close up of quilt edge with title.

Binding a Quilt by Machine

Many people will say that the only way to bind a quilt it to sew the final binding on by hand. That is fine if you enjoy hand sewing and have the time. And it is necessary if you want to enter your quilt in competitions. But for general use quilts, binding by machine is not only faster, it is also more durable.

If sewing by machine works for you, don’t let quilt snobs tell you that it’s wrong.

As my husband says, at first some people were against indoor plumbing too.

Calculate how much binding you need

Before you begin sewing, you need to make one long strip of fabric for the binding. To figure out how long to make it, measure all the way around your quilt. Add about 6″ for overlap, and about 4″ for each corner.

So if your quilt is 30″ x 40″, you would do this calculation:

30 + 30 + 40 + 40 + 6 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 162

You need a binding strip 162″ long.

If I was doing this, I would cut 4 strips width of fabric to see if that was good enough. You might end up needing a tiny bit more, but it will probably work out.

Cut fabric strips

There is some debate on how wide to cut the fabric strips. Some people like 2″ and some like 2-1/2″. I personally like 2-1/4″. It is wide enough to fold over comfortably without having too much.

Try a couple of different widths and you will get to know what you like best.

If you have an edge with curves or scallops, you will need to cut the strips on the bias. But for regular square or rectangular quilts, cutting on the straight of grain is not only fine, it is easier to work with.

Cut the ends of the fabric strips off with a 90* cut.

fabric strip with a 45* cut at the end.

Join fabric strips

Join the fabric strips together. If you are using a solid colour fabric, be sure to pay attention to what is the “right” side of the fabric. It is easy for it to get turned so that your joining seams are on different sides.

aligning strips on the diagonal to stitch together.

Offset the corners of the ends to get them to line up. Joining with angle cuts instead of straight eliminates bulk in the binding seam.

Once the strip is made, lay it out by the quilt just to make sure you have enough. There is no need to pin it on or do any exact measurements. Just lay it out loosely.

two strips joined with a diagonal seam.

Fold and Press the fabric strip

Once the strip is made and you know it is long enough, fold it in half lengthways and press well.

folding a strip of fabric in half lengthwise.

Some people like to roll the folded strip onto an empty spool, but I usually just leave it loose.

At the edge of the binding that you are going to start with, fold the end down 1/4″ and press.

Stitch the binding onto the quilt

  1. Align on the back
    Align the raw edges of the binding strip with the edge of the quilt on the back. In hand stitching, you would normally stitch it onto the front.

    stitching fabric strip onto edge of quilt.

  2. Stitch
    Leave the first few inches of binding, then stitch with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

    stitching on quilt binding.

  3. Turn off at the corner
    When you get to the corner of the quilt, stitch off the edge at a 45* angle. Cut the thread and remove from the machine.

    corner stitching on binding.

  4. Fold back
    Fold the binding strip back at a 45* angle. Use the stitching as a guide.

    folding back the corner in binding.

  5. Fold over
    Fold the binding over, aligning the fold with the edge of the quilt.

    folding over the corner of the binding.

  6. Resume stitching
    Resume stitching 1/4″ from the edge of the quilt. Repeat at the other corners.

    stitching the corner binding.

  7. Tuck in the end
    When you get around to the starting point, trim the strip to the exact size, and tuck the end into the opening you left at the beginning.

    tucking in start and finish of binding.

  8. Finish stitching
    Stitch along until your stitches meet the starting point. Overlap by a couple of inches.

    final stitching on quilt binding.

  9. Turn to the front
    Fold over the binding flap to the front of the quilt. You can either fold over a bit at a time as you stitch, or fold it all at once and use clips to hold it.

    folding over binding to the front.

  10. Top stitch
    Top stitch along the edge of the binding. The corners should fold in easily.

    topstitching on binding.

On the back of the quilt, back of the topstitching will be visible. That’s why some people don’t like binding by machine.

stitching on back of quilt.

I don’t think that’s too much of a problem, especially if it’s a quilt that will be used a lot.

This method of binding will stand up to wear and tear.

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nine patch sampler quilt with title.
fence rail block with title.
Elizabeth DeCroos

Elizabeth DeCroos

designer, teacher, speaker

Elizabeth enjoys doing all types of sewing and needlework and teaching others new techniques. For more information or to have her speak to your group click HERE.

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