Make Your Own Piping

Hello!  We have a lovely new tutorial for you today written by Suzanna McKeon of Hold It Right There Bags.  Suzanna creates meticulously designed PDF sewing patterns for bags an accessories.  Her patterns include the best features of manufactured patterns with the unique qualities an independent designer can offer.

Suzanna’s patterns include printable pieces for each piece of fabric and interfacing; cutting charts; detailed, tutorial-style instructions; pattern layout illustrations; and seam allowances indicated on each pattern piece.

In addition Suzanna’s patterns are put through trials with a team of testers, thoroughly vetting each pattern, and a Facebook pattern group to celebrate sewists’ Hold It Right There creations, answer questions, and offer input to others.

Fabric-covered cording sewn into seams adds panache to your sewing.  From upholstery and table runners to bags and clothing, piping gives dimension and a pop of color.

Piping edges my newest bag pattern, the Glenwillow Saddle Bag.  While piping can be purchased at fabric stores, making your own is easy and personalizes your projects.

My tutorial explains how to make your own piping from scraps of fabric.  I’ve kept this pile of gorgeous Sis Boom fabrics for a long time.   I can envision it as a quilt, though since I’m not a quilter, I decided to turn it into piping!

My piping will be made a patchwork of scraps.  You can use one fabric, or as many as you like.

You will need the following:

  • Fabric
  • Cording (sometimes called Welting — available in the upholstery section of fabric shops)
  • Cutting Mat
  • Rotary Cutter
  • Ruler
  • Measuring Tape

Before we begin, let’s go over a few definitions…you’ll have to excuse this former teacher!


Selvage:  The edges of fabric, woven very tightly, to keep the fabric from fraying.  There is often printing on the selvage edge.

Warp:  These are the vertical threads, tightly stretched in the weaving process.  If you pull the warp threads, you will notice there is very little give in your fabric.

Weft (or Woof – how fun to say!): The horizontal threads.  Pulling your fabric this way, there is some give in your fabric.

Bias:  By folding your fabric selvage down to meet the raw edge, the warp and weft threads form Xs, or the bias grain.  Cotton fabric cut on the bias is remarkably, magically stretchy, and ideal for making piping that curves necklines, pillows, and bags.

Let’s begin!

With your fabric folded at 45°, cut along the fold.  I like to use my cutting board and rotary cutter for this, though you can just use a ruler and scissors, too.

To determine how wide to cut your bias strips, measure the width of your cording.  Cording is sold in a variety of sizes. My cording is 3/8” wide.


The other measurement you need is your seam allowances (SA for short).  In my case, my seam allowances are ½”.

Here’s a handy formula for finding the width of bias strips you need for your piping:

(2 x width of cording) + (2 x seam allowance) = width of bias tape

In my case, my strips will measure 1 ¾” wide.

Now, I’m ready to cut strips of fabric on the bias, 1 ¾” wide.

To join the strips together, place two pieces, RST (right sides together), perpendicular to each other, or at 90°.  Sew diagonally, at 45°, as indicated in the photo.

Continue to sew bias strips together until you have enough length for your project.

I like to press and trim the seam allowances at the end.

Place the cording along the center of the WS (wrong side) of the prepared bias strip.

Fold the bias strip in half, enclosing the cording, matching the long raw edges of the fabric.  Pin.

Using a zipper foot, baste the piping closed.  The idea here is: sew close to the cording, but not too close.  Do not sew so close to the cording that these basting stitches show on your final project.  It is okay for the cording to be a little bit loose.  When its sewn into a seam later, the cording will be tight.

These stitches are too close to the cording and would show in my final project.  In this case, I accidentally sewed through the cording.

These stiches are too far away from the cording, making the piping too loose and sloppy.

With your cording sewn into the bias strip, you are ready to use your piping.  Simply line up the raw edges of your piping with the raw edges of your fabric.  Here, I am pinning my piping to the curved flap of the Glenwillow Saddle Bag.  Clipping the raw edges of the piping eases it nicely around the curves.  At this point, I will baste the piping to the flap, using a ¼” seam allowance.

From here, I will sew my next seam as I normally would.  The piping will show on the right side, edging my seam.   If the piping looks too loose or wide, stitch the seam again, a tiny bit closer to the piping.  If the piping is caught in the seam, use your seam ripper to pick out the stitches and sew the seam again, further away from the piping.  Don’t get discouraged by this — piping is a little fiddly, but worth the fuss.  I always need to do some adjustments with my piping.

Here is a view of my Glenwillow Saddle Bag in progress, with the piping edging the rim of the bag.  I used some of the excess bias trim as a decoration on the lining pocket.

I hope you found this tutorial useful and give piping a try on your next project!


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