How To Make Fabric Covered Cording and Apply It To Your Project!

Self covered cording, sometimes referred to as piping, is used in many different sewing projects for both the home and garments.  It is easy to make and adds a nice detail.

It is typically made by covering a length of cotton cording with a strip of bias cut fabric.  Because of the nature of the bias grain, this allows the fabric to roll more smoothly around the cording and more smoothly around corners when it is applied to a project.  This is better than using strips of fabric that are cut on the lengthwise or crosswise grain which create points and sharp edges and does not look as nice, if used.

You will need the following:

  • Cording
  • Fabric
  • Ruler and/or Tape Measure
  • Scissors
  • Rotary Cutter and Mat (optional)
  • Thread
  • Zipper Foot
  • Pins
  • Seam Ripper
  • Chalk/Marking Pen

DETERMINE THE WIDTH OF YOUR BIAS FABRIC STRIPS – First, you will need to determine how wide to cut the bias strips that will cover the cording.

There are a couple of ways to do this.  The quickest method is to wrap the tape measure around the cord mimicking a strip of fabric and adding the desired seam allowance to both sides of the cord.  Make note of this distance, and this is the width of your bias fabric strips.  It is easiest to make the cording seam allowance the same as your project so that when you apply the cording to your project, all of the raw edges will line up.

The other way to determine the width of the bias strip is to lay the cording diagonally across the corner of a scrap piece of your fabric, wrap the fabric around the cord snuggly, pin it in place so it is encasing the cord and then measure the width of the seam allowance of your project from the edge of the cord, and mark this distance along the length of the cord.

Cut along this line.

Unpin the fabric, lay it flat, and measure the width.  The width of this fabric piece that you just created will be the width you want to cut the bias strips for your project.

CUT THE BIAS STRIPS – Determine what length of cording you need to complete your project.  You will have to cut enough bias strips to measure the full length of the cording plus some additional length for seaming the strips together.

First, determine the bias of your fabric by folding the salvage edge of the fabric at a 90 degree angle (perpendicular to the lengthwise grain) so that the selvage edge is lying across the length of the fabric.  The folded diagonal (45 degree) edge that you just created is considered to be the bias of the fabric.

Finger press this fold carefully without stretching the fabric.

Open the fabric and draw a line using a ruler and tailors chalk, or a marking pen, following the finger pressed crease, being careful not to stretch out the fabric.  Note: If you prefer you could also use a basting stitch to mark this bias line if you are using a thicker wool, or a fabric that will not crease when pressed with your fingers.

After drawing the line to mark the bias, measure the width of the bias strip from this line, and draw another line parallel to it.  This is the width of one bias strip.  Continue to mark off additional widths until you think you have drawn enough lines to create enough bias strips to cover the length of the cording.

Cut the bias strips with scissors or a rotary cutter following these lines.

 – If you are making a project that requires a long length of cording, you will need to sew the bias strips together to make it long enough.  The strips are connected at a 45 degree angle to cut down on bulky seams.  Again this can be done two different ways.

Cut the connecting ends of the bias strips on opposite 45 degree angles.

Then with rights sides together pin the strips together, positioning them so that they are at 90 degree angles from each other.  Sew a 1/2″ or 5/8″ seam allowance.  Press the seam open.  Trim the excess.

Another way to sew the strips together is to cut the ends of the strips straight across at a 90 degree angle.  With rights sides together, position and pin the strips perpendicular to each other, aligning the raw edges.  Stitch on a diagonal line across the corner.

Trim away the excess and press the seam open.

Continue to join the strips together using one of these methods until all of the strips are sewn together.

COVER THE CORDING WITH THE BIAS FABRIC STRIPS –  Place the cording in the middle of the wrong side of the bias strip.  Fold the strip around the cord, matching the raw edges, and pin, encasing the cording snuggly.  Continue to do this until the entire cord is wrapped and pinned in place OR just go straight to the sewing machine and match the raw edges as you stitch.

Using a zipper foot attachment, line the edge of the zipper foot up against the cording as close as possible and begin to stitch.  Remove the pins as you come to them, continuing to press the zipper foot against the cording, and making sure that the raw edges continue to line up as well.

APPLY THE CORDING TO YOUR PROJECT –  Now you are ready to pin the cording onto your project.  If you are using it inside a seam or around the perimeter of a pillow, just match the raw edges of the cording with your project and stitch, again using the zipper foot, and lining the edge of the zipper foot as close to the cording as possible.  Note:  If you are sewing the cording onto a project where the two ends will meet, then begin your stitching about an inch away from the end of the cording, leaving a ‘tail’ for now.  We will come back to this when you come to the end of the cording.

Note:  If you are sewing the cording onto a project where the two ends will meet, choose to begin and end the cording at a place on the project that is in inconspicuous place.

When you come to a curve or a corner, clip the seam allowance of the cording ‘to but not through’ the stitching.  This allows the seam allowance to open up so that it can curve OR make the turn in a corner.

HOW TO FINISH THE ENDS OF THE CORDING –  If you are sewing the cording onto a project where the two ends will meet, there are two ways to finish the ends of the cording.

One is to overlap the cording by crisscrossing the ends over each other.  Begin by sewing the cord with it ‘hanging off’ the edge of the project,and on a gentle angle start lining up the raw edge of the cording with the project.

Continue to sew until the ends are about to meet again.  Crisscross the cording over where you started from, forming a gentle ‘V’ and veering the cording off in the same manner that you began.

The second way is to have the cording meet ‘end to end’.  Begin sewing the cording onto your project about 1″ from the end, leaving a ‘tail’.

Continue to sew until the ends are about to meet again.  Stop sewing an inch or two from where the piping began.  You can take your project out from underneath the sewing machine for now, as it will be easier to work with.

Cut the end of your cording leaving enough that it overlaps the beginning about an inch or more.

Peel back an inch of the cord covering on the end that is overlapping.  You can use your seam ripper to remove a few stitches if necessary.

With the covering ‘peeled back’ slightly, lay the end of your piping next to the beginning.  It will be overlapping.  Without cutting the fabric covering, cut the overlapping excess cord only so that the end of the cording meets the beginning of the cording, and they now meet ‘end to end’, or butt together, as they might say.

Fold under about a 1/2″ of the raw edge of the cord covering.  (If there is more than a 1/2″ of excess fabric, you can trim it now.)  Pin the cording in place and finish sewing the cording onto your project.

Happy Sewing!






5 thoughts on “How To Make Fabric Covered Cording and Apply It To Your Project!”

  1. Wow Ann this was an amazingly helpful post! The detail you’ve demonstrated in your pictures was better than most sewing books I’ve seen on how to join bias ends – I’m booking marking this post for future reference. I can’t thank you enough for this post honestly. Although I don’t do home decor really I do like piping on garments in certain places like around the collar or where a yoke meets the main body but I’ve always hesitated because if it’s not straight it looks awful 🙂

  2. Just wanted to say that I, too, found this post to be incredibly helpful. And now I know I better use bias strips of fabric rather than straight-grain. Thanks for the detailed explanations and photos. I feel confident I can get my corded pillow shams made now. Excellent instructions!


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