Basic Quilting Skills Series · Tips and Tricks · Tutorials

Basic Quilting Skills for Beginners: Binding 101

Hello Quilty Friends!

Happy Thursday to you!

Again, THANK YOU for following our Basic Quilting Skills for Beginners series. We are all thrilled with your interest to this series of posts. Sadly, this series will come to an end next week with Labeling Your Quilt.

So, I thought I’d ask — are there any other topics you’d like to see here? If so, please leave a comment or you can email your suggestions to me at tricia@villarosadesigns.com. I’d love to have your thoughts and ideas so our blog will continue to be relevant to you, our VRD fans and followers.

Now let’s get to BINDING!

The good news is that once you reach the binding stage, you are totally in the homestretch of having a finished quilt.

Yay you!

This week for our binding tutorial, we’ll use my Halloween Ice Jam table runner again. If you didn’t order the pattern last week, you can order it HERE.

There’s a couple of things we have to go over before we can do our binding.

How wide do I cut my strips?

You could ask a bunch of different quilters this same question and you would get multiple answers, I’m afraid — it’s not a one size fits all situation.

A lot of quilt patterns and quilters prefer to cut binding strips 2 1/2″ wide. As this seems to be the most common size in the quilting world, I too use this width for my patterns, but I personally find 2 1/2″ a bit too floppy, so when I do my own binding, I cut my strips 2 1/4″ wide, which for me makes a nice full binding. Of course, you will have to try both to see which one you prefer.

Yes, I use 2 1/4″ for almost all of my binding, but I must confess that there are a few types of projects I actually cut 2″ wide binding strips for — miniature quilts and any other tiny little quilty projects. Again, you’ll just have to try different widths on different projects to find out what works best for you.

Here’s a little something to consider — I have found that if your 1/4″ seam is a “fat” 1/4″ seam, then you’ll probably like using 2 1/2″ or if you’re like me and you use a “scant” 1/4″ seam, then 2 1/4″ might be a better fit.

As for mini quilts and such, you’ll probably want to use a slightly narrower width than what you use for your regular-sized quilts. You’ll just have to try things out to see what you like better because trial and error is all part of learning, isn’t it?

How do I know how many strips to cut for my binding?

Sometimes you get lucky and your quilt pattern will include the number of strips to cut and it might even suggest a specific width. But, if your pattern doesn’t specify how many strips to cut, read on my friend!

If you don’t know the dimensions of your quilt, you will need to measure the width and the length using your tape measure.

Let’s use my Halloween Ice Jam measurements for this example — it measures 18″ wide x 54″ long, so we need to add together 2 widths and 2 lengths to get the total inches around the outside of the quilt (otherwise known as the circumference).

18+18+54+54=144

Now we are going to divide 144 by 40.

This number will tell us how many strips to cut because we are dividing the total inches by the inches in the width of fabric.

Please understand I didn’t just pull a random number out of the air — ha ha! — 40 is the average width of fabric that I and a lot of other quilt designers use to determine yardage requirements for our patterns. Fabric can vary in width so it helps to use an average number maybe a little smaller than the actual width and 40 does that when fabric generally ranges from 42″ – 45″ wide. Besides, that little extra also helps to make sure you don’t run out of fabric by accident.

So, let’s continue.

144÷40=3.6

Let’s round that number up to 4 — I need 4 strips of fabric for my binding. That little extra is helpful to make room for the corners and joining our binding ends. There’s nothing worse than getting close to the end of sewing on your binding to find you are 3 inches short. When in doubt, add an extra strip.

But what do you do when you get a whole number instead of a fraction for the number of strips needed? Me, I definitely add an extra strip because I don’t want to run out of binding before I get to the end.

Yay! Quilt Math to the rescue again! Three cheers for math! Want to read my post about quilting and math? Check it out HERE.

Moving on……

Cut the required number of strips and then cut off all the selvedges. The selvedges are those tightly woven long sides of the fabric which usually have little holes in them. Off with the selvedges, I say, off with those selvedges!

Now we’re heading back over to the sewing machine.

There are a couple different ways to sew your binding strips together.

The first way is to layer 2 strips right sides together with the ends lined up. Use a 1/4″ seam to sew the strips together, just like in piecing. Press the seam allowance open to reduce bulk in the binding — nobody wants a lumpy binding. LOL!

The second way to join the strips is on the bias or diagonal. Lay a strip right sides up on your flat surface. Place a second strip perpendicular to (NO, not another math word! Horrors!!!) and on top of the first strip with the wrong side up, that way the strips are right sides together. Next, draw a diagonal line from corner to corner.

Then — you guessed it! — sew on the line. Does this sound familiar? It should because quilters use this technique for making triangles (HSTs) and flippy corners.

The next thing you need to do is find the end of the strip that is on top. Turn the strip over so it is now facing right side up. This is really important or else your binding will not have all the seams on the back of the strip. Take another strip and place it perpendicular to the second strip with the right side down, again making them right sides together. Draw a diagonal line and sew on the line again. Repeat this until you’ve sewn all the strips into one long binding strip.

Clip the threads in between the strips if you chain-piece and then cut off the waste triangles where the strips meet, leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Time to press our binding strips. Let’s head back to the ironing board.

Place your binding strip right side down on your ironing board. Using your iron on a cotton or hot setting, fold the strip in half with the wrong sides together, pressing as you go. Remember, you are pressing, not ironing here. We just want to make sure the strip gets folded and creased.

When you come to a seam, press the seam allowance open like we did when we joined our strips into one long binding strip. Then fold, press, and keep going.

Almost done now. Just keep folding and pressing until you get to the end of the very long strip. Keep in mind the bigger the quilt you are working on, the longer the strip and the more time it will take to do this step.

Let’s head back to the sewing machine once again because it’s time to sew the binding onto your quilt. I know this seems like a lot of steps, but writing/reading about it takes longer than actually doing it. After some practice, it will become second-nature and you won’t even have to think about it, you’ll just do it.

Lay your binding on top of the right side of your quilt with the raw edges lined up. I usually start my binding somewhere towards the middle of a long side. Be careful here because you want to avoid placing binding seams at your corners because the added bulk can make your corner turn out weird. Trust me on this. Been there, done that. It’s okay if you want to pin your binding all the way around your quilt, but with a little practice, you’ll have a fairly good idea how to avoid the dreaded seam allowance at the corner issue.

Pin the layers together about 10-12 inches from where the binding strip starts. Then place a pin through the quilt right before the binging begins, but not through the binding, only the quilt. This second pin right before the binding starts is a marker you will need later.

Start sewing at the pin 10-12 inches from the beginning of the binding strip. Backstitch a few stitches, and….GO.

Most people use a 1/4″ seam for sewing on their binding, but I personally use about a 3/8″ seam because I like a nice full binding. Try both ways to see which one works best for you.

Sew until you get to about 1/4″ from the corner.

When you get to 1/4″ from the corner — STOP and backstitch to secure the stitching. Cut your thread and pull your quilt out from under the needle.

GULP! Here comes the scary part — making a French fold mitered corner. Cue the scary music….

Fold your binding strip at a 45 degree angle towards the right.

Now fold the binding strip back over itself to the left. Place a pin if you need to. This little fold here makes you able to overlap the binding into a nice miter on the back which will give you a really nice square corner.

Turn your quilt and start sewing at the corner, backstitch a couple stitches and sew until you get to 1/4″ from the next corner. Not scary, easy peasy!

Repeat the mitered corner fold, turn your quilt again, and keep going. When you finish the fourth corner, keep your eye out for the pin marking the place where the binding strip began. Stop sewing 3-4 inches before that pin and backstitch to secure the stitching. Once you’ve backstitched, cut your threads and pull your quilt out from under the needle.

Here’s a helpful little video from Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims about mitering corners.

Now we’re going to sew the ends of our binding strip together. This next part is really a leap of faith, but it does work, I promise you. Just stick with me, I won’t steer you wrong.

Smooth your binding strip over and beyond where the marker pin is (move the loose beginning binding tail out of your way). Use a ruler and measure from the marker pin the length of how wide you cut your binding strip. For a lot of you, that would probably be 2 1/2″ but for me and some others, that will be 2 1/4″. Draw a line with a fabric pen at that measurement from the marker pin and cut on the line.

Next open both ends of the binding, overlap them with the the ends right sides together at an angle, and then pin the binding layers together. Draw a diagonal line if you like or just eyeball it.

Please note that this technique isn’t the only one out there. If you want to learn other ways of doing binding, you can do an Internet search.

Sew on your drawn line and trim away the waste triangles 1/4″ beyond your sewing line.

Finger press the seam open to reduce the bulk and refold the binding with wrong sides together again.

Your binding strip should now lay nice and snug against your quilt. Yay! Next pull out the pins and use them to keep the rest of the binding lined up with the quilt.

Now it’s time to finish sewing the binding on. Start where you stopped before we sewed the ends of the binding together until you overlap where you originally started sewing the binding on. Backstitch at the both the beginning and the end of your stitching line.

Finishing Binding by Hand or Machine?

While doing this series about beginning skills, I have discovered that I am an “old school” quilter. It pains me that I am starting to show my age, but I know these tried and true methods work. Feel free to explore different methods to do any of these skills, but keep in mind that it’s important to know the old skills before you can learn the new skills — you have to have somewhere to start. So, maybe I’m not as antiquated as it sometimes feels these days. LOL! But that’s okay, those old skills serve me well and keep me making quilt after quilt with excellent results.

That being said, there are 2 ways to finish your binding on your quilt — by hand or by machine.

I finish all my binding by hand. After writing multiple books and making oodles of samples for magazines and patterns, I know I’ve probably hand-sewn miles and miles and miles of binding. But that’s okay. I like how a hand-stitched binding looks.

If you are interested in learning to finish your binding by machine, here’s a nice video from Jenny at Missouri Star Quilting. It’s actually a complete binding tutorial and shows you how you can sewn it down by machine.

If you prefer finishing your binding by hand, you can check out this video by Quilting in the Rain as she shows you how to sew a hidden blind stitch.

You might wonder why I’m giving you videos here, but I learned a long time ago that as a lefty, there are just some things I can’t teach to righties and sewing down binding is one of them!

BIG SHOUT OUT to my pal, Cathey Laird of Cathey Marie Designs, the inventor of the Y Block Ruler.

Long long ago, I tried to teach Cathey how to do mitered corners like I did, she found out hours later that a lefty can’t teach a righty how to do that because we fold our corners in different directions. Oops, sorry, Cathey!

Anyway, I don’t want to confuse anyone, so here’s a righty doing the hidden blind stitch for you. If you are a lefty and need a little help from a lefty, just shoot me a message and I’d be glad help you.

Here is my cute little Halloween Ice Jam table runner! Now all I have to do is sew the binding down and put a label on it.

Whew! I’m totally worn out now! I guess that’s about it for binding, folks. I can’t think of anything else to add.

If you have any questions, though, just ask. Did you know you can send us a message on the blog? You can go to our Contact Us page and scroll down to the bottom to find a form to fill out.

Stay tuned for next week’s post about labeling your quilt.

Happy binding!

Until next Thursday —

Sew. Laugh. Repeat.

Always,

Tricia @VRD

5 thoughts on “Basic Quilting Skills for Beginners: Binding 101

  1. Shout out to you Tricia! I so enjoy reading your thursday blogs! I’m with you I cut my binding strips 2 1/4″. Lately I’ve machined my binding more than by hand. I use an embroidery stitch to complete but I do like hand binding also

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  2. Nice , informative post. I have saved short pieces of binding of various widths, which I use to “audition” the width that will look best on a particular quilt. The finished look can be influenced by the thickness of your quilt, batting and backing when sandwiched together. Having several widths to pin at 1/4 inch from the edge and then turn around to the other side gives a fair idea of the finished look.

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