“Piping and Welting”

Sewing terms sometimes change depending on the type of sewing being discussed.  For instance, piping and welting are two names for the same thing; one name for the world of garment construction and one name for the world of home décor.  I was at a family gathering today in honor of Mother’s Day and I was talking to a relative about making a head board for the bed in her son’s room.  She was asking me about the process of construction and as I was explaining the sequence of steps, I mentioned she would probably want to use welt around the edges of the headboard to reduce the wear that might occur on the edges of the fabric as it wrapped around the board.  She wasn’t familiar with the term “welt” but when I said it was the same thing as piping, she immediately knew what I was talking about.  The difference between welting and piping is its use and the size of the cording that is encased inside the fabric.

From left to right: Cording for piping, cording for welt and cording for extra large welt. You will recognize the extra large welting as an accent found on many throw pillows.

Piping is for garments and usually uses a cording that is quite small in diameter.   This makes sense since it is found as an accent around sleeves, princess seams, the edges of linings, necklines, etc. where a larger cording might be uncomfortable to wear.  Welt, on the other hand, is found around the edges of throw pillows, the boxing of cushions and the outlines of furniture.  It is decorative, but also has a functional use.  Welting extends the life of an upholstered piece, cushion or pillow by taking the constant wear away from the seam.  It usually takes longer to wear out the welting than it would the cushion seam, so the item lasts longer.  No matter what you are using it for, remember that the piping or welting, if it is going to be going around curves or rounded edges, must be made from material cut on the bias.  If you neglect this important step you will be very unhappy with your final results.