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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
Leave the first few inches of binding, then stitch with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
- 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.
- Fold back
Fold the binding strip back at a 45* angle. Use the stitching as a guide.
- Fold over
Fold the binding over, aligning the fold with the edge of the quilt.
- Resume stitching
Resume stitching 1/4″ from the edge of the quilt. Repeat at the other corners.
- 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.
- Finish stitching
Stitch along until your stitches meet the starting point. Overlap by a couple of inches.
- 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.
- Top stitch
Top stitch along the edge of the binding. The corners should fold in easily.
On the back of the quilt, back of the topstitching will be visible. That’s why some people don’t like binding by machine.
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.
Elizabeth DeCroos is the designer and teacher at Epida Studio. She loves to work in quilting, pojagi and embroidery and teach these techniques to others.
Learn more and get her to speak to your group.