Sunday, June 1, 2014

Quilting 101: Binding a Quilt

Everyone seems to have their own little techniques for binding quilts. This is the way I've done it for years. I hate hand-binding quilts and nearly always bind completely by machine. I've been asked multiple times for information on how I do my binding and am finally getting around to posting this. I'm fully aware that each of us do this differently, this is simply my method.

Figuring the Binding Requirements:

  • (quilt width + quilt height) x 2 = quilt perimeter
  • (quilt perimeter + 20) divided by 40 = number of WOF strips needed
  • number of strips x 2.5 (or 2.25 for a skinny binding) = total binding yardage

Prepping the Binding:
I almost always use a straight-grain binding from strips cut 2.5" x width of fabric. After cutting the strips I first cut the ends on a 45 degree angle. Make sure the angle for each end is going in the same direction. Place the angled end from one strip onto the next strip (seams offset), and stitch with a 1/4" seam. Press seams open, then press entire length of binding in half.

Squaring the Quilt: 
I trim and square my quilts before adding my binding. I like using my large 20.5" square ruler to clean up the corners. I feel this gives me the best results when squaring the quilt.

Attaching the binding to the front:
When I bind I always add my extension table to my machine to better stability and a larger work space. I leave approximately a 10" tail of binding to attach when finishing the binding. I use my walking to attach the binding to the front of the quilt. The right edge of the foot is my guide. My machine is set to a 5.5 stitch position for a minky or flannel backing and a 5.0 stitch position for quilting cotton (out of 7.0 stitch positions). I always use thinner cotton batting such as Warm and Natural. These settings give me a fat 1/4" seam. I use a 2.0 stitch length. For a thinner quilt such as one without batting and simply a flannel or blanket backing, I would generally start with a strip width of 2.25" and a stitch position of 5.5.

When approaching a corner, I stop stitching and backstitch 1/4" from the raw edge of the quilt. Fold the binding back, away from the quilt. Then fold back toward the quilt and line it up with the raw edge. Pin in place and stitch the next side, beginning from the edge of the quilt.

When nearing completion I stop stitching approximately 10" from the beginning of the binding strip. Overlap the two tails of the binding and trim. Mark the cut line of one strip, matching the angle of the other strip. Make sure they overlap slightly more that 1/4". Match ends and stitch closed. Finger press seam open and finish attaching the binding to the quilt front. I prefer this method as it always provides me with a consistent angle of the binding seams.

Attaching the Binding to the Quilt Back:
I attach my binding to the back of the quilt by stitching blind from the front. I use my edge joining foot. I've mentioned this foot before and love it. It has a guide in the center that makes it perfect for stitching in the ditch. Place the foot guide next to the binding seam. My center needle position is 3.5, although when using this foot, I prefer to set the position to 3.0 which is just slightly to the left of the center guide. I set my stitch length to 3.5.

I wrap the folded edge of the binding around to the back and clip a small section in place. I place my sewing foot between the clips to begin sewing. Raise the bobbin thread and pull both threads under and behind the foot. Begin stitching, backstitching a couple stitches to secure.

I work just a few inches at a time. I fold the binding over and toward the back, checking to make sure the folded edge covers and hides the original stitches. I hold the binding in place while stitching about 5 inches of binding. I repeat this process and continue around the quilt. I do not pin, clip or glue my binding during the majority of the sewing.

When approaching a corner, I do pin and fold the mitered corner as shown below. I've found I have better success with my corners when I pin.

Once the inside of a corner is reached, pivot the needle and continue stitching.

 This is how a finished corner turns out.

With the edge joining foot, the stitches almost disappear into the ditch on the front.


I hope that helps a bit for those interested in finishing the binding by machine.


  1. Thanks Kati! I never thought about sewing the back side front the front side of the quilt. That's brilliant! I've been sewing the binding to the front side so at least one side looks nice (although my corners can still be rough). I'll have to look through the feet that I have and give you method a try!

  2. I have a binding tutorial to publish one day this week. We use almost the same approach too, not quite, though, I just join everything horizontally.

  3. Thanks so much! That was really helpful. I like to do handwork, but I really prefer to machine sew as much as possible on big projects.

  4. Thanks for the tutorial very helpful, this will be a good resource.

  5. I bought one of those feet for my Janome but wasn't too happy with the results. After reading your tutorial today I think I may drag it out again and give it another try. I've been wanting to make some placemats and that would probably be just the ticket to practice. Thanks!!