How to Sew Piping Into a Pillow
Nothing finishes off a pillow like piping. It can take a homemade pillow to a professional level. Not sure what piping is? Well, all the pillows pictured above, plus, the couch they are sitting on, all have piping in the seams. Piping is often known as cording, as back in the day, “piping” was always considered “flat piping” which is where you put a small layer of fabric into a seam for extra definition. And “cording” was always known as piping that had cord inserted into it, for the rolled trim that you see above. But these days, what you see above is most often called “piping” and the same thing without the cording is called “flat piping.”
Putting piping into any seam, pillow or otherwise, is a pretty straightforward task. The trickiest part of sewing piping into a pillow is that there is no end to the seam, and many people struggle with the spot where the two ends meet. There are some tricks to know, so follow the steps below for perfect piping every time!
To learn how to enhance other home decor items, be sure to check out the Craftsy online class Sewing Texture with Vanessa Christenson.
Step 1: Prepare your pillow pieces first, cutting them to size and installing a zipper if desired. Take the piping and pin it to the outer edge of one pillow cover piece. Place the piping so that the stitching on the piping is in line with the project’s seam allowance. Leave a couple of extra inches at the start of the piping and leave that section unpinned. If you inserted a zipper into one of the pillow pieces, I find it’s easier to sew the piping to the other side, without the zipper.
Step 2: It’s rather impossible to get 90 degree corners with piping, so this method will give you a slightly rounded corner, as pictured in all three pillows in the top image. Pin the piping to the pillow cover and make a smooth but tight corner. With your scissors, cut some slits into the seam allowance of the piping, being careful not to trim into the stitching that is holding the piping together. Cut enough slits so the corner sits flat and smooth.
Step 3: Once the corner is clipped, pin it in place along the corner. It’s okay if the piping is a little bunched up, as that will soon be flipped out to the outside of the seam.
Step 4: Once you’ve reached the starting point, leave the remaining piping a few inches long and unpinned. It’s best to plan for this overlap to be at the bottom of the pillow.
Step 5: The two ends of the piping will overlap with the first edge coming up onto the fabric and the second edge veering off the fabric on top of the first layer of piping. Keep the end out of the way when you start and begin sewing the piping to the pillow with the piping hanging off the fabric. Keep it as a smooth slope that gently glides onto the fabric.
To sew the piping on, use a regular zipper foot and stitch on top of the stitching on the piping so you are right up against the rounded part of the piping. Some machines have optional piping presser feet, so check with your machine dealer to see if that is an option for you.
Step 6: When you reach the corner, very slowly and carefully, keep your stitching in line with the stitching of the piping. Keep the piping in place for a nice smooth and slightly rounded corner. Reduce your stitch length if possible, as shorter stitches make for more accurate curves.
Step 7: When you reach the end, take the unpinned extra piping at the end and overlap it on top of the first piping. A small little “v” where the two meet is the desired effect.
Step 8: Trim off the extra piping from both the start and finish so that the ends are in line with the edge of the fabric.
Step 9: Place the second layer of fabric on top of the first, right sides together. Line up the outer edges and pin in place all around the pillow.
Step 10: If you have a zipper in the layer that is being pinned to the layer with piping, be sure to open the zipper a little bit so you can get into the pillow after sewing. Also be sure to pin the two layers of the zipper together well so they do not separate during sewing.
Step 11: Using the same zipper foot, stitch the pillow pieces together on the project’s seam allowance. This should keep you right in line with the edge of the cord in the piping and in line with the stitching on the piping. When you go over the overlap at the start and finish of the piping, simply sew right over it as if it were flat.
Step 12: Like when sewing the piping on, when you reach the corner, be careful to keep the stitching smooth and right against the piping. I usually feel along with my fingers to keep the foot firmly against the piping as I’m sewing around the corner.
Step 13: Once the layers are sewn together, trim down the corners so that they can be turned right side out with ease and not too much bulk.
Step 14: If you had a zipper in the top layer, trim the extra bit of zipper down on both ends of the zipper tape. Be careful not to cut with your nice scissors if there are metal bits to be trimmed down.
Step 15: Turn the pillow right side out. The finished piping overlap will look like the image above. Nice and neat!
Step 16: Poke out the corners with a point turner or another firm, but not sharp, tool to get a really nice rounded corner. Isn’t that professional looking?
I hope this shows you that it isn’t too hard to sew piping into a pillow or into anything else for that matter! Piping is a really fun touch that can be sewn into any seam, so give it a try on your next pillow, or dress, or pajamas!