2 ways to machine stitch a binding on a quilt

Did you organize your presser feet? Yesterday, I provided a couple of ideas for getting them organized. At the very minimum, I hope you put all your presser feet in one safe place!

Today, I’m going to use the Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 960Q to stitch the binding on a quilt. There are several different ways to do this. I’ll tell you what I like and what I don’t like!

Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 960Q

Which method to choose?

There are two different ways to stitch the binding on a quilt. The first is the traditional way of machine stitching the binding to the front of the quilt and then hand stitching the binding on the back.

I love this method. The front of the quilt looks amazing and the back looks equally amazing as all the stitches are well hidden. I did mention yesterday that I don’t fuss with some details, but binding is one area where I like the workmanship to be top notch.

The binding is one part of the quilt that people almost always handle and I want that binding to look and feel nice. I also want it to be durable so I use tiny stitches to stitch the binding in place.

When I first started to quilt many years ago, the owner of the store that I worked at, told me that a quilt wasn’t finished until that binding was hand stitched down. And I’ve lived by that philosophy for years. I enjoy the hand stitching part although it used to take me forever. I’m much faster now and I love the process. I’ve even been known to hand stitch bindings in meetings at work, but I work for a fabric company, so that’s OK.

However, I’ve noticed over the past decade that many people are sewing their bindings to the back of the quilt and then pulling the binding to the front and stitching it in place with the sewing machine. Even the store owner that told me that the quilt wasn’t finished until the binding was hand stitched down, is sewing her bindings on by machine.

It appears that people don’t have time to do the hand stitching anymore. I make the time since I love the process and the finished look! OK – that’s not always true and I’ll tell you about that in a minute.

I’m going to give you a brief overview of both methods so you can judge which one you prefer.

Method 1: Machine stitching the binding to the front of the quilt

I start out by prepping my binding. I like to use 2½” binding strips which have been joined on the diagonal and folded in half with wrong sides together. You can check out this post to get all the details of making double fold binding.

I like to sew the binding to my quilt using the Interchangeable Dual Feed Foot. The feed teeth on the foot and on the sewing machine help to feed those thick layers through more evenly than if I don’t use the Dual Feed Foot.

You can decide if you prefer the Interchangeable Straight Stitch Foot or the Interchangeable Zigzag Foot for the job. It doesn’t really matter and I tend to use whichever one happens to be on the Dual Feed Foot.

The biggest beef I have about binding is that most people stitch their binding to the quilt top with a quarter inch seam. If you use 2½” binding strips, this means you’re going to have “empty” binding that feels limp and thin or your binding will not be even on the front and the back.

You can see in the picture below, I use the edge of that opening in the Straight Stitch Foot as my guide for the seam allowance. This ends up giving me about a ⅜” seam allowance and when I pull that binding to the back of the quilt and hand stitch it in place, that binding is completely full of quilt and feels nice and firm.

Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but I always check out the binding to see how it was sewn on! Again – there’s nothing wrong if you use a ¼” seam, but find a quilt that is done in both styles and then ask yourself – which one do you like the best? Then you decide if you want to do this for your quilts.

Sewing the binding to the front of the quilt using the Dual Feed Foot

There are also guides on the Changeable Straight Stitch Foot that help me know where to stop at the corner. Very handy if you need it!

Using the red guidelines on the Straight Stitch Foot at the corner

Method 2: Machine stitching the binding to the back of the quilt

The first step is to prep the binding the same way you would to stitch the binding down by hand.

This time, when you machine stitch the binding to the quilt, you’re going to stitch the binding to the BACK of the quilt. Turn the corners, do the final join – everything is the same.

I used the Interchangeable Dual Feed Foot but this time, I used the Changeable Zigzag Foot. I didn’t find a difference in using either of the interchangeable feet for this first part. You can see in the picture, that I’m using the edge of that opening in the Changeable Zigzag Foot as the guide for the seam.

Sewing the binding to the BACK of the quilt

Let’s talk about thread color!

Reluctantly, I had to learn how to sew bindings this way because at work we often have very tight deadlines to get quilts ready and there’s no time for hand stitching. Since that first quilt, I’ve done several more (including one of mine- ACK!). I’m still perfecting this technique but I’ll share with you what I have discovered so far.

Thread color is extremely important. When initially sewing the binding the first time, I find it helpful to use a bobbin thread that matches the color of the quilt top. It doesn’t matter what color you use on top.

When I sew the binding on the front of the quilt, I use invisible thread on the top and use thread that matches the binding in the bobbin.

Invisible thread for the top and thread that matches the binding in the bobbin

Setting up the sewing machine

Normally when I use invisible thread, I change the needle to a small size because the invisible thread is very fine. In this case, I use my size 80/12 needle that I use for piecing. That needle has to go through a lot of layers and the smaller needle may end up breaking or bending.

While I’ve seen people use a lot of different decorative stitches for this step, I like to use a blanket stitch (D:3) which is found in the D Menu – Quilt Stitches on the Sapphire 960Q.

You’ll notice in the first picture below that the default setting of this stitch has the zags to the left. I want the zags to go to the right. That’s an easy fix on the Sapphire 960Q when I hit the Mirror Side-to-Side function. Then I change the stitch width to 1.5 and the length to 3.5. You can see in the second photo the changes I made from the default settings.

I love being able to see the way the stitch will stitch out on the screen.

Default settings for Stitch D:3

The modified settings for Stitch D:3

And now it’s crucial that I use the Changeable Zigzag Foot on the Dual Feed Foot. If I don’t, I won’t be able to see where to stitch. It’s important to use the Dual Feed Foot for this process as we do not want that binding to stretch. The Dual Feed Foot helps to keep the top layer feeding at the same rate as the quilt.

Let’s start stitching

I’m going to turn the quilt so the quilt top is face up and I’ll pull that binding to the front and very carefully stitch it in place. I want to make sure that the binding covers the row of stitching that I used to secure the binding to the back of the quilt. Because I used a bobbin thread that matches the quilt top to initially sew the binding on, if I mess up a bit, it won’t be that obvious.

Stitching the final binding seam on the front of the quilt by machine

When I get to a corner, I use my quilter’s awl or stiletto to hold the binding in place. You can see the long pointy thing in the picture below. If you don’t have one of these metal tools, I highly recommend you get one. I’ve heard of all kinds of tools that people use instead of the metal quilter’s awl, but you need something that will withstand a lot of pressure and this quilter’s awl is a must have!

Using the quilter’s awl to hold the binding fabric in place near the corner

Once I’m even closer to the corner, I position the next side of the binding to create the mitered corner and hold it in place using the quilter’s awl.

Making the mitered corner and holding the layers in place with the quilter’s awl

Now here’s the reason why I don’t like this method. Yes – it’s faster than hand stitching but I find it very stressful to do. Probably because I’m not happy with the results. Yes – I know – should I be so fussy? But have a look at the quilt back. I do not find this neat.

Sometimes you’re right on the line and sometimes you’re not. I’m like things to be neat and this isn’t neat according to me!

The quilt back – sometimes you hit the line and sometimes you don’t

From the front of the quilt, the binding looks pretty good. I don’t feel it has that smooth edge that you get by stitching it to the front and hand stitching on the back.

However, this is a perfectly acceptable way to put the binding on a quilt. I either need to make sure that I allow enough time to get all my quilts bound in the way that I prefer, or I have to perfect this technique or I just learn to live with it!

Machine stitched binding on the front of the quilt

Old habits die hard and I always stitched that mitered corner when I hand stitch the binding. You can’t do that by sewing machine. However I have to say that this mitered corner does look very neat and I could always go back and hand stitch that corner down.

The mitered corner with machine stitched binding

I’m the kind of person who, when presented with a problem, likes to find a solution. The fact that the stitches don’t always line up on the back is a problem to me.

Here’s what I propose to help solve the issue. The binding and the backing need to be the same fabric. Then if that stitching goes off, it won’t show. Or you could use a very busy backing and a matching thread.

There are ways to make this work and I’m going to try and perfect it since it’s a technique I know I’ll have to use for future quilts with very tight deadlines.

Busy backing that won’t show the stitching

As luck would have it, I had a personal quilt that had a very tight deadline that could not be missed. I had no choice but to stitch the binding down with the sewing machine. While I’m not a fan of a white binding on a quilt, the quilt binding and the light colored back concealed any errant stitches!

Binding color very closely matches the quilt backing

I’d love to hear your comments and feedback and any tips that you’ve discovered to perfect this technique. I might even have a follow-up post so we can all learn. I like the idea, just not happy with the results – yet!

While the operator still has a bit of a learning curve, the features of the Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 960Q and the Interchangeable Dual Feed Foot made this nasty (for me) job easy to do.

I’ve got a great project lined up for tomorrow so be sure to come back and see what it is! Have a great day!  Ciao!

This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1:  2 reasons to use the Dual Feed Foot (Walking Foot)
Go to part 3:  Tips for sewing Y seams

Related posts

How to make a rag quilt

Tips for using the free motion foot

Tips for sewing Y seams


Kelly L Kagoshima May 15, 2020 - 8:31 pm
I am finding that my hand stitched binding is coming apart in one of my well worn quilts. Why does this happen? All that work..... I've only been quilting about 5 years
Rhonda October 8, 2019 - 2:15 pm
I have always placed the binding on the firing and hand stitched the binding on the back. But I tried to do all by machine. I had white in the back using blue thread and I really don’t like the line on the back. I was ready to give up until your suggestion of using the same thread color or make the binding and backing the same busy fabric. Genius. I will try again. As far as the quilt I don’t like, I may just keep to remind myself that I can improve. What would you do? Unpick?
Carol April 9, 2016 - 11:45 am
I can't remember not using this method of attaching binding. My grandmother used this with her old peddle singer. ( 10 Kids) One trick I use on the wonderful new machines is move the needle in the direction needed. Each quilt is a little different. By moving needle position and playing a little you will have the perfect line-up with the first row of stitches that attached the binding to the quilt. I try to always take the time to have a scrap square to test any stitches I may use. Same material, same batting, etc. This was grams, an ounce of prevention. I've have learned this the hard way.
Pam M April 4, 2016 - 4:51 pm
Thank goodness - I'm not the only one in the Universe who doesn't like the empty binding! I have been cutting my backing and batting an extra 1/4" wide to fill that gap ever since my second quilt - the first one being where I discovered the gap. It took me ages to realize that all the book authors, quilt pattern designers, quilt tutorials etc simply ignored "the gap". My binding is cut 2 5/8" wide to allow for some of the fabric being lost in the foldover, and I've found a method to mitre the corners by not folding but sewing them. Perfect 90 degree corners. Love it. If I have to machine sew a binding, I will pin it well with the pins at right angles to the binding and straight stitch in the ditch from the front making sure the folded over binding covers the first pass stitching on the back (hence all the pins). Having the mitred corners pre-made makes this a breeze. (The method I use is similar to that used for the Quilters Boot tool if anyone is curious about it.) And I use the changeable dual feed 1/4" guide food to sew on the binding. The right-hand side of the foot runs along the outer edge of the quilt sandwich and the binding edge runs along the blade - 1/2" seam from quilt edge, binding edge is 1/4" from quilt sandwich edge, binding has 1/4" seam. Sorry for such a long post. I just got excited to find someone who is on the same page as myself.
Carla A. Canonico April 5, 2016 - 4:33 pm
Fantastic! Thank you for your comment!
Janet Naumann March 25, 2016 - 9:04 pm
Really like the information provided
Leah Holland March 24, 2016 - 3:43 am
I love the look of handstitched. But if I want quilts DONE then I machine stitch to the back and flip and stitch.... So donation quilts are done on the machine. Some gifts are too.... Most of the ones here are hand done.
Kathy E. March 22, 2016 - 9:58 pm
Elaine, I'm sure happy to know I'm not the only one that has issues with machine binding! On my last few projects, I've had better luck with making a 3" binding. It gives me a little more to work with and "other" side looks better too. Have you used the Husqvarna Adjustable Bias Binding foot? I bought one, but haven't had time to figure it out yet. I'd love to see what you think about it in a post!
Elaine Theriault March 23, 2016 - 5:25 am
Kathy. Yes nice to know we're all in this learning mode together! Thank you for the tips about the Husqvarna Viking Adjustable Bias Binding foot and the wider binding. I shall do some more experimenting and when the next machine comes my way - I shall endeavor to work it in. Thanks again! Elaine
Shaneka Giscombe March 22, 2016 - 10:13 am
Thanks. I will try using a 3/8" SA
Elaine Theriault March 22, 2016 - 6:34 pm
Shaneka. Stitch that 3/8" seam for about six inches. Take the quilt out of the sewing machine and then check to see that the width of your seam allowance is OK. Better to check after 6 inches than once you are all the way around. Elaine
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