Binding your Quilt

Binding:

Although it is just a thin strip around your quilt, the binding is by no means unimportant. Care taken with a binding results in a beautiful finish to your quilt. For quilts entered in a juried competition, a clean, crisp binding can be that crucial element that makes your quilt a ribbon winner! And for a quilt that will be used and loved for many years, a good double fold french binding will not wear through and need to be replaced.

I am happy to trim and bind your quilt for you, but if you wish to do this yourself, below you will find instructions.  If I trim and bind, Binding Services are based on the running length measurement of your quilt. To calculate this,  add up the length of all four sides. You provide the fabric.

  • Partial binding (make binding and apply to front) 12¢ per running inch
  • Full binding (make partial binding, hand stitch to back) 25¢ per running inch

Trimming your quilt:

Once you have finished quilting your quilt, use a rotary cutter, ruler and mat to trim off the excess backing and batting, making sure the corners are square. Leave a  small line of batting showing when you trim, about 1/8 of an inch. This will ensure that the binding is full. If you trim off too much, when you sew on the binding it will feel empty.  Also, be careful to notice the seams of your piecing – do not trim too close or you will chop off points when you sew on the binding. For a quilt that is not square, this might be a challenge.

Fabric choice:

The next step is to choose the fabric for your binding. Lay your quilt out and “audition” several fabrics for the binding by folding them in small strips and laying them along the edge to visualize how they would look as a binding. On many quilts you will want the binding to be the same color as the outer border, which makes the border and binding together the visual frame of the quilt. Sometimes you will want to “pull” a color from the middle of the quilt by matching the binding to the accent color in the body of the quilt. And other times you might want to pull several colors, by choosing a binding that has multiple colors. A striped fabric cut across the stripes creates a wonderful candy cane or barber pole effect.

When to use bias binding and when to use straight grain binding:

Some quilters always use bias binding, which has much more stretch, to give their quilts a supple edge. A bias binding will also last longer, since it is not cut along the grain of the fabric. Others feel that if the quilt is square and you want it to hang square, then you  do not need to cut the fabric on the bias but should use a straight grain binding. Some quilts absolutely need bias binding, for example, a quilt with a scalloped edge would need the extra stretch to go around those curves.  If you want to cut a bias binding, click here for a link to great instructions.

Cutting the binding:

I almost always use a double fold french binding. This binding is simple to press and sew on and lasts longer because the fabric is doubled along the edge where it gets the most wear. I cut mine 2 1/2 inches wide for twin size and larger quilts and 2 1/4 inches wide for wall hangings.

Sewing on the binding:

Use a walking foot if you have one to sew on the binding. A walking foot moves both the top and bottom layers along at the same rate so you won’t have wrinkles in the binding. I put the edge of my walking foot on the edge of the quilt to sew, which puts the stitch line in the perfect place for turning it to the back. Nancy’s Notions has a great explanation of how to sew on a binding. Click here to go to her directions. She has clear directions on how to make bias seams when piecing the binding. Always make bias seams  in binding since they are less bulky than straight seams, but remember you will need to cut more binding strips since these seams require more fabric. I have not found a great solution for making that last seam a biased seam, but Nancy offers a clever option of using fusible tape. Sharon Schambers uses a thin line of glue. You can make a straight seam, but it will be more bulky.

Corners: 

Corners are the trickiest and most noticeable element of the binding. To achieve a sharp, square corner, follow Nancy’s directions for sewing a mitered corner. When you are sewing the binding to the back, make a very slight trim on the corners to remove extra bulk. Be careful, if you cut off too much, the corner will turn out rounded. If you cut off too little, it will be too bulky. In judged competitions, the judge will almost always feel your corners and check to see whether you have stitched the miter in the corner! Another way to make the corner less bulky is to be sure when you fold and stitch down the corners, that the folds are opposite on front and back, which will help the corner to lay flat.