As a longarmer I periodically get asked if I bind quilts for my clients, and I always respond with “No, but I would be happy to give you a lesson.” For my local clients, the lesson can happen in person, but that isn’t always possible. I haven’t found a tutorial that speaks to all the little things I like to do so I decided it was time to write my own.
My method is a little unconventional at times, (Step #9 for example) but does not require any special tools. It produces a double fold binding, hand sewn to the back of the quilt, with mitered corners and an easy way to sew the final end join. This method is the result of taking ideas from many different quilters and books along my quilting journey.
1. Trim all three layers of your quilt sandwich even and be sure that the corners are square. Using a pin, mark ¼” from each corner of the quilt.
2. Cut binding strips 2 ¼” wide, across the width of the fabric. To determine the number of strips you will need to cut, first measure the perimeter of your quilt and add about 10” (to allow for the corners and the end join). Divide this number by 40”. Cut the required number of strips and trim off selvedge ends.
3. To reduce bulk in the finished binding a bias seam will be used to join strips together. Lay your binding strips right sides together, perpendicular to each other and extending about ¼” past the edge of the other strip.
4. Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner and pin in place to prevent shifting.
5. Sew on drawn line.
6. Trim off excess fabric, about ¼” past the seam line. Repeat, being sure to put right sides together (with batiks or solids this can be a little trickier if you aren’t paying attention), until you have one long binding strip.
7. Press seams open to distribute bulk.
8. With the wrong side of the strip facing up, line up the 45 degree line of your ruler with the long edge of the strip. Trim.
9. Do not press the binding strips in half. Fold in half lengthwise and match the edges as you sew.
Once upon a time someone explained (I do not remember who), that one layer of the binding needs to make a longer trip around the quilt edge, (not unlike athletes running on the outside lane of the track), so the fold will need to fall slightly off center. I don’t know if it was the lazy part of me that enjoyed skipping pressing a mile of binding or that the end result was superior that tipped the scales.
10. Select a starting point for your binding. Avoid being too close to a corner or in the very center of a side. You will be sewing the binding to the front of the quilt. Leave about a 6” tail, and pin just the beginning to keep things from shifting as you get it over to your machine.
11. If available, use a walking foot to attach the binding. Use a full ¼” seam allowance (not scant like when you are piecing.) Sew a few inches, and then remove the quilt from the machine and check the back. This is an important step because every fabric, batting and thread combination is a little different. Ideally, when you fold the binding to the back of your quilt, you want the edge of the fold to fall just past your stitching line, and the binding to be nice and full with no limp edges. You may need to adjust you needle position slightly to achieve this, and it might take a few tries to find the sweet spot.
12. Secure the beginning of your sewing with a few backstitches. Continue sewing, matching the two edges of the binding with the quilt edge until you approach the corner. When you get close to the corner, stop and mark the quarter inch point on the binding, by feeling for the pin below. Remove pin, and stop sewing at the dot with your needle down in the fabric.
13. With the needle in the fabric, lift the foot and turn the quilt so you can sew the remaining stiches into the corner.
14. To form the mitered corner, fold the binding up and away from the quilt. Be sure the raw edge of the binding and the edge of the quilt are forming a straight line.
15. Fold the binding back down, having the fold even with the edge of the quilt. I like to use one pin to keep it in place as I head back to the machine.
16. Begin stitching the next side right at the edge of the quilt. And repeat the procedure for the next three corners.
17. Stop sewing about 12” before your starting point, secure with a few backstitches.
18. Tuck the end of the binding into the beginning of the binding that had the angled end. Arrange so it lies flat.
19. Using chalk or a marker that will disappear or can be erased, make a couple of marks where the starting end of the binding lies on the other end. These are just for a reference in the next step.
20. Open up binding, align the 45 degree line of your ruler along the edge of the biding and draw a straight line over your reference marks.
21. Draw a second line ½” from the first, towards the extra binding fabric. (This step adds a ½” seam allowance to each end.)
22. Cut on the second line – the one farthest away from the quilt top!
23. Pin ends of binding right sides together, with points extending ¼” on each side. Pin in place.
24. Stitch using a ¼” seam allowance. Open out binding to check for a nice flat finish.
25. If you are satisfied, trim dog ears and press seam open.
26. Stich remaining section of binding to the quilt.
27. I now like to press the binding away from the quilt top. I don’t press the fold at this point.
28. Take some time to fold the corners neatly and press them in place.
29. Turn the binding to the back and secure in place with binding clips. I do not press a hard crease into the fold, I prefer to sew through a soft fold.
30. Select a thin thread that matches your binding fabric. To form the invisible hand stiches, knot the end of a single thread (do not use double). Make your first stitch through just the backing and some batting and come out just above the machine stitching line. Insert your needle your needle into the very edge of the fold a take a small stitch, about 1/8” and come back out of the fold. Pull the thread all the way through.
31. Insert the needle into the back of the quilt just above the machine stitching line, directly in line with where you came out of the binding. You can bite into the batting, but do not go through the front of the quilt. Take a small stitch about 1/8’” – 1/4” in length.
32. Repeat these steps all around the quilt. Stitch down the corners as well. This is the final product.