Today I want to show you a very simple way to cut 280 inches of continuous bias for welt cord (also called piping cord) from 1/2 yard of fabric. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t panic. Let me back up just a little bit.
Do you know what welt cord is? Perhaps you’ve heard it called piping? Even if you’ve never heard the term, you’ve surely seen welt cord.
Welt cord is that fabric-covered cord that is used on upholstery, slipcovers, and other projects like some duvet covers, pillows, headboards, etc. My favorite projects with welt cord tend to be upholstery and slipcovers that use a contrasting color on the welt cord, like this dark gray slipcovered chair with contrasting white welt cord from Custom Slipcovers By Shelley.
Welt cord can often take a project from looking like a DIY project done by a novice, to looking like an upscale professional-quality project.
Very often I see DIYers finding thrift store furniture that came with welt cord, and reupholstering it without the welt cord. I understand why they do that, especially if they haven’t been sewing for very long. Cutting all of those bias* strips for welt cord and sewing all of those strips of fabric together can seem overwhelming, tedious, and time-consuming. But I’m telling you, it’s not as bad as you think.
*Bias is fabric that is cut on the diagonal. You may have heard of, and even used, bias tape. These are strips of fabric that were cut on the diagonal and then folded and pressed. Cutting fabric on the diagonal allows the fabric strips to be a little stretchy, making it easier to use around curves and corners without bunching, gathering, and wrinkling.
The conventional way of making bias is to cut lots of diagonal strips from your fabric, and then sit at the sewing machine tediously sewing all of the individual strips together one by one to form one long single strip of fabric.
I hate using that method, and I will admit to leaving welt cord off of more than one project because I didn’t want to take the time to do all of that tedious work. But I have since learned a much easier way to make one long continuous bias strip that requires sewing only one single seam.
Here’s how it’s done…
Start with 1/2 yard of fabric. I used 55-inch-wide fabric. Open the fabric up so that it’s just a single layer with the selvages on the sides, and the cut edges on top and bottom.
Next I used a bias ruler, which is a ruler that is cut at a 45-degree angle on one end. Obviously, you don’t have to actually purchase a bias ruler. You could easily make something similar out of heavy cardboard, or even a piece of wood that is cut at a 45-degree angle on one end. Whatever you use needs to be about 2.5 inches wide.
Starting with the ruler lined up with the bottom left corner of the fabric, use a pen or pencil to mark off the strips. (I used chalk so that you could easily see my marks on the dark fabric. I wouldn’t recommend that you use chalk.)
Continue marking the strips until you reach the top right corner on the other end of the fabric. Then on the last marked line only, cut off the excess fabric.
Now you’re going to fold and pin the top and bottom cut edges together. This is where the magic happens! Take the bottom right corner, and fold it to meet the first line on the top edge. The join the first line on the bottom edge with the second line on the top edge. And so on. Second line on bottom to third line on top. Third line on bottom to fourth line on top.
This is very important! When you’re pinning the edges together, you want the two lines to meet along the area where your seam will be rather than meeting on the edge of the fabric.
For example, I was going to use a standard 5/8-inch seam to sew the fabric, so I made sure that the lines were touching 5/8-inch from the edges of the fabric.
With the two edges pinned together, the fabric will naturally want to twist.
Now you’ll sew the two edges together. Like I mentioned above, I used a 5/8-inch seam. (The zipper foot isn’t necessary at this point. That’s just what was on my machine at the time.)
With the seam sewn, the fabric will look all twisted and unruly.
So reach your hand through the middle and turn the fabric right side out, like this. See the seam on the diagonal? Perfect! See the continuous chalk line that goes around the entire length of the tube of fabric? Find the beginning of the continuous strip (which will be the first corner that you pinned before sewing the seam), and start cutting along the line.
And cut, and cut, and cut some more.
Until you reach the other end of the tube of fabric. What you’re left with is the long, continuous piece of bias that has already been pieced together. No more sitting at the sewing machine while tediously piecing together strip after strip after strip of fabric.
And now, of course, you’re ready to use your bias strip however you wish! I admit that I have never even once in my life made bias tape. On the rare occasions that I use bias tape, I purchase the pre-made stuff. I’ve only ever cut bias for welt cord.
And speaking of welt cord, there are different kinds available. Below you’ll see the two different ones that are available at my local fabric store. The one on the left has a twisted look to it, and it costs about three times more than the one on the right. The one on the right looks more like tubes of cotton held together with a mesh of threads wrapped around the outside to create the cord.
If you know me at all, you’d probably expect me to use the cheap one, right? Not so. I much prefer the one on the left, even though it’s quite a bit more expensive. I prefer it because it has a consistent size (the one on the right has thicker spots and thinner spots), and the one on the left feels heavier, more substantial, and more durable. Overall, I find that it’s easier to work with and the finished cord has a much nicer, smoother look.
To make the welt cord, find the end of the bias strip, and sandwich the cord into the strip.
Now using the zipper foot on your machine, sew the fabric together as close to the cord as possible without actually sewing on the cord.
Be sure that you’ve sandwiched the cord into the fabric so that the seams are facing the inside.
And when you get to a seam, simply open up the two sides (this reduces bulkiness), place the cord over the seam, and fold the fabric over the cord.
And when you’ve sewn the length of the cord, you’re left with this beautiful covered welt cord, ready and waiting to be used on your project!
Now when I’m using the welt cord on a part of the upholstery where it will be attached by stapling, I use the welt cord as is. However, if I’m going to be sewing the welt cord, I do this one extra step to ensure that the lip on the cord is the right size for my seam.
I take a piece of cardstock (or a piece of junk mail) and cut a short strip that is the width of the seam I will be using on my project (in this case, 5/8-inch wide), and use it as a guide to trim any excess fabric. Again, this extra step is something I do only if I’ll be sewing with the cord.
And that’s it! Now you’re ready to add welt cord to your project!
I used this particular welt cord on my dining chair makeover. Tomorrow I’ll show you the step-by-step process for upholstering dining chairs using welt cord.