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Quilt Binding Tutorial
Instructions for a Double Fold Binding
You have finished piecing the patchwork for the top of the quilt, choosing your backing, and quilting your quilt. Congratulations! Only one big finishing step and your quilt will be ready to use or give as a gift. That step is to bind your quilt.
What is a quilt binding?
The binding of a quilt is the narrow piece of fabric along the edge of the quilt. Its function is to protect not only the inside of the quilt, the batting, from fraying or coming out, but also the edge of the top and backing.
Many quilters get stuck at this stage because binding is a different process from piecing the top or quilting the quilt.
Double Fold Binding
Binding the quilt is actually a pretty easy process. All you have to do is take a strip of fabric, fold it in half, sew the raw edge to the front, fold the other side to the back and sew that side down. There are other ways to apply finish a quilt, but most quilts are bound in this way.
This article will provide step by step directions on how to bind a quilt, along with lots of pictures and videos that help show the entire process. The reason I have told you the steps up front instead of leaving you in suspense is because I am going to explain everything thoroughly, and I want you to remember that it really is a pretty easy process. You can watch the video for a quick overview, or read this article for detailed step-by-step directions on how to apply a double fold binding.
This article also provides extra information that other binding tutorials do not.
1. Quality inspection steps are added at places where may have the most trouble. If you check your work at this stage, you will avoid a lot of time in ripping out your stitches, and aggravation and frustration of having made an error.
2. The most commonly forgotten step is also included, so you can remember it at just the right time. Many quilters, including myself, forget this step until it is too late, and then they have to go through extra effort that includes sewing by hand.
3. A bonus step is also included that will help you reduce extra bulk at the corners. This step hasn't been seen before in any other binding tutorial.
Ways to Bind Your Quilt
Why Use a Double Fold Binding?
The edges of a quilt take the most wear and tear as compared to any other part of the quilt. That's the part most people will touch as they are picking up and folding the quilt. It's the part that will drag on the floor whether it is on a bed or being moved from one area to another. It is the part that the baby is going to chew on while she is sleeping.
Since it is going to take the most abuse, it can use some extra assistance. When you apply a double fold binding, you have two layers of fabric at the very edge. This way, as the first layer wears down, there is another layer that continues to protect the quilt.
A single fold binding, on the other hand, is fine for quilts that are not expected to get a lot of wear and tear. That heirloom quilt or wall hanging might do just fine with a single fold binding. Especially if it is a small quilt, a single fold finding will help keep the edges from being too bulky, making it a better choice for curved edges like scallops. Personally, I find that a double fold binding is easier to apply, so I basically use it for all of my quilts.
Just so that you are aware of all of your options, you can finish a quilt without applying a binding at all. You can sew around all the edges before quilting, leaving a small space to turn it right side out before quilting and closing the small space. Or you can fold the backing over to the front.
All of these methods will work well to enclose your quilt, but since the double fold binding will provide the most security for your quilt, the directions in this article will show you step by step how to make it.
Prepare the Quilt for Binding
Trim the raw edges of the quilt
Now that you have decided to use a double fold binding, you can trim off the excess batting and backing from the quilt, using a rotary cutter and a ruler on a cutting board. You want to make sure that your line is nice and straight. I like to line up my ruler with something that is straight on the quilt, generally a border or sashing, so that I can make sure that that the quilt will be nice and square.
Pay particular attention to the corners of the quilt as you trim. You want to make sure that you have a nice 90 degree angle at the corners. If your corners are not cut perfectly square, you may have difficulty getting your binding to miter correctly at the corners.
This is what your quilt looks like after you have trimmed your sandwich. The top and the backing look great, but the batting on the inside is showing. It's naked, better hide it quickly!
Step Right Up for Fabric Auditions
Auditioning fabric is a great technique to use in choosing what fabric to use in your quilt. Choose a variety of fabrics that may work, and place them together in different combinations to see how they look as a group.
For the binding fabric, I would place the quilt top on top of the binding fabric, with just a little bit of the binding fabric showing. In this way, I can see the impact it is having on the quilt. Sometimes the binding fabric will tend to emphasize a particular color on the top, which can be wonderful or terrible, depending on your taste.
Taking digital pictures can work wonders to help you remember how they looked, and to make these comparisons. Once you have chosen a combination, I like to keep it out on the table so I can look at it throughout the day under different lighting conditions. I only start cutting and sewing when I am truly satisfied with the combination I have chosen.
It is a joy to work with a fabric combination that you are excited to use. It helps keep up the momentum during the more tedious parts of the process.
How to Choose Fabric for Your Quilt Binding
Okay, now that I have convinced you to use a double fold binding, let's choose the fabric for the binding.
It is important to select the right fabric for your binding. First of all, as we discussed, there is the durability factor. Use a quality fabric that can take the abuse, but be sure to use the same type of quality that you have used throughout the quilt. If you use 100% cotton for the quilt, as most quilters do, you will want to use 100% cotton for the binding. Otherwise they will wear and age at different rates, which will look strange in the long run.
Second, even though the binding takes a very small amount of space on the quilt overall, it makes a big visual impact. You want to choose a binding that reflects the type of impact and mood you want for your quilt. A calm smoothing quilt will have a soft, lighter colored fabric, while a happy cheerful quilt will use bright bold colors. You can choose either the fabric in the outer border so it blends in with the border if you don't want it to stand out.
You can use the same fabric as you used when you pieced the top to make sure they coordinate. You can even piece different scraps together to create your binding. You may want to provide a highlight color. A black and white quilt, for example, looks stunning with a red binding.
You may want to consider using a darker color binding, especially one with a pattern, so that it will not show stains as much.
Prepare the Binding Fabric
Now that you have selected the binding fabric, it is almost time to cut the binding strips. First you need to decide how wide you want the strips to be. This depends on the width of your seam allowance and your personal preference.
A normal seam allowance in quilting is 1/4". That is a quarter of an inch. I use a walking foot to apply the binding because it works better to feed all the different layers through the machine. The walking foot does not have a guide that tells me where the quarter inch is. I have found a place on the walking foot that is close to a quarter inch, and it works just fine for me. So far, nobody has brought out their measuring tape or ruler to make sure that my binding is the appropriate size. If you submit a quilt to a quilt show, you may want to check the guidelines for that particular show.
How Much Binding Fabric Do You Need?
Take the width of the strips times the number of strips you need to cut to determine how much fabric you will need for the binding. As a general rule of thumb, Quilters Newsletter recommends a total of 3/4 yard for a twin or double size quilt, 7/8 yard for a queen size quilt, and one yard for a king size quilt.
As a result though, my seam allowance is slightly more than a quarter of an inch. When I cut my binding strip, I want to make sure that the strip is big enough. There are actually six layers of this strip on the quilt. So, you can take the amount of your seam allowance and multiply it by six for the number of layers to determine the minimum amount of the strip. I like to add a little bit extra for the fold and to make sure I can completely cover the seam allowance on the back. I would rather have my binding be wide on the back, where hardly anyone will even see it, than to have the seam allowance showing on the back.
I cut the width of the strips to 2 1/4" as you can see in the photo. You may want to use 2 or 2 1/2", and that would be perfectly acceptable as well.
You can measure the perimeter of your quilt to decide how many binding strips you need, but I generally don't do that. I just use one strip to estimate how many more I need.
After you have cut the strip, lay it on your quilt top and decide how many strips you need. You will need some extra length, about six to twelve inches for the corners and for joining the ends. Round the number up to the nearest whole strip. You can always use any extra binding on another quilt. Then cut that many remaining strips.
Once you have all the strips cut, trim off all the selvages. The selvages are sewn denser than the rest of the fabric. They create bulk in the binding, and will not age gracefully with the rest of the quilt. I generally trim a quarter inch past the white selvage strip to be sure that the entire selvage is cut off. Please note that not all selvages have a white strip. Sometimes there is denser threads in the same design, and other times there are holes in this area. Be sure to trim the selvage from both sides of the binding strip even if they are not white.
Now you are ready to join all your strips together to make one big long piece of fabric. You can join them to each other across the width, but joining them diagonally will more evenly distribute the bulk of the join across the quilt. This is also the preferred method for quilt judges, so you'll be prepared in case you decide later to submit your quilt to a quilt show. You might as well practice it this way since it doesn't take any extra time.
Take an end of one strip, and place it right sides together with the end of another strip, at a 90 degree angle. You can pin it at the corner if you would like. You can also mark your sewing line if you would like.
Sew Binding Strips Together
Sew diagonally from corner to corner. Don't sew into the crotch, ewww! You will not get a correctly long strip if you do that.
This is a good time for our first quality inspection step. Once you have joined two strips together, simply take them out of the machine and open them to make sure that the two strips now look like one continuous strip.
If you sewed into the crotch, or if the strips are not properly lined up, use a seam ripper and redo them.
Once you are satisfied with the results, go ahead and join all the strips together, so you have one long piece of fabric. Do not sew the beginning and end to each other. Once you have made sure all the seams are properly sewn, trim off the triangular bits, leaving a quarter inch seam allowance, and press the seams open with an iron.
Fold and Press
Then fold a section of the strip in half lengthwise, and press with the iron. Then move on to the next section. You want to fold the entire strip lengthwise and wind up with one very long, very skinny strip of fabric.
Watch your fingers; while you are focusing on folding your fabric lengthwise, it is easy to lose focus on your fingers and burn them with the iron. You can use ironing gloves, or simply finger press the fabric before pressing with an iron.
Before you start sewing your binding strip to the quilt, it is time to make some decisions about the future of the quilt. There are some things that are easier done before the binding is sewn on, and you might as well think of them now.
Many quilters, including myself, forget this important step, and then sew the label and hanging sleeve by hand. Since the flange cannot be added later, we have to either forgo the flange, or rip out the hanging sleeve and start all over again.
If you want to add a decorative strip to the front of the quilt called a flange or peeper, you can baste it all around the front of the quilt before you attach the binding.
A quilt label is a very important thing to add to a quilt. If you sew it into a corner of the quilt, you can avoid having to sew two of the sides by hand. In this case, you can baste it into the bottom corner, using slightly less than 1/4" seam allowance before adding the binding.
If you are making a wall hanging, you may want to attach the top edge of the hanging sleeve to the back of the quilt at this time, so you do not have to sew the entire sleeve by hand.
In all of these cases, you will be basting these extras to the edge of the quilt, using slightly less than a 1/4" seam allowance so that the seam allowance will not be visible after you attach the binding.
If you are going to submit your quilt to a quilt show, you will need to read the directions about their specifications about the size of the hanging sleeve, or the information contained on the label.
Once you have considered all these things, and basted all the extras you wanted to baste to the quilt, it is finally time to attach the binding.
Attach the Binding
Your quilt is ready now, and so is your binding strip. Now it is almost time to sew them together.
Find an inconspicuous place - I generally start from the right side, since people are more likely to look at the top and left side of the quilt, and the bottom may be show issues. Stay away from the corners. In the case of my quilt, the top and the bottom are a different fabric than the binding strip, and the left and right have the same fabric. I have decided to start on the right side. I try not to start exactly in the middle of the side, opting for a less conspicuous place.
Here's a step I haven't seen in other binding tutorials. The first thing you want to do is to lay your strip around the quilt and decide where you want to start sewing the strip. Just lay it over the perimeter of the quilt as you imagine where each section will be. This is just an estimate, so there is no reason to be exact. In this way, you will ensure that you have enough length. You will also be able to see where the joins of the strip will be in relationship with the corners of your quilt. You want to place the strip so that the joining seams are not at the corners. If you see that the place where the strips are joined is coming close to a corner, move the beginning place slightly up or down so that the joins are not close to any of the corners. This will eliminate bulk at the corners.
Now, that we have found the idea place to start our strip, we are ready to sew. Leave a few inches of the beginning of the binding strip loose. You are going to use this part to attach the end of the strip. I am starting about one third of the way from the top on the right side. Please note that in the picture the binding strip is slightly to the left so that you can see all the layers. You will have line up your strip right on top of the quilt sandwich so that it is properly aligned on the right.
Sew a few inches using a walking foot. Keep the binding strip smooth and evenly fed with the quilt. Do not pull or stretch it. After you have sewn about 6 to 8 inches, leave the needle down and stop sewing.
This is another good time for a quality inspection. Look at the work and see if your seam allowance is big enough or too big. Make sure that your sewing is properly securing all the layers of the quilt. Also make sure that when you fold the binding to the other side, it will just cover the stitches you just made. Make any adjustments you want to make now in the seam allowance before going any further.
Once you are satisfied with your quality inspection, you can continue sewing. See the next step to see what to do when you get to the corner.
Mitered Corners When Binding
The key to having smooth mitered corners is to make sure that the intersection between the two seams match up correctly. Mark with a pin or marking pen where the seam allowance is. The seam allowance should be the same measurement for all of the sides. Once you get to that mark, you can stop sewing and back tack, or you can sew across to the corner like I do.
If you look carefully at the photo above, you will see that I could have sewn one more stitch before I veered off to the corner. My last stitch is not even with the pin. This one stitch can make a difference in how good your mitered corner looks. If you are making this quilt for a gift or a charity, chances are pretty good that teething grandchild will not notice the difference. If, however, you are going to submit this quilt to a quilt show, you will want to go back and take that extra stitch. In this case, you will not have to rip out any stitches. Just add some on top of the ones that are already there, only this time, add that one stitch before veering off into the corner.
The video on the right provides some extra tips for the corners. She is using a single fold binding, but the method works for both ways.
Once you have sewn off the corner or back tacked, you can move the quilt out from under the needle. The following steps are pretty easy, but the photos will show you in slow motion each step of the process. Turn the quilt so the next side you will be sewing is on the right. Then take the loose part of the strip and fold it upwards so you have a nice 45 degree angle on your strip. The raw edge of the binding strip should be in a straight line to the raw edge of your quilt.
Remove the pin you were using to mark the stopping point. You don't want to sew over any pins, because that could break your needle, or damage electronic parts of your machine.
Now, leaving the previous fold intact, fold the strip down so that it lines up evenly along what is temporarily the top edge of the quilt.
This is what it looks like from the side, so you can see the folds.
Starting from the top edge, continue sewing down the entire length of the side until you get to the next corner.
Then follow the steps listed above to sew the next corner. Notice that I have a seam from the binding strip at the corner because I did not follow the directions about choosing the best place to start. With that step in the right place at the tutorial, you will avoid this error and learn from my mistake. If you did skip that step and have this issue, don't worry, it will work out all right, as long as you are not submitting your quilt to a quilt show.
Joining the Beginning and End of the Binding Strip
After you have sewn all around the quilt, including all four corners, you will find yourself where you started.
There is a way to measure and sew these ends together with a machine, and you should use this method if you are submitting a quilt to a quilt show. Since I make lots of quilts that don't get submitted to shows, I simply sew this last join by hand when I am sewing the binding in place. This is how I do that.
I estimate how much excess I have at the end of my strip, remembering that the beginning of the strip will be folded down to hide the raw edge. Then I trim off the long end of the strip at an angle, making sure I err on the side of not trimming enough instead of trimming too much. I can tuck any excess inside the beginning of the strip.
Tuck the end of the strip into the beginning of the strip. Make sure the end is actually inside the beginning strip and not simply underneath it. Smooth everything out so it is nice and straight and sew them down to the quilt.
Fold down the beginning strip to hide the raw edge.
How to Hand Sew Binding to the Back
I trim off the extra hairy threads from the binding at this point, being very careful not to cut into the fabric. These threads probably will be hidden in the binding, unless the binding is a light fabric, and the threads are darker, but it provides an extra touch, and shows that little bit of love and attention that you put into each quilt.
Then turn the fold of the binding to the back, and sew it down. You can do it by machine as shown in the video above, or by hand, like I do. This video will help provide you step by step directions on two different methods to sew the other side of your binding by hand. I use the first method since it is more secure.
Binding a Quilt Tutorial
There are several different ways to finish a quilt, and a double-fold binding is the most popular, followed by the single-fold binding. Both of these methods cover up the batting, and provide a nice neat edge for your quilt. By following the instructions provided in this tutorial, you will be able to make add a double-fold binding to your quilt with neat mitered corners. I hope you were able to save some time and frustration by doing the quality inspections, and by getting the reminders about the hanging sleeve and quilt label in a timely manner.
As you get practice, you will find methods that work better for you, and you will find preferences about what you want your quilt binding to look like. I hope you try out these techniques in your next quilt and enjoy the quilting process.