01 of 06
What Is Quilt Binding?
Quilt binding is the narrow fabric sewn around the outer edges of a quilt after the quilt sandwich is complete. Binding holds the edges of the quilt top, batting, and quilt backing together, keeping them from fraying or coming apart in other ways.
Quilt binding can be sewn to the quilt in several ways. My favorite binding method uses continuous doublefold strips of fabric, which are long fabric strips folded in half to create a double layer before sewing. The extra layer adds durability to a... quilt's edges.
I prefer to sew the binding around the quilt by machine and then hand stitch it to the back, mitering the corners as I work. That method explained in this tutorial.
Other Quilt Binding Options
Continue to 2 of 6 below.
- Singlefold binding can be used, but a single layer of fabric isn't as protective to quilt edges as a double layer.
- Bias binding strips are stretchy, making them easy to manipulate when you sew binding to a quilt with curved outer edges.
- A knife edge finish, where the edges of the seam allowances are folded under and stitched at the fold, can often be used for projects that don't require durable edges, such as some miniature quilts and wallhangings.
- Some quilters sew a separate binding strip to each side of the quilt, overlapping the ends of strips to create tidy corners.
- Other quilters like to sew the binding to the quilt strictly by machine, attaching the front and back of the binding at the same time.
- A walking foot, also called an even feed presser foot, helps keep the layers of the quilt pucker-free as you sew, but a regular presser foot is fine if a walking foot is not available.
- A quilt hanging sleeve can be added at the same time binding is sewn to the quilt, or after the binding is complete.
02 of 06
Begin Sewing Binding to the Quilt
Prepare the Quilt for Binding
Trim the quilt sandwich to remove excess batting and backing. If the quilt top is skewed, fold back the other two layers and use a rotary ruler to very carefully square up the quilt. Be sure to remove only tiny slices of the quilt so that edges do not become uneven.
- Be very careful when squaring up a quilt edged in quilt blocks, because removing the outer 1/4" seam allowance will chop off the edges of those blocks, no matter what type of binding you use.
- Try... squaring up the top by simply smoothing it with your fingers, easing corners and edges into a better position.
Begin Sewing the Binding
Before you begin, read the tuck-in ending method on pages 5 and 6 because you might prefer that finishing technique. It's the method I typically use.
Continue to 3 of 6 below.
- Create a continuous binding strip that's about 25" longer than the distance around all four corners of the quilt.
- Starting about 1/3 of the distance between two corners, align the raw edge of one end of the binding with the raw edge of the quilt top, right sides together. (illustration does not show excess batting and backing)
- Leave an approximate 3" unpinned tail of quilt binding at the beginning, then pin several inches of binding to the quilt, moving towards its corner.
- Do a quick alignment around the rest of the quilt, without pinning, to make sure no seam allowances within the quilt binding will end up at a corner of the quilt, where seams would create too much bulk. If you find a seam allowance at a corner, change the starting point of the binding and recheck.
- Sew the quilt binding to the side of the quilt, leaving the beginning tail free. Use the seam allowance you chose when you made the quilt binding.
- Stop sewing before you reach the corner of the quilt, ending the seam the same distance from the approaching quilt edge as the width of the seam allowance.
That's a critical step. Many instructions tell you to end the seam 1/4" from the edge, which is fine if you are sewing with a 1/4" seam allowance but isn't correct for narrower or wider seams that are appropriate for quilts with borders. Following that important rule is the most important thing you can do to create perfect mitered corners.
- Sew a few backstitches, cut threads and remove the quilt from the machine.
03 of 06
Sew a Mitered Corner and Continue Sewing Binding to Edges
Miter the Binding at a Corner of the Quilt
- Fold the unsewn tail of quilt binding straight up, positioning it so that its right edge is parallel with the next side of the quilt to be bound. Coax the lower edge of the strip to form a 45-degree angle (top left illustration).
- Fold the binding down, leaving the top of the fold flush with the edge of the quilt top behind it and its raw edge aligned with the next side of the quilt. The 45-degree angle should be intact under the fold.
- Pin the quilt binding... to the side of the quilt or align it as you sew. Sew 2-4 stitches where the first seam ended, and then sew backstitch to the beginning of that seam. Continue sewing the binding to the side of the quilt.
- End the seam the same distance from the next corner as you did for the first. Backstitch. Miter the second corner as you did the first and continue sewing along the third side of the quilt. Treat remaining corners in the same way.
Some sewing machine presser feet have markings that help you know when you are a specific distance from an approaching edge.Continue to 4 of 6 below.
04 of 06
Join the Unsewn Ends of Mitered Quilt Binding
- When you're sewing quilt binding to the last side, end the seam 4" to 6" from the original starting point, less for miniatures. Backstitch.
- Trim excess binding, leaving a tail that's long enough to overlap the first unsewn tail by about 4".
- Unfold and make a 45-degree cut at the end of the beginning tail of quilt binding.
- Lay the unfolded ending tail under the angled beginning tail. Mark a line on the ending tail alongside the angled cut, then add a 1/2" seam allowance past... the line and trim on the line.
- Place the angled tails right sides together, offsetting their angled ends by 1/4". Sew the binding ends together with a 1/4" seam allowance.
- Refold the quilt binding, then pin and sew the remainder to the quilt.
Move on to the bottom of Page 6 to finish sewing the quilt binding to the back of the quilt.
Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
Alternative Binding Method with a Tucked Start and Finish
Tucked Ends Quilt Binding Option
Here's a tidy way to start and finish your doublefold quilt binding.
- Unfold one end of the doublefold quilt binding before sewing it to the quilt. Fold the fabric diagonally, as shown above, wrong sides together. Press to secure the fold.
- Trim excess fabric, leaving about 1/4" past the diagonal fold.
The third strip on the right in the photo above shows you how the strip looks when re-folded. The strip is narrow since it's for a miniature quilt with thin batting.... Wider strips will look slightly different when folded.
Sewing instructions and illustrations are on the next page.Continue to 6 of 6 below.
06 of 06
Sew Tucked Quilt Binding Strip to the Quilt
- Align the right edge of the opened binding strip along one side of the quilt as explained in the previous instructions.
- Fold the strip lengthwise again and pin-mark it an inch or so beyond the point where it becomes two layers again. Unfold. Sew to the quilt, beginning at the angled tip and sewing through only one layer of the strip. Stop at the pin mark, take a few backstitches and cut the threads.
- Lift the presser foot and refold the binding lengthwise again, aligning both edges of the strip... evenly with the edge of the quilt. Check the initial seam to make sure it extends well underneath the folded, angled binding edge that now rests on top.
- Start sewing where the first seam ended.
- Continue sewing the quilt binding to the quilt, stopping to miter each corner as explained on pages 1 through 3.
- When you've worked your way around the quilt and are nearing the starting point, stop the sewing machine, needle down. Trim away the excess ending tail, leaving enough length to tuck into the opening created by the starting tail.
- Realign the quilt binding with the quilt and sew through all layers to finish attaching it, ending the seam just past the beginning of the first seam.
- Use a blindstitch and matching thread to secure the angled fold to the tucked-in strip.
- Sew the quilt binding to the back of the quilt.
This method produces a little bulk where binding strips are joined, but the bulk is not excessive and the method is quick and easy to accomplish.
Finish Sewing the Quilt Binding
- Carefully remove excess batting and backing by trimming those layers to meet the raw edge created by the quilt binding and quilt top. Take care not to distort the seam allowance.
- Starting along a side, take the folded edge of the doublefold binding to the reverse side of the quilt. It should cover the seam you used to attach the binding.
- Use a sharps needle or something similar to sew the folded edge of the quilt binding to the quilt backing with a blindstitch (such as you would use in needleturn applique). Use a matching thread or any thread that blends with your fabric. Do not let the stitches travel through all layers since they would be visible on the front of the quilt.
- Sew all the way around the quilt. Fold the corners into neat miters on the front and back as you reach them -- the miters will form almost automatically.
- Some quilters go back and take a few invisible stitches in the front of each mitered corner after the quilt is finished. I usually leave them alone unless my binding (and miters) are wider than 1/4".