Fast Machine Quilt Binding 101

originally posted at Make and Takes
This week we’re going to talk about adding a machine-done binding to finish you project. Next week we’ll finish by talking about hand-done bias-binding. Pick whichever option works best for you! A neat binding makes the quilt look professional, crisp and finished. It can also provide a cute ‘frame’ for the design. When I first started quilting I was so intimidated by the thought of adding a binding to a quilt. I was amazed (and stoked) when I learned how easy they are.
First you are going to trim the excess batting and backing fabric from your quilted project. Use a rotary cutter and your ruler to have a neat, square edge.
Next cut you binding strips: Four 2 ½” wide (x width of the fabric) strips will be just enough to bind your baby quilt. [To find the amount of strips you will need for a bigger quilt, find the measurement of the perimeter of your quilt. Divide that number by 42 – for the roughly 42″ of the width of the fabric – and cut that number of strips. For example: if your quilt measures 55″ x 80″ find the perimeter: 55+55+80+80=270.  Divide 270 by 42 = 6.4286. Because the number is bigger than 6 you will need 7 2 ½”x42″ strips to have enough to go all the way around. Does that make sense?]
Trim the selvage edges off you strips.
Sew the strips together end to end to create one long strip.  Press seams open.  Fold strip in half lengthwise and press.
Starting towards the center of one side (you don’t want you ends to join near a corner – makes it a lot trickier) pin the raw edges of your pressed strip to the raw edges of the BACK side of the quilt.
When you get to the corner you are going to miter the corners. To do this fold the strip up at a 45 degree angle when you reach the corner of the quilt. Put a pin in at a 45 degree angle to hold that corner in place.  Then fold the strip down to match the raw edges with the next side of the quilt.  The fold should line up with the edge of the last side you were pinning to. You will have a little triangle that sticks up – place another pin at a 45 degree angle on the other side of the little triangle flap.
When the strip gets back around to the beginning fold the ends down so that the strips meet-up. Press with your iron to make a crease at both folds.  Trim strips to about ¼” away from fold. Pin together and sew seam right on the press marks of both strips. Press seams open and voila – a perfectly joined binding!
Now sew the binding to the back of the quilt with a ¼” seam allowance. (If you have a walking-foot feature on your machine, I recommend using it here.)  When you get to the corner stop your seam about ¼” away from the end of that side. Lift the presser foot and rotate the quilt in the new direction, putting the triangle flap the other direction start sewing from the beginning of that side. (I know this feels strange and confusing at first, but trust me, it works and makes a nice crisp mitered corner!)
When all four sides are sewn to the back of the quilt, fold the folded edge of the binding to the front of the quilt and pin in place. Mitered corners should fall into place. It’s like magic.  Pin abundantly to keep the binding in place in preparation for machine sewing. I would even recommend pressing to help hold that binding in place.
Using either a matching thread or an invisible thread (good if you don’t want your stitching showing as much on the back of the quilt) carefully stitch the binding down working from the FRONT of the quilt. Carefully pivot the needle when you get to the corners and continue sewing all the way around the quilt. This is a time I would suggest back-stitching at the start and finish.
You’re done and you’ve got a crisp, professional looking binding on the edge of your quilt. The double fold layer of fabric will also provide extra durability and longevity to the quilt.  The one drawback of putting on a binding with the machine is that it’s difficult to control what the stitching looks like on the back (another reason to use a busy backing fabric.) If you’re not too picky about where the stitches end up on the back, it’s still a great way to finish a binding quickly.
Up Next on our Quilt Along Series: we’ll get a little more advanced discussing bias binding and quilt washing and careI have a stack of quilts to bind. Which I really don’t mind – I love riding in the car or watching TV with a quilt to bind. I’ve finished two of the above – I’m going to work on the biggest one while I watch the finale of Project Runway – which I still haven’t seen yet (no spoilers!).  I’m a PR newbie this season and I’m totally hooked and already sad it’s over. Makes me kick myself even more that I didn’t go to Mood when I hit the fabric district last spring. Rats.

And thanks so much for your Halloween Quilt love. It was such a fun project – no rules, no pattern, just sew-as-you-go. I think it’s one of my new favorites. (How many times have I said that before?)


  1. says

    I'm a project runway junkie, too. Sometimes, I get the show and reality mixed up and I imagine a show for quilters designing quilts. I would watch it, but I doubt anyone else would 😉

  2. says

    I agree…I love binding quilts while traveling! And I too am a Project Runway die hard fan. I have the first 4 seasons on DVD and I watch them while I travel and while I do my handwork in the car.

  3. says

    I like having the option available for machine binding also. You never know when you might need it :). I haven't tried it with a full size quilt yet – been experimenting with pillows and small projects.

  4. says

    @Bailey Family,<br /><br />Yes! You are correct. When machine sewing a binding you sew it twice. One time to sew the binding itself to the quilt (this will be hidden), and then second, sew it down after you flip and pin to the front. This is when you want thread that matches or coordinates (or invisible) because it will show on the back side as well.<br /><br />I hope that clarifies some. Thanks

  5. says

    Too funny, I was a PR newbie this year too, and I loved it. And it is a shame you didn&#39;t go to Mood. It looks like so much fun in there! Thanks for sharing your link, you had me at &quot;fast.&quot; Binding is my least fave part of quilting!

  6. says

    Thanks for the excellent binding tutorial. As a new quilter I&#39;m still gettting the hang of binding – and making my corners look like corners. This helped a lot.

  7. says

    Thanks for the nice comment in my blog about the flowering snowball:) And I&#39;m with the rest of &#39;em – love the halloween quilt, especially the 2nd one!

  8. says

    Your tutorials are amazingly clear and simple to follow. I made my first quilt using them and was even impressed with my efforts! xxx

  9. says

    Thank you for this tutorial! I have finished five quilts and have struggled on the binding. Not tonight! I finished my sixth quilt with little effort on the binding!

  10. says

    My 16-year-old daughter just finished her first t-shirt quilt for her 4-H project. She is easily discouraged and the instructions kept her in line. She can&#39;t wait to start cutting up her next stack of old t-shirts.

  11. says

    Amy, I have a quick question regarding the joining of your binding in this tutorial (which is excellent, by the way). How are you sewing the ends together exactly? I keep re-reading the passage, but I am just not computing it (guess I am a visual learner). Where exactly are you sewing the ends together at? Really appreciate all of these great quilting tutorials!

    • says

      After you&#39;ve trimmed the strips and pressed where they butt against each other with the 1/4&quot; seam allowance remaining on either end, lift up the binding strips and pin the ends of the fabric together. Then sew your seam right on that pressed crease. Press the seam open and finish pinning the binding to the quilt. I hope that helps. Have you got to that point on an actual project? It&#39

    • says

      That is so great! I love seeing all of these first quilts! I must post a disclaimer preparing you all for the highly addictive qualities of quilting. I don&#39;t want anyone coming back and saying they weren&#39;t warned! :)

  12. says

    My binding is turning out wonky. It looks like it isn&#39;t wide enough, but I double checked the width of the binding and my seam allowance. I wish that I could post a picture, so you could see! Any advice?

  13. says

    Thank you for this awesome tutorial! This is the first quilt I have ever made. My husband gave me a Brother Project Runway Edition sewing machine last Xmas and this was the perfect project to break it in with. It was so much fun! Thanks again!

  14. says

    Great tutorial…. especially the &quot;….start sewing from the beginning of that side. (I know this feels strange and confusing at first, but trust me, it works and makes a nice crisp mitered corner!)…Thanks.


  1. […] Pin quilt top starting at the center. Working out pin every few inches, especially at the edges of the quilt top.  When pins are in place, remove the tape and check the quilt back to make sure things are tight and flat. If there are puckers or excess fabric, now is the time to fix the problems. If the fabric is loose when you start quilting, there will be tucks or puckers in the quilting. There is no way to adjust the back once you start sewing without a lot of headaches or time with the seam ripper. (However, using a busy, patterned fabric for the back will help to hide any small mistakes.) Machine Quilting: There are many options for machine quilting.  The first is to let the seams/fabrics themselves be your guide. Sewing next to the seams themselves is called ‘quilting in the ditch.’  (Top left) Works great.  If you want to create more visual interest in the quilt you can stitch lines or patterns in other directions. There are lots of supplies for pre-marking your quilt before you start quilting.  Pens with disappearing ink, chalk pencils etc. work well.  I really like to use a hera which gently scores the fabric. (All available in the quilting notions aisle at most stores.)  You can use a ruler for marking straight lines or there are quilting stencils available in all kinds of patterns.  Or be creative. Here’s a great example of using painters tape as a guide for quilting. For my quilt I chose diagonal lines. I used my hera and a ruler to mark my lines. It’s a good idea to start quilting from the center and work your way out.  Because it’s hard for all that bulk to fit through your machine, roll the sides in. You can un-roll as you work toward the edges. I use a walking foot when I’m quilting.  It’s not necessary, but it helps feed the layers of fabric evenly through the machine. Another machine quilting option is free-motion quilting. This process is kind of like drawing with your needle and thread. One kind of free-motion quilting is called ‘stippling’ and looks like a continuous squiggly design over the whole quilt.  For this kind of quilting you use a darning foot and drop the feed dogs on your machine – this means the only thing moving your quilt is you! Free-motion quilting  takes a little more practice because there is usually no pattern marked on the quilt and  it can be tricky to maneuver a quilt through a machine. But the results are fantastic once you’ve mastered the technique. There are some great tutorials here, here and here. Hand quilting vs. Machine quilting: Hand quilting is another option – and again, there are lots of variations.  If you choose to hand quilt, it is still important to baste the quilt.  You can use safety pins or baste in the traditional sense with very large stitches.  Traditional hand quilting requires a thimble, small quilting needles called ‘Betweens’ and a heavier thread specifically for quilting. There is a great hand quilting tutorial here. I also really like to use the DMC pearl cotton for a bigger stitch look. It’s thicker thread, so you will need a bigger needle. The size 8 thread (center) works well for a running stitch and the size 5 thread (left) is great tying a quilt. Quilting  is not only functional – holding the three layers together – but it also creates texture and visual interest. The more quilting – or stitching – there is holding those layers together, the longer the quilt will last; fabrics last longer, batting shifts less, etc.  But there’s no right or wrong option. As with everything in this process so far, choose what works best for you! Up next in our Quilt Along Series: Binding – or finishing – a quilt […]

  2. […] Cutting From assorted oranges cut: 2 squares 9 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ 8 squares 5″ x 5″ 16 squares 2 3/4″ x 2 3/4″ From black sashing yardage cut: 5 strips 2 1/2″ x 42″. Sub cut 2 strips into 6 pieces 2 1/2″ x 11 3/4″. Use remaining strips to create two 2 1/2″ x 60″ border strips. From black scraps (including sashing print) cut: 40 squares 2 3/4″ x 2 3/4″ 5 squares 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ From green cut: 5 squares 2 3/4″ x 2 3/4″ From binding cut 4 strips 2 1/2″ x 42″ Take four of the 2 3/4″ x 2 3/4″ black squares and draw one diagonal line across them. Place them in the four corners of the 9 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ orange blocks. Sew directly on all four diagonal lines. Trim 1/4″ away and press new corners open, pressing seams toward the black. Sew 2 four-patch blocks with the eight 5″ x 5″ squares and add corners to those blocks as well. To create the 16-patch pumpkin block begin by matching 4 black 2 3/4″ x 2 3/4″ squares with 4 orange 2 3/4″ x 2 3/4″ squares. Draw a diagonal line on the back of the orange squares and sew pairs together directly on the line. Trim 1/4″ away from the seam to create a 1/4″ seam allowance and press blocks open, pressing seams toward the black. Layout remaining orange 2 3/4″ squares with new half-square-triangle orange and black blocks into four rows of four. Sew together into four rows, pressing seams in alternating directions, every other row. Sew four rows together. To create green stem blocks, match-up a green 2 3/4″ block with a black 2 3/4″ block. Draw a diagonal line on the back of the green and sew directly on the line. Trim 1/4″ away and press block open. Match up a 1 1/2″ square in the corner of the green triangle. Draw a diagonal line and sew directly on the line. Trim 1/4″ away and press corner open. Repeat four times to make 5 stem blocks. To create stem row, use 3 other black 2 3/4″ squares and sew together into a row of four. Press seams all one direction. Attach stem rows to the ‘top’ of each of the 5 pumpkin blocks. Layout five pumpkins in a row, rotating the second and the fourth the opposite direction. Sew the six 2 1/2″ x 11 3/4″ strips alternating between the five pumpkins and at both ends. Press seams towards the sashing strips. Add two 2 1/2″ x 60″ strips to top and bottom of row of pumpkins. Press toward the sashing strips. From backing fabric cut two 20″ x 42″ pieces and sew them together end to end. Trim backing to 20″ x 66″. Now you are ready to quilt. Baste top and bottom pieces with batting in between. Quilt as desired. I used simple straight cross-hatching lines. (For more details about basting and quilting see this post.) Sew four 2 1/2″ x 42″ gingham strips together end to end to create binding. Binding a quilt tutorial here. […]

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