Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Easy Bias Strips and Covered Welt Cord

I'm dieing to to share all kinds of cute sewing tutorials!  But a lot of them require welt cord, so I thought this would be a good time to show how to cut bias strips and cover welt cord.  I know some people can be intimidated and confused by bias strips, but they really are easy once you do it once or twice.  If you're a quilter you probably already know how to cut bias strips for the binding around quilts.  If you have no idea what welt cord is, here's a picture.
Welt cord is simply a cotton filler cord, covered with bias strips of fabric.  This is what the cord looks like before it is covered with fabric.
The cotton cording comes in different sizes.  Today we are covering size 5/32.  This is the standard size I use on  most of my projects.  Really big sizes can be used around pillows and shams however I do not recommend a beginner sewer to start out with the large sizes.
Cording is always covered with fabric cut on the bias(diagonally) of the fabric.  Some upholsterers cut it on the straight grain, but it does not lay as nicely especially around curves.

I cut my bias strips at a 45 degree angle to the selvage.  I have a clear ruler with a 45 degree line on it that makes this easy to figure out.  I think I bought this ruler at JoAnns.
Start by laying your fabric out on a flat surface and lining up the 45 degree line with the selvage.
Using a marking pen I draw along the straight edge of my ruler.  Then using a longer ruler I finish drawing the line across the width of my fabric.
Now you have a line across the bias (diagonally) of your fabric.  Using scissors, cut along this line.
To make it faster and easier to handle our large piece of fabric, fold it into thirds as shown below keeping the bias edge lined up.
This is what your fabric will end up looking like if you folded it correctly.
There's 2 ways to cut bias strips, depending on the sewing tools you own.  Method 1 will show if you plan on cutting them out with scissors.  Method 2 will be if you own a rotary cutter and self healing rotary mat.

Method 1-  Using the same clear ruler I draw lines parallel to my bias edge.  For my 5/32 cotton welt I already know my bias strips need to be cut at 1 5/8" wide.  If your cotton welt cord is a different size you might have to adjust your bias strip width slightly.

Cut along this line with your scissors before drawing the next line because sometimes the fabric shifts a little during cutting and this will give you a chance to straighten it up before you draw the line for the next bias strip.  Continue to cut as many bias strips as you think you will need for your project.

Method 2-With your fabric still folded into thirds, lay it on your cutting mat lining the bias edge up with the straight edge of your mat.

Place the edge of your ruler 1 5/8" past the edge of your bias edge.  Then using your rotary cutter, cut along this edge.  Again, cut as many bias strips as your project requires.
That wasn't so hard was it?  Time to sew these strips together now.  Head on over to your sewing machine.  I use my Singer Industrial machine when sewing bias strips because it sews a lot faster and because it has cording feet attachments.  I'll show you those in a little bit.  First we have to master how to stitch these long bias strips together.

With the right side of the fabric up, lay one of your strips on your sewing area and another strip face down right above it like this.

Now pivot the top one slightly and line up the diagonal edges. Like this.
See the "V" the two pieces of fabric form at the top and the bottom?  This is where you will begin and end your seam. 

When you get to the bottom "V" you see in the picture above, leave your needle down in your fabric.

Here's a time saving sewing tip to make sewing endless amounts of bias strips much faster....Your strip that is on top at this point is right side down, find the other end and turn it right side up and place it near your presser foot.  Then take the next strip and lay it face down on top of it like you did with your first 2 strips.

Lift your presser foot and slide the top "V" right up near the needle and continue to stitch along this one like you did the first one. Continue adding bias strips like this until they are all sewn together.  There will be a thread train between them and you can cut the thread train when you are all finished.  It would take forever to sew each edge, pull it from the machine and clip the thread and then re-align the next strip for sewing.  Geesh, I get tired just thinking about doing it that way.
 When you're finished sewing all your bias strips together and you clipped the thread trains holding them together, you are ready to cover your cotton filler cord.

As I mentioned, my industrial machine has cording feet that I can attach to the machine that make covering welt really easy.  I know they can be ordered for most home sewing machines, so if you think you will be sewing a lot of projects that require welt cord, it might be worth it to invest in one of these cording feet.
If you don't have a cording foot for your machine, you can use your zipper foot to sew right along the welt.  Like this.
But I definitely prefer to use my cording foot like this.
Whichever sewing foot you use, start out with the wrong side of your bias strip facing up.  Put the cotton cord in the center.

Fold the fabric over the cord making sure the long edges meet up to form an even 1/2" seam allowance.
Stitch next to the cord, without running over the cord with your needle.  Actually you don't want to stitch too close to the cord because that stitching will show on your finished project.  You just want it to be comfortably close.  When you stitch your cording to your project seams, you can then stitch closer to the welt cord and none of your original stitching will show on the outside of your finished project.

When you get to a seam, finger press the seam open and continue.

I hope that wasn't too hard!  I hope I was able to give clear instructions.  Now what are you going to do with all your welt cord?  Cushions?  Pillow?  Slipcover?  I'd love to hear what you end up adding your  welt cord to!! Pin It


  1. This is really a good tutorial! Thanks for the explanation. I'm going to pin this on my Pinterest board.

  2. I wish I were as neat a sewer as you! Great work! :)

  3. Hi Elisabeth, I hope I was able to make bias strips and covered welt cord a little easier for people to learn. It can be so confusing at first. Thanks for pinning it!!

  4. Hi Christina, I'm not always a neat me!! But thanks! Do you sew?

  5. Hi Jules, I'm loving your blog! I just found you over on Serenity Now. You do wonderful tutorials. I recently shared a quick shortcut for making bias strips on my blog. I'm no expert like you, but it helps me save some time. Check it out if you can...

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