If you’ve read my posts on this blog before, you may already be aware that I often use them as an excuse to indulge and fixate upon my sewing-related obsessions. On that note, enter today’s topic: piping! Very little seems to have been written (on the internet anyway) about piping aside from fairly basic explanations. Piping is an edge treatment made from stripes of bias fabric, usually containing a cord, which is used as a decorative technique for home decor and clothing. It can be made from either self-fabric or a contrast.

Piping can be used anywhere on a garment where two pieces of fabric are joined. Traditionally, it is used along the edges of yokes, collars, button stands, sleeve bands, shoulder straps, pocket openings or along princess seams. You just have to look at some of the Rooibos dress to see how much of a punch piping can add to an otherwise deceptively simple garment.

I have no idea when piping for garments first came into effect or became popular, of if it was initially used for children’s wear, or what have you, but there is certainly evidence of its use to be found on women’s vintage dress patterns from the 1940’s onwards. However, as some of these garments show, it can also be deployed to create an added punch to unusual and directional pieces.

Adding a plain coloured piping detail can be a great way to break up a busy print. It can also be used to highlight interesting or unusual seam or style lines, like the blouse pictured above. Piping containing a cord is a little stiffer, and this property can be utilised to give added structure to a seam or edge, the ruffle collared blouse pictured below is an example of this.

As stated above, it can be formed with or without a cord running through the centre. If you chose without, the bias strip is folded in half lengthways and inserted between the two layers being stitched together when forming a seam. If going for the corded version, you have two options. The first is to buy ready-made piping and the second is to make your own. Obviously, the former option is something of a time saver. However, making your own is necessary if you want to use self-fabric or if you desire an alternative fabric or cord size to the options available at your local haberdasher. Want some good news? There are approximately three squillion how-to’s and tutorials available on the internet showing how to make and insert piping, including Burdastyle’s make-your-own piping and sew-in-piping techniques.

Personally, I’ve long been a fan, but have never attempted to use piping in a sewing project. I’ve bought a very basic top pattern which I feel could really benefit from sliver of contrast piping around the collar. I’ve picked up some of the ready-made kind, having figured out what to ask for (ribetes in Spanish, FYI!), have studied the how-to’s and am about set to go. If it works out well, I feel my sewing life may be revolutionised! Wish me luck….

Have you tried piping? Were you happy with the result? Did you apply it in some way other than the ones I listed above? Do tell!

Zoe Edwards   —  

Comments 21


oooh! I love piping too; it’s all I can do to keep from putting it in everything I make. It’s really satisfying to put in, start simple and then the more complex piping is really fun.

Fourth Daughter

If only it weren’t nearly midnight and I were not in the middle of a translating job with an ever-impending deadline, I would have rushed out to buy some piping and use it in any way possible!! Great post!
In the meantime, the online dictionary is my friend… but I’d love it if people would let me know their opinions on this…


I love piping as a detail, and I have used it several times. Here are my attempts on it:

On the other hand, maybe you should take a look at Tany’s blog, and a series of posts regarding her Orwell coat knockoff that incorporates gorgeous piping trim:


I finished a stripey dress with gratuitous piping on the neckline, sleeves etc recently. I’m not sure I like the dress anymore but I am still a massive fan of piping.


I love how you can choose a piping to match your fabric and blend in, or to contrast and make a statement!
I’m working on a (new) Vogue Pattern right now, a strapless dress with piping details on the bodice, and picked a gold-flecked linen for piping to really stand out against the printed body fabric.
Another cool way to use piping is on the inside of garments, just to add a pop of colour. I have a red coat with black lining, but then it has lime green satin piping along the seamlines between the facing and lining. It adds an extra touch of fun on the inside, and it’s something you don’t see too often on purchased garments.


I did piping on my Rooibos, and loved it so much that I even did the extra armhole piping! I bought a piping foot for my machine, which is great, but you can get by with a really skinny zipper foot. I haven’t made my own piping yet, but that’s next. Thanks for the inspiration!


As someone who got her start in professional sewing by sewing for the Renaissance Fair attendants, I can tell you that piping as a seam treatment has been used at least as far back as the 16th century. Janet Arnold’s “Patterns of Fashion 1560-1620” shows several extant garments with contrast piping. I love piping but always forget about it until after the garment is already constructed/


(You shouldn’t count this as a citation or anything just something I’ve put together over the years from obsessive historical fashion blog reading, and I remember reading a couple of forum discussions on piping along the way.) I believe that piping originally served to provide an “easy” to swap out wear point on garments. When you had one or two set of clothes to wear and work in all year, it would have been much cheaper and easier to re-pipe the hem of the collar, for instance, than to remake the collar itself. US Civil War costume recreations have loads of piping, too.


I know that piping was done on necklines and arm scythes in the 1860s, though it was from the same fabric as the dress, not a contrast. Military uniforms from the era, as Betsy noted, have contrasting piping. Zouave jackets from the time (a military style adopted by women) also were piped with contrasting piping. It’s an old, old technique, as I’m noticing others have pointed out.


I just used a very simple Baby-beginner piping on a skirt I have made. Now I am emboldened and have just bought some Liberty bias binding from to try something more adventurous!


Wow, the first shirt/blouse (white with black piping) is GORGEOUS! I am going to have to make one!!


I have to actually make myself NOT use piping in every project. I used it when I made my first dress. I used it in my sailor skirt. It just makes everything a little bit better.
Its one downfall is that it generally has to be pre-planned into the garment. For example, on pockets you can’t just wait til the end like other trims. I’m not a good pre-planner! But once you use it, you are addicted.


That ruffle collared blouse is amazing!

Tyro Sewer

I made piping in a sewing class. The teacher told us to hand baste a fold line down the middle of the bias strip. Then, we took the strip and used just one pin to hold it in place as we started to sew. There was no point in basting it because of the constant adjustments that were necessary. We were told to stretch the fabric a bit as we were sewing. We sewed close to the cord (No. 12) but not right on top of it, because when we inserted the piping we would need the space. I was told than an adjustable zipper foot is helpful for this task.

king size

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i love piping works it looks attractive anytime is being worn. and is one of the techniques am introducing in my final year project work. today is one of the luckiest day viewing your site. GREAT WORK AND LOVELY.


Agree with the poster who liked the white blouse with black piping. Just beautiful. I want one!!!


A word or warning about piping– if you are making your own, make sure you wash the fabric before you make your bias strips to make sure it doesn’t bleed. Nothing worse than an awesomely cute piped garment that bleeds on itself!

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