A tutorial with all the details…
Making Your Binding
The basic requirements for making binding are:
Ruler and Rotary Cutter
Sewing Machine and Thread
Iron and ironing board
Optional but recommended is a Walking Foot
A Walking Foot is a wonderful addition to your machine. This is the one for my Janome. The lever goes above the needle securing screw. This foot adds feed dogs to the top of the fabric as well as the usual feed dogs in the bed of your machine. When you are working with numerous layers of fabric, this foot helps prevent creeping and small puckers or folds.
Preparation and cutting
Fold your fabric in half, selvedge to selvedge. If you have ripples along the fold it is not even, reposition the selvedge’s until the fold is smooth and even. Position the fabric with the fold along one of the lines on your mat, I use the lines on the cutting mat to make sure I have the fabric ‘square’, this will ensure nice straight strips.
Using your rotary cutter, mat and ruler trim one edge to give you a straight cut to start from.
Now that you have a straight edge, move your ruler across 2 ½ inches from the straight edge you’ve just cut. Line up the ruler edge on the cutting mat markings.
The ruler I use is longer than the fabric so I can line it up both ends to make sure I am cutting straight. Cut the strip of fabric at 2 ½ inches wide. Each time move your ruler over 2 ½ inches and realign with the markings.
The rule is – Check Twice Cut Once
Calculate how much binding.
You might be wondering, well hang on. How many strips do I need to cut?
Here are my calculations, what I do every time I need to make binding.
Measure your quilt width and length. Note down these numbers. We add these 2 numbers then multiply that number by 2. This gives us the perimeter measurement of the quilt.
Eg: 80inches + 60inches = 140 inches
140 x 2 = 280 inches
The width of fabric is often 112cm or 44 inches. I use 40 inches to allow length for joining the strips and turning the corners on the quilt, and a little built in fudge factor.
Now we divide the perimeter measurement, in my case 280 inches by 40 which is 7. This is the number of strips I need for this particular quilt. Your numbers will be different for each quilt.
If your number is less than a whole number, simply round up to the next full number. Eg: 5.7 – round up to 6.
How much fabric?
If you have not yet bought your fabric for binding, here’s how I work out how much I need to buy.
I needed 7 strips WOF (width of fabric), multiply this by 2.5 to give how much fabric I need in inches – 7 x 2.5 = 17.5 inches.
Many of us quilt in inches but we buy fabric in metres and centimetres, so…
Now I multiply 17.5 x 2.5 to give the amount of fabric I need in centimetres = 43.75cm. I would round this up to 45cm, to allow for straightening later.
Most tape measures have centimetre and inches so you can double check your final centimetres to inches conversion.
Now you need to start joining the strips.
So you have a smooth binding and to reduce the bulk of having a straight seam, I join my binding with diagonal seams.
If you feel unsure of sewing across, draw a line in a fabric marker from corner to corner diagonally across the fabric. You can see my drawn line from top left to bottom right.
Stitch on this line.
Here you can see I’ve stitched from corner to corner diagonally across to create a 45 degree seam. If you think about your binding it will be folded in half and this method of joining the strips means you are distributing the layers of fabric instead of having 8 layers of fabric on top of each other and then trying to fold those layers over the edge of your quilt.
I save a bit of time and thread by chain piecing my binding strips. Once sewn, snip the joining threads to separate the strips.
Once your binding strips are pieced together trim the seams leaving approximately a ¼ inch seam allowance.
Do this for all seams.
Press the closed seam to ‘set’ the stitches. This helps make the join flatter when you open it out again.
Then when you open the seam, your binding will be a straight strip with a diagonal seam.
The next step is to press the length of the binding in half.
Start from one end and work your way along your binding, pressing carefully as you go. When you get to a joining seam, press it open. Continue pressing the binding strip in half. You will end up with a lovely pile of binding ready to apply to your quilt.
Attaching your binding
Now you are ready to sew the binding onto your quilt.
By leaving a short length of binding free before you start stitching, this will make it easier to join the two ends for finishing.
I usually leave a hand span unsewn and you can see I have started near my thumb in this picture,
Binding is most often stitched to the front of the quilt and folded over to the back for finishing. You can do the binding the opposite way if you prefer. You can opt for a decorative stitch on your machine to sew it down.
I have gotten to know just the right seam allowance to sew with my walking foot. This will be different depending on your machine and the foot you use. I aim for a ¼in. seam.
Time to start stitching and I recommend a securing stitch as you begin. I often use a stitch length of 2.5 to attach the binding.
This is where the walking foot is very useful, as you have five layers (backing, wadding, top and two layers of the binding) going through your machine. The walking foot helps keep the layers from creeping and leading to small tucks.
At the corner, your stitching needs to stop at ¼in. from the edge. Sew in reverse for a couple of stitches to secure. If it makes it easier, mark the place you need to stop at with a pin.
Remove the quilt from under the foot. Turn the quilt so the edge you have just stitched is at the top.
Fold the binding up and away from you in line with the unbound edge in front of you. This will create a 45 degree fold in the binding. Do not pull too hard on the binding fabric.
Now fold the binding back over itself towards you.
You need to create a fold in the binding level with the edge of the quilt.
You will cover the diagonal fold with the binding fabric.
Make sure your fold sits even with the quilt edge or you will have trouble turning the binding to the back.
Pin the binding in place if you wish, then place the quilt under the foot of your machine and sew right from the folded edge where the arrow is pointing, again using a ¼ inch seam allowance.
Keep stitching until you reach the next corner and repeat the steps to create a mitred corner. Continue around your quilt. Leave at least 8 inches between start and finish unsewn to complete the last join
The Final Join
When you have stitched all around your quilt remembering to leave at least 8 inches of binding unsewn. You are now ready to make the final join.
You need to shorten and trim one end straight, and so that it ends a little past the middle of your unstitched section. Keep this trimmed section, we’ll use it to ‘measure’ the overlap.
Lay the end piece of binding over the start, slightly off set so you can see the 2 layers of binding.
Open the trimmed piece to the full binding width and aligning with the binding section closest to the quilt place it on top of the overlapping section of binding. This shows you how much overlap you need.
Cut off the excess from the overlapping end. Place the trimmed pieces in your scrap basket if they are large enough.
This is really the only fiddly part and this is why I ask you to leave at least 8 inches unsewn between the start and end of attaching the binding.
The two ends need to be brought together at right angles, right sides together, making sure there are no twists.
Carefully match the ends squarely and pin to hold them securely in place.
I use 3 pins here so it doesn’t move while I position the binding under the machine foot.
You will need to fold your quilt so that the fabric is not pulling and you can more easily manoeuvre this join to the sewing machine.
Stitch diagonally from corner to corner. Mark this line if you need to using a fabric marker.
You will know if you do it wrong, because the binding won’t ‘open’ properly. Ask me how I know this!
CHECK THE FIT – most important!
Always check the fit of the seam you’ve just done to make sure the binding is not too tight or too loose for the remaining section of the quilt. If you have done the steps above well, it will fit perfectly.
It’s easier to check than it is to have to unpick and then have to add another section in because you’ve cut it and it’s too tight.
Once you have checked the fit then trim corners off leaving a ¼ inch seam allowance.
Carefully press the seam open, I often just finger press, then stitch the remaining unsewn section of binding to the quilt, securing your threads with a few reverse stitches.
Finishing Your Binding
Usually I start at a corner when I am finishing binding. This is the same whether I am stitching the binding down by machine or by hand.
Fold the binding over to the back of the quilt. Pin in place making sure you have covered your stitching line.
Now you need to make a hospital corner by folding the binding under itself and folding the next side over to the quilt back as well.
This is how I pin the corner to be able to sew it down without it moving. The folds should meet neatly at the corner.
I sew my way around the quilt pinning each corner as I come to it. You can pin them all first if you prefer.
You are ready to stitch the binding down now. The following pictures are of finishing by machine. You may need to change your thread colour at this point.
Place the quilt front up under your walking foot positioning so you will be stitching in the ditch, ie. right next to the binding on the front.
I use a longer stitch- 2.5-3 and sew along the pinned section pivoting at the corner. If your machine has a needle down function, this is a good time to use it.
Continue sewing the binding section by section, folding the binding to the back each time and check that you have covered the first stitching line. You will be able to feel the binding with your fingertips and know that it is safely covering the previous sewing line.
Don’t hurry and try to sew a large section, this can lead to sections of binding not being sewn down.
Work your way along each side and repeat the folding at the corners until you reach the place where you started. Secure your stitching with a few reverse stitches and then remove the quilt from the machine, trim your threads.
You can see the stitching line on this corner on the back. By matching the bobbin thread to your binding you do not see it as much as if it were a contrast colour.
By sewing carefully and not rushing you can stitch the binding down even using a contrasting thread colour on top. I had white areas to sew over and the quilt is also quilted in white, hence I used white thread in the top for sewing down the binding also.
Hand Stitching the Binding
I (Barbara) am a sucker for punishment I suppose, but I prefer to hand stitch my bindings. There is no right or wrong way, it is what you prefer.
The whole procedure is the same with a couple of exceptions.
These are…instead of the ¼” seam,
I sew a 5/16” and I do NOT press the binding in half before I sew.
Turn the binding over and it will just sit over the stitching line. You will see in the photo where I have lifted the binding a bit. I stitch with a ladder stitch. Slide the needle through the binding, (about 3/16”) and the same amount from the quilt back just below the stitching line, pull thread through. This can be done in one movement, and by not pressing the binding the needle will slip in easier.
Congratulations, you have completed binding your quilt. Enjoy!