How to Use a Piping Foot: 6 Techniques to Try

Many of us use a zipper foot when attaching piping around a garment or home decor, but machine manufacturers also make a special foot that can help streamline this and other sewing tasks. If you own a piping foot (also known as a bulky overlock foot), maybe you haven't explored all of its different uses.

Check out the FREE Craftsy mini-class, Sewing Machine Feet from A to Z, for detailed instruction on how to identify and use 11 of the most common sewing machine feet, from zipper and buttonhole to blind-hem and rolled-hem!

Piping or bulky overlock foot front view     Piping or bulky overlock foot backview
Piping or bulky overlock foot, front view and underside of foot.

Here are 6 techniques to try with your piping foot:

Piping made using bulky overlock foot
Attaching piping with a bulky overlock foot.

1. Piping

This is the obvious one, right? To attach piping with your piping foot, wrap your filler cord with a bias strip of fabric, and place the cord into the groove under the piping foot. Move the needle two or three steps to the right of center, and stitch the bias strip together around the cording. Now you are ready to lay the covered cord in the seam of your pillow or garment.

Note: You will need to check the manufacturer's instructions for your piping foot to see how large a cord will fit under it. According to Bernina, I can sew over a filler cord approximately 3/32" in diameter.

Seaming bulky knits

Seaming a heavy sweater knit fabric using the bulky overlock foot.

2. Seaming bulky knits

The Bernina bulky overlock foot (#12) was originally developed to sew over bulky sweater knit seams. You can use either an overlock or double overlock stitch with this foot, whichever suits your fabric or personal preference. Notice that the right edge of the foot maintains contact with the feed dogs even with the bulky seam on the left side, which maintains even stitching as well as feeding the fabric smoothly.

Couched rat tail cord using decorative stitch

Rat tail cording couched with a decorative stitch onto fabric  using the piping foot.

3. Couching

Couching means to "stitch over a cord," and the piping foot does a great job of couching over thicker cords, beads or pearls. You can use a decorative stitch, a blind stitch or a zigzag -- whatever best suits the look of your garment or other item. Experiment to make sure your needle does not strike the beads or pearls!

Rat tail cord added to edge with piping foot

Rat tail cording attached alongside a hem edge using a bulky overlock foot.

4. Beaded or corded edges

Rather than couching beads or cording on top of your fabric, you can also attach them alongside a finished hem or folded edge of your item. This technique is frequently used on costumes or formal wear, and creates a wonderful trim finish.

Apply the beads or cord with a zigzag stitch, setting it to catch the folded fabric edge on the left and the outside of the cord or beads with the right swing of the needle. Experiment with different threads, such as rayon or monofilament, for different looks. Also, a tearaway stabilizer under beads or pearls can be helpful with the attachment process.

Large pintucks using piping foot

Pintucks create with a piping foot, double needle, and cording inserted under a bulky overlock foot.

5. Jumbo pintucks

If you use a double needle and a filler cord with the bulky overlock foot, you can create very large pintucks. I think this could look great on a swingy coat or home decor project. Use a double needle, a straight stitch, and be sure to lengthen your stitch length at least to 3 mm.

Gathering over cord using piping foot

Zigzag stitching over soutache braid using a bulky overlock foot, and then gathered.

6. Gathering over a cord

If you are trying to gather heavy fabric, or even just have a long length that needs gathering, zigzag over a filler cord and pull on the cording to gather. This eliminates thread breakage. Just make sure your stitch is wide enough to miss the cord on both sides.

You might also enjoy our post on how to use a pintuck foot.

Do you own a piping foot? What is your favorite use for this foot?

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One Response to “How to Use a Piping Foot: 6 Techniques to Try”
  1. Tracy

    Loved the double pin tuck idea. I don’t have all the different feet for my machine but might invest some to have a play.