Tutorial: handmade piping

Hi everyone, hope you had a great weekend.  Seems like lots of the US is having unseasonably warm weather this spring!  Of course it’s been keeping me busy outside enjoying the sun and the sounds of the neighborhood.  I thought it would be fun to share a little sewing technique I’ve picked up along the way.  Nothing groundbreaking or earth shattering, but useful nonetheless.

I love using piping in projects.  It’s won my heart in a similar way as bias tape.  I love that you can add a bit of color here and there and still keep things clean and classy.  I’ve often mentioned in my patterns and tutorials that you can use handmade piping, but haven’t ever gone into significant detail about it, so here we go.


  • fabric, a fat quarter works great!
  • 1/8″ wide cording (or in my case some thin rope bought at home depot – hey, it does the trick!)
  • steam-a-seam double stick fusible web tape (mine was 1/4″ wide)
  • spray starch

First you’ll want to cut your fabric on the bias (in other words a 45 degree angle to the selvage edges).

There are techniques to make continuous bias tape (from a fat quarter – love that!) that you can use, but for me I like to keep it simple.  And because of the fact that just about every time I try to make continuous bias tape I mess is up somehow and have to scrap it.  A self healing mat, rotary cutter, and ruler work perfect for this, but you could also just mark the lines with a pencil and cut with your scissors.  Cut the strips on the bias at 1.25″ wide if you’re sewing the finished piping into a 3/8″ seam (1.5″ wide for using with a 1/2″ seam). I should note that you wouldn’t have to cut the strips on the bias, especially if your final project used the piping on only straight or very slightly curved seams, but cutting on the bias will give you the most flexibility.

Joining the strips.  Here’s where I like to spray a little starch and press the bias strips, keeps things in place and makes it easier to work with later on.  Place your strips right sides facing at a 90-degree angle like so:

Mark a diagonal line, sew along that line.  Trim the seam allowance.  Press seam open (or to the side) your preference.

Now for the fun part.  Instead of using your zipper foot, a basting stitch, and sewing the cording in place, we’re going to speed things up and in the process make it so you don’t have to worry about any basting stitches showing up later in your project.

Just place your cording centered on the wrong side of the bias strip you’ve joined, tear off a length of steam-a-seam and press it down in place.

Peel off the paper backing.  Fold over the bias strip and press in half with your iron, sandwiching the cording in the middle.

The fusible web holds everything in place.  That’s all!  Now go make some piping and add some fun to your next project!


50 thoughts on “Tutorial: handmade piping

  1. And that clutch looks great with piping. Thanks for the tutorial, Anna. I’ve never ever used piping before, but someday!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I love this fast little tutorial! Thanks Anna – as always you’ve shared something that will make my projects better. I love piping but I’ve always bought it, which is expensive.

  3. amy says:

    oh my gosh, that is genius!!! So simple but so much easier than sewing the cord in! thanks so much, you really are amazing! xoxo

  4. Awesome, I haven’t tried piping before.

  5. What a fantastic, EASY way of doing this! Thanks so much for the tutorial.

  6. Krista says:

    So super smart! I have never done piping, but now I think I’ll try. I’m hoping to make up your envelope clutch this week! hugs!

  7. Kris says:

    Great Tute!

  8. **nicke... says:

    thanks for the tute anna! i plan on trying it out soon so i can stop buying the premade stuff from the store…

  9. Co. says:

    Oh, i think i`ve to do that, thank you.
    Corina from Germany

  10. Thanks for the great tutorial! I always use my sewing machine to make piping, but I’m going to try your way. It looks much easier and faster.

  11. SO So nice of you to share this. I have not tackled piping and with this tutorial I am definitely intrigued!! Thank you 🙂

  12. Sheila says:

    Genius, using the Steam a Seam. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Thanks, Anna. I can’t tell you how helpful this is. I dread piping but I think you may have just changed my mind!

  14. you smart girl, you. Love the steam a seam idea!

  15. This is super handy! I love piping, but it seemed a bit fiddly to attempt making it when the packages are pretty cheap. But now this opens up a lot of possibilities!

  16. We LOVE steam a seam but never thought about using it for piping….wow – so glad to know about this…thanks!

  17. Katy Cameron says:

    perfect way to hold the cord in place while sewing, thanks!

  18. sue niven says:

    I Love this tutorial, Perfect timing for me, I am going to pipe a cushion a first go at that too. Great stuff!

  19. Carolyn says:

    It’s like you read my mind – I needed this tutorial! Thank you!!!

  20. I love piping!! However, I have never made my own before, I always buy the store bought stiff kind — oh the possibilities now!! Thanks Anna!

  21. kristin says:

    Ooooo, i like this idea a lot. No double-sewing of the piping. Thank you, ma’am!!

  22. Elsa says:

    I’ve made piping and I’ve used steam-a-seam, but I’ve never done them together! Brilliant idea! Thanks so much!!!

  23. Jennie says:

    What a fun idea! Can you believe I’ve never really thought of making my own piping?

  24. Dalya says:

    Thanks so much for this tutorial! I made the Go Anywhere Bag with store-brought piping. Before that I wanted to make a pillow with piping and the pillow called for quite a bit of piping is not cheap (in my opinion) and the quality is okay.
    This makes me wanna buy a fat quarter set of some solid kona cotton and go to lowe’s for the cording ;D!

  25. Nat says:

    Awesome! I am so trying this…someday. 🙂

  26. Love the idea of using Steam-a-Seam, Anna. Great tip! I’ve only ever used store-bought piping, but I may give this a try. It doesn’t look as difficult as I thought it would be.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this wonderful tutorial. I tried the zipper foot method and it was a disaster. I am going to try it again with your instructions.

  28. mo says:

    Oooooh great tip! Thanks for sharing. Clutch turned out super cute 🙂

  29. ayumills says:

    Thank you for sharing this great tute, Anna! I have always wondered (and been a bit scared) about making a piping cord on my own. It looks like doable even for me!

  30. Whosies says:

    that’s fantastic! i have never seen the fusible used with the cording before. makes sense though since it is always shifting around and making it’s own position. thanks for sharing!

  31. Liz says:

    That is a great shortcut for piping! I can’t wait to try it. Thank you!

  32. brilliant! pinning this for future use 🙂

  33. Amy says:

    You’re a genius. I love using homemade piping, but my basting stitches always peek through somewhere. Thank you thank you thank you! Great tip about picking up supplies @ Home Depot, too! 🙂

  34. Susan says:

    Anna, thanks for changing my piping-lovin’ life! I just followed your tips to make what felt like miles of piping — this is one of the best tricks ever!

  35. jmday says:

    Genius! I’ve always basted it in and it was my least favorite part of the whole process… Now if I can just keep from burning my fingers!

  36. Great idea! I’ve avoided using piping because it seemed like so much trouble. This technique makes it look like a snap! Thanks.

  37. Tamee Kautt says:

    What size (diameter) cord do you use? 1/4″? 3/8″?

    1. Anna says:

      I think it was 1/4″. 🙂

  38. Cool! I’ve always liked piping but it seemed so labor intensive as to put it out of my league. Now to figure out how to sew it in…

  39. Guylaine F. says:

    Hi! Just discovered you blog lately. Wow, I’m very impressed. I love you projects, I love you pictures, I love your choice of fabrics. This tutorial about the piping is awesome. When I saw your picture, you remembered me someone but I couldn’t tell who. But when I read you first name was Anna, I knew which person I was thinking of. It’s crazy how you look alike, her name was Anna. Our sons played hockey together. Unfortunately, she’s not there anymore. She was a fantastic person! (Sorry for this personal comment but it stroke me when I read your name in the comments.) I’m now one of your loyal* follower. (* pls excuse me I it’s not the right term to use, I’m french-speaking-doing-her-best in English!) Have a nice day!

  40. Camilla says:

    Just in the middle of making a super tote and realised I had bought cord to make piping which was 1/2″ thick-duh! So I just checked this out and made some out of pre made bias tape which I happened to have in the right colour – took me about 2 minutes- fantastic thanks!

  41. CJ says:

    Never made my own piping but I’m going to now! Thanks so much and also thanks for mentioning rope at HD because I have THE most difficult time finding 1/8″ cording! Thought I found some at Etsy and ordered and they sent like a 1″ rope! I contacted them about the error and they decided to ignore me. :/

  42. Mardee says:

    This is awesome! I’ve always made my own piping, but used the labor-intensive basting method. This is so much easier! By the way, I didn’t use starch since I didn’t have any – just gave the bias a quick swipe with my iron before, and it laid flat. Also, I didn’t have any Steam ‘n Seam handy, so I used some IKEA double-faced hem tape that I had laying around from when I bought some curtains. It worked very well – I was pleasantly surprised!

    1. Anna Graham says:

      Awesome Mardee!

  43. Alison - Western Australia says:

    Definitely trying this out. Have recently found your blog (thanks to my daughter) and love it.

  44. Jessi E says:

    This is awesome! I’m trying to make the Trail tote today! Your pattern is fantastic! ‘Miss you at yoga!

    1. Anna Graham says:

      Hey Jessi! I hope you had fun making the Trail Tote!!! I’m so excited that you gave it a try! And yes, I miss yoga! and you!

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