Update: February 17, 2021
Let’s look at some examples of piping and then lets make some!
If you’re not familiar with it, piping is a decorative edging that gives definition to pillows, cushions and all sorts of home decor items. Sometimes, you’ll find it on backpacks and clothing as well.
Here are some photos of piping. This pillow has thick piping around the edge.
This piping is used as decorative trim on a couch:
I originally wrote this post as part of covering a bench seat cushion, but you can use these instructions for making piping on any project you are working on.
(If you’ve decided not to use piping on your cushion, stay tuned for the instructions on putting the cushion together in the next post to follow.)
Now, let’s look at how to make piping!
First, you will need to purchase some cording (looks like string). for clarification, cording is what goes inside piping, and piping what you call the finished product once it has the chosen fabric covering the cording.
I found some cording made out of cotton in the upholstery section of my local fabric store. that’s where you’ll usually find it. Cording is not very expensive and is sold by the yard.
Cording comes in several thicknesses depending on the look you are going for. Here are examples of two different thicknesses of cording:
To figure out how much cording you need, just measure around the pillow, cushion, dress waist or whatever item you’re going to put piping in. If you’re making a cushion, be sure to measure the top edge and the bottom edge and add the two measurements together. Once you know the total amount in inches, convert it to yards by dividing the number by 36 and that will tell you how many yards you will need of it. Remember, the fabric store sells cording in yards (if you’re in the United States. If you are in another country, you are going to measure in centimeters).
In the following directions, I will be using contrasting fabrics in the photos so that you can see the piping better. I’ll also use contrasting thread so it’s easier to see.
We are going to make 2 inch strips of fabric to make the piping with. That should be plenty of width for your strips no matter how wide your cording is.
Now take the fabric that you are going to make piping with and fold it at a 45 degree angle. Can you see that I just took one corner and matched it to the edge on the opposite side of the fabric? (Refer to the photo below).
Now, looking at the photo below, use a straight edged ruler (see-through rulers are the best if you have one!) and line it up on the folded edge (the diagonal edge of the fabric). Do you see that I lined it up on the 1″ mark of the ruler? This is so that when I cut the strip, I will actually get a 2″ strip (because it is on the fold.) What I want is a 2″ wide strip.
If you don’t have a rotary cutter, go ahead and mark right on the fabric with a pen or other marker and draw a straight line and then cut it with scissors. Otherwise, cut it with the rotary cutter on the mat (not on your countertop or carpet or anything you value!)
Once you have that strip cut out, move the ruler over to the TWO inch mark and cut again. (Be careful not to cut at the one inch mark anymore because you no longer have a folded edge that you are cutting from).
Cut as many strips as you need to get the length you need for the top and bottom pieces of the cushion. That means for the cushion that I am covering in the first post, I need 204″ for the top and 204″ for the bottom.
You may need to join some strips together to make the total amount you need. To do that, position them like I have them in the photo below:
Mark a dotted line 1/4″ from the edge as shown (above). This will become your stitching line. Do you see how the top strip is perpendicular to the bottom strip? That is most important.
Next, line up the dotted line to the edges of the strip that is underneath. Now, stitch on that dotted line. (You may want to pin it in place before you stitch.) Hopefully, you can see my white stitches below:
Now, trim off that extra fabric to the right side of the seam so that you have a 1/4″ seam allowance, as shown below:
Press the seam open and lay it flat. You don’t have to have the edges perfect. This is close enough because the cording and edges will be hidden inside the piping:
Now, turn the strip over and place the cording inside the strip. To clarify, cording is the “string” inside the strip of fabric. Piping is what you call the strip of fabric with the cording inside, all made up. Place the cording down the middle of the strip and fold the strip over the top and pin it. Now you are ready to sew it to your project.
You are ready to stitch the piping to the top piece of fabric. In this photo, below, the main fabric is the solid gold fabric.
Leave about 3 inches of the edge of the piping unstitched. We need that loose right now so that when we stitch all the way around the fabric, we need to have some left to join the beginning to the end pieces together.
Place the piping along the middle of one long edge of the main fabric piece. This makes it easier to join the end pieces together later. In other words, don’t start the piping at a corner of the project.
Use either a piping foot or a zipper foot.
This is a piping foot:
As you can see, the piping fits in the groove under the foot. I move the needle one position to the right when I sew piping in. It gives the piping a tight fit which makes it look more professional.
This is the zipper foot:
When using the zipper foot, you’ll want to make sure your needle is positioned all the way to the left side or it will hit the zipper foot and break when you stitch.
Stitch all the way down one side of the fabric and stop when you are 1/2″ away from the end, right before the corner. Remember, we have 1/2″ seam allowances, so that’s why we are stopping here. Looking at the photo above, you’ll stop with your needle down into the fabric.
Then, with the needle still in the fabric, lift the presser foot and pivot, or turn, the fabric and the piping toward you:
You’ll want to clip a few little snips into the fabric, with your scissor tips, right at the corner so that the piping lays flatter, like this. Be careful not to clip through the seam you just made. Clip close to it, but not through it.
As you can see, once I turned the corner, I put the presser foot down and continued sewing on the next side.
Continue those same steps all the way around your fabric top.
To finish the two raw edges, match up the ends as shown below.
This process may look familiar. It’s the same thing we did when we joined strips together to make one long one. Once you figure out where the end should end up, put a pin there. You may have to pin the two pieces together where the dotted line is and check to see that it’s a snug fit. If not, adjust the lower strip until you get it right where you want it.
Now, mark the top strip, as shown above, with a marker making the 1/4″ seam allowance.
Stitch along that line being careful not to catch the cording in the seam.
Trim the cording so that when the 2 pieces butt up together, they lay flat against one another like this:
Now, stitch the rest of the seam closed like this:
Follow the instructions in exactly the same way for the bottom piece, matching the corners of the squares of fabric, if you are making a cushion.
On the next post, we’ll cover how to put the cushion together.
You’re almost done now!