Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Finishing Touch

For most of us, the last task to complete a quilt is the binding.  I know from reading blogs that many of you hate it and some of you love it.  Hand stitching binding means wasted time when you'd rather be doing anything else.  Hand stitching binding means you can relax, watch a good movie, and by the time it's over, you'll have that wonderful quilt done.  It's a love/hate thing.

Over the years, I've done several "how to" tutorials but I don't think I've done one on bindings--at least a search of my blog didn't turn up one.  And I know I have quite a few readers who are new to quilting or, if not quite NEW, haven't been quilting for decades like some of the others.  So when I was getting ready to bind my last Schnibbles quilt, I took some photos to help me explain the method I use for binding.  I hope it's helpful for some of you.

I like bias binding.  It has more give to it and that helps the quilt keep its shape, I feel.  It also seems to make nicer corners, but maybe that's my imagination.  If you prefer your bindings cut on the grain of the fabric, skip ahead.  But if you want to make bias binding, the first thing to do is to open up the fabric, press the wrinkles out, and line the edge of the selvage up on the 45 degree line of your ruler.  Make a cut the length of the ruler and then move the ruler up to the next section of fabric, trying to keep a straight line on the bias--using a long ruler helps.  Once you've made a cut across the entire width of the fabric, you've established your bias line.

For most of my quilts, I like to cut the bias strips at 2-1/4".  For a small quilt, I might just cut four strips; for a large quilt, I might cut eight.  I'd rather end up with extra binding than have to stop and cut more when I'm in the middle of sewing it on, so I usually over estimate how much I need.

Next, I trim the strips at either end, keeping the cuts at a 45 degree angle.

When it's time to sew the strips together, I check to make sure the edges are going the right way--sometimes as I'm cutting strips, the angles are reversed as I move past the far corner of the fabric, so it's important to doublecheck before trying to sew them together.

Next, sew the ends of the strips together.  Right sides together, the two strips will appear to be at right angles to one another with little "tails" sticking out top and bottom, but the under fabric and the upper fabric will meet just at 1/4" in from the edge where you will sew the seam.

When all the strips are sewn together, fold the binding in half, "wrong" sides together and raw edges touching, and press.  (This photo came out lighter but the dark blue of the "right" side is facing out.)

Place the binding on top of the body of the quilt, lining up the raw edges of the binding and the quilt.  The longer "tail" of the binding should be on the bottom (see above).  If you don't have an end that's longer on the bottom, cut the binding at the opposite 45 degree angle so you do.

I usually start my binding around the middle of one side; I'll check to make sure where I start won't leave me with a seam on the first corner and I'll try to estimate where the seams will end up on the other corners, but I don't always get it right.  Ideally, you don't want the thickness of a seamed area on a corner, but you don't always get what you want, so you just make do.  It all works out.

I like to use my walking foot for the binding--it helps keep all the layers from sliding around.  I use my 1/4" seam measurement on the plate or the edge of the sewing foot to position my needle and sewing line.  I start the seam about an inch or so from the end of the binding so I can overlap later on.

And then I'm off!  Until I get about 1/4" from the end of the quilt.  I stop there and back stitch; then I clip my threads.

For the corner, I turn the binding back so there's a 45 degree line from the corner of the quilt to the folded edge of the binding.

Next, I turn the binding back on itself and line it up with the corners and edges.  I hold the fold in place until I can get it all back under the needle.

Again, I line up the 1/4" seam line and I begin the seam 1/4" in from the folded edge of the binding.  Once I start sewing, if I flip up that corner to check, one seam line will stop at the corner and the other seam line will pick up nearly at the same spot, going along the next edge.

Here you can see a little better how I've started the seam 1/4" in from the folded edge of the binding.

And here you can see where the two seam lines nearly intersect at the corner.  It looks like that horizontal seam line keeps going to the edge, but that's just a longer thread trailing off.

I keep sewing the binding all the way around.  If I know I'm going to end up with a seamed area on a corner, I can either go ahead and leave it and know my corner might not be as crisp as I'd like, or I can re-piece the binding at that spot to shorten it so the seam area will occur before I hit the corner.  Usually I choose the lazy way, but I know I have that option.

When I get back to the beginning again, I trim the tail of my binding so there's an inch or so overlap . . .

Then I turn under one of the edges and tuck the raw edged piece inside.  I snug them together as best I can and make sure there's no slack in the binding that will end up in a pleat.  Then I just keep sewing the seam until the binding is attached all around.

Next, I iron back the binding, so it's ready to turn under and around to the back to hand stitch.  If you use a quilt marking method that's heat sensitive, skip this step and just finger press as you go.  I like ironing because it helps me make sure my bindings are wrapped tightly around the edge of the quilt and not loose.  I don't use binding clips because my bindings are narrow and I don't find them necessary or even helpful--they just tend to get in the way.  But by all means, do whatever seems to work best and be most comfortable for you.

I begin hand stitching down the binding somewhere around the middle of a side, taking stitches similar to applique stitches.  Most of the stitch is buried in the layers of the quilt, and my needle only comes up to catch a few threads at the edge of the binding every 1/4" or so.  I use a thread color that will blend in on the front of the quilt, because sometimes my stitches come through just a little without me noticing--ARGH!

As I get near the corner, there's that little overlap flap inside from making that 45 degree corner that needs to be pushed to one side; I check the front of the quilt to make sure the seam line on the corner is straight and that inner tab is laying nicely.

Then, when I get to the corner, I push my needle through to a point near the corner and come out . . .

And I turn the next edge down, forming another 45 degree corner; I take a stitch there to hold it in place.  I don't usually do this on the front, but if I've ended up with a seam in the corner, I might stitch the front to hold it in position as well.

Here you can see the corner seam on the front of the quilt.

The rest is easy--just more hand stitching all the way around.  Done!


Theresa said...

Just what I needed!!! Thank you!!!

Gwen said...

Do you ever do continuous bias binding? I love doing it that way. Have two quilt to bind this month and will use striped fabric and continuous bias. great tutorial!

Josie McRazie said...

Question... do most people sew counter clockwise (as you look at the back of the quilt)? I have only bound 7 (I think maybe 8) anyway I sew mine clockwise? Noone has taught me I just kinda do my thing. I find this interesting! Great tutorial!

debstokes said...

There is one step I do different - when I get to a corner, I stop 1/4 inch from the edge with the needle down. I lift the presser foot and turn the quilt so I can sew off the fabric at a 45 degree angle. I honestly don't understand why that works - confuses me every time I try to think about it - but it does and creates really crisp corners that don't need extra stitches on the back or front. Thanks for the detail steps!! Deborah

Miss Jean said...

I don't mind the hand stitching part of the binding. It's sewing it on in the first place that I hate. I think I've come up with the answer. I've been using Warm and Natural batting and that adds to weight and bulk so it's difficult to wrangle the quilt as I sew the binding on. I've "discovered" Hobbs Tuscany polyester batting which is light and drapey so that may help. Thoughts?

Deb@asimplelifequilts said...

I love how you hand stitch your corners - I've not seen that before but it makes perfect sense and I'll be doing that next time!

Valerie the Pumpkin Patch Quilter said...

I bind much like you, and I just like the look of a hand stitched binding over a machine stitched binding. I've seen some quilters who are WONDERFUL at machine stitching their bindings...but I'm not one of them! I don't LOVE the binding process but I don't mind it - it's wonderful to know you're almost to the finish line though!

Anonymous said...

Great instructions. I never even thought of folding the binding in half and sewing it down - I always did the single edge and fold/turn to sew. I'm trying this next time - looks so much easier!

Cindy in SC

Shirley--Knot-y Embroidery Lady said...

Hey - Your tutorial on binding is the best one I have seen!! Well done! I have three quilts to bind and your tutorial just gave me a kick in the butt to get going on them. Thanks.