Piping Possibilities

Piping is a wonderful way to add designer detail to a garment. Here we will review different ways to apply piping to the garment, getting the best results possible. As with many techniques, there are multiple ways to accomplish this.

Piping always works best if it is cut on the bias. In a pinch, if the piping is being applied to a straight seam, a straight piece of fabric can be used to cover the cording. However, piping will always have a smoother look if covered with a bias piece of fabric. Going around curves requires that the piping be covered with a bias strip of fabric.

Let’s start at the beginning – making the piping.

The bias on a piece of fabric is at a 45º angle from the selvage. The selvage can be folded over at the 45º angle and a rotary cutter and ruler used to cut strips of bias. This gives the most accurate strips of bias to use.

Frequently long strips of bias are needed so it will be necessary to join bias strips together to get the desired length.

To join bias strips, place 2 strips with right sides together and the cut ends matched up. Stitch across the corner at a 45º angle (shown in red). Trim the seam allowance and press the seam open. Join as many strips as needed in this manner.

To make the piping, place the cording on the wrong side of the bias strip and wrap the bias around the cording, matching the cut edges. Stitch close to the cording using an edgestitching or piping foot and use a slightly longer stitch length (3.0).

Do NOT stitch as close as possible!!! When the piping is applied to the garment, it should be stitched 1 thread closer to the cording than the stitching used to create the piping. This way the stitching for the piping will always be enclosed and won’t show on the outside of the garment.

Applying The Piping To The Garment

Now that the piping has been made, it can be applied to the garment. There are always different ways to end piping. One is not right while the other is wrong, they are just different. We will explore a few different methods here. Try the different methods to see which on works best for you.

When piping is going to go around the bottom of a sleeve or at the top of a sleeve cuff, it needs to give the appearance of being continuous. Again, there are several different ways that this can be accomplished. As previously mentioned, when the piping is stitched to the garment, stitch a thread closer to the cording in order to cover the stitching line that was created when the piping was made. If a lining is involved, when the lining is sewn, again, stitch 1 thread closer to the cording.

This second stitching line isn’t shown in the diagrams in order to keep the diagrams crisp and uncluttered.

The first 2 methods involve overlapping or butting the ends of the piping.

In both of these methods, the cording remains in the piping and the piping is either crossed over each other or the ends of the piping are butted together. To butt the ends together, it is helpful to use a hemostat to grab the end of the piping and get a good angle as it is stitched to the garment, as shown in the example on the right. Always check to be sure that there is a smooth and continuous flow where the piping is showing!

Another method involves angling off the fabric. This is similar to butting the ends together, however with this method, the cording is removed from the section of the piping that will be angled off. This method reduces bulk in the seam allowance of the garment.

To remove the cording from inside the piping, pull out a small amount of cording at the beginning, where the piping will be applied. Cut off the cording, then ease the cording back into the piping. Fold over the area that has no cording in it at a sharp angle and stitch the piping down. End in the same manner, removing the cording from the section that will be folded down. Ensure that there is no gap left between the beginning and the end of the piping!

The next 2 methods involve encasing the cording inside the piping for an unbroken appearance.

Method 1 Encased – Begin sewing piping 1” away from the end, continue around and stop before you reach the starting point. Remove a section of cording (about 3/4”) from the starting end.

Fold the cut end down at a 45º angle until it meets the cut end at the lower edge.

Take the opposite end of the piping and place it over the folded edge of the bias. Cut it off at the exact spot where the cording ends on the opposite side. Wrap the bias band over the cording and stitch. This leaves the piping with an angled seam, which disperses some of the bulk at the seam.

Method 2 Encased – Begin sewing the piping to the garment, starting about 1” away from the cut end. At each of the ends, overlap (without stitching) the ends by 1/2”.

Cut off 1/4” of the cording from each side.

Fold under 1/4” of the bias strip on each side, wrong sides together, encasing the end of the cording. Press. Then fold over the the bias strip so that the cut edges meet.

The finished bias band has ends that butt up to each other. Ensure that there is no “gap” between the sides.


Some of the same methods can be used when the piping ends at a foldline (such as at the neckline or waistline of the back of a back buttoning blouse or dress). The ends can be angled off, as shown in the first methods. Alternately, the ends can be encased using either of the encased cording methods. Both work well and will give good results.

As with all techniques, practice makes perfect! Enjoy the process!!! Happy stitching!!!

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