How to Sew Decorative Trim

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Add personality to your upholstery, pillows or curtains by sewing on decorative trim. Choose from the many different types widely available -- brush or tassel fringe, cord or welt, or one of the many styles of gimp, braid or border. Most decorative trim is based on designs first created in the 17th and 18th centuries, with modern updates that incorporate glass beads, shells and semiprecious stones.

Things You'll Need

  • Straight Pins
  • Measuring Tape
  • Scissors
  • Thimble
  • Sharp Hand-Sewing Needle
  • Thread

Measure the length of the area where you want to apply the decorative trim. You can use a metal measuring tape for fabric yardage or flat items, like curtain panels or sofa skirt bottoms. Use a fabric measuring tape for items you have to measure around, like stuffed pillows. Avoid pulling the tape too tight -- it's better to overestimate how much you need than underestimate.

Cut a length of decorative trim 1/2 inch longer than your measurement. If the trim has tassels or brush fringe that are basted together, be careful not to let the basting thread unravel after you cut your trim.

Pin the trim to your fabric or item with straight pins. Pin the plain lip of welt or cord to the wrong side of your fabric. Most fringes have decorative flanges. Pin those to the side of your fabric that will face out, the "right" side. Pin gimp, braid and borders to the right side also. Leave 1/4 inch of trim free and unpinned on each end.

Fold under the 1/4-inch trim ends and pin them, so you don’t have unsightly raw edges left over. Cut off any tassels or beaded fringe hanging from the folded-under parts of the trim. Don’t cut off brush fringe under the folded edges; it won’t show.

Hand-sew the decorative trim to your fabric or item. Stitch along the top and bottom of flanges, gimp, braid and borders. Stitch lips on the edge closest to the welt or cord. Use a size seven to eight sharp needle for thick, braided flanges and trims, or a size two to three sharp needle for fabric or ribbon flanges and trims. Use thread that matches the dominant color and the sheen of the trim. Sew down the raw ends of the trim as well, so they won't unravel.

Remove the straight pins. Pull out any original basting threads that came on the trim.


  • Use a blind hem stitch to sew fabric and ribbon trims to fabric yardage or flat, unlined items like curtain panels.

    Use a pickstitch to sew trim to stuffed or lined items, and to sew heavy, braided trim to fabric yardage and flat, unlined items.

    When sewing trim to lined items, catch only the face fabric with your needle, not the lining.

    You can machine-sew cord or welt to raw fabric yardage, but hand-sew it if you’re attaching it to curtain panels, pillow cases or any other item already made.


  • Use a thimble to save your fingertips from pricks when sewing thick trim or heavy fabric.