It’s a wee bit of an understatement to say there are lots of sewing trims. In fact, if you were to lay all of the trims available end to end, they'd likely cover the earth! But choice is what we love, isn't it? It adds the spice to our sewing life. And, a room like our Romantic Bedroom Retreat, sponsored by Rowan and FreeSpirit Fabrics, cries out for some extra special embellishments. If you’ve been a Sew4Home reader for a while, you may have read our original tutorial on Terrific Trims. Since then, we’ve developed more project ideas using different kinds of sewing trims – some trendy, some traditional. A perfect example is the current Romantic Retreat projects for which we dove into the upholstery trim section to find an unbelievable assortment of tasseled and beaded trims and fringe. Another recent example was our experimental trim week with Simplicity; we designed two fashionable handbags (links are provided at the end of the article for these and other trim-focused projects) around “new” metal trims. This lead to our popular tutorial: Adding Metal Trims to Sewing Projects. Between these and others, we realized it was time for a Terrific Trims update.
Adding a trim is a great way to add interest and texture, transforming a plain item into something special. Trims are also wonderful for hiding mistakes and camouflaging a rip in a much-loved garment. Or, use them to alter or upcycle an item.
In this tutorial, we give you an updated list of trim categories, tell you a little bit about each one, provide you with some tips and resources for purchasing, give you hints about attaching trims to your projects, and show you examples of how we’ve used some of these trims in our S4H projects. Our goal is to help you navigate the trim aisle with a smile.
As you become addicted to trims, make sure you also check out our tutorial about how to use your sewing machine's specialty and standard feet to attach them to your favorite project: A Romantic Bedroom Retreat with Rowan & FreeSpirit Fabrics: Specialty Feet And Tools For Working With Trims.
The selection of trim styles, types, sizes, colors, textures, shapes, etc. is wide and varied (see our cover-the-earth metaphor above). Therefore, we’re sure you can imagine it’s somewhat difficult to categorize them. We went on a field trip to a local retailer and analyzed their selection of current trims to provide you with the list below. This is by no means a fully complete or definitive list. Trim is a category forever evolving; manufacturers, designers, and other innovators develop and introduce new products all the time.
We did our best to show you a range of trims within each category in our sample photos. Bear in mind some of these categories have official names, while others we kind of named on our own.
Thanks to its Basic Ribbon sub-category, the selection of Flat Trims is virtually endless. However, there other types to consider. In general, the "flats" usually win the trim popularity contest because of the wide range of possible applications and the overall ease-of-use when attaching them to your project.
Whether grosgrain, satin, wire edge, printed, pleated, ruched, embellished, or embroidered, basic flat ribbon is a winner for all kinds of purposes: from wrapping a gift to adorning a bouquet to embellishing a pillow. We're betting you may even have quite a collection of ribbons in your home already. If you haven’t looked at them in a while, pull them out, and let your creative side take over.
Jacquard (Brocade, Damask, Tapestry)
While many basic ribbons are printed, jacquard ribbon is woven, often with an intricate pattern. The weave is visible on the back, and its intricacy and colorfulness gives jacquards their signature differentiation: they are almost as pretty on the back as the front! Made of natural and synthetic fibers, jacquard weaves are usually very colorful, sometimes even including metallic threads. Many appear as though the pattern is raised (or embroidered) onto the ribbon, but it is actually the density of the weave. Although true connoisseurs more carefully define this category, in general, most woven decorative ribbons are grouped under the jacquard title.
Webbing (or Belting)
This one is pretty easy to identify because many of us have owned those colorful military belts with the metal slide buckle. You can find webbing (or belting) trim in a variety of colors and patterns made from natural and synthetic fibers. Webbing is great for totes, handbags or anywhere you need a strap.
As home sewing enthusiasts, we used to be cut-off from the latest fashion trends in fabric, patterns and the like. Now, many manufacturers are providing coordinating lines of patterns, fabrics and trims, which means there are ribbons and trims from some of your favorite designers, such as Anna Maria Horner, Amy Butler, Kaffe Fasset and more. Some are braided, some are woven, and some even have metal grommets or other ornamentation. The color and motif combinations are fantastic, and using these designer options can transform an everyday project into StyleWatch standout.
Braided or Round
This grouping of trims is what we would consider more traditional. You’ve certainly seen plenty of them on home décor items, whether store bought or handmade, but they also extend into garment and special occasion sewing as well as crafting. They can be found in a huge array of colors, blends and sizes (with the exception of rattail which is always the same size).
Cording (with lip or without lip)
Cording can be made of natural fibers, synthetic fibers, metallic, chenille, leather, and more. This type of trim is similar to basic ribbon: the selection of type, size and color seems almost endless. Cording with a lip (or flange) is designed to be sewn into a seam, like you'd find around a pillow; whereas the cording without a lip is meant to be tied, such as the drawcord on a pair of pajama pants.
Braids (Soutache, Crossover, etc.)
Trim can certainly be braided much like a ponytail, however, it can also be woven into other patterns too, such as crossover. We put braided trims into this category because they usually start out as single cords that are round in shape. You'll also find tiny braided trims, like soutache, which is a narrow, rounded braid with a center "ditch" to hide your attaching stitch.
Gimp trims are very pretty, tightly woven trims in a variety of scroll-like designs. Here again, we grouped gimps here because they are made up of round cording. Some gimps also incorporate other trims or even have beading woven into them. Traditionally, gimp is used for hiding seams on upholstered furniture and around lampshades. But you can also use it as a beautiful embellishment on home décor soft goods, on jackets and vests in the garment arena, and in crafting projects. There are always plenty of gimps available around the holidays in metallics and other festive colors.
The name of this trim tends to speak for itself. It has a variety of uses in sewing and craft projects. Rattail cord is always very thin, and comes in a rainbow of colors. It's easy to spot by its satin finish.
This is one of our favorite sub-categories because dangling trims add both texture and movement. Some have a flange, or ribbon lip, so the trim can be sewn into a seam. Others dangle from a braided trim meant to be attached along the outside edge of something. Still others are meant for garments, especially special occasion wear.
Pom pom (or ball) fringe
We bet pom pom fringe reminds you of something from your grandmother’s house. Today, pom pom (or ball) fringe has made a huge comeback with the popularity of all things vintage. You’ll find it in micro to jumbo size, and in just about every color of the rainbow. We even found multi-colored poms.
The best way to describe this fringe is to think of a flapper dress. It’s the finer fringe trim with the beautiful swish. We used it on our Romantic Bedroom Retreat Coverlet. When sold, the bottom of the fringe is normally held together with a basting thread to keep it from tangling until you've stitched it in place. It's available in a ton of colors and a variety of lengths.
This is the thicker, cordlike fringe you see mostly in home décor furnishings, such as around the bottom of a sofa or ottoman. It's also popular for very lush and large pillows and cushions.
Unlike the single straind chainette and boullion fringe, this fringe is made of fine looped cording. You'll find it in both solid and variegated colors. The loops can be short, long or stretched. It also comes in other fibers, like chenille.
This is actually a version of loop fringe in a scalloped pattern.
This trim has a history that dates back through the centuries in a number of countries and cultures. As you can see in our Romantic Bedroom Retreat Valance and Bolster, tassel trim is still a classic trim choice.
Beads and other baubles
Whether strung with pearl beads, crystals, sequins, or other baubles; beaded fringe is a fantastic way to finish a window valance, the ends of a table runner, or a special occasion garment; just to name a few applications. The lengths, colors and styles available these days are tremendous.
Sparkle and shine
Rhinestones are available in single strands, wider bands or intertwined with other types of trims. Rhinestones are best know for embellishing special occasion garments and accessories, as well as costumes. But it's a bling with a lot of potential. Take a look at our Artistic Series we did with Janome to see how we made a very elegant statement with sparkling rhinestones on Bridal accessories.
We’ve included beads here too because they’re not always sold hanging from a ribbon lip. Like rhinestones, beads are sold in single strands, as well as sewn onto or woven with other trim types. Everything from pearl-like beads to neon color plastics to metallic and stone beads can be found in almost any shape and size. These more dramatic bead trims lend themselves to garments, accessories, costumes and crafts. That said, rules are meant to be broken; a few perfectly positioned beads can be just the right bit of embellishment on a pillow front, a table runner, even the center-point of a quilt.
When it comes to sequins, you may think first of nightclub entertainers and circus performers. And this is indeed a very favorite fabric type for costumes, but it’s also a common trim type. Sequins are great for holiday decorations, crafts, special occasion garments, and more. Similar to rhinestones and beads, sequins are sold in a variety of sizes, from single strands to wide bands, and come in all kinds of colors and levels of shine: matte to mirror. In addition, not all sequins are round; you can find different shapes.
Since our category included "shine," we put metallic here. During our field trip down the trim aisle, it quickly became apparent there are a huge number of trims offered in a metallic (gold or silver) finish.
As our category list grows longer, we decided to devote an entire section to trims that stretch. We were surprised as we handled the different trims available that so many were elasticized! Of course, as with all the other trim sub-categories, stretchy trims are offered in a wide range of colors, textures and sizes. Some are designed specifically for making your own accessories, like jewelry and hair ornamentations. Others are targeted for use on garments, costumes, and dance-wear, performing especially well at the waist and arms where stretch trim must have both style and function.
Teeny tiny elastic cord is available in the trim section. It’s mostly used for crafting projects (such as jewelry making, or even elastic shirring - which you can read more about in our tutorial: Everything Old Is New Again with Fabric.com: How To Do Shirring.
Fabrics pre-sewn to elastic
These can be deceiving because when placed amongst all the other trims, they do not appear to have stretch. We recommend actually taking the holder off the shelf and feeling trims (of all kinds). You’ll be surprised by the ones that stretch. If you turn them over, you can clearly see the ¼” elastic pre-sewn underneath.
We really like these trims. They're made of elastic cording woven into a pattern. We noticed the holder for the wide-band woven elastic pictured above said it was great for headbands.
Non-fabric or faux
Dip into this collection of trims to create one-of-a-kind anything! They are great for handbags, totes, belts and accessories. Many could also be used for trendy embellishment on costumes, jackets and pants. Yet others are ideal for inserting into casings for a unique drawcord-type closure.
You can find faux leather (and real leather) as flat single strand, cords, fringed, or embellished with studs or eyelets. The strength and texture of leather always adds a unique touch.
Softer and more pliable than leather, suede is a great accent. We’ve worked with it in a number of projects we’ve designed in the Sew4Home studio. You can certainly find plenty of applications for costumes, garments, home décor, crafting, and more.
As we discussed earlier, metal has made a big impact in the trim scene thanks to fashion-forward TV shows like Project Runway. We’re seeing more use of zipper tape, chain tape and even chain links on garments, bags and accessories.
Yes! Believe it or not, plastic is a large component in trims. We’ve already shown you a few examples in our categories above (beads, rhinestones, dangling) where plastic is the primary material. However, there are also plastic link trims, even plastic metallic trims in all shapes and sizes.
Hairy and furry
You may think of these trims only around Halloween, but they have their place in the trim section all year long. They’re certainly fantastic for use in crafting and accessories. Or, how about in a room designed for kids? Now you’re thinkin’!
Fur trim is offered in small packages, on a roll or by the yard. You'll find everything from solid colors to animal prints in a range of widths.
Besides using these to make a dynamite toucan costume, you could accent a room, overlay a skirt, or use them individually in crafts.
We placed chenille in this section because of its texture, but you will find a selection of trims that vary in style, size and shape all made of chenille. We mentioned chenille loop fringe above; there is also flat chenille, beaded chenille, and just plain hairy chenille.
Mohair can look very much like the next group, eyelash, but it’s fuzzier and stiffer, which is the easiest way to tell the difference. It’s fun for use on garment hems, accessories, home décor, and, of course, costumes!
Eyelash looks like tiny feathers and has basically the same applications as Mohair.
Lace and eyelets
Honestly, lace may as well be a whole separate tutorial on its own. This trim category is MEGA in size and selection. Just think of the variety of laces used in bridal and other special occasion sewing, heirloom, and home décor. We bundle eyelet into this category because it has much the same feel from a design standpoint.
As we already stated, lace is an abundant category of trims. There’s narrow lace, double-sided, dangling, beaded, sequin, gathered, and on and on... and on. Most importantly, its not just white or off-white (although that’s what we took a picture of); it's available in an array of colors.
Eyelet trim is timeless. It looks darling along the finished hem of a child’s dress, is cute on the bottom of panel curtains, and adds a nostalgic touch around a pillow. Like its lace friend above, it’s also available in a variety of colors, prints, textures and widths.
Sheer trims can be flat, ruched, ruffled, frayed, pleated, gathered, embroidered, or embellished with beads and sequins. They are offered in fabulous colors, various sizes, and don’t forget, some come sewn to elastic if you need one with stretch. We listed organza and tulle below, but these are by no means the only options. There are many other trims that are sheer, including those that live in the lace category.
We found organza was to be the common sheer trim. It’s soft and supple to the hand. Certainly ideal for special occasion wear, we bet you could find some other fantastic uses.
As you may already know from the days of scratchy underskirts, tulle can be corse, but it can also look great! The one we pictured above had a touch of sparkle. As we seem to continue to state... color choices abound.
It’s not your grandmother’s rick rack anymore! There's an amazing range of sizes, colors, and textures. This classic trim is back on the scene and has something to say! Be sure to check out the list of Sew4Home tutorials below to see where we’ve used this fave trim.
If you want to put a smile on your face, visit the trim section! It’s like going to the stationery store to read all the funny cards. Many trims land in the novelty category because they are labeled with famous characters or actually have the famous characters printed on them. In addition, regardless of which holiday is quickly approaching on the calendar, you'll find a novelty trim (mostly ribbon) to coordinate with the special day.
Somehow bias tape gets rolled into most discussions of trims. Most likely it's because bias tape is another way to finish a raw edge. There are so many uses for bias tape, it really deserves its own series of tutorials. We discuss making and attaching it in depth in S4H's Top Tips & Techniques: #1 Making & Attaching Bias Binding.
Everyone loves vintage trims. At least everyone I know! One of the best things about it is you never know where you'll stumble upon it (sometimes at a great price): garage sales, estate sales, antique shops, resale stores, or hiding in a trunk in the family attic. Recently, we’ve seen a number of exhibitors at sewing and quilting shows around the country who specialize in vintage trims and buttons. You can also find similar sellers on Etsy and eBay. The only thing to be concerned about with vintage trims is that they sometimes show their age, becoming slightly discolored. But, in some cases, that’s also what we like about them.
If for whatever reason, you cannot find what you like or if you want a very specific custom look, you can always make your own. This will usually require you purchase plain cording (available in cotton, nylon, etc.) and/or use a specialty foot on your sewing machine. Above is a picture of the section at a fabric store (usually near the home décor supplies) where you'll find a selection of cording, tapes and other building blocks.
Tips and tidbits for purchasing
Now that you’re well-versed in the various types of trims, you probably want to go shopping. Before you jump into the deep end, we want to give you a few tips and tidbits to help keep your head above water.
Most trims are sold by the yard or in packages. We even saw combo packages with a collection of coordinating trims. Depending on a store's layout, you may find all the trims in one area, or separated into sections, such as ribbon, specialty trims (garments, accessories, crafting), and home décor (upholstery quality). The home décor trims are normally near the home décor fabrics. This is also where you’ll likely find a selection of different cords (or welting) to make your own piping.
The packaged bias tapes are usually near zippers and thread. However, binding is also sold by the yard, so you may find it in with the specialty trims. And, since you know so much about trims now, you can also shop online more easily, searching by the name or category type you learned above.
Those of us who sew have a tendency to be fabriholics, with ever increasing stashes of our favorite yardage. Don't be surprised if you also find yourself becoming a trimaholic. It’s very easy to fall in love with a trim (or many trims) long before you have an actual project in mind. If you can discipline yourself, it's still a good idea to think about how much you would ever really use, and to consider how easy or difficult it might be to attach. When you pre-buy, you might also want to take note of the information provided on the holder (for those trims sold by the yard). Most manufactures of trims will give you an idea of the types of projects recommended for the specific trim you have in hand. If the trim is ultimately attached to something that will be washed, there is also information about the fiber content and washing instructions. We recommend documenting this information, then storing it with the trim.
Other pearls of wisdom
No matter how much you love a trim, it doesn’t always mean it’s the right choice for your project. It's no different than matching the appropriate fabric type to a project/design. The weight and style of the trim will play a role in making a smart selection.
When you bring your selected trim to the cutting table, pay close attention to how they cut it. Sometimes, a simple clip of the scissors will do. However, many trims are prone to raveling; in this case, you'll see the trim wrapped first with transparent tape, then cut through the middle of the tape. Non-fabric and metal trims may have yet another cutting method. When you’re home, use the same approach to cut the trim to the length you need for your project.
NOTE: We always remind Sew4Home readers about the importance of having good fabric scissors used for fabric only. With certain trims, you may not want to cut them with "the good scissors."
Several fabric companies are now designing coordinating trims (of various types) to go with their collections, so matching up a trim to a fabric is a breeze.
Pattern designers also design trim lines to coordinate with their patterns. These are usually very specific and will be listed in the required notions on the back of the pattern envelope.
We already mentioned documenting the washing instructions for the trim, and it really is an important thing to know. The rule of thumb is to pre-launder/pre-shrink your fabric and trims, using the same method as the final project will be exposed to, ie. if the final project needs to be machine washed and dried, your fabric and trim has to be able to be machine washed and dried. Washing trim separately in a lingerie bag is a good practice.
Always take a moment to think about how you’re going to use or sew the trim before you purchase it. We recommend purchasing a ¼ to ⅓ yard extra so you have enough to play with to determine which sewing machine foot to use, where the machine settings should be, etc.
Hints for attaching and finishing
If you’re planning to use your sewing machine to attach a trim, you want to consider needle size/type, thread choice, stitch setting (width and length), and standard vs. specialty foot. If you purchase the little extra we recommend, you can use this to test each of these elements for a successful sewing experience. To learn more, review our tutorial: A Romantic Bedroom Retreat with Rowan & FreeSpirit Fabrics: Specialty Feet And Tools For Working With Trims.
Another important aspect to consider is how will you finish or end the trim. This depends on the type of project you’re sewing, as well as whether the trim is sewn in the seam (between the layers of fabric) or attached on the right side of the fabric. There are various techniques for dealing with the ends. For the most part, simple overlapping is a good solution. We have a wonderful guide to finishing piping here on S4H.
If machine sewing a trim is simply out of the question, you can use fabric glue or iron-on adhesive tapes. These are common products that can be found at most fabric and craft retailers. If you are going to use an alternative method to sewing, make sure the trim and/or fabric can be placed under an iron. Many trims have plastic beads, or dangling adornments that could melt under the heat and stick to your iron! A pressing cloth always helps.
There are trims that are self-adhesive and iron-on. Look for these in small hanging packs.
Sew4Home tutorials featuring trims
The list below gives you just a few examples of how trims enhance the look of a project.
Lace and ribbon - Hello Kitty® Sewing Basket & Pincushion
Cotton cord and ribbon - His & Hers Pajama Shorts
Using scraps of trims - Easy, Izzy Egg Pillows: A Guest Tutorial from Izzy & Ivy
Tutorials featuring trim as the main ingredient
Making your own trim
When it comes to finding beautiful trim online, three of the very best options are Sew4Home sponsors:
M&J Trimming (they also have a retail store in NYC, which must be seen to be believed!)
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Jodi Kelly