This is no wimpy little piping -- this is jumbo piping! The white piping on the right is just your standard-issue piping sold in a package at the fabric store. Meh.
Forget that. Let's make something with more impact!
Jumbo Piping Pillow -- Sewing Tutorial
Solid or subtle tone-on-tone print fabric (any weight except for super lightweight)
Coordinating (but contrasting!) print fabric (quilting weight or home decor weight)
Cord -- 1/3" or 1/2" diameter
Thread to match the coordinating print
MAIN FABIC: The amount of fabric depends on the size of the pillow form you are using. I was using a 20" square feather pillow form, so for my main fabric (the denim) I needed a piece at least 21" by 42" (to be divided into two squares 21" by 21" each). Basically, you just need enough fabric for two pieces with dimensions an inch larger (on width and height) than your pillow form. If you like a firmer stuffed pillow, you can cut your fabric closer to the actual size of the pillow form, but the more you stuff the pillow the less your piping will be visible.
CORD: The length of cord should be about 6" longer than the length it will take to go around the edges of one of your pillow fabric pieces. My fabric was cut to 21" by 21", so I needed 90" of cord (21" x 4 = 84", then add 6" to get a total of 90"). You can pretty much use any smooth rope or cord for the inside of piping. I just saw my daughter's jump rope in the kitchen (because of COURSE a jump rope goes in the kitchen, right?) and considered stealing that for my piping. Wasn't long enough, unfortunately.
COORDINATING PRINT: This is the fabric you will cut on the bias to make the piping. You need strips long enough to cover all of the cord. It's kind of difficult to estimate yardage for bias-cut strips, so just make sure you have at least a half of a yard or so and you should have plenty left over for some other little projects. Beware of using a linear geometric print, though -- it's tough to keep the fabric 100% straight when making piping and it can look wonky in a hurry.
PILLOW FORM: Use whatever size you want. Use whatever shape you want. Or skip the form all together and just the pillow cover with loose stuffing. Go bananas. I went with a boring 20" by 20" down-filled form.
STEP ONE: Making the jumbo piping
If you have ever made your own piping before, then this will be easy as pie. Same concept, just bigger scale. Cut 2 1/2" wide strips of your coordinating fabric on the bias -- enough to more than cover the length of cord you have. I cut about 4 or 5 strips that added together in length to be about 100" (including the angled ends).
(Cutting fabric "on the bias" means slicing it at a 45° angle from the selvage edge. Woven fabric stretches more on the bias, so this will help the piping ease around the rounded corners of the pillow cover we're sewing. If you're making piping for a project that has no curves, you don't need to cut the fabric on the bias.)
Now we're got to join these puppies together to make one long strip of fabric. Take two strips and place them together perpendicularly with right sides facing. I like to line them up on my cutting mat to make sure they're nice and straight, but this is probably overkill.
Pin the strips together and draw a diagonal line with a fabric pen across where the strips intersect.
Sew right on top of that line.
Trim the ends off about 1/4" or so away from the stitching line. Also trim off the little triangles sticking out on the sides.
Press the seam open so it looks like this from the back . . .
. . . and like this from the front.
Join each of the strips together like so until you have one long strip.
Now grab your thick cord and fold the fabric strip over it lengthwise, matching the raw edges of the fabric. Either pin or clip into place every few inches or so. (I love these clips that Erin got me last year for our birthday!)
Now you should have something that looks like this (perhaps with a bit of extra fabric on the end, but don't cut this off just yet):
Now grab your zipper foot. Stop whining -- I know the zipper foot is a pain in the butt, but it's necessary in this situation. I have a handy dandy "piping foot" for my machine, but that's only for wimpy little standard-diameter piping. This is jumbo piping we're talking about here! Gird your loins and stick that zipper foot on the machine. (Actually, I'm not even 100% sure that this is what my foot is actually called -- I have another foot which might actually be the zipper foot, but this is the foot I like to use when making my jumbo piping. Just go with it.)
Using a nice, long stitch length (a little shorter than basting length, but longer than the default) and moving your needle over to the left as far as it will go, stitch as close to the cord as possible. Try not to stretch the fabric too much.
Now you have a nice, long snake of jumbo piping. Don't let your six-year-old run off with it to use it as a lasso, like mine did. I had to hunt him down and confiscate the piping to take this photo. Cut off any excess fabric beyond the end of the cord, if there is any.
Are there spot where the raw edges didn't stay even? No worries. As long as the edges stayed somewhat near each other the piping will be fine.
STEP TWO: Stitching the jumbo piping to the front of the pillow
Grab your main pillow fabric and cut two shapes the same size as your pillow form plus an inch in length and width. (My pillow form was 20" by 20", so I cut my fabric into two squares, 21" by 21" each.) Stack the two pieces on top of each other and round off the corners a bit. I used a small Ball jar as a guide.
Set one of the pieces of main fabric aside. Place the other one on your workspace with the right side facing up. Grab one end of the jumbo piping and line it up on the edge with the raw edge of the piping matching the raw edge of the main fabric. Make sure you are placing the piping on the right side -- not the back or wrong side of the fabric. Start in the middle of one of the edges (which will become the bottom of the pillow).
Beginning about 4" from the end of the piping, stitch the piping to the fabric, stitching right on top of the seam that is holding the piping together. You should still be using thread that matches the piping -- NOT the main fabric. Make sure your stitch length is back to the default (or the length you like to normally stitch with.)
Continue all the way around, curving the piping around the corners and stitching slowly there (since the raw edges of the piping want to curl up at those points). Stop about an inch or two before you get to the point where you meet the beginning of the piping. Do a lock stitch before cutting the thread.
Where the ends meet, you need to integrate one end into the other end. For instructions how to do that, see my tutorial for the Floating Inset Pocket with Piping. Once you have done that, the face of the pillow cover should look like this:
The corners probably curve up all crazy like this:
To fix that, make a few clips in the raw edges of the piping. Cut very close to, but not through, the stitching line. That will help it all lie down nicely and neatly.
STEP THREE: Adding the backside of the pillow cover
Grab the main body piece that you had set aside earlier and place it face up on your workspace. Lay the other main body piece (the one with the piping) face down on top and pin them together.
Starting on the bottom (the side that has the place where the piping is joined together), stitch almost all the way around the pillow. Leave a large enough gap on that bottom side to stick the pillow form through later. Make sure you stitch JUST INSIDE the existing stitching line that you can see from where the piping was stitched to the first side of the pillow. Don't go too far inside. Just a thread's width or so.
Notice that I have switched to my regular sewing foot. This allowed me to float over the piping and ensure my stitching was inside the existing stitching line. If I had left on the zipper foot and was trying to do it from the side, this would have been much more difficult.
Flip the whole shebang right side out and figure out where your six-year-old is to retrieve the pillow form he ran off with. PETER!!!
STEP FOUR: Stuffing the pillow in and stitching the opening shut
I didn't take a photo of me stuffing the pillow into the cover because two hands were definitely required and I figured that part was self-explanatory. And despite how much I LOATHE hand-sewing, even I have to agree that it's the best and only way to close up a piped pillow. (I like this tutorial for how to use a ladder stitch to close up a pillow.)
Now go throw your pillow onto a chair and admire your work! The jumbo piping really stands out, and it's a lot more fun than some teeny little store-bought nonsense.
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