Piping, or cording, is really a covered cord enveloped in strips of usually bias cut fabric. Very fine, narrow piping sewn in a contrasting color to a garment’s edges adds surprising elegance and speaks of a sewer’s extra attention to detail. Piping is often used in sewing heirloom garments although piping is commonly seen on the edges of pillows or sofa cushions. Adding piping takes extra sewing time however the results are well worth the effort.
Piping can be purchased ready-made in a variety of colors and sizes or you can create your own using bias-cut strips of woven fabric. If using knits, cut cross-grain strips. Helpful tip: Purchased seam binding ironed flat makes a great pre-cut way to make your own piping. Just add your own cording and machine or hand-baste together.
To make your own piping first determine how wide to make your covering strips. Usually, use twice the width of the seam allowance plus allow for the thickness of the type of cording that the fabric strips will encase. Decide the length of the piping needed. Usually one yard of 36" wide woven type fabric cut into 1¼ bias strips yields 19 yards of piping while 46" wide fabric will yield 25 yards. Cutting the strips on the bias allows the finished piping to have some slight give needed especially for rounding corners.
Wrap the strip of fabric around the cording, matching edges and stitch a scant 1/16” from the enveloped cord using a zipper foot to get close to the cording. Trim and grade seam allowances to reduce the bulky fabric edges. There are even “wrap and fuse” sewing notions to purchase that makes the process of making piping wonderfully stress-free.
When sewing piping a piping foot can be a great help; the specialty presser foot has a groove in the bottom to allow the foot to glide over the cording easily and allows for the machine needle to get close to the cording to stitch while firmly holding the cording. There are many sizes of piping feet depending on the size of the piping. Check your sewing machine’s accessories to see if one was included with your machine. A single-toe zipper foot attachment will work well too (most sewing machines come equipped with this accessory) but requires extra attention and close handling to ensure the cording and fabric stay together during stitching.
Sew happy, sew inspired.