How To Make Piping for a Pillow, Cushion or Slip Cover

Recently, when I decorated the porch for the 4th of July, I decided to recover the pillows on the swing.  The others were pretty faded and not in keeping with the red, white and blue color scheme I wanted for my patriotic porch in this post:  Porch Decorated for the 4th of July.

I made the two large, red pillows you see on the swing in the pic below:

 

In an earlier post here: ( Halloween Costumes)  this morning, I shared pics of my son and I in Halloween costumes I made for a Halloween party when he was just 5 months old.  I also shared a costume I made for him when he was 5 years old.  That was the last time I did any real sewing…hemming pants and sewing torn seams do not count. lol

Back to the pillows…I love piping on a pillow.  It just adds so much and gives a pillow a real custom look.  If you aren’t familiar with piping, it’s the decorative trim you see around so many pillows and cushions. You can buy piping ready-made but you may find the selection in the stores a bit meager…at least I did when I went shopping.   When you have a particular look in mind and can’t find the piping you need, or if you just want to save a bit on the cost of piping, you can make your own.

I decided to make my piping from a blue and white striped fabric to create a patriotic look with the bright red fabric I had chosen for the pillow itself.  You can see the blue and white piping in this pic below.

How to Make Piping for Pillows

 

Supplies you’ll need:

1. Fabric you wish to use for the piping (if you know the size of the pillow, the fabric store staff can normally tell you how much fabric you’ll need to create your piping.
2. Cording that you’ll be covering with your fabric. You’ll need enough cording to go all the way around your pillow, so just measure the circumference of your pillow to know how much to buy.  Buy several inches extra…better to have too much than to run out.
3. Zipper foot or a specialized foot for sewing piping
4. The usual stuff like a sewing machine, scissors, tape measure, straight pins, etc…

Tip:  Cording comes in various widths/thicknesses.  The whole point of making your own piping is to add a little pizazz to your project, so choose a cording that’s large enough to really catch the eye and get noticed once your project is done.

How to Make Piping for a Pillow

Making Your Piping: 
I’m using a pillow for the example below, but you can make piping for lots of things like cushions, window treatments, slip covers, etc…

Step 1.  It is highly recommended you cut your piping fabric on the bias. That’s a fancy way of saying you’ll need to cut across the fabric at a 45° angle from the selvage edge. The reason for doing this is it will help the fabric to bend and flex nicely around corners when you’re adding the piping to your pillow.

They have some fancy, dancy cutting mats with grids that show a 45 degree angle.  Those are handy to have but since I didn’t have one, I just used some good ole logic to guesstimate it.  If you look at a clock when it’s 3:00 PM, the long hand is on the 12 and the short hand is on the 3.  The two hands create a 90 degree angle.  Move the long hand clockwise to where the clock reads 3:07 or 3:08 PM, and that’s basically a 45° angle. 🙂

If you would like to be very precise, you can purchase a cutting grid to lay your fabric on.   Looking at the pic below, imagine the selvage edge is the 12 on the clock and the bigger white arrow is pointing at the 3.  You can see I drew red lines at about a 45° angle on the navy and white striped fabric I chose for my piping.  I hope you can see the red line…the arrow is touching it.

How to sew piping

 

*You may be wondering how wide you’ll need to draw and cut your fabric strips.  You can measure around your raw cording with a measuring tape and add about 1 1/2 inches (one and one/half inches)  to that.  For most cording, your fabric strips will need to be about 2 1/2 to 3 inches wide.  You just want to make sure that after you’ve wrapped your fabric around your cording, you have at least a 5/8″ seam allowance left over for sewing.

Step 2:  Once you’ve drawn your lines on your piping fabric, cut out the strips and sew the ends together to create one long continuous strip of fabric.  A striped fabric may not have been the best choice for my first attempt at making piping.  It was tricky getting the stripes lined up just right.  You can see one of the seams where I joined two strips of my fabric in the picture below.  It’s just below the pins.

How to sew piping

 

*By cutting your fabric on the bias, you’ll have more pieces to seam together than if you cut it just straight across, but you’ll thank yourself later when you’re sewing the piping to the pillow fabric and it bends and curves nicely at the corners.

How to sew piping

 

Step 3:  Now it’s time to wrap the long continuous fabric strip you’ve created around the cording, pin it and get sewing.  Since I forgot to take pics of this part originally, I’m using some skinnier cording today for demonstration purposes in the pic below.  I was so busy teaching myself to make cording, I forgot to take pics occasionally. 🙂 You can see the actual cording I used in the pic above. It and the strips I had sewn together are just resting against the sewing machine while I watched how-to piping videos online.  You can tell the cording I used was pretty fat.  The pillows were 21″ X 21″ so I needed a fatter cording to fit the larger size pillows.

So, you’ll lay the cording on the looong  piping fabric strip you’ve created by sewing all your strips together.

How to sew piping

 

Wrap the top or end of the piping fabric over the cording.

How to sew piping

 

Then fold the fabric over and pin it in place.  Do this the full length of the piping.  Actually, I don’t think I pinned it all the way down.  It was pretty easy to keep the two raw edges of the fabric together and the zipper foot kept the cording in place as it went through.

How to sew piping

 

My Brother SE400 machine came with lots of different presser foot(s) (feet?) including a zipper foot (see pic below.)  Have I mentioned how much I love this machine?!  It was absolutely perfect for sewing/making the piping and adding the piping to the pillow itself.  A zipper foot is a must when sewing piping.  If you try to create your piping with a regular presser foot, you won’t be able to get right up against the cording and it’s not going to look right.

Presser Foot for Piping

 

Step 4:  With the zipper foot in place, sew a seam right up against the cording.  See how the zipper foot is allowing the needle to get jam up against the cording?  That’s what I’m talk’n ’bout!

How to sew piping

 

Now here’s one little goof I made that you probably won’t have happen.  The stripped fabric I used for my piping was sort of stretchy and as I was pulling the cording/fabric through the sewing machine, I think the fabric stretched a tad and I sewed it that way.

How to sew piping

 

I didn’t realize that had happened until I started sewing the cording onto the pillow and I noticed it was a little ripply.  If you look closely at the pic below, you can see the fabric stretched a little going through the machine.  If your fabric isn’t stretchy, you will not run into that problem.  If it is, try to not pull on it or torque it as you’re pulling it through the machine.

How to sew piping

 

So that’s how you make the piping for your pillow.

Sew Piping For Pillows Tutorial

 

I’m going to create a separate post for attaching the piping to the pillow and making the pillow since these posts are turning out to be longer than I expected.  I’ll work on that today and get that post up soon.

Update:  Here’s the post showing how to add piping to a pillow: How To Sew A Pillow With Piping

How to sew piping

 




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Comments

  1. Lynne (lynnesgiftsfromtheheart) says:

    GREAT tutorial! I haven't made pillows in years with piping.. going back on the "long" list of things to do. hugs ~lynne~

  2. Karin Şen Cankan says:

    My mom does it for my bed curtains and pillows but its always good to see how its done as I never seen my mom do it.

    Thank you for sharing

    Love
    Karin Şen Cankan
    karinsfairytalein.blogspot.com

  3. I appreciate the time and effort you are taking to show us the piping around the pillows. I'm needing this refresher course as I contemplate redoing some couch cushions… yikes!

  4. LOVE your porch decorations and thanks for the instructions!

    I also think your calico cat that was helping with the cording is just beautiful! 🙂

  5. So glad you did a post on this. I quit sewing class before we learned that in order to move, but I thought that was how you did it, just didn't know to cut the fabric diagonally. Thanks for the info.! Love your bookshelves. I've been trying to talk my 11 yr old into going to IKEA. We've never been either. We could use some of those shelves in her room. I'm going to show her yours in hopes it will convince her that we need to go! ;o)

  6. Thanks very much. I make pillow coverings a lot and this is really helpful!!

  7. Your pillows look great! I especially like piping made with a stripe fabric, cut on the diagonal. It just looks so snazzy on the pillow!
    🙂 CAS

  8. Robin Hill Quilts~Eileen G. says:

    This is FANTASTIC!!! I was just settling in to make some pillows tonite and I was thinking about "how to finish" them and as i took a quick browse on my favorite blogs here is your tutorial for piping,,,I will prep all the piping and come back tomorrow to see how you attach…thank you SO much!!♥ Eileen

  9. Robin @ Happily Home, After says:

    Thanks? Now I really don't have an excuse for paying too much for boutique pillows!

    All kidding aside, thanks for this great and timely post. I have a pile of fabric I've purchased for pillows and I just need to get on with that project.

    Too funny the on-screen videos behind the sewing machine … I did that myself a few years ago when I needed to do a blind hem stitch and had totally forgotten how! Video is a great sewing coach 🙂

    Robin
    happilyhomeafter.blogspot.com

  10. I love seeing your son's Halloween costumes! You did an awesome job! I love your pillows too…I am not sure if I have the patience anymore for piping but if I had a helper like your Max it might be easier!

  11. ♥ Sonny ♥ says:

    I love piping. Thanks for the tutorial.
    Your red pillow are perfect~!

  12. Great job on the pillows. I'm looking forward to more posts on this sewing machine. I would love to embroider on some projects but haven't wanted to upgrade my Bernina Sewing Machine to the $3,000+ machine. Your new sewing machine looks fantastic. You're an inspiration.

    Thanks, CJ

  13. Thank you for the tutorial!! The pillows are very pretty!

  14. Angie @ The Country Chic Cottage says:

    Pillows look great! thanks for the great tut!!

  15. Carrie's The Created Home says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I am super excited! You saved me from scouring around the internet to find how to videos. 🙂 I can't wait for your next post!

  16. Laura Wilkerson says:

    I loved those pillows and you can't even tell the pucker…but if it ever puckers again check the tension, it could be too tight and you for sure don't want to pull or tug at the fabric that'll make it pucker too, or easier fix is making the stitch longer and if all that fails try changing the needle, sometimes if you have the wrong size needle or one that's gotten worn (even if you don't think it's worn) it'll make fabric pucker and break thread a lot too 🙂

  17. mary beth says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I'm not even sure if my machine has a zipper foot, but you make me want to go dig around and see if it does..I have wanted to learn how to do this forever!

  18. Ivy and Elephants says:

    What a wonderful tutorial. I love the way you layed out everything and made it simple to understand. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Paula

  19. Kim @ Touch of Nostalgia says:

    Your porch is beautiful! Thank you for the refresher on piping. It's been many years since I've piped a pillow. I'll be watching for your next post on attaching. 🙂

  20. Shari @ My Cottage of Bliss says:

    Thanks for including how to cut the fabric, Susan. Many bloggers have done tutorials on wrapping the cording and attaching it to the pillow or slipcover but they don't include the how-to for the fabric cutting part.

    Like you, I took Home Ec in middle school and did some sewing 20+ years ago so although I thought I recalled the fabric needed to be cut on the bias, my memory was a bit fuzzy about how to actually do that. lol. Hopefully, sometime in the near future, I'll be able to try this project and your thorough instructions will be really helpful. 🙂

  21. Great post!

    I did a tutorial post a few weeks ago on a pillow with piping, too.

    You had some great directions and pictures.
    Marsha

  22. I have to admit that making piping is not on my list of favorite sewing tasks but I agree that it adds a decorator touch to a pillow. I admire you for the time you took to take beginning sewers through the process step by step…excellent tutorial. Love your finished pillows!
    Cheryl at My Sister's Cottage

  23. You make it look and seem so simple. I have to agree with Cheryl, piping has not been on my favorites to do list. I am going to try again with your excellent tutorial.

  24. Thanks for sharing…

    Love your pillows
    and the piping really adds some flair and chicness to them.

  25. Wonderful tutorial and a good refresher for me. I haven't sewn in quite a few years. YOu may have just unearthed my desire to do so!

  26. Pink Overalls @DIY Home Staging says:

    Thanks for the how-to. I agree — custom piping is the way to go if you have a particular look in mind or want a unique look. And trims like piping are what turn an ordinary pillow into a decorator one.

    I always make my own piping. It's easy to find that 45-degree angle by just folding the crosswise edge of fabric over to the lengthwise edge, to make a right triangle, just the way you would to turn a square bandana into a neck scarf, for example. But your clock system works as well.

    Keep up the good work. Your pillows are beautiful.

  27. These instructions are wonderful and I plan to use them soon, but I would add that any time you cut fabric on the bias, there's a certain amount of stretch just from being on the bias. Am looking forward to Friday's instructions. Adding the piping is always the hardest part. Thanks for helping all of us.

  28. Very nicely explained, Susan…YEA, YOU! I think that because the fabric is cut on the bias, it stretches VERY easily & that may be what caused the slight ripples.

    I was warned by older seamstresses many times to handle bias edges of fabrics very carefully when I cut out a dress for Ms. C. or work on quilt squares. It doesn't take much to have them go wonky on us.
    I don't think yours rippled very badly at all! The pillows look GREAT & I bet we're going to see lots more of them around blogland very soon.

    Hugs,
    Rett

  29. What a great porch. It must be nice to be so talented! I'm a brand-new blogger looking for input from "real" bloggers. If you have time, please visit http://www.hillandbend.blogspot.com and feel free to offer suggestions. Thanks!

  30. FABBY'S LIVING says:

    Fabulous pictures Susan! You have an advantage, though, with that kitty helper!! Thank you so much for the tutorial, they look great and they're not rippled at all, you're such perfectionist dear Susan. I don't have a sewing machine anymore, but I should get a new one, I do miss it. See you tomorrow. Love, FABBY

  31. Terry @ La Bella Vie says:

    Great tutorial Susan,
    I just finished piping for going around four seat cushions I reupholstered that I'm going to post more into Fall since the fabric is more Fall-ish looking.
    Sure wish I had your great photos when I was doing mine! I was using plaid and its kinda tricking matching the pattern while keeping on the bias. I just kept remembering to lay the bias strips in an "L" and I was OK ;0)
    Terry

  32. Anonymous says:

    How very kind of you to share this great tutorial…I can never read written directions and make any sense of them.

  33. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you! I cannot wait ti try this, I an a eal beginner and I think I can take this on with your help.

  34. How did you cover the chains on your front porch swing. So neat…..never thought of that…..

  35. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says:

    skneal, Thanks! They are just electrical cord covers. You can read all about where I bought them and how I did it in this post:
    http://betweennapsontheporch.blogspot.com/2010/04/welcome-to-67th-metamorphosis-monday.html

  36. Loved seeing a picture of Max again. So pretty. I know how much you must miss him ! Pulls on your heart strings. Take Care !

    • You are so right. Every time I see a picture of him on the blog, it kills me. I miss him still so much, every day. Thanks, Linda for those sweet words!

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