Thursday, June 5, 2014

Quilt Binding Tutorial - hand and machine stitched

Today I am sharing a tutorial for binding a regular quilt using a double fold binding cut on the straight of the grain (not a bias binding) using either hand or machine stitching. There are lots of ways to bind quilts and I plan to make some additional tutorials over the next while for:
  • single fold straight of grain binding - I use this on my mini quilts
  • bias binding - especially useful for quilts with irregular edges
There are many excellent tutorials for making binding and my techniques are not my invention but rather how I bind a quilt after assimilating all the excellent teachings available to me online and in person.

Recently a wise person said to me, if a person makes a pattern, they should do the work of making tutorials for the techniques, not refer their purchasers to othe people's work. She is so right, so as I am now selling patterns, it is time for me to share this technique here.

Double Fold Straight of Grain Binding, hand and machine stitched:

After quilting your quilt, pillow or other project, carefully square up the edges. I do this by first getting a good 90 degree angle on one corner of the quilt. I use a square or rectangular ruler and measure off a piece of the quilt design. For this quilt you can see that I used 8" from the centre motif. I trim the corner first.

Continue trimming along the sides of the quilt, both measuring from your piecing reference and also making sure that your cut line remains parallel. You should trim the quilt slowly and carefully, especially if you have points that you want to keep right at the edge of the quilt. If you are working on a small area - right now I do all my trimming on a 36" square mat - make sure that your quilt is bunched up and not hanging over the edges of your table as it's weight will pull your edges out of line.

When I am finished trimming, I check my edges by folding the quilt in half each way. If there is a noticeable wiggle, I re-trim that edge. This is a matter of preference mostly. If you quilt is not going to every have to hang on a wall, a small wobble will never be noticed by people cuddling up in it, especially since people are not flat.

I cut 2.5" binding strips most of the time, but 2.25" strips can also usually work. Start with wider strips and if you find you don't like the width of the binding on the back of the quilt, then try a narrower or wider strip next time.

You need enough strips so that your binding, when sewn together, is as long as the total length of the 4 edges of your quilt plus at least 10". In math terms that is 2 x (length + width) + 10" = length of binding required. If cutting from yardage, take the total inches of binding and divide that by 40" to get the number of strips I need to cut. If you are working from scraps, either measure the scraps or measure the length of the overall binding as you add more to it.

Sew the strips together so that you have one continuous long binding strip. I just sew them across the grain as shown. Many folks join the strips at 45 degree angles so that there the thicker spot where seams join does not fall back to back on the binding. This is an excellent idea but I as I tend to go for a modern industrial sort of look I don't bother. You should do as you like.

Press the long strip of binding in half with the right sides facing out.

I stop and press the joining seams open and then continue pressing the binding in half with right sides facing out.

I then take my binding in a big messy clump to the sewing machine. If you are not going to use it right away, or you just like organization, you can roll it up nicely.

Lay your quilt right side facing up at your sewing machine, so that you can start attaching the binding at least a foot from the corner (or half way along the edge if you are making a small piece). Starting about 10" from the beginning of the binding strip, lay your binding along the raw edge of the quilt, with the raw edge of the quilt and the raw edge of the binding matching as shown.

You will need that extra 10" of unsewn binding at the start to finish the binding, so don't forget to leave it (or you will be ripping it out later).

I stitch the binding on 1/4" from the edge of the quilt. If you prefer a wider binding showing on the front, stitch 1/2" or more from the edge of the quilt. However, if you are stitching more than 1/2" from the edge, you will need to make your binding strips wider to start with.

Many people pin or use clips to lay their binding around the quilt before they start sewing. I find this a both unnecessary and also impractical as I get poked by pins/clips. Also as I go I find that I laid it out either too tightly or loosely and need to keep adjusting. So I just sew slowly and lay the binding in place along the edge as I go.

I use a slightly longer stitch length than my usual one (3.0 on my Janome Horizon, my usual stitch is 2.20). As I am sewing through the three layers of the quilt and two thicknesses of my binding fabric, the longer stitch gives some extra room for the thread to pass through all those layers.

I also use my walking foot to apply the binding. The walking foot allows the quilt to feed both on the top using the foot and underneath using the feed dogs. The stitches are more even and don't pucker, and the fabric does not stretch. The principle is the same for straight line quilting on a quilt - the walking foot makes a big difference in the resulting stitch. I have a walking foot with a quarter inch seam guide so I use that but a regular walking foot works just fine.

As I approach the end of the side of the quilt, I lay out the binding to the end and then I place a pin 1/4" from the end of that side. I mark this spot as when I am sewing close to it I can no longer see or feel the edge well given the size of the walking foot.

I sew along the edge to the pin. Then I backstitch a few stitches and cut the thread. I often take the pin out just as I get to it to avoid the possibility of breaking the needle but I have left it there for you to see.

Many people end differently at the corners. One popular approach is to stop at this same point about 1/4" from the edge, then pivot and sew 45 degrees to the corner of the quilt and binding. I don't bother, but you should do as you like. Also some folks don't cut the threads, especially if they sew off the end some way. I cut them to give me more room to mitre the corners.

To mitre the corners, I take the corner out of the machine. I first fold the binding at 45 degrees so that it is now moving away in line with the next edge of the quilt as shown above.

Being careful to keep that 45 degree fold in place, I fold the binding down along the next edge of the quilt. It is important to make sure that the fold is right along the edge of the side that was just stitched, as shown.

I turn the quilt so I am ready to sew the next edge. If it is a big quilt, remember to bunch the whole thing up so that it is not hanging over your table pulling on the edges. With a king size quilt it feels really awkward if you have a small sewing table but just pile it high.

I start sewing right at the edge of the quilt, sew a few stitches, backstitch and continue as before down the edge of the quilt.

Repeat at each corner.

When you are finished the last corner, you will be coming up on the beginning of your binding. Stop about 10" or more from the spot where you started your binding and cut the threads.

I join my binding horizontally, just like I sew the strips together. To do this I smooth out the edge of the quilt around the unsewn part. I lay down the two ends of the binding so that they meet at about the middle of the unsewn area and fold them back on themselves as you can see in the photo above. The goal is to have the folds meet exactly but to not overlap.

Trim off the extra lengths of binding on each side. I trim so that there is a generous 1/2" or more extra here in case I need to do some adjusting later. Finger press the fold hard enough that you an see the crease as you unfold. If you had an iron handy you could press with it too.

Open the binding up and place the right sides together with the creases matching as shown in the photo. This feels awkward as the quilt will need to fold to allow you to do this. Let the quilt fold.

I then pull this over to the side and fold the edge of the quilt as I do so. I pin the binding edges with the folds matching and then sew along the fold crease.

Before I trim the seam allowances at that join, I lay the quilt edge flat and check to see that the binding is now joined so that it fits the last part of the quilt. If it is too loose, I stitch another line to shorten it. If it is too tight, I stitch a new line and then I unpick the first stitched line (I unpick second as that means I can avoid the need to pin and line it all up).

Once I am satisfied that I have joined the binding so that it is the correct length, I trim the seam allowances along the join to 1/4", finger press the seam open, refold the binding wrong sides together and take it back to the machine. Stitch the remaining unstitched part of the binging in place.

I press the binding away from the quilt top all around.

You can see how the edges are mitred. I don't press them flat, but let them just pop up as shown.

Then I turn the quilt over and carefully moving along the quilt, I fold the binding over the edge and press. Be careful not to pucker or clump up the edge as you go by pulling the binding over too tightly.

I mitre the corners on the back as I go. First press one side over so that the 45 degree triangle forms at the end as shown.

Carefully, keeping that first 45 degree fold in place, I fold the next side of the binding over and as you do so you will see that it creates a nice mitred corner. If it is not as nice, unfold and do it again. It is really easy to shift the first fold as you make the second and that messes up the mitre.

Once I like the mitre, I press it in place, being careful of my fingers. A non-plastic tool that acts like your finger to hold this would be helpful, I should get one.

Once the corner is pressed, if I am going to machine stitch the edge of the binding, I put a pin in place as shown, right through the mitre. I don't actually put this pin in until I am coming up on that corner as I stitch as otherwise I invariably get poked by the pin as I am working with the quilt.

I machine stitch the binding from the front of the quilt. I stitch in the ditch where the binding joins the quilt. I use my fingers to carefully feel the edge of the binding folded under the quilt as I go so that I am confident that I am attaching it to the back.

You could use a bunch of additional pins or clips to hold the binding in place as you go but I don't bother. I just move slowly, being careful to check the placement of the binding as I go and feel for it under the quilt.

About 15" or so from the corner I check the folding of the corner and add that pin I showed you above. Then as I get to the actual corner, I move very slowly and remove that pin before I get to it. Carefully stitch right to the corner. Leaving the needle down, pivot the quilt. Make sure that your binding stays neatly folded around the quilt, and continue down the next side. Repeat until you reach the starting point, backstitch carefully and cut your threads.

Again, while doing this it is important to keep your quilt up on the sewing table so that it does not pull on your edges.

I then hold my breath and carefully examine the back to see if I managed to stitch all the corners and edges without "falling off them". I am not a pro at this method and often have to fix missed bits. I do that by either restitching by machine or just hand stitching the missed bits.

This method leaves the front of the quilt looking really nice, just a line of stitching along the binding.

Instead you might prefer to hand stitch your binding - I usually do. I do all the steps set out above, up to the start of the sewing, including pressing the binding on the front and back of the quilt.  I don't pin or clip any of the binding in place, but if you like to, you should go ahead.

To hand sew the binding, I knot my thread and hide the knot under the binding in the seam allowance of the quilt. I take a small stitch or two in the seam allowance to anchor the thread and then I do a variation on a hem or matress stitch. First I run the needle through the fold in the binding for about 1/4" as shown.

Then I run the needle through the back of the quilt (being careful not to go through the front) about 1/4" of an inch right at the point where the binding meets the quilt back. Repeat. I carefully fold the binding in place as I move along th quilt edge, along the fold I had pressed with the iron.

When I get to the corner, I refold the mitre as I had done at the iron. First fold the edge you are stitching out.

Then fold the edge you are meeting in. Redo this until you like the mitre you see.

I then stitch so that I am bringing my needle up right at the corner. Then I catch the binding that is on the bottom of the mitre by a thread or two, and go through the binding on the top of the mitre, bringing the needle out. you can see this better in the photo.

I then take a stitch toward the corner in the bottom part of the mitre, coming up close to but not at the corner.

 I then take a stitch back to the edge of the top binding along the mitre fold as shown, and continue stitching along the edge. I don't always do this extra stitch along the mitre and my bindings look fine after washing, drying and heavy family use. However, it often feels like this little stitch will make the binding more durable.

Finish stitching around the binding.

My last step with either method of binding is to examine the seam on the front of the binding to see if there are any threads sticking out and if so, trim them off.

By the way, I have decided that this lovely yellow fabric was not the best choice of binding for this quilt. As it is a quilt with a nice big border, I am going to just cut the binding and about 1/2" of the quilt off right around and start again.

Let me know if you have any questions and also feel free to add any of your own binding tips in the comments.




CapitolaQuilter said...

Always interesting to see how different quilters handle binding. Thanks for the step by step.

pennydog said...

You know, I am not great at machine binding but I feel like giving it another go after reading this. Also can you believe it, I've been mitring wrong for two and a half years now! Thank you for this, I should get prettier corners now!

elle said...

Yup. I have tried the final machine sewing and it aggravates me as I angst, and fiddle, and frown so I hand stitch also. ;~)

Katie said...

this makes me want to give hand binding another go -- thanks for the tips

Katy Cameron said...

Hee hee, people are definitely not flat, good thought!

Canadian Abroad said...

You do write such good concise tutes. X

Unknown said...

Thank you so many little tips that I never knew about. Will save this somewhere safe !

Ali Honey said...

Well described and great photos. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the tips! Such a great tutorial :) Much appreciated!

Annabella said...

I always hand bind the back but it's good to see how to machine bind...just in case!Lovely and clear tute - thanks Leanne. said...

I do almost all the same steps except I sew the strips together with a diagonal seam. I hand stitch to finish because I am just not happy with my machine stitch finish. Thanks for sharing your method.

Sheila said...

Such a detailed tutorial, this will become a go-to. Can't believe you are going to chop off the binding!!
To save the drag of the heavy quilt, I sometimes position my ironing board, at a reduced height, at right angles to my work table, just to my left. This will spread the weight of the quilt.
I do opt for the 45 degree join for my strips, reduces bulk a bit especially as Sod often intervenes and I end up with a join right at the mitre - grr.
Usually hand stitch down but am starting to play more with machining the binding down and haven't managed a whole quilt without slipping off in a couple of spots. Will keep practising tho.

AnnieO said...

Good tutorial! I do many of the same steps. Sorry u didn't like your yellow binding, I want to know what that print is!

margaret said...

not sure how I missed this tutorial but glad to have found it today, I have problems with my corners, hopefully they will be better now I have studied how to do them

Catherine said...

I have bookmarked your binding tutorial as it is so comprehensive. One of the best I have seen.

Margaret said...

Wait, what!? I love that yellow binding! I was admiring it the whole way through this tutorial. I really appreciate your explanation of how you square up the quilt. I am so bad at that and often end up with wonky quilts. Good thing people aren't flat!

cat and vee xoxo said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a detailed binding-post, and for sharing all the pics too! I struggle most with finishing binding, so I always like to see how other people do it. This post will be really helpful to refer back to next time I'm binding! Cat

Blue Moth said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to write this. You have covered everything!

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best and clearest tutorials I have seen on how to bind a quilt - maybe because it's exactly the way I do it! I got quite excited, going "Oh yes, me too!" I've bookmarked your tutorial so I can share it with my students because the photos you've used are also clear and helpful. Thanks for a great tutorial. Pauline in NZ

Laxmi Rai said...

Glad to find your blog, Thanks for sharing such a useful post.

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