Okay! I’ve been meaning to get this tutorial up for weeks — thank you for being patient with me! Binding a quilt is one of my favorite steps of the quilt-making process. I’m sure the fact that I get to throw it in the wash and let it get all crinkly and awesome soon after plays a big part in my love for that step, but that’s neither here nor there. What does that phrase even mean? Anyway. Let’s start at the very beginning.
- Quilt top and backing have both been pieced.
- Quilt sandwich has been, well, sandwiched.
- Quilt has been quilted.
- Quilt has been squared. I’ll touch on this step more in a future post.
It’s time to bind this beauty.
A few things to touch on before we jump into the steps below.
// DECIDE ON BINDING GRAIN //
There are 3 general ways to cut your fabric strips for binding — I’m going to explain all three here quickly.
Grab a piece of quilting cotton and look closely at the weave. Cutting bias binding strips means that the strips will be cut on the diagonal of the fabric weave – at a 45º angle. It is the most traditional way of cutting binding strips, and considered the strongest. It is the most difficult to cut and isn’t the most “fabric saving friendly.” I have seen some tricks for cutting a continuous bias strip, but I haven’t tried it yet. In my eyes, the need for bias binding for the sake of its additional strength is a lot like the argument for only using cotton thread for quilting — it’s not really necessary.
Grab a piece of cut fabric that is still folded and use the graphic below to visualize how to cut straight-grain binding strips.
Straight-grain binding isn’t one that I do a lot, but it’s very similar to the third type: cross-grain binding strips. A great reason for using straight-grain binding is when you want to give some visual impact to a patterned fabric used for binding. By selecting Straight-Grain or Cross-Grain, you can really change the look of your quilt, because it’ll rotate the pattern of the fabric 90º.
Using your folded fabric, use the graphic below to visualize how to cut cross-grain binding strips.
In my opinion, this type of binding is the quickest and easiest way to cut strips for binding. It’s my go-to, but I always am sure to iron my fabric prior to cutting — lining up my grain as much as possible.
// BINDING STRIP WIDTH //
The width of your binding strip will impact how thick or wide your actual quilt binding is. I know..duh, Kacia. But hey, I want to make sure I answer the questions people might be thinking, but feel dumb asking! I always cut my strips 2.5 inches wide. Always have and haven’t found a reason not to. If you want a thicker binding, you could cut as wide as 3 inches and use a wider seam allowance to attach, making the binding thicker and more bold! It’s something I keep meaning to on a fun quilt, but I just haven’t yet.
// BINDING STRIPS AND TOTAL LENGTH //
I’m lazy. I use this website. Bookmark it. Or if you’re like me, google “quilt binding calculator” on your phone, and it’ll be the first site to pop up. Type in your quilt dimensions and binding strip width…and voila. It’ll tell you how many strips to cut. And then you can be weird like me and always cut one more than it says to cut. I never believe it, yet it’s always been right. Oh well. :)
1 // Cut binding strips. Cut out your strips following the type of grain — bias, straight or cross — that you’ll be using for your binding. Again, I always cut mine 2.5″ wide.
2 // Create long binding strip. You know what, I think I know why I love the binding steps of quilt making so much….all the math and angles. I’m that kid that used to make up long division problems just for fun. I digress… Starting with one cut strip, set it perpendicular to another cut strip. You can see in the image below how we will be sewing these strips together to create these angled seams.
Mark this seam using a fabric pen or use my favorite sewing accessory: painter’s tape. Place a long piece of tape along the line down from your needle — don’t cover your feed dogs! — making sure it’s long enough to see it past the line you’ll be sewing. Sew from corner to corner as shown below.
Continue piecing each strip together, until you have a long binding strip. I always go through and check each seam connection to make sure I didn’t twist anything or sew it backwards — I’ve definitely done both of those things… — before I trim off the excess fabric. Leave about a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Press seams open at each connection.
3 // Press binding After you’ve pressed each connecting seam of your binding strip, press it in half length-wise. (As shown above.)
4 // Optional: Sew around the perimeter of your quilt with a 1/8″ seam allowance.
5 // Let’s attach the binding!
Line up the raw edges –not the folded edge– of your binding with the edge of one side of your quilt. No need to pin — if you want to use something to hold it in place, I recommend these clips. Begin about 1/3 down from one corner of your quilt — at least 1.5 feet down is great. Obviously the size of your quilt will impact what 1/3 of the way is…. but you’ll see in a few steps why I said that. You just don’t want to start in a corner! Leave about a 8-12″ tail, and begin sewing your binding along the first side of your quilt with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Here is where you can have some fun with thicker binding strips! Imagine the above strip being 1.5″ – 2″ wide when folded. If I were to sew using a 3/8″ or 1/2″ seam allowance from the edge of my quilt, I will have that much more binding that shows on the front side of my quilt. Hopefully that will make more sense as we continue… :)
6 // Corners Sew until you near the first corner. You can measure or eyeball 1/4″ from the edge of your quilt — backstitch 1-2 stitches and cut your thread.
Fold back your binding strip to create a 45º angle at the corner.
Holding that angle in place, fold the binding back against the new edge. The raw edges should line up with the next side of the quilt, as shown below.
Use a clip to hold in place if needed.
Beginning at that corner, sew the next side of your quilt using the same 1/4″ seam allowance as the first. As you approach the next corner, repeat the steps for the corner shown above.
7 // Attach binding ends At this point, you’ve attached the binding strip around the perimeter of your quilt. You’ve completed four corners — those are my favorite…I have a lot of favorites — and now you’re back to the first side. Stop sewing with about 8″-12″ from where you began. Now at this point, there are a ton of ways to complete the perimeter, hide the raw edges of the binding strip and call it a day. I show a really easy and simple say to accomplish this task in this tutorial. But I’m a perfectionist, and I want that last seam to be just like the others that I used to string my binding strips together. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve become so frustrated trying to get the angle and seam right during this final step… I was determined to figure out a more full-proof way of folding, marking, sewing and cutting my fabric so that it works every time. Hopefully these steps save you a bit of headache and heartache too!
The first thing I do is fold one end into the other to mimic the direction of the other seams used in the binding. I don’t typically sew my final seam so close to an existing seam — I try to lay it out and visualize where to best place those existing connections, but this way you can see how it mirrors what’s already been done when we first created the long strip of binding fabric.
Make a mark of the fold using your fingernail to “press” the seam, and then mark it with a fabric pen — like you can see in the above photo.
Being careful not to twist your fabric, angle the piece you had folded until it is perpendicular with the other, as shown above.
Pin in place and mark where you will sew that final seam to connect the ends of your binding strip together. You can probably visualize in the photo above how when that seam is completed, the seam will follow the existing seam angles.
Carefully sew this seam — I never use a stitch length longer than 2.5 for any of these connections.
I’ve made enough mistakes to know that I always double check before trimming those fabric tails — see how everything is lining up? Also check to be sure the length fits around the perimeter of the quilt! Too long and you’ll get a pucker in your binding…too short and you’ll potentially get a pucker in your quilt.
Let’s avoid the puckers, shall we? When you are feeling confident in that final seam: trim down to 1/4″ seam allowance.
Set binding in place and sew binding with 1/4″ seam allowance to complete quilt perimeter.
I hope you found this Quilt Binding tutorial helpful! Part two will be broken down into 2 parts — machine finishing the binding and hand-finishing the binding. Both have a distinct look, and people tend to be a bit opinionated on which they prefer! I tend to go back and forth depending on time and the overall look and feel of the quilt.
I hope this tutorial helps remove the fear of binding your quilts! Please let me know if you have any questions or if I was confusing in any way — sometimes I get a bit cross-eyed writing these and staring at photos, so it’s very likely!