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Binding a Quilt

Today we are going to address another very grey area in the quilting world – binding a quilt. There are so many options and a lot of very confused people.

I did a bit of research and was shocked to see how little information or misinformation there is about binding. I think it’s time to get to the bottom of this issue.

I am going to put the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby Royale to the test to see how it performs when making and applying binding to a quilt.

 

Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby Royale
Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby Royale

 

 

Instead of giving you something new to create this week, this binding tutorial is the project of the week. I am sure you are all sitting on a quilt that needs binding. So dig that quilt out and follow along.

I would like to thank Diane for “loaning” me her quilt so that I could bind it for her!

As I mentioned, there are numerous techniques and tools for attaching a binding. This blog post will be strictly a tutorial on binding. I will address various techniques, widths, etc in a separate post on my personal blog.

This tutorial is how I bind all my quilts. It is fast, it is easy, it is accurate and it looks AWESOME when it is done.

Trimming the quilt

I’m not going into great detail about trimming the quilt, but I always start in a corner and use a large square ruler. Trim up the corner so it is 90 degrees, then I use a long ruler to go along the sides, back to the square ruler for the corners and then long ruler for the sides until I have trimmed all the way around.

I trim parallel to the edge of the quilt. No excess backing or batting extends beyond the quilt – however there are instances when you may need to, but this post isn’t about trimming.

 

Quilt is trimmed and ready for the binding to be attached
Quilt is trimmed and ready for the binding to be attached

 

 

How much binding do I need?

This tutorial will deal with regular straight binding made from strips of fabric that are cut from selvedge to selvedge. I am using the standard width of binding strip of 2 1/2″.

Measure the length and the width of the quilt (doesn’t have to be exact). Using those numbers, calculate the perimeter of the quilt. Two times the length PLUS two times the width of the quilt. I like to add 10 inches to the result to help get around corners and make the final join.

Let’s say we are working with my generous lap quilt that measures 60 by 72 inches.

  • Two times 72 is 144 inches and 2 times 60 is 120 inches.
  • Add those together to get 264 inches
  • Add 10 to get 274 inches of binding required.

How many strips of fabric do I need?

Once you have determined the length of binding required, divide that number by 40. Forty inches is the “average” width of fabric these days. Using an average is way faster than having to actually measure the width of the fabric that you’ll use for your binding. If you are using a significantly different measure i.e parallel to the selvedge – then you must use those numbers.

In my example, I’ll divide the 274 inches by 40 to get 6.85 strips. Round that up to 7. You need 7 strips of fabric for the binding. And if you’re not sure how much fabric that is – take 7 (the number of strips) and multiply by 2.5 (the width you’ll be cutting the strips). You need 17.5 inches of fabric. Get a half meter and you’ll have a bit extra to trim up the edges.

 

Binding strips cut
Binding strips cut

 

 

Join the Strips

Next step is to join the strips. I hope you did NOT remove the selvedges because they’re going to serve a very useful purpose.

I like to join my binding strips on the diagonal. This helps to distribute the extra thickness of the join over a 2 1/2″ space instead of having a lot of layers in one spot which is what would happen if you did an end to end join.

Start by placing the binding strip on the right FACE UP. Then lay a strip from the left FACE DOWN as shown below. Overlap the ends with the selvedges extended beyond the overlap.

 

Right hand binding strip is face up, left hand binding strip is face down
Right hand binding strip is face up, left hand binding strip is face down

 

 

Now you are going to draw the seam line. Take a small ruler with a 45 degree diagonal line. See how the diagonal line is parallel to the edge of the bottom binding strip. I’ve placed the ruler so it touches the two points of intersection on the two binding strips.

 

Use a ruler to draw the stitching line from intersection to intersection
Use a ruler to draw the stitching line from intersection to intersection

 

 

Draw a pencil line from intersection to intersection

 

Diagonal seam line is marked
Diagonal seam line is marked

 

 

Place a pin on either side of that drawn line to secure the join.

The left hand strip will now become the right hand strip as you make the next join. The right hand strip will drop to the floor as you reposition the left hand strip so it is now face up on the right hand side.

Repeat that process until all the strips are joined and you will have a puddle of binding strips on the floor.

Trust me – it works BEST to do it this way! You’re aiming for consistency and this works!

 

Binding strips pinned together and ready to sew
Binding strips pinned together and ready to sew

 

 

Next up is to sew the joins together.

I hate sewing fabric together with my dual feed foot, but I installed the newer Interchangeable Dual Feed foot on the Ruby Royale and WOW – what a difference from my old dual feed foot. I resisted buying a new one because I don’t use it often, but let’s just say that before the binding was on the quilt, I had a new dual feed foot on order! I couldn’t help myself – there is a night and day difference and this one comes with interchangeable feet! I love that.

So yes – it was a breeze to chain piece those joins together.

 

Using the Interchangeable Dual Feed foot to join the binding strips
Using the Interchangeable Dual Feed foot to join the binding strips

 

 

Time to trim up those seams. I use a ruler and trim leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance.

 

Ruler lined up to trim 1/4" seam allowance
Ruler lined up to trim 1/4″ seam allowance

 

 

Do you see what I see? Yes – those selvedge edges are GONE. They get trimmed away, yet they serve a VERY useful purpose of allowing me to see the start and end of the seam that joins the binding strips. The fabric feeds through the sewing machine a lot easier and then POOF – you trim the selvedges away once you are done with them.

 

Selvdeges are trimmed away when the seam is trimmed back to 1/4"
Selvdeges are trimmed away when the seam is trimmed back to 1/4″

 

 

Prepping the Binding Strips

The binding strips are all joined together, now we have to get the binding ready to sew onto the quilt. The first thing we do is fold the binding strips in half WRONG sides together and press. I like to use steam so I get a nice crisp edge. Heck – I just like everything well pressed. It is one of my many little quirks.

Press those seams OPEN as you press the binding in half. By opening the seams, you help to distribute the thickness of the seams.

 

Fold the strip in half wrong sides together and press well
Fold the strip in half wrong sides together and press well

 

 

Now that you have the strip prepared – what are you going to do with it? You don’t want this long strip of binding dragging all over the studio. There are many ways to fold or roll the binding. Here is a picture of one way.

 

Binding strips wound into a flat roll
Binding strips wound into a flat roll

 

 

The problem with that is that the strips twist as you’re sewing the binding on and it drives me crazy!

 

Binding strips twisting as they are sewn from the flat roll onto the quilt
Binding strips twisting as they are sewn from the flat roll onto the quilt

 

 

However if you look at the example below – the binding strips were formed into a figure eight roll and notice there is NO twisting as the binding is sewn onto the quilt!

 

The binding is NOT twisting as it is sewn from the figure eight roll onto the quilt
The binding is NOT twisting as it is sewn from the figure eight roll onto the quilt

 

 

I know – you want to know how I did the figure eight roll! Check out the video – it shows you how I did it. Takes a few seconds to get the roll started and then you have an awesome little bundle of binding strips.

Quilting techniques: Binding strips in a figure 8 roll.

 

 

 

Binding strips in a figure eight roll
Binding strips in a figure eight roll

 

 

Start to sew the binding on

Pull the end of the binding strip from the INSIDE of the figure eight binding roll. You can set it on the table in front of your sewing machine or I sometimes put it on my leg.

Never start sewing the binding on at a corner. It just doesn’t work. Leave a tail of about 6 – 8 inches and start sewing with the raw edges of the folded binding parallel to the trimmed edge of the quilt. You are sewing the binding to the front of the quilt.

 

Leave a starting tail of about 6 - 8 inches.
Leave a starting tail of about 6 – 8 inches.

 

 

Let’s chat about the seam allowance. One thing that drives me crazy is when I feel the binding on a quilt and it is half empty. The quilt should fill the binding completely.  The binding when folded to the back should cover the seam and the front and back should be more or less equal in size.

So if you have cut your binding strips 2 1/2″ wide, NEVER sew the binding on with a 1/4″ seam allowance. It just doesn’t work.

 

 

Using the Interchangeable dual feed foot to sew the binding on
Using the Interchangeable dual feed foot to sew the binding on

 

 

In the picture below, you can see that I use the right most side of that opening as a guide for the seam allowance.

Once you have sewn about six inches, remove the quilt from the sewing machine and test the width of the seam allowance. When you fold the binding to the back, does it cover the stitching? Is the binding equal (more or less) on the front and the back? If not, now is the time to change – you’ve only sewn six inches. If you’re happy with it – then continue sewing.

 

Right most opening on the Interchangeable Dual Feed foot is used as a guide for the binding seam allowance.
Right most opening on the Interchangeable Dual Feed foot is used as a guide for the binding seam allowance.

 

 

 

The seam allowance is 3/8" wide
The seam allowance is 3/8″ wide

 

 

In this instance, the seam allowance is 3/8″ so as you approach the corner, you want to stop and anchor that seam 3/8″ from the edge of the quilt. Once the end of the seam is secured, remove the quilt from the sewing machine.

Using the FIX function on the Ruby Royale makes anchoring that seam a breeze.

 

Stop sewing and anchor the seam by the width of the seam allowance - in this case 3/8"
Stop sewing and anchor the seam by the width of the seam allowance – in this case 3/8″

 

 

Turning the corner on the binding

If you haven’t already done so, remove the quilt from under the presser foot. We’re going to make a mitered folded corner.

Take the binding strip and fold it UP so that the raw edges of the binding strip are parallel to the edge of the quilt.

 

The binding strip is folded UP with raw edges parallel to the edge of the quilt. Notice how the binding strip is "just" pulling against the anchored seam.
The binding strip is folded UP with raw edges parallel to the edge of the quilt. Notice how the binding strip is “just” pulling against the anchored seam.

 

 

Now fold the binding strip down so that it laying on top of the quilt. Note that I have squared the top edge fold so that it is parallel to the edge of the quilt.

 

Fold the binding strip DOWN so that it is now lying on top of the quilt. Note the folded edge is parallel to the edge of the quilt.
Fold the binding strip DOWN so that it is now lying on top of the quilt. Note the folded edge is parallel to the edge of the quilt.

 

 

Now we are going to start sewing, again using a 3/8″ seam allowance. This is where the Sensor Foot Up/Extra Lift function comes in handy on the Ruby Royale. There are a LOT of layers in the corner and you will find it hard to maneuver the corner of the quilt into place. Using the Extra Life function provides lots of room to properly position the corner of the quilt so you can start to sew. This is especially handy when your quilt is extra thick as is this one below which has minky/plush for the backing as well as batting.

 

Use the Sensor Foot Up/Extra Lift function to raise the presser foot to its' highest position to provide ample clearance to put the many layers under the Interchangeable Dual Feed Foot.
Use the Sensor Foot Up/Extra Lift function to raise the presser foot to its’ highest position to provide ample clearance to put the many layers under the Interchangeable Dual Feed Foot.

 

 

 

Extra thick quilt with minky/plush for the backing (note I cut the binding strips for that quilt at 2 3/4" to compensate for the extra thick backing. I used a 3/8" seam allowance to attach the binding.
Extra thick quilt with minky/plush for the backing (note I cut the binding strips for that quilt at 2 3/4″ to compensate for the extra thick backing. I used a 3/8″ seam allowance to attach the binding.

 

 

Using the same width of seam allowance (3/8″), start stitching at the top of the seam. Again I anchor the end of that seam using the FIX Function on the Ruby Royale.

 

Start the next seam at the edge of the quilt (anchor the end of the seam)
Start the next seam at the edge of the quilt (anchor the end of the seam)

 

 

Once you have sewn about 6 inches from the corner, test the corner. Fold the fabric flap to the back of the quilt. Are you happy with the miter?  If not, you only have six inches to remove and do over. If you’re happy – keep stitching.

 

A perfect mitered corner
A perfect mitered corner

 

 

The Final Join

Continue the steps above on all four corners and stop stitching about 12 inches away from where you started to sew on the binding.

 

Stop stitching about 12 inches from where you started
Stop stitching about 12 inches from where you started

 

 

Lay the starting tail flat and parallel to the edge of the quilt. Take the ending tail and lay it over top of the starting tail.

You are going to trim the ending tail so that it overlaps the starting tail by the WIDTH of the binding strip (in this case 2 1/2″).

 

Using a ruler and scissors, trim the ending tail so that it overlaps the starting tail by the WIDTH of binding (in this case 2 1/2")
Using a ruler and scissors, trim the ending tail so that it overlaps the starting tail by the WIDTH of binding (in this case 2 1/2″)

 

 

Now you’re going to take the end of the right hand (starting strip) and place it face up. Take the left hand (ending tail) and place it face down. YES – just like when you joined the strips originally. This means that all joins will be going in the same direction. There is NO extra overlap like there was with the original joins, but we can  manage for one join.

I like to use two pins to mimic the seam I will be stitching.

 

Starting tail (on the right) is face up, ending tail (on the left) is face down. Pin along the seam.
Starting tail (on the right) is face up, ending tail (on the left) is face down. Pin along the seam.

 

 

At this point, I like to test that seam before I sew it. The pins are acting as the stitching for the moment. Is the binding twisted? Does it appear to be the right length? If yes – then you can stitch that seam where you have placed the pins. If not, reposition the starting and ending strips and repin.

 

Easy to see if the binding is twisted BEFORE you sew that seam.
Easy to see if the binding is twisted BEFORE you sew that seam.

 

 

Sew the seam and trim the excess away leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance.

 

The last binding join is sewn and ready for trimming
The last binding join is sewn and ready for trimming

 

 

Trim and press the seam open the same way you did for the other joins.

 

The final join is pressed open like the other joins in the binding strips.
The final join is pressed open like the other joins in the binding strips.

 

 

Fold the section with the final join in half and give it a good press so it looks like the rest of the binding strips.

 

Fold the binding strip in half and give that join a good press to get it flat.
Fold the binding strip in half and give that join a good press to get it flat.

 

 

Using the 3/8″ seam allowance, stitch that last part of the binding to the quilt and you are done! All that remains is to pull the binding tight to the back of the quilt and hand stitch it in place.

I used to hate putting binding on a quilt. Twisted binding, a horrific process to make the final join and all kinds of other things I hated about the binding. I have no idea how many quilts I have bound over the last 15 years, but let’s say that it is a lot. I’ve experimented, researched and perfected the techniques above. Not only that, but because I understand WHY I am doing each step – it all makes a lot of sense.

Putting a binding on is no longer the chore that it once was. The other thing I have learned is that if you have the right tools, nothing is hard.

Using the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby Royale and the Interchangeable Dual Feed foot made sewing that binding on so easy and the seam allowance was even and straight!

Can’t wait to put the next binding on. By the way – I borrowed Diane’s quilt, but there were a LOT of other quilts used in the preparation of this demo – none of them mine. I wonder how that happened?

Check back in tomorrow where I will be chatting about machine quilting.

Have a great day!

Ciao!

Elaine Theriault is a teacher, writer and pattern designer who is completely obsessed with quilting. Elaine’s Tech Tips column (originally published in A Needle Pulling Thread magazine) is now available online in e-book format at QUILTsocial.com. When not quilting, she enjoys spending time with her two dogs, Lexi and Murphy, or can be found cycling across the country. Her blog is crazyquilteronabike.blogspot.com.

3 Comments

  1. Wendy Moore

    I know this is over 2 years post article, but thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve been totally frustrated by the fact that my 2 1/2″ binding strips are wider when pulled to the back than on the front. If not that, then I have to leave a flimsy, thin binding not filled with the quilt edge, to make them even. This is the first time in the 2 years that I’ve been quilting that someone has said NOT to use a 1/4″ seam allowance on the binding. I’m sad that all the quilts I’ve made to date haven’t been finished properly. But I’m so happy that my bindings will be better from this moment on! I also prefer to hand stitch the binding to the back, so now I can do this in peace, rather than frustration. Thank you so much!

  2. I do my binding same as you do and found that is the easiest method and normally
    I cut my strips according to the thickness of the batting I used.
    2 1/4 – 21/2. best method ever.

  3. Cynthia Lanahan

    Machine binding is quick. But I still prefer the binding to be done by hand.

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