Stapling upholstery single piping onto chair with a staple gun

A step-by-step single piping guide for chair reupholstery

Piping is used as a finish for many upholstery projects, so it’s an essential skill to learn. As well as being used frequently on boxed cushions and scatter cushions, you’re likely to come across it on a whole range of traditional and modern upholstered furniture.

In this easy to follow masterclass, we’ll focus on single piping attached to chairs and not cushions.

What is single piping?

Single piping is used as a border on the outside back and sides of chairs and sofas, to slip stitch the outside back panel or outside side panel of fabric onto the chair. It has many other uses, but this is its top job and the most common place you’ll come across it.

I also like single piping as a close. It allows you to add a flourish, plus maybe a pop of contrast colour or pattern. With patterned fabric, it acts like a breaker for the eyes when the design from the side of the chair doesn’t quite line up with the back panel. If the chair isn’t perfectly straight for example, single piping will stop this seeming so noticeable. It’s also a great detail to add, to accentuate the curves of a more decorative piece.

Top tips

  • Never underestimate how much fabric you need to pipe a chair or sofa – it’s more than you think.
  • I rarely cut piping strips on the bias. It uses more fabric and if you’re pattern matching piping, sewing on the bias wouldn’t work. Cutting on the bias, however, does make the piping more flexible around corners.
  • Piping cord comes in a few different thicknesses. I tend to go bigger on single piping and thinner when it’s going to become double piping. I also judge it based on the thickness of the fabric and take the thickness of the piping down if the fabric is a thick velvet.
  • Some chairs need reams of piping cord. In this case, you need to join two pieces of fabric together to create one long strip of piping. If you want to create a more continuous piping, I tend to always go up the length of the fabric roll to avoid too many fabric joins.

Step-by-step to perfect single piping

1. To create piping, you need a zipper foot or a single piping foot on your sewing machine. A zipper foot allows you to get closer to the cord and use different thickness of single piping, but a single piping foot is a must have if you’re doing lots of upholstery or upcycling. I’m using a single piping foot. Measure the area of your chair that needs piping, I use my piping cord as the measure. Cut fabric strips 1.5” wide and measure out your piping cord to the same length.

Upholstery fabric with scissors and string ready for single piping

2. Put your single piping foot or zipper foot on your machine. Here, I’m using a single piping foot on my trusty domestic Frister Rossman sewing machine.

Upholstery metal joining with scissors ready for single piping

3. Put the piping cord in the centre of the fabric strip and fold in half.

Upholstery piping chord wrapped in fabric with scissors nearby

4. Place under the single piping foot, with the corded section under the foot, and off you go! Be careful not to add too much tension. Do a section at a time and keep folding the fabric in half, making sure that the fabric is meeting at the raw edge and that the cord is going through the foot evenly.

Upholstery fabric being used with sewing machine for single piping

Upholstery fabric being used with sewing machine for single piping

5. Voila! You have a section of single piping cord to add to your project. When finished, I don’t trim the excess as this is used to staple the piping to your project.

Upholstery single piping with scissors

6. Always check that the piping fits the piece of furniture before you attach it. You don’t want to get near the end and realise that you’ve made a mistake with your measurements. When you’re sure, attach the beginning of your piping with your staple gun, making sure that it will be hidden, i.e. under the frame of the chair.

7. Cut some back tack strip to the length of your first section. Place the back tack on top of the excess fabric from your piping and secure with staples every couple of inches. This secures the piping onto the chair and stops the piping rolling.

Stapling upholstery single piping onto chair

8. Continue to secure all the way around using the back tack. At corners, cut into the excess of the piping so that it’s more flexible around the corner. Do the same with the back tack strip too. Keep checking your placement to ensure that it’s straight and consistent. Check the piping placement from all angles, not just the back at eye level. Place the chair on the floor and check from above, the front and sides.

9. Now you’re ready to attach a panel of fabric to the back or side of your chair, depending on the design of your project. More on this another time.

Once you’ve mastered single piping, you can move on to double piping, which is a great addition to projects where you need a finish next to bare wood. I’ll cover that – along with some of your other most essential upholstery skills – here on the blog soon. Sign up in the footer to make sure you get the latest tips, news and stories delivered straight to your inbox.

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