Using Piping
It's helpful to practice piping on fabric scraps before working on your sewing project. If you are having difficulty getting the feel of the piping through the layers of fabric, buy a yard of large cording to have something more substantial to practice with.
You can use piping in various ways:
- Trim an article of clothing with contrasting piping at the armholes, neckline, pocket edges, and more. You can even use the same fabric to make a matching scrunchie or headband.
- Create your own corded pillows.
- Complement throw pillows with alternate trims. For example, if you make a denim pillow with bandana trim, then make a bandana pillow with denim trim.
- Use piping in the seams of backpacks and pocketbooks.