Upholstery: Gimp, Nails and Welting

Upholstery Gimp, Nails and Welting

While discussing furniture upholstery projects with folks, we often ask "How is the fabric finished off along the edge of the frame?"  ... [insert pause while sifting for vocabulary] ... and "Twin piping" comes as the answer.  We get it.  People are generally not schooled in the names of the various upholstery edge treatments - and don't need the trade vocabulary to communicate with an upholsterer.

When and why of upholstery edge treatments

On upholstered furniture with an exposed wood frame the fabric is stapled up to the edge of the exposed wood.  Sometimes there is an edge or a lip cut into the frame to receive the thickness of the upholstery materials.  The edge treatment (also called 'finishing treatment', also called 'trimming' - don't worry, I'm confused, too) conceals and protects the raw cut edge of the fabric.  Edge treatments provide a clean finished look and reinforce the stapled edge from pulling and fraying.  Among the methods that evolved to address this issue, the most common are gimp, nails and welting.


Gimp - the basic edge treatment

Gimp is a woven decorative ribbon or tape. Some traditional upholsterers call it "braid".  It usually has a wavy or scrolled pattern, but can have other patterns - geometric and striped are common.  Gimp can be a single color or several colors for more decorative accents. Gimp is often used where the wood frame is more delicate and the fabric lip is shallow or missing. It is applied by specialty tacks, glue or stitching (or any combination.)

  Plain scrolled gimp for shallow edges and light frames.

Plain scrolled gimp for shallow edges and light frames.


Gimp with nails - decorative and functional


Gimp can pull away from the fabric under moderate use - even if it is stitched in place.  Clothing pulls against the edges of the gimp - like on seat edges, arms, and low backs.  Enter upholstery nails.  The wider heads of the nails support the gimp.  That is their function.  Beyond function, the decorative possibilities of upholstery nails has gained them the name "decorative nails".  Available in many, many styles, sizes and finishes - they have design possibilities beyond their simple function. 

  Nails support the gimp while creating a decorative element.

Nails support the gimp while creating a decorative element.

In this instance the nails are alternate spaced to allow more of the gimp to show, providing a lighter look.

Head to head nails

  Head-to-head nails emphasize the weight of the frame.

Head-to-head nails emphasize the weight of the frame.

Here the nails touch head-to-head.  This classic treatment is more suitable for larger, heavier frames.  It gives a clear separation between wood and fabric, emphasizing the sweep of the frame.  Over fabric, head-to-head nails often lie over gimp even though very little of the gimp shows.  This is to hide any strands from the cut edge of the fabric.  The cleaner cut of leather edges usually allows the nails to be used alone on leather work.

Welting (also known as cording)

Welting - or cording - is made from a strip of fabric sewn around a light braided cord.  As a finishing treatment, "double welt" is the most common.  Double welt is made with two cords.  Single cord welt can be used where the furniture has a groove cut into the frame to hide the 'tail' of the sewn assembly.  Welting is stapled, tacked or glued over the raw fabric edge, snugging against the exposed frame.  The size of the cord and fabric thickness establish the visual weight of welting.  Again, decorating possibilities of welting are realized by coordinating or contrasting fabrics or by reversing the face fabric where possible. 

  Double welting along a heavier frame.    Read the back-story of this project.

Double welting along a heavier frame.   Read the back-story of this project.

Double welting with a heavy cord can overpower delicate frames - yielding a raised look.

  Double welting on a lighter frame.

Double welting on a lighter frame.

A nice trimming for leather

We are used to seeing head-to-head nails or cording as an edge treatment on leather.  Here's a nice alternative that acts like a gimp for leather.  We sewed an edge 'tape' from the leather, anchoring it with alternate spaced nails.  The treatment finishes the edge and transitions the fabric into the frame without adding a 'heavy' visual accent.

  Upholstery nails over a shop-made edge tape - in leather.

Upholstery nails over a shop-made edge tape - in leather.

Thanks for reading!  You're now more prepared than most to answer "How is the fabric finished off along the edge of the frame?"  Use the comments below or Contact page if you have any additional questions.


The furniture workshop of JH Conklin & Co. upholsters furniture for people and businesses throughout Southern New Jersey, Delaware, Philadelphia metro and the southern shore areas. The workshop also provides custom window treatment and fabric resources.


Our general service area includes: Gloucester County, Camden County, Burlington County, Cape May County, Atlantic County, Cumberland County, Salem County, NJ; Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia county in Pennsylvania; and New Castle County DE.  #NJupholstery