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Sewing Lesson: How to Make and Sew Piping

Give your sewing projects a professional finish by adding piping! Learn how to make and sew piping with today’s tutorial.

round bag on pink cutting mat with scissors

Welcome to our Sewing Lesson!  How to Make and Sew Piping! Recently, I’ve shared quite a few projects that feature piping or cording. Inevitably when I share projects with piping, I get asked many questions regarding sewing with piping.

Many people feel intimidated by piping and cording, but I promise it’s so easy! You just need to know a few tricks. Today, I’m going to share my best tips and tricks for sewing (and making) piping with you.

Why Use Piping?

I adore piping! I put it in everything. It gives what you are sewing a nice finished look and can elevate your whole project. I love to use it in clothing, home decor, and accessories sewing.

Cute sewing projects made with Wonderland Two Fabric, lots of quilt ideas, tote bags and gifts to sew

(piping on the outside of my Retro Travel Bag)

Alice bag round bag sewing pattern by Melissa Mortenson - such a cute bag to sew!

(The Alice Bag sewn with custom contrast piping)

How to sew a personalized reading pillow with a pocket and handle - free sewing pattern and tutorial on polkadotchair.com

(piping on my Reading Pillow Pattern)

Before we start, I think we need to clarify what I mean when I’m talking about piping. There are many different widths of piping.

red and white fabric on white cutting mat

Today, we are talking about the piping you can get in the package at the fabric store—the yellow one above.

Many of the techniques today will also work for the second piping in the photo, which is smaller and usually used in heirloom sewing.

red and white fabric on white cutting mat

Sometimes, piping is also referred to as cording. Generally, cording refers to fabric wrapped around a cord and is commonly used in home decor sewing. Cording is also normally thicker than piping.

Which Sewing Machine Feet Do I Use for Piping?

How to Make & Sew Piping, a sewing lesson on polkadotchair.com

To sew with piping, you need a piping foot. I’ve tried lots of other ways, and trust me, it is so much easier with the right foot for your sewing machine.  My favorite for sewing foot for piping is the Bernina 12C foot.

How to Make & Sew Piping, a sewing lesson on polkadotchair.com

You can also use the 3C foot (buttonhole foot) or the 38 foot; however, those are best for putting in tiny piping, like in the photo below.

How to Make & Sew Piping, a sewing lesson on polkadotchair.com

You can also use a zipper foot. This is the zipper foot that came with my Viking Sewing Machine. I have it right up next to the edge of the cording. Zipper feet are different for every sewing machine manufacturer. If you’re unsure if yours will work, test it on some scrap fabrics.

Today, we are working with the 12C foot. As you can see from the photo below, a piping foot has a groove underneath that allows the piping to slide under easily and keeps it in place as you sew.

How to Make & Sew Piping, a sewing lesson on polkadotchair.com
How to Make & Sew Piping, a sewing lesson on polkadotchair.com
How to Make & Sew Piping, a sewing lesson on polkadotchair.com

The other two feet also have grooves in the bottom, but as you can see, they are much smaller. Making them ideal for use with tiny piping. But like I said today, we are sewing using standard piping.

Video Instructions

I was invited to film videos with the Fat Quarter Shop. One of the videos I filmed with them walked you through the steps of inserting piping into a seam.

How to Sew with Piping

sewn red and white piping under sewing machine foot

Note: these techniques also work when sewing cording.

Step One:

Put the piping foot on your sewing machine. The piping’s raw edge will be flush with the fabric’s raw edge.  

Pin the piping in place.  The piping under the groove of the foot. Next, adjust your needle left/right so that it is lined up with the existing stitching line in the piping. Start sewing 2” in from the tail end of the piping.

sewn red and white piping under sewing machine foot

Sew. When you get to a corner, clip the piping to go around the corner. Sew to the end, then put your needle down, your presser foot up, and pivot. Keep sewing around the other side. Stop sewing 2” from where you started.

How to Join Piping Ends

red and white fabric on white cutting mat

When you are done, it will look like this, but you still need to join the ends of the piping. There are many ways to do this, but I’m going to share my favorite way.

How to Make & Sew Piping, a sewing lesson on polkadotchair.com

1- Fold back the piping where you started.

2. Clip the tail end of the piping flush with this point.

3. Unpick the bias tape from around the piping until you get to where the piping is sewn to the fabric.

4. Clip out the cord inside the bias tape.

red and white fabric on white cutting mat

Fold under the raw edges of the bias, insert the end of the piping.

red and white fabric on white cutting mat

Pin and sew as you did before.

My Trick for Perfect Piping

Now, let’s pretend we are making a pillow. Here’s the trick to making your piping look great after it’s sewn.  

Pin your 2nd fabric piece to the piece with the piping sewn on, right sides together.  Now flip it over.

See the stitching line used to sew on the piping the first time?  Just sew right on top of that SAME seam.

red and white fabric on white cutting mat

That way, you know it will look great and be in the proper position. This trick can be used for anything with piping, not just pillows.

red and white fabric on white cutting mat

See easy peasy, you just need to now hand stitch the opening (remember were making a pretend pillow *wink*).

How to Make Your Own Piping

Here’s my trick if you’d like to make your own piping. Start with store-bought piping in white (or a color close to your fabric). Then, cut a bias strip of fabric 1” wide. It needs to be cut on the bias so that you can use it on corners and curves.

red and white fabric on white cutting mat

You need to cut your fabric on the bias, which means it’s cut at a 45-degree angle from the selvage edge. Use your quilt ruler to cut these strips, as almost all quilt rulers have a 45-degree marking.

sewn red and white piping on white cutting mat

Insert the piping into the bias strip. The raw edges are even. Fold over the fabric.

(If you are sewing with a cord, instead of pre-made piping, the steps are the same, just make sure that the cord is in the center of your bias strip).

sewn red and white piping on white cutting mat

Using your same 12C piping foot, stitch fabric to the piping.

sewn red and white piping under sewing machine foot

Voila! Custom piping. You can also do this with string, but I never have that on hand; I usually just sew over existing piping.

sewn red and white piping on white cutting mat

You May Also Like:

How to Sew a Zipper

Tips for Sewing Curves and Corners

How to Finish Seams if you don’t have a Serger

This post has been updated from a previous version, originally published 09/13.

round bag on pink cutting mat with scissors


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16 Comments

  1. My daughter just talked to me today about that ‘bubbled up seams” and what was it called. After my laughter subsided I talked to her about piping and how it was created. I love piping and making your own is great idea to make is more personalized. Thanks for the step by step! I am sending my daughter this link!

  2. What a great tutorial, Melissa! Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve sewn piping on several pillows, but never even knew about the piping foot. Great tip!!!

  3. BERNINA owners should try foot 23 instead of 3 for mini-piping. Foot 23 being a shorter foot makes corners and curves much easier to maneuver. Super nice blog!

  4. I am just about to attempt piping/cording for the first time on an upholstery project. I’m so glad I this post! This will be so helpful; I’m going to have to look for a piping foot for my machine now.
    Thanks!

  5. I don’t have a piping foot, and im not sure i can get one for my feather weight. So i use my zipper foot.

    I always use string, because i don’t have the ready made piping. 🙂

  6. Pingback: Quidditch – Shin Guards – Dolls' Play
  7. This is a great tip, thanks! If I were to make a similar pillow to your example and want to use my own fabric must I cut on the bias? There are 4 straight sides and 4 corners, no curves. I know I’ll never finish if it depends on my cutting bias strips!

  8. Hello, I just thought I’d tell you that I used your wonderful tutorial to make my own piping for several Christmas pillows I’m making for friends. I used my Bernina piping foot and it all turned out great. I’d never made piping before but it was easy using your tutorial. Thanks a million. I’d send you pics of my finished pillows but I don’t know how to attach them to this message. Lol

  9. Thank you! I love your tutorials – you take the mystery out of sewing… in a good way! I don’t have a piping foot (my Bernina is from 1956 and we only have the feet that came with it), but there’s one foot without much of a base at all that I think will work! I use it for zippers, too. 🙂

  10. I sew a lot for babies, so I make my piping with yarn instead of cording because it’s softer and it makes it more of the mini piping!
    I do need to get a piping foot, that will make it easier! Thanks for the tip!

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