How to Make Piping

A pop of contrasting piping can really set a project apart.  Sewn into a beautifully-curved seam, or around a pocket or collar, piping can be used to highlight special details of your handmade projects. 

While it is possible to buy pre-made piping, the colour selection is often uninspiring and the fabric can be quite stiff.  Plus, piping is surprisingly easy to make, so try experimenting with different combinations - solid colours, small prints, and stripes can all look wonderful. 


  • Piping cord
  • Fabric, cut into bias strips (read below to determine width of strips)
  • A zipper foot for your sewing machine
  • Pins

Piping cord comes in a variety of sizes, but here I've chosen to use 1/8" cord, which is a versatile size for garment sewing. 

Before you cut your bias strips, you must first determine what width you will need.  The bias strip will be folded in half over the piping cord, so we must account for two times the seam allowance, plus 2 times the width of the piping cord.  Here we are using 1/8" piping cord, and the pattern we are sewing calls for a 3/8" seam allowance.  So, we would calculate as follows:

(2 x 1/8" piping cord width) + (2 x 3/8" seam allowance) = 1 inch

In this case, we will cut our strips 1 inch wide.

How to sew the piping:

1.  Cut bias strips and, if necessary, join together to achieve desired length.

2.  Install the zipper foot on your sewing machine, and adjust the needle position as far to the left as it will go.

3.  Wrap the fabric strip around the piping cord, nestling the cord into the fold and aligning the raw edges of the fabric strip.  Pin in place.

4.  Sew the seam as close as possible to the piping cord.  Go slow, stopping to line up the raw edges of the fabric and add pins as necessary.  You may wish to use a slightly longer stitch length than usual (approximately 3.5mm - 4mm). 

The piping is now ready to add to your projects.  Have fun experimenting with all the different ways to use this versatile trim!  Have a look at this post for instructions for sewing piping into a seam: How to Add Piping to the Women's Pathfinder Vest

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~Cover image by Sarah Morris~