Add Piping to a Pillow

I recently showed y’all how to make an envelope pillow {with a mustache}.  That tutorial was more about mustache-decor and less about pillow-making.  This tutorial is more about pillow-making and will not include the word mustache again.

This tutorial is going to teach you how to create piping by simply covering inexpensive cording with fabric.  Then, I’m going to show you how to add the piping to an envelope pillow.

Add Piping to PillowsSupplies:

    • 1 yard Fabric {for 2 pillow fronts and bias strips}
    •  1/2 yard Fabric {for 2 pillow backs}
    • 4 yards of 1/2” (9/32”) cording or welt cord {cotton or synthetic; sold by the yard in fabric and craft stores}
    • Scissors
    • Rotary Cutter and Cutting Mat
    • Thread
    • Water soluble marker
    • Sewing Machine and a Zipper Foot


Step 1:  Cut Out Pillow Front:

Cut a piece of fabric for the Pillow Front that is 1″ greater in length and 1″ greater in width than the size of your pillow form.

I am covering a 12” x 16” pillow form so I am going to cut out a piece of fabric that is 13” x 17”. If you want your pillow form to fit more snugly, then decrease each measurement by 1/2”.

Set Pillow Front aside.


Step 2:  Cut Out Pillow Back:

Since this is an Envelope Pillow, you are going to need a piece that is a little bit wider for your Pillow Back.

To make the envelope part, follow this simple formula: Take your pillow form dimensions and add 1″ to the length and 5″ to the width.

For our pillow, that means cutting out a piece of fabric that is 13″ x 21″ {because my pillow form is 12″ x 16″ and 16 + 5 = 21}. If you want your pillow form to fit more snugly, then decrease each measurement by 1/2”.

The fabric I am using for my Pillow Back is a polyester blend in a burlap weave. That means it frays and has a hard time staying on the grain.

In order to reduce this effect, I am backing my fabric with iron-on woven interfacing {available at Joann’s} before cutting it out.

I also serged the outer edges to keep them from unraveling.  No serger – try zigzagging the edges or skip this entirely.
Once you have your Pillow Back cut out, find the center 10.5″ from the side and draw a cutting line with a pencil.

Next, cut the Pillow Back in half on the cutting line. This will leave you with two pieces that are 13” x 10.5” {my edges are serged}.

Step 3: Finishing Edges of Pillow Back

You will now need to finish the edges that form the ‘envelope’ for your Pillow Back before attaching the Pillow Front and Pillow Back.
Fold the long edge (the side that is 13″) under 1/4″ and press.

Fold under a second time and press.

Stitch down the folded edge using a 2.5mm stitch length.

Repeat on the other Pillow Back piece.
Set Pillow Back pieces aside.

Step 4:  Determine Amount of Bias Strip Needed

The first thing you will need to find is the width of the bias strips.  To determine this, begin with the size of your cording {mine is 1/2”}.  The formula for finding this is (2 times the cording width) plus (2 times the seam allowance).
This is what my formula looks like:  
(2 x .5) + (2 x .5) = 2” wide bias strips.

Next, find the total length of bias strips you will need for this project.  Double the pillow’s width and length, then add an additional 4”.
I am making piping for a 12” x 16” pillow.  This is what my formula looks like:

(2 x 12) + (2 x 16) + 4 = 60” of bias strips.  

I will need 60” of 2” wide bias strips.

Step 5:  Cutting Bias Strips

Using the above formulas I now know that I will be cutting at least 60” of 2” wide bias strips.  Out of my one yard of fabric I have already cut out two Pillow Tops (13” x 17”) and this is the leftover piece that has been pressed.

Fold the bottom left corner towards the top edge.  When it matches the top edge, you will have your bias.  Give this edge a press and then mark it with a water soluble marker.


Using the original bias marking above, make a second line 2” over, continuing in this manner until you have at least 60” of bias strips drawn onto the fabric.
Note:  There are several other ways to cut yards of continuous bias strips, but for small projects like a pillow this is really fast.  There is also a handy tool called the Binding Buddy that makes this process even faster.


Cut out the strips using the cutting lines as your guide.  This will create enough bias tape to make piping for two pillows. That’s how little it takes!

After cutting your strips there will be a diagonal cut on each end.  You will need to square off the ends before attaching.


Step 6:  Attaching the Bias Strips Together

You will want to attach all of your squared off bias strips to make one long bias tape to enclose the cording.

With rights sides together, lay your bias strips perpendicular to each other and pin in place.  With a water soluble marker, draw a 45-degree angle.


Stitch across this line and press open. Trim away excess, leaving a 1/4” seam allowance. Repeat this process on all of the bias strips.


You now have yards and yards of beautiful bias tape that can be used to encase the cording.


Step 7:  Making the Piping

Prepare your sewing machine by putting on a zipper foot and adjusting the needle position to the left.


Fold under one of the bias tape short ends 1” and press.  Insert the cording about 1” away from the folded end.  Pin the cording inside the bias tape.

Begin stitching approximately 2” from the folded edge, leaving the folded end open.  This will allow you to insert the other end once you attach the piping to the Pillow Front.


Get the zipper foot really close to the piping.  If you are able to adjust the needle position, this will make it easier to get even closer.
Stitch as close as possible to the cording until all of it is encased.


You now have several yards a lovely piping ready to attach to your Pillow Front.


Step 8:  Attaching the Piping to Pillow Front

Match raw edges and start pinning the piping to the Pillow Front where the stitching starts.  Leave the 2” unsewn part unpinned.

Continue pinning around the pillow.

When you get to the corner, make three clips into the seam allowance.  This will help the piping lay flat when going around each of the four corners.
Continue pinning in this manner until you are close to where you started.  Leave the remaining piping unpinned.

Using the zipper foot, begin stitching at the first pin, getting as close to the cording as possible.  Slow down at the corners.

Stitch around the pillow top until you get close to the starting point.


As you get near the starting point, line up the beginning and the end of cording.  Slip the end of the piping into the folded opening at the beginning.

Line up raw edges, pin to hold and stitch down.  The edges will overlap and the place where the piping meets will be almost invisible.

Step 9:  Attaching Pillow Front and Pillow Back

On a flat surface, lay out the Pillow Front with the right side facing up.  With right sides together, lay the left Pillow Back piece on top of Pillow Front, matching the left corners.  Pin close to the piping.


Next, with right sides together, place the right side of Pillow Back on top of Pillow Front.  This piece will overlap the left side of Pillow Back.

Using a 1/2″ seam allowance, stitch around the entire pillow, backstitching at the openings.
Turn pillow right side out and press gently.



Slip the pillow form into the envelope opening in the back.  Simple and chic!


Once you master this technique, adding piping to an envelope pillow is simple and has endless possibilities.


See here and here for a bit of inspiration.


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  1. says

    Beautiful Pillows! I have two that have been waiting almost a year for me to add piping, and now I think I’m motivated! Thanks!

    kate @ ramblingsfromutopia

  2. says

    Fantastic tutorial and I appreciated the many detailed photos. I have made pillows with piping before but now have a better set of directions to follow. My next project will be prettier because of you– thanks!

  3. says

    Great tutorial! I just got finished writing one on making envelope pillows (great minds think alike, huh?), but didn’t think about piping…makes it look so much more professional! Can’t wait to try it!
    Shara @ Palmettos and Pigtails

  4. says

    Thank you so much for posting this tutorial! I just made my first envelope pillow cover and am VERY new to sewing and appreciate all the help I can get! I will definitely be saving this tutorial for when I do another pillow. I’d love to try adding the piping!

  5. says

    That is very clever and I really love the fabric you chose. I’m going to Google + this post right now.

    Thanks for linking up to Say G’day Saturday. This week’s post is now live so I hope that you can join in again this weekend!

    Best wishes,
    Natasha in Oz

  6. says

    Great directions and pictures. I will bookmark this post, and return to it time and time again. I’ve made many pillows, but never my own bias tape. Thanks fr sharing! Happy Saturday. ~CJ

  7. says

    I have been scared to death of piping! I have pillow & upholstery projects that I have been avoiding making eye contact with because of this fear!

    Then. I came across your tutorial! How wonderful that you so carefully went step-by-step (in detail) (with pictures) for someone who’s slow to grasp!

    Thank you! I can now walk past these projects and smile knowing that their facelifts are soon to come!

    You can call me
    Patty, the Pied Piper!

  8. says

    Wow! These are beautiful. I would’ve thought you bought them at Home Goods! Thanks for the awesome, step-by-step tutorial. I’ve always wanted to know how to make these pillows. I’m your newest FB follower. :)

    Visiting from Skip to My Lou.

    ~Emily @ Texas Life Blog

    • Leslie says

      Thanks, Emily. These are so easy to make. I’m planning to make some new ones to update colors in my living room. It’s that easy!

  9. says

    I recently made some pillows and really wanted to put matching piping on them but I got scared at the last minute and just used a cord (it was a birthday present and I didn’t want to mess it up). This tutorial makes it look much less intimidating. Thanks!

    • Leslie says

      Adding piping is one more simple step that is very easy ~ don’t be afraid of your machine, it can be your best friend.

  10. says

    Hi there! I’m just getting into sewing, so I’m soooo glad I found your blog! I love this tutorial, I’ll be referring back often!! Thanks!

  11. Marla says

    Love the project! Could you please explain why the piping works better if cut on the bias? It seems like one could use less fabric if you could just use the leftover strips that weren’t cut at an angle across a larger piece of fabric.

    • Leslie says

      Very good question ~ I’m glad you asked. Bias cut fabric will stretch and give a little and this is very important when going around a curve or corner (like on a pillow). However, if you are piping something that is completely straight, then bias isn’t necessary. Keep in mind, you can get several yards of bias tape from a half yard of fabric.

  12. Loren says

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. I just made three pillows using your step-by-step directions as my first sewing project ever. All three look great and I look forward to making more.

  13. yasmin says

    fantastic tutorial..Have always waiting to find a way how to do it finally I got one very well explained. Thankyou

  14. Marianne says

    Great tutorial – I love searching around in your blog. I just discovered this one and intend on using it in my sewing lessons with my granddaughter.

  15. Laurie says

    Thank you so much for the wonderful tutorial! I made a couple for birthday gifts. They turned out so beautiful!!

  16. says

    I just wanted to say, thanks again for this tutorial. I just referred to it again tonight while sewing my homemade piping onto my homemade bag!

  17. shannon says

    Thank you so much for the tutorial! I just finished my first pillow with piping. I wanted to make
    Sure I got the hang of it so I made the 12×16 even though I dont even have a pillow form for it. It was so much fun.


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