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Binding a Quilt

a narrow binding on a small quilt

The finishing touch to a quilt is the addition of a binding strip around the outer edges.  This is done for a couple of reasons.

The outside edge of a quilt is the most susceptible to wear.  The binding strengthens the quilt. 

It is also the last chance to add a decorative element to the quilt.  Some quilters like a wide binding, and others, like myself, like a narrow, tight binding.

However, all quilters agree that a folded, double edge binding is best.

If your quilt has rounded edges, you will want to make a bias binding.  These instruction are for a quilt that has straight edges.

Some quilters find the binding the most challenging part of making a quilt. Once learned, it is not hard to do It just takes time. However, thefinal hand sewing can be both relaxing and rewarding.  So here we go!

The edges of the binding strip are sewn on before the fabric, batting and backing edges are trimmed.  How much fabric you leave, depends on your binding width. 

Your binding strip must be long enough to wrap around the quilt, with 8 plus inches to spare. When you trim the edge of the quilt, and wrap the binding aroud to the back, you want the binding to be filled with batting.

The picture at the top of the page is part of the top edge of a tablerunner.  You can see it is very narrow, but provides a nice finishing touch.  I used a sold fabric, which is usually a safe choice.   In this case, because of the small size of the tablerunner, the binding strip was only cut 1 7/8 inches wide.

You begin by cutting your strips at your desired width (remembering that they will be folded in half).  You can use a rotary cutter, or you may be able to tear it. Just check, before tearing, that your fabric tears straight.  You will have to deal with loose threads, but it will quickly give you a nice even width strip. It will be wavy, but will iron straight.

If you are making a large  project, you will need to sew several strips together.  Measure all 4 sides, and then add some extra for turning the corners and finishing the last seam.  I like to add 8-12 inches.

There are several  steps in the binding process that are tricky.  The first one is sewing the binding strips together so that the seams are diagonal. Here is how to do it:

Look at the phow to bind a quilticture and you will see that you place these strips, right side together, in opposite directions.  Then you draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the top strip.  Be sure and draw the line at the correct angle, so that after you sew it, and open it up, the strip will lie flat. 

  how to bind a quiltThis is the seam pressed open (not to one side like your other quilting seams) and before it is trimmed.  After you trim your seams, press the strip wrong sides together, and roll it up into a ball so it will be easier to work with.

The next element that is tricky is making the corners.  There is an easy way, and one that requires more practice, the mitered seam.

turning a corner when binding a quiltThe difference in appearance is substantial enough that it is worth your time to learn to do it correctly from the beginning.

In the picture to the left, you can see there is a small diagonal seam in the corner.  The back also makes a similar seam.

When your binding is ready, begin by placing the raw edges of the binding on the edge of the quilt.  When you begin sewing on the binding, you want to start about 7-inches in from the end of the binding strip.  You must leave enough binding so that when you go around the quilt and meet the starting edge, you will have some length in the starting strip to work with to make the final seam.

Pin where you want the strip to start (usually somewhere on the side), and draw the loose binding strip around the edges of the quilt to make sure one of the binding seams doesn't fall on any of the corners of the quilt.  If one of them looks close,  adjust the starting place of your strip.

how to turn the corner when binding a quilt

Using your usual 1/4 inch seam, begin stitching the binding to the quilt. When you get towards the end of the row, slow down, and  stop your stitching 1/4 of an inch from the end.  Leaving your needle in the down position, rotate your quilt 90 degrees  so that you can backstitch and sew off the fabric.

Pull the quilt completely out from under the presser foot.  Take the binding, and pull it up so that it aligns in a straight line with the next edge of the fabric, as show in the picture above.  Notice the 45 degree angle on the binding.

Next, take your strip, keeping the 45 degree angle intact, and from the position it is in per the picture above, just lower it down on the edge of the fabric as in the next illustration.

how to turn the corner when binding a quilt

Put the quilt back under the presser foot, and continue sewing from the edge until you get to the next corner, where you repeat the procedure.

Continue around the quilt, until you get to your starting point. 

There are several ways to sew up the loose ends.  Some are very complicated for a beginner.  If you don't mind one straight seam in your binding, the easiest way is to just open up and fold back the edge of one of the binding strip ends, refold it, and then slip the other one under it.

seaming the binding on a quilt In the picture to the left the fabric has been opened out and folded back to make a clean edge.  Then it has been refolded (wrong sides together)

The binding strip on the left has then been inserted into the folded strip on the other side.   Then just continue sewing the strip to the fabric. 

When you are done machine stitching the binding to the edge, just roll it to the inside, and hand stitch it over the seam.  You can use your machine, but it never comes out as even and nice looking as when you do it by hand.  If you do decide to machine stitch it, you might think about using invisible thread and using a zig-zag stitch to be sure and catch all the edges.

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