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Binding 101

One of the classes I teach is Binding. It is one of the parts of quilting that many people (especially beginners) find intimidating. It doesn't need to be, but unless you dive in, you may not feel the same. Binding is the final part of a quilt. It can be a way to finish your quilt, or it can absolutely be a design element.

Most quilts are rectangular or square. This is the best place to begin. First you must trim your quilt. After your quilting is done, you need to trim the corners square. I like to use a square ruler (a 12"x 12") and a 6"x24". Trimming a quilt can be cumbersome, but it is an important step. I trim as carefully as I can. I like to use the border or outside blocks to line up the ruler and do my cutting.

Once your trimming is done, you can cut your binding. You'll need to measure your quilt on all four sides and add at least 12" to 18". This is how many inches of binding you should cut. There is more than one way to cut binding, but I do mine the simple way - I cut the strips and sew them together into one long strip. The typical width of a binding strip is 2 1/2". I like to cut mine at 2 1/4" - I usually like mine a little smaller. I cut as many strips as I need to go around my quilt. Then I stitch the strips together on the diagonal. It is important to make your seams on the diagonal - it eliminates bulk in the binding. The diagonal seam carries the seam across several inches instead of just one spot.

Once I have one long strip I press it in half the long way.

When I attach the binding to my quilt, I stitch it to the front of the quilt. I start in the lower left about 12" from the corner. I put the raw edges of the binding and the quilt together and pin. I stitch about 10" and check it. To check it I need to take it out of the machine and wrap the folded edge over to see if it is filled with the quilt. If the binding isn't filled with the quilt, I need to take a bigger seam allowance. I stitch just a hair larger seam allowance and check again. Once I have the right seam allowance I can move forward.

Wondering why I would have a different seam allowance? Every quilt is slightly different. The batting, fabric and pattern can all make a difference in the thickness of the quilt. So the binding seam allowance can change.

I stitch to the corner and stop 3/8" from the corner.

I fold the binding back as shown.

Then I fold it again as shown. I pin it to start with so it doesn't unfold. Then I continue to stitch the binding on. You must

stop at each corner and take the quilt out of the machine to make these folds. These will give you the pretty mitered corners.

When you have stitched the 4th corner you'll come up on where you began. Stop stitching 12" to 18" from where you started. To close the binding you'll need to trim the binding to overlap itself the same width as the cut binding. Cut it and lay it out as shown. Stitch across the binding to close it. (I like to pin it first to see that I've got the right diagonal.) Once you have it stitched, trim it and press the seam open. Then fold it back to line up with the raw edge of the quilt. It should be the perfect length to finish stitching it to the quilt.

I like to fold the binding over the quilt and hand stitch it to the back side along the stitching line.

If you need to bind a curved edge you would follow the steps above, but you MUST cut your binding on the bias - at a 45 degree angle. This gives your binding some stretch to comfortably curve. I still attach the strips on the diagonal, but I need to be careful not to stretch out the binding. I pin the binding to the quilt around the curves and I don't stretch the binding. It will lay comfortably and fold over to make a beautiful curved binding.

There are other ways to do binding and I've only described one. Would you like more posts on different ways to do bindings? Maybe see some creative bindings for inspiration? How do do curved bindings? Please comment and let me know!

Quilt with joy!


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thanks--how about a few "creative" bindings? For baby quilts or lap quilts that will get lots of use, I have attached binding to the back, fold to the front and stitched down by machine.

Apr 02
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I’ll look for some inspiring bindings! I think they can really be a nice design element! Thank you!

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