How to Correctly Sew on Different Kinds of Trim

There is something truly magical about running different kinds of trim between your fingers. Each feels different, and each kind of trim will have its own way of being sewn to curtains or pillows. Knowing how to correctly sew different kinds of trim to different fabrics is a real art, and while learning the skills required can be challenging, it is possible to achieve a professional finish. 

No two kinds of trim are the same. Even when choosing trim in the same product line, you may experience a difference in thread thickness depending on the color of the trim. Sewing your chosen fabric trim to the curtain or pillow of your dreams is a meticulous process, but starting off on the bad foot will only end in disaster. So, do things right from the start.

Preparing to Sew Trim to Fabric

There are a few things to do before you even start sewing:

Choose the Right Cotton 

Trimmings are available in all the colors of the rainbow (and then some). When deciding to sew a colorful piece of trimming to your next home project, opt for the least conspicuous color thread to use. Usually, choosing a cotton thread the same color as the trim background is a safe bet. 

To match trim to cotton thread, take a small section of the trim to your local crafts shop or fabrics store that sells thread. Be sure to buy only the best cotton thread on the market as cheaper cotton will tangle, make knots, or become fragile over time, resulting in trimmings coming loose. 

Hold the section of trimming wrapped over your index and middle fingers. Take one single thread from the cotton spool, laying it on the trim. Now rotate the piece to see it from different angles. This will ensure the cotton thread won’t have unexpected reflective qualities when you sew the trim with it. 

Fast Rule: The right cotton is the one that becomes invisible when used to sew your trim in place. 

Pre-Shrink the Trimmings

Some trimmings are pre-shrunk, which means you can get straight into sewing. However, many other trimmings aren’t, and these will need to be pre-shrunk first. 

Take the entire length of trim, rolling it into a manageable bundle. Now, place the trim in an old sock and wash in lukewarm water with a small amount of detergent. Rinse and dry flat in a shady area for heavier trims, or hang the trim from your washing line for lighter trims. 

Once the trim is washed and dried, you are ready to measure, cut, pin, and sew. 

Measure the Trim for Your Project

The trim for your project can be measured now. For smaller projects, you may use a fabric measuring tape to determine the length you will require. However, if your project is quite large, such as with extra-length curtains, you may find that pinning the tape in place before cutting is a good idea. Be sure to have an extra two inches of tape to accommodate for the stretch and shrink of the tape.

Once you have the correct trim length, it’s time to pin the trim into place. 

Pin the Trim 

For this part of your project, it is a good idea to have a wide-open space where you can lay out your project and pin the trim step by step. However, many of us don’t have that wide space. 

In this case, you will need to work step by step with the trim. This is not ideal, but it is doable. 

Start by pinning your trim onto the first corner of the pillow or the top hem with a curtain. Next, pin every two inches of trim into place. If you are working with a large piece, you can pin it as you work. Be sure to keep the tension of the trim and the fabric at the same level. Pulling the trim will result in the fabric becoming tense. This can lead to unsightly bulges on the trim line. 

Fast rule: Ensure your pins face the sewing edge, while the pins don’t point toward you. This makes pulling pins out easier, and it is easier to tension the fabric correctly. 

Sewing Trim to Your Decor Project

Different kinds of trim have their own ways of attaching the trim to a fabric surface. 

When Sewing on Tape Trim

Depending on the broadness of the tape, you may sew the tape at the top and bottom edge to prevent the trim tape from bulging or pulling. When sewing tape to your accent pillows, you can even consider adding stuffing to the tape, filling it out like a padded ribbon. 

With tape, the important guide to follow is that what you do at the top, you do at the bottom. Use the same cotton thread at the top and bottom. For a silky tape or ribbon, the best option is to set your sewing machine to the size stitch that most resembles the tape’s own stitches or fabric weave. When in doubt, use a slightly larger stitch size, never smaller stitches. 

For corners, fold a box pleat, ironing the tape trim with a cool iron and a cotton square to define the shape before sewing. 

Some tape trims are made from bulky materials like natural sisal, and these can be more complicated to sew on. For bulky trim, using a larger stitch will ensure the fabric doesn’t pull and that the natural fibers remain intact. 

When Sewing on Cord 

Cord comes in two kinds: taped cord or plain cord. A plain cord is hardest to sew on and is usually done by hand. Taped cord has a flat fabric section that the cord is already attached to. This is much easier to sew and a popular treatment for pillows. 

Pin the taped cord in place as you would any tape, being sure that only the cord section will be visible when the pillow is finished. Sew the tape between the two sides of the pillow so the cord is on the outside. 

When Sewing on Rick Rack

Rick Rack is a wavy zig-zag tape that is popular for kitchen curtains. To sew this on, simply sew down the middle of the tape, letting the waves remain independent on either side of the central stitch line. 

When Sewing on a Single Tassel

While hugely popular with homeowners, having a single tassel at each of the four corners of an accent pillow can be tricky. The important thing when sewing a tassel to a pillow corner is to not sew the corner shut while making the pillow. 

Place the tassel inside the pillow casing so the tassel is on the right side of the pillow. Using a safety pin, pull the top loop of the tassel through the opening in the corner of the pillow. Next, sew across both the threads that the loop is made of. This is much like sewing a buttonhole. 

Reverse the pillow casing to place the right side on the outside. 

Your tassel is now sewn to the pillow in an invisible way. 

A Few Words on Sewing Trim

Trimmings may require that you sew slowly and pin everything in place to ensure you have enough trim for your project. This is time-consuming but so worth it. A great trim can really make or break a decor scheme. Trim will only look professional if it is attached correctly so take the time and do it right.

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