Master the Art of Sewing Piping: A Comprehensive Guide for Best Results

Ever looked at a cushion, curtain, or piece of clothing and admired the neat piping that gives it a finished, professional look? It’s a detail that can elevate any sewing project, and guess what? You can do it too!

Learning to sew piping isn’t as daunting as it might seem. With a bit of patience, the right tools, and this guide, you’ll be adding that polished touch to your projects in no time.

Sewing piping can greatly enhance the appearance and structure of your sewing projects. It involves encasing a cord within a fabric strip, which is then sewn into seams or edges, providing definition and a professional finish. For those new to piping, a great place to start is this comprehensive guide from Threads Magazine, which provides detailed instructions and tips. Another excellent resource is Sew4Home’s tutorial on sewing piping, which walks you through the process step-by-step. Additionally, for visual learners, this video tutorial on YouTube by Made to Sew explains the techniques for achieving perfect piping in your sewing projects.

What is piping?

Now that you’ve understood the basic setup of sewing, let’s dive a little deeper into what piping actually is. Typically, piping is a type of embellishment or detailing that’s added to the edges of various sewn items. Think about the slender, tube-like structures sandwiched between the fabric seams on cushions, furniture upholstery, and clothing. Yes, that’s piping.

Whether you’re looking at a decorative pillow or a high-end dress, the gravity of a perfectly sewn pipe can’t be undermined. It’s used to outline shapes, emphasize design lines and add a professional finish to your sewing projects. Piping defined by its unique structure, comprises an inner core, usually a narrow cord, wrapped with a strip of fabric.

Split your view of a pipe into three parts:

  1. Cording: This is the inner round, filler material. While working with softer materials like cotton, choose cordings that are easy to sew over.
  2. Bias Strip: This cut runs 45° to the fabric’s warp and weft threads. It’s used to cover the cording as it stretches easily around curves.
  3. Seam Allowances: These are then sewn into seams, creating piped edges.

Each element of piping plays a critical role in giving your product that professional, crisp finish. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll see how piping can be a game-changer for your sewing projects. The tiny detailing not only adds a decorative touch but also furnishes a strong, durable edge to your project.

The benefits of sewing piping

When you first step into the world of sewing, you may wonder why you’d want to learn how to sew piping. It seems complicated and the additional effort might feel unnecessary. But once you realize the benefits piping adds to your sewing projects, you’ll find the extra steps are well worth the payoff.

Firstly, piping elevates the aesthetics of your work. It adds a beautifully finished, professional edge to your pieces that sets your work apart from ordinary sewn articles. Whether it’s home decor items like cushions and upholstery or clothing, piping helps your projects stand out, garnering oooh’s and ahhh’s from those seeing your creations.

In addition to aesthetic benefits, piping dramatically increases the durability of your sewn goods. When added to the seams of your projects, piping provides additional support and strength. This detail enhances the longevity of your creations, ensuring they maintain their appearance for a longer time.

Furthermore, it provides the crafter with an opportunity to showcase creativity and attention to detail. Piping isn’t confined to a single style or approach. The fabric used for piping can be of contrasting or complementary color. The size of the piping, position on the edges, and the material used for the internal core, all provide sewists with multiple avenues to add their unique touch.

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By learning to sew piping, you’re adding an essential tool to your sewing toolkit. Not just a skill, but the ability to transform the ordinary into extraordinary.

Tools and materials needed

Exploring the intricate world of sewing piping, you’d find the importance of having the right tools and materials at your disposal. It’s not just about the sewing machine. There’s a specific set of tools and materials that will make your piping journey smoother and more rewarding.

First off, it’s essential to have suitable fabric. The fabric type will depend on your project – cotton suits most clothing and decor items, while upholstery fabric works best for denser projects. Remember that the fabric should extend comfortably around the cording without bunching or stretching.

You’ll also need cording, the soul of your piping. The thickness will vary based on the item you’re creating. Typically, home decor such as cushions and upholstery demand thicker cording, while clothing requires a more delicate approach.

A piping foot or a zipper foot is another must-have. This special sewing machine foot is responsible for sewing closely to the cording. It gives piping its clean, professional finish.

Cutting tools like fabric scissors or a rotary cutter should be in your kit too. They help you cut clean, straight lines which are essential for smooth piping.

Equally important is your iron. It’s used to press the piping, ensuring that it lays flat and neat against your project. Don’t have one? You’re missing out on achieving that polished look for your project.

And, of course, you’ll need your loyal companion – the sewing machine. With these tools, your path to quality sewing piping is lit.

Sew, gather your tools, tune up your sewing machine and let’s dive deeper into the art of stitching piping. Rest assured that mastering this technique is a stepping stone towards extraordinary crafting. The perfect piped edge awaits you, promising to take your sewing projects to stunning new heights.

Choosing the right fabric and piping

Selecting the perfect fabric for your piping is important. It’s crucial to opt for a fabric that is both durable and easy to handle. Cotton fabric often comes recommended due to its strength and the ease with which it can be manipulated. However, for upholstery projects, you might prefer a heavier fabric for added resilience.

Your choice of fabric isn’t limited to solid colors. Experiment with blends, textures, and patterns to add a unique aesthetic appeal to your project. The piping’s flexibility allows for different materials, including silk, satin, and velvet, each capable of lending their special touch to your creation.

Furthermore, the width of your fabric strip for piping is a crucial detail to consider. Typically, 1.5 to 2 inches in width is a common measurement. But feel free to tweak this based on the desired thickness and look of your piping.

When choosing your cording, you’ve got plenty of options as well. They’re made from a range of materials including cotton, polyester, and even foam. Polyester cord is a popular choice for its adaptability and durability. The size and thickness of your cord will depend on the project. Upholstery and decor items tend to use thicker cords while something delicate like a dress may use a thinner cord.

Equally vital to your project’s success is having a suitable piping foot or zipper foot. These can make the task of sewing piping significantly easier. The right foot enables you to get closer to the cord, ensuring a snug fit and a professional finish.

The choices you make while selecting your fabric, piping, and tools are more than just about aesthetics or ease of use. They’re about maximizing the potential of your piping to create visually appealing and durable projects. So plan well, choose wisely, and watch as your project takes a new life with each carefully sewn stitch.

Preparing the fabric and piping

Before you begin your sewing project, properly preparing both fabric and piping is paramount. This ensures you’re not wasting material or time on errors that could have been avoided.

To begin, when choosing your fabric, consider the project you’re working on. Lightweight fabrics like cotton or linen are perfect for clothing or small furnishings, while heavier fabrics offer a sturdier touch for items like upholstery and cushions. Experimenting with contrasting or matching your fabric to the piping can add a distinctive, professional appeal to your finished product.

Deciding on Piping

The choice of piping plays an equally crucial role in your sewing exploits. For durability and a smooth finish, consider cording covered with bias cut fabric. The right kind of cording not only stands up to wear and tear but also holds the shape of the finished edge.

The width of your fabric is vital too. To cover the cording, you should cut fabric strips approximately 1.5 times the diameter of your cording plus the seam allowance. Ensure you have a good pair of cutting tools, as precision is key to a clean finish.

Tools for Sewing Piping

Your fabric and piping are significant, but they’re nothing without the right tools for the job. An iron will make your fabric manageable, and a sewing machine will finish the job neatly.

Whether to use a piping foot or a zipper foot depends on your preference and what’s available. A piping foot is specially designed to sew piping and presents an easier, but slightly more expensive choice. A zipper foot, however, can be a bit challenging, but it will do the job.

Investing in good quality sewing tools will save you time and energy, and provide enhanced results.

Sewing the piping onto the fabric

Following the selection and preparation of your fabric and tools, the next crucial step is sewing the piping onto the fabric. This specific stage involves technical skills, and mastering it can significantly enhance the look and durability of your project.

Start by aligning the raw edges of your piping and fabric. It’s crucial to make sure these are perfectly aligned to maintain a neat finish. Use sewing pins to secure the piping in place and ensure it doesn’t slip during this process. Pins can be a life-saver in achieving precision in your project.

The next stage involves sewing. Adjust your sewing machine to have the piping foot or zipper foot attached. This tool is exceptionally powerful for this task as it allows the needle to get up close to the cord inside the piping. Remember, you’re aiming for stitches as close as possible to the piping to enhance its fitting and appearance on the edges of your fabric. Slow, calculated movements with your sewing machine will help retain control and precision.

So, keep your attention to detail turned up a notch when attaching the piping to the fabric. It’s not about finishing fast, but about attaching with precision for a finished product that doesn’t just look professional but also holds strength and durability.

While attaching the piping, experiment with different tension settings on your sewing machine until you find the one that works best for your fabric and piping. An ideal tension setting allows the stitches to hold everything in place without puckering or gathering. You might need to adjust the tension settings multiple times. So, be patient and ready to make adjustments on the go.

Creating a corner or a curve with your piping? This can seem a bit tricky but don’t worry. Ease the piping around the curve or corner. When you reach the corner, lower your needle into the fabric, lift the foot, then pivot the fabric and lower the foot. Continue sewing down the next edge, and you’re good to go.

Now you’re one step closer to a professionally finished look for your sewing project.

Tips for sewing piping

Getting the best results out of sewing piping is not just about having the right tools but also about knowing some practical and time-tested tips. From handling the fabric and adjusting the tension on the sewing machine, here are some nuggets of wisdom that’ll help you ace your next project.

One of the first tips that’ll help you master sewing piping is ensuring you cut your fabric strips on the bias. Cutting fabric on the bias, that’s at a 45-degree angle to the fabric’s warp and weft grains, allows it to stretch around curves and corners smoothly. You’ll notice a drastic improvement in your finishing when fabric is cut this way. This might seem counter-intuitive but your goal here is to have neatly finished touches that elevate your work.

The width of your fabric strip also plays a vital role. A common rule of thumb is to cut your fabric strip approximately 2 inches wide for a standard 1/2 inch piping. However, don’t stick to this rule rigidly. Depending on the cording thickness you choose, you may need to adjust the width accordingly.

On the sewing machine, maintaining a consistent seam allowance is key to ensuring your piping looks even all the way around. Usually, most piping is sewn with a 1/2 inch seam allowance but adjust it to what suits your project best.

Next tip is about managing corners and curves – probably the trickiest part of sewing piping. As you approach a corner or curve, clip into the seam allowance of the piping. It allows the piping to bend more easily and fits the contour of the corner or curve seamlessly.

An often overlooked aspect is the tension setting on your sewing machine. If your stitches are too tight, they may pull and cause your fabric to pucker. Experiment with the tension setting on a scrap of fabric before you dive into the main project.

Ironing, mostly seen as an afterthought, is a game-changer in the world of sewing piping. By pressing your sewn piping with a hot iron and lots of steam, you help it settle into its final shape. This little trick plays a big role in giving your finished piece a polished and professional look.


You’ve now mastered the art of sewing piping! Remember, cutting fabric on the bias is key for that smooth finish. Adjusting the strip’s width to the cording thickness ensures a snug fit. Don’t forget the importance of a consistent seam allowance for even piping. With practice, managing corners and curves won’t be as daunting. Experiment with your machine’s tension settings for the perfect stitch, and remember, a hot steamy iron is your piping’s best friend for that final polished look. Now it’s time to take your sewing projects to the next level with this professional touch. Happy sewing!

What is the importance of cutting fabric strips on the bias?

Cutting fabric strips on the bias is important because it allows for smooth stretching around curves and corners. This is a crucial step to achieve seamless piping in your sewing project.

How should I adjust the width of the fabric strip?

The width of the fabric strip should be adjusted based on the thickness of the chosen cording. It helps in fitting the cording perfectly and aids in creating an even-looking piping.

Why is maintaining a consistent seam allowance critical?

A consistent seam allowance on the sewing machine is crucial for even piping. It ensures uniformity and contributes to the overall aesthetics of your sewing project.

How do I manage corners and curves while sewing piping?

Managing corners and curves can be achieved by clipping into the seam allowance of the piping. This technique will allow the piping to bend smoothly around the corners and curves.

How does experimenting with tension settings help?

Experimenting with tension settings on the sewing machine is recommended, as it can help you avoid puckering in your fabric, making your piping look more professional.

Why should I iron the sewn piping?

Ironing the sewn piping with a hot iron and steam helps it settle into its final shape and gives it a polished and professional look, enhancing the appearance of your finished project.