Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Today's Technique - Binding

Today we're going to machine bind, just in case you wondered how to go about doing that.

Measure the perimeter of your quilt. That would be the length plus the width, doubled. Add 15 to this measurement. Take this number and divide by 42". You will need one more strip of binding than the resulting number. (For example, if you ended up with 4.2, you'll need five.) With the fabric still folded like it was when it came off the bolt, cut width of fabric strips (selvage to fold) that measure 2 1/4". Connect these end to end with a 45 degree angle to reduce bulk. Press connecting seams before cutting to 1/4". Spray the wrong side with starch or sizing. Press in half, wrong-sides (non-printed sides) together to make a skinnier strip.

I square up my quilt tops before quilting. After quilting, I cut the batting and backing 1/4" larger than the quilt top and as square as possible using a 20 1/2" square ruler for the corners and a 6" x 24" ruler for what remains. I make sure all parts of the quilt top are 1/4" from the edge of the batting or closer. Otherwise, I need to square up small enough to make this occur. If I don't, my binding may not catch the quilt top in this spot and batting will be exposed. The reason I leave the 1/4" of batting extended from the quilt is so that the binding is filled instead of flat and empty. I do clip the corners of the batting outside the 1/4" to remove excess bulk.

I begin sewing a 1/4" seam on my least likely to be visible side of the quilt. Leave roughly 10" free and do not backstitch when you start. The raw edge of the binding should line up with the raw edge of the quilt. You can use a walking foot to increase the likelihood of even feeding on top and bottom, so long as you keep a straight 1/4" stitch line. I also wear Machingers gloves to get a better grip during the process. If your machine has needle down, now's the time to employ it. If using a regular presser foot,  I adjust my needle position so it is 1/4" from the right edge of my foot so that I can follow the raw edges of the binding with the foot.

I continually check with my Add-A-Quarter ruler to make sure the binding is 1/4" from the edge of the batting in case the quilt top wavers a little in its distance from the edge of the batting.

When you come to a corner, fold the binding to the right, making a 90 degree angle. If the diagonal angle continued, it should go to the corner of the quilt. Press with your finger. 

Fold back open. Continue stitching until you get to the fold line.

 Lift the presser foot with the needle down, pivot, put the foot back down, and stitch following the line diagonally off the binding.

 Refold the binding. Then, fold it back on itself along the next side. The fold should be even with the raw edge of the binding. The binding should still be 1/4" away from the edge of the batting. Stitching should be 1/2" from the edge of the batting. 

Starting at the edge of the batting, begin stitching 1/4" away from the raw edges of the binding.

I use my seam ripper to make sure the top layer of binding doesn't squirm ahead of the layer touching the quilt top.

When you get close to where you started, quit stitching when you have at least 10" of binding hanging lose. Cut off the excess leaving at least a 3" overlap.

Open up one end. Fold at a 45 degree angle. 

Lay the other end inside.


Reach inside and pinch the wrong sides of the fabric and pull outward. You should be holding the folded over triangle and the layer of fabric just above it. Pin this in place.

Buckle the quilt over onto itself and safety pin so it is no longer pulling the binding tight. Mark the diagonal line. The extra length of binding should be off to your right. Pin on the right and left side of this line.

Sew on the line. If you look closely, you can see my orange and green pin heads and how my quilt is folded over to give me room to get the binding into the machine.

Lay the quilt out again and inspect to see if the binding lays flat. Repeat the process it is too loose or too tight.

If it's just right, press the seam open.

Cut to 1/4".

Lay the binding back into place.

Restarch and press. Sew the remaing length of binding onto the front of the quilt. Then, press the binding away from the quilt top to make it easier to roll to the back.

At the corners, fold the binding so the bulk is distributed evenly. Feel with your fingers to see which side is thicker. Make the overlap on the back got on the opposite side of the miter.

Lovely (the quilt miter, not my thumb).

Make a quilters knot by pinching the eye of the needle between your right forefinger and thumb, wrapping the thread around the needle clockwise from back to front, and pulling the needle through the knot with your left hand. 


Poke the needle through the batting and the very edge of the binding.

Travel through the batting without poking through the quilt top. Come up through the edge of the binding. Go back in just above where you came out (on the backing) and travel through the batting again. Repeat while watching numerous movies. Don't use a thread longer than you arm or it will tangle, knot, and break. Please believe me; I tried, and it wasn't fun.

Alternatively, you can machine stitch the back by stitching in the ditch on the top using top thread that blends with the quilt top and thread that matches the binding in the bobbin. I glue down the binding in this case so it doesn't slip out. Check out Sharon Schamber's video tutorial for more information. You'll also need glue tips.


  1. Great tutorial, Afton! And you thumb is pretty cute, too. I do love binding. It's my favourite part of making a quilt!

  2. Really excellent directions - especially for doing corners - and plenty of great pictures to help out visually. Thanks!