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What's The Difference Between Piping And Cording?

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Click to Read MoreAsk ten different experts the difference between piping and cording and you might get ten different answers. however, you can be sure it does NOT have anything to do with bagpipes or comfortable pants.

Piping and cording are the outlines of home decor. They provide a coordinating or contrasting edge along the seams of slip covers, cushions, pillows and more. You simply sew the piping or cording into your seam and it gives a professionally finished look. Some home dec professionals prefer the term "welting" when referring to this feature on pillows, cushions and the like, because they feel piping belongs to the world of garment sewing. Take your pick.

Piping

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The confusion may come from the fact that all piping is made with cord. Piping cord is a thin, round cotton "rope" made especially for sewing. It comes in a variety of thicknesses, depending on how full you want your finished piping to be.

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To make piping, you take a bias strip and fold it over the piping cord. To attach it to your article you sew the open end into the seam.

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Because of the cord inside, many home decor experts will refer to this as cording.

Whatever you like to call piping, you can get it several different ways. You can purchase it ready-made, though your color choice will be limited. You can buy bias tape and piping cord to make it yourself. Or, if you want your piping to exactly match the the rest of your project (often the choice for cushion covers and upholstery), you can buy just the cord and cut your own bias strip out of your fabric.

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Cording

If you go into a fabric store and ask for cording, they will most likely show you decorative cord that is attached to a narrow strip of fabric for insertion in your seam. It's often braided and made from shimmery or metallic fibers to make an elegant accent.

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This kind of cording is a favorite on pillows and cushions.

Thinking Pre-Shrinking

If you are going to wash the item you're making, you should always preshrink (prewash) your cording and piping. However, decorative cording often goes on items that you won't be throwing in the washing machine.

If you make your own piping just be sure to cut out your bias strips after you've washed your fabric. If you don't, items like slipcovers, pillow covers and cushion covers will pucker along the seams.

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Comments (11)

Sherri L said:
Sherri L's picture

Hi, I am confused about the feet for welting vs piping...there is a foot for welting which has a shank built in and then there is the *piping* foot I own for pearls and piping. Is the welting foot better, or just that it is for thicker cords than typically used for piping? I hope this makes sense LOL

The welting foot looks a bit more heavy duty than the piping feet I have. I have a home sewing machine, not industrial.

Thank you!

Sherri L

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Sherri - Your gut instinct is correct. The welting foot is for more heavy duty applications, the piping foot for small cord, etc. Pro upholsterers probably want to bop us over the head, but we usually skip the "welting" term and simply use "piping" to refer to all situations where you are adding a fabric wrapped cord to a project. We tend to use our standard Zipper foot when making and attaching piping. 

Sherri L said:
Sherri L's picture

@Liz Johnson :D

Thank you! I think you can not have *too many* feet LOL So I would rather have it than not, because there will come a day I wish I did of course, and won't want to be patient waiting for it!  Should look at the double welting/piping foot also I think LOL

Thanks again!

Phill said:
Phill's picture

Found it. It seems to have many names

Welt
Piping cord
Insertion Cord 
Flange cord
Bias cord
Bindint tape

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Phil -You're right, it does have many names. For our purposes here at Sew4Home, we tend to refer to it as piping when finished and to the cotton cord that is wraped with the fabric (fabric that is often cut on the bias) as piping cord. 

Phill said:
Phill's picture

Now I'm more confused. So what's the plastic 'piping' called you find on vinyl seats?

susan mc said:
susan mc's picture

i am piping cushion covers for outdoor furniture. what is the difference between piping cord purchased at fabric store and rope?

i am using alot of piping and the piping cord will be pricey.

 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@susan mc - Piping cord is softer than rope so it's easier to wrap fabric around it and stitch tight up up against the cording. Piping cord also comes in a variety of common widths whereas rope has fewer options. The closest rope-like alternative is probably clothesline rope, as it is softer like the cording. But, the variety of widths is limited. Piping cord is usually very inexpensive. Try a quick online search to see where you can buy it in bulk, it should be well under $1 per year, likely under 50 cents per yard.

Jo Bryan said:
Jo Bryan's picture

I am in the process of covering a French Louis wing armchair,at the moment it has double fat piping ( no cord ) that I want to repeat but not sure how to go about it ,I would appreciate you advice please

regards Jo