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  • Writer's pictureKerry Keeble

Quilt Binding For Beginners

You've pieced your quilt top and quilted the layers together so you're done right? Not quite! Now comes the part of finishing off your quilt with some binding - you'll either love it or hate it, I am team love!

Simply put the binding 'frames the edges' of a quilt and usually a quilt isn't considered finished until this part is done and the binding is completely attached to both sides of the quilt. Made from a strip of double folded fabric that is sewn around the edge of your quilt, covering all the raw edges hiding them away, binding fabric has almost become as important as the fabric used to create the quilt top itself. Personally I love scrappy binding and stripy binding and I'm not the only one who likes something different!

Binding a quilt is one of those things that you either love or hate, there doesn't seem to be an in between and for this reason there are many different ways people tend to bind quilts - a quick google search will bring up several tutorials unlikely to be the same. It's important to remember that there's no right way or wrong way, despite what the quilt police might try and tell you, this is simply the way I bind my quilts so if it works for you that's great, if it doesn't try a few other methods until one fits!

Despite many attempts to stitch the folded edge down by machine, I simply cannot do it neatly so my preferred method is machine the binding down on one side and finish off by hand and that's what this tutorial will cover.

A few more points on the actual binding before we get started:

  • what is it for? Quilts for display or competitions are often finished off differently to those that are going to be used.

  • how much use will it get? You want to make sure your fabric, thread and stitch choices are going to hold up!

  • do you want to make a visual impact? If you do, then it's worth spending a bit more time deciding what fabric to use. I absolutely love the way stripes look around the edges of a quilt, I'm also very partial to scrappy binding picking out fabrics from the quilt top to highlight around the edge. Both fab in their own way, but both creating a very different finish.

1. Preparing the Quilt

Once your layers have been quilted, the edges need to be trimmed to get rid of the excess wadding and backing fabric.

Personally I like to trim right up to the edge of my quilts, I use the longest ruler I have to ensure a more even cut and my rotary cutter for precision. I take my time on this step and start at one of the corners, the aim is not only to trim the excess but also square up your quilt if necessary.

2. Preparing the Binding

Once your quilt is trimmed, attaching the binding is the next step but how do you know how much you need? Again you'll find a wide variety of methods and opinions on this, a majority of patterns will give you information, but what if you're not following a pattern? This is the method I use and it's always worked for me:

- measure all four sides of your quilt and add them together

e.g. a 64" x 70" quilt will be 268"

- add a bit more on for your tails and to take into account the mitred corners, to be safe I do 20" so the amount of binding I'd need for the above quilt measurement would be 288"

- divide that number by 42" (42" being the width of the fabric you're cutting binding from)

228 / 42 = 6.857

- round that number up to the nearest whole number - 7 and that is the amount of binding strips you need to cut.

Once you've cut the amount of strips you need, sew them altogether at the short ends (right sides together), creating one long strip and fold in half. I cut my strips 2.5" wide on the straight because this is what I prefer, the method will work just as well if you prefer to cut on the bias.

3. Attach the Binding

I prefer to start approximately half way along one edge - the top edge usually, but it doesn't really matter and I leave a tail of about 6".

The folded edge is going to be towards the centre of your quilt at all times and you're going to line up the raw edges of the binding with the trimmed edge of your quilt.

Controversially I don't use pins (GASP!) I just match the edges up as I sew using a 1/4 inch seam, stitch length should be between 2.5 and 3 - the general rule is the thicker the quilt, the longer the stitch should be.

Once I get roughly 1/2 inch from a the corner I stop stitching and remove my quilt from the machine - you can do this step with the needle down and quilt still attached to the machine, I just find this easier.

Lift the binding strip up and fold it over at a 45 degree angle, matching the fold with the corner of the quilt and give the fold a good finger press.

Flip the binding down so that the raw edges are once again along the trimmed edge of your quilt.

Turn the quilt so the folded edge of the binding is now at the top and sew down in the same way, stopping just before the next corner, continue in this way around your quilt until you've stitched around all the corners and are back on your top edge. You want to stop at least 6" from the end of the other tail, back stitch and remove the quilt from the machine.

4. Neatening your Tails

Fold your tails back on themselves so that the ends lay flat next to each other, make sure they are taught but not pulled to tightly or stretched and finger press well.

Moving the quilt out of the way (this bit can be a little tricky) sew along the lines you've just pressed/the fold, attaching the two ends together. Trim off the excess tails, leaving a 1/4" seam on either side.

Making sure the binding is flat, start where you stopped stitching (I usually go over a few stitches just to be sure) and sew the last section of the binding to your quilt ( I usually go past a few stitches to be sure)

5. Finishing off the Binding

Turn your quilt over so the back is facing you, fold over the binding so all the raw edges are covered and the folded edge is sitting on the back of your quilt. I use binding clips/wonder clips to hold it all in place, it makes hand sewing the binding down a dream.

The corners on the back should mitre automatically, giving you a nice clean finish.

I tend to use a pale/neutral thread that blends in to the binding fabric, for this quilt I used Aurifil Medium Mint in 50wt, the choice is yours and the possibilities are endless.

Tie a knot in the end of your thread and bring your needle through the binding fold only, this will hide the knot inside the binding.

Bring your needle through the backing fabric, behind the binding fabric, bringing the needle out the bottom edge again creating small neat stitches - repeat until you've finished your quilt.

Happy Quilting

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