How to Finish and Bind a Quilt

For our final installment of the Virtual Quilting Bee, let’s talk about finishing – or binding – a quilt. This is adding that final edge to cover the raw edges of the fabric after the quilt has been quilted. One option is to roll over the back fabric edges and sew them to the front to finish that edge. I personally like the look of a separate binding – gives it a clean finish. It’s also a fun excuse to use another fabric and use it to finish off the final design.

When I first learned to quilt, I was really nervous about learning to bind a quilt – and was amazed once I did learn how easy it was to make a really good looking binding. Now it’s one of my favorite parts of quilting.

Cutting the fabric: I like to do a double binding on my quilts – meaning there are two layers to the binding edge. This gives it an extra layer of fabric to hold up against wear and tear. To get this I cut my binding strips 2 1/2″ wide. You can cut your strips across the width of the fabric yardage, or cut them on the bias, which means to cut them diagonally across the fabric.

There are pros and cons to both methods. Cutting straight-edge is easier with less fabric waste. Bias bindings are sturdier because the fabric edge not being on the straight of grain. If you are going to have any kind of curved edge to your quilt, you will need a bias binding.

I talk more about Bias Bindings in this post. Jaybird Quilts also has an excellent tutorial about Bias Binding and how to cut continuous bias binding.

One determining factor for whether you cut straight edge or bias binding is the fabric itself. You may want to put a stripe or a gingham on the bias to make a diagonal design for the binding. The fabric I chose already had a diagonal motif, so I choose the straight edge to keep the diagonal design as is.

When cutting a straight edge binding (or any straight strips of fabric) before you cut, make sure your selvage edges line up straight with each other. This may require refolding the fabric and pressing a new center fold. As you can see in the picture above, the fabric came off the bolt with the selvage edges not matched up.

When selvage edges are matched up and straight, line up the center fold on a straight line on your quilting mat  (see arrow above) and carefully trim the edge to create a straight edge and therefore, a straight strip of fabric. (This step is important, otherwise your fabric strip could end up V shaped.)

I generally cut my binding strips 2 1/2″ wide, unless it’s a small quilt when I might cut them 2 1/4″ wide.

For the Virtual Quilting Bee Quilt cut 7 strips 2 1/2″ wide x 42″ (or width of fabric) – or if you are using bias binding, you will need 275″ of continuous bias binding.

Trim selvage edges off of all strips and sew them end to end to create one long strip, pressing seams open (so you don’t have bulk). Fold in half lengthwise and press.

Using a ruler and rotary cutter and the quilt top as a guide, trim the excess batting and backing layers so that all edges of the quilt are the same. Be careful to keep the quilt’s sides square.

Pin the raw edges (non-folded-edge) to the raw outside edges of the quilt front. This is personal preference, but I then like to pin the entire binding to the quilt before I sew it down. This helps keep the binding taught and prevents potential wavy quilt edges later.
To create a mitered corner on the binding follow the steps above (starting top left): When you come to the corner put a pin in the corner at a 45 degree angle. Fold strip to the side at that same 45 degree angle. Now fold the strip back on it self with the fold at the first edge of the quilt and matching up the binding edges to the edge of the second side of the quilt. Place one more pin on the new side at a 45 degree angle. This will create a little triangle flap of fabric in the corner. Repeat at all four corners.
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 both ends to 1/4″ away from the folds. Remove pins, match up strips right sides together, pin, and sew seam right on pressed crease. Press seam open, refold strip and pin in place.
Sew binding in place using a 1/4″ seam allowance. I highly recommend using a walking foot if you have one.
When you get to the corner keep flap down and sew until you are 1/4″ away from the corner. Lift the needle, but do not cut the thread. Rotate the quilt and flip the little triangle flap so that it lies the opposite direction. Begin sewing next seam right at the edge of the last side. Repeat at all four corners.
When your binding is sewn to your quilt front fold the folded edge of the binding over to the back of the quilt and pin or clip in place. (I have finally started using Clover Wonder Clips which I really love – and so do the feet of my family members. Less worry about stray pins ending up in the carpet as I drag the quilt around to hand-quilt it.)
I suggest a matching thread and a sturdy needle. Hand binding goes much more quickly if you have a needle that is longer and heavier – and I can do it with out a thimble with a heavier needle too.
After putting a knot in the end of the thread, hide the knot at the edge of the quilt where the binding will fold over and hide it. Bring the needle through the very bottom edge of the bias strip and tack it down on the backing fabric, right underneath where the needle came through. Then slide the needle through the backing fabric, behind the binding strip bringing the needle out the bottom edge again. This creates a blind stitch. Repeat!

For more perspective and additional photos of the same method see this Binding a Quilt tutorial. Jaybird Quilts also has an excellent perspective on binding here, as well as information about calculating fabric requirements for binding.

The quilting on this quilt was done by Melissa of Sew Shabby Quilting.
Personally, I really like binding a quilt by hand because not only does it create a clean, blind finish, but it’s also mindless sewing and pretty much the only time I sit down to watch a movie or TV. But binding a quilt by machine can be efficient and look equally clean and tidy. For more tips and explanation I have a Machine Binding tutorial here. There is another great machine binding tutorial by Cluck Cluck Sew.

Some quick thoughts on washing your quilt: I personally love to machine wash my machine-quilted-quilts when they are done because they soften up a lot and have a more antiqued, crinkly look. If you’ve used cotton batting they are likely to shrink slightly more. (I don’t machine-wash hand quilted quilts as liberally.)

I wash the quilts on a gentle cycle with a very mild soap and dry on a low heat setting. If you’re at all worried about color bleeding, the first time you wash a quilt throw in a Shout Color Catcher (available in the laundry aisle at the grocery store). Remember from our discussion on choosing fabrics for quilts, if you’re using high-quality quilt fabrics, you should have very little worry about colors bleeding.

If you have any additional questions about finishing a quilt, leave a comment and I will answer in them in the comments section below.

And that wraps up our Virtual Quilting Bee series! For links to all the the posts in this series visit the Virtual Quilting Bee page. I’ll have a few more shots of both of the quilts together once I get the Kona version back from the quilter. And I’m thinking it would be fun to have a little party to show off the quilts that have been put together using these tutorials. Let’s wait until after the busy holiday season. So look for an announcement at the beginning of February!

Thanks so much to all who played along as well as Moda and Robert Kaufman for sponsoring the fabrics I used.

If you are looking for Happy Go Lucky fabrics – the fabrics I used in this quilt – they are still available at The Little Fabric Shop and Poppy Seed Fabrics.

This post contains affiliate links.


Bias Bindings 101

IFor our final week of the Beginning Quit Along Series we are going to talk about another method for binding a quilt and how to care for quilts. Today we are talking about bias binding, hand finishing and curved borders – which might be a good option for those of you who get the heeby-jeebies with mitering corners.
The baby quilt above was made with Charm Packs from the Bliss collection by Moda
Cut a Bias Binding: This binding method is very similar to the one last week. The major difference is that instead of cutting the fabric straight across the grain of the fabric, we are going to cut it on the bias. Cutting something on the bias means to cut diagonally across the grain of the fabric.  There are a couple of benefits to cutting binding strips on the bias: stretch in the fabric for going around curves and scallops, and added durability.  There are lots of nifty methods for cutting your own bias strips, but I’m going to go with super basic and just cut strip by strip.
First, open your fabric and lay right-side up on the cutting mat. (I am using a ½ yard piece of fabric. That’s more than enough for a baby quilt, but the wider yardage gives me longer strips for less piecing.)
Starting at the bottom left corner (if you are left handed start at the bottom right), find the 45 degree line on your cutting ruler. (Most quilting rulers should have this line.) Line up the 45 degree line along the selvage edge of the fabric. Cut off bottom left-hand triangle.  Now turn the ruler parallel with the new bias edge. Line-up the 2 ½” line along the new bias edge and cut your first 2 ½” wide strip.
Continue cutting 2 ½” strips. When the fabric gets too long diagonally to cut with your ruler, flip it to wrong-side up and fold the fabric wrong sides together matching up the bias edge. Then you can lay your ruler on top, and continue cutting 2 ½” strips.  For this 42″ x 42″ baby quilt I cut 7 bias strips working right from the bottom left hand corner.
Because they are cut on the bias, these strips will have 45 degree edges.  Match strips going opposite directions (top left) and place strips right sides together (they will be perpendicular to each other). Match edges to be sewn and stagger ¼” (see picture).  Sew ¼” seam. Press seams open. (These diagonal seams will create a lot less bulk than the straight seams we used last time.)
This next step is totally optional – I’m going to show you how to round your edges.
For some of you who are a little wary of mitered corners, this may be a good option for you. :) This will only work with bias strips because they have some stretch!  Using a small plate (or some other circle) mark a gentle curve at each corner of your quilt. I like to use the plate itself as my guide for trimming the corner.
Press bias strip in half.  (The pressed fold creates a nice, straight edge that is easily blind-stitched to the backing.)
Hand Finished Binding: pin the raw edges of binding to the raw edges of the quilt FRONT.  When you get to the curved corner, carefully pin the edges around the curve. (I obviously like a lot of pins here to hold it in place.) You can also miter with the bias binding as we talked about last week.
When it’s time for the strips to meet-up fold and press back the start side ¼”, pull the strip taught over the end side of the strip and mark a line.  Trim the end side of the strip ¼” past the line.  Match up strips and sew on the line. Press open.
Sew binding to the FRONT of the quilt using a ¼” seam allowance. (I recommend a walking foot with the bias binding.) Move carefully around the corners, keeping your seam allowance consistent.
Fold the binding to the back side of the quilt and pin in place. Using a matching thread knot one end and hide it under where the binding will cover.  Coming through the very bottom edge of the binding’s folded edge slip the needle through the quilt back, slide it through the layers of the quilt, coming up at the edge of the binding fold about ¼” away. Repeat the process tacking down the binding edge with this blind stitch.
Even thought it takes more time than machine binding, I like this method of finishing a quilt best because all stitching is hidden.  You can do the same with straight-cut binding strips as well.  It’s a great project to do while just watching TV and you’ll be surprised how fast it goes.
Washing quilts: I LOVE to wash my quilts right when they’re finished – especially if they’ve been machine quilted – because it softens them up a lot and gives them more of a crinkly, antiqued look.
If you’ve used Cotton batting, the batting will shrink a little adding to the puckered feel.  I usually wash my quilts in cool water on a gentle cycle with a small amount of detergent and dry them in the dryer on low.  The first time you wash a quilt, throw in a Shout Color Catcher (found in your grocery laundry aisle) to catch any dye. Nothing worse than dye running through a finished quilt. If you’ve used high-quality quilting fabrics, you shouldn’t have this problem.  If you buy fabrics at the big box fabric stores, or if you’re using a lot of solid reds or blacks, I would pre-wash the fabrics before you make the quilt. If it’s too late for that now, use the Color Catcher and don’t let the wet quilt sit in the washing machine. Check for any dye running before you put it in the dryer.
We’re done!
And that’s it! Thanks so much to all who commented and contributed.

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?)

Quilt Binding Tutorial

Binding a quilt is the final step in finishing. Before you bind, you need to somehow “quilt” your quilt. This means to attach the front and back, with batting in between. I usually machine quilt (or have someone else do it) my quilts these days. There are good tutorials for that here, here, and here. If you are going to machine-quilt you should use batting like Warm & Natural or Hobb’s Heirloom. I usually use a poly-cotton blend.

If you are going to hand quilt you need to use a lighter batting or your wrists will hate you.

Once your quilting is finished you are ready to bind the quilt.
First step is to trim your excess batting. I personally like to trim right to the quilt’s edge. Using a long quilter’s ruler and your rotary blade will give you the best results.

To finish this 42″ x 42″ baby quilt you will need 168″ of continuous binding. (In this post I’m going to show you the easiest way to accomplish that first – using straight-cut binding. We’ll discuss bias-cut binding in a little bit. )

If you need more binding fabric for a bigger quilt, find the perimeter measurement (outside measurement in linear inches) for your quilt and divide that number by 42. (42″ being the width of the fabric you are cutting from.) That is the number of strips you will need. If the answer is 7.6833 – you will need 8 strips. So you need 8 strips at 2.5″ wide, so you need a total of 20″ (just over half a yard.) Does that make sense?

Fabric requirements for this baby quilt is 10″ (just over a 1/4 of a yard.) If your quilt store is nice, you could ask if they’ll cut you 10″. If not, ask for 3/8 yard.
You need to cut FOUR 2 1/2″ strips along the width of the fabric. (To cut strips from the end of a piece of yardage, make sure that you line up the fold of the fabric along a straight line or edge of the mat. This way when you cut your 2 1/2″ strips, they will be straight- not v-shaped.)

Trim the selvage ends off the strips, match right sides together.
and sew them together end to end to make one long strip. Use a 1/4″ seam allowance.
This time you want to press your seams open.Then fold the entire strip in half lengthwise and press.

Then take your strip and starting in the middle of one side of the FRONT of the quilt, leaving about 4 inches unpinned, pin your strip to the edge – with raw edges of the binding strip next to the raw edge of the quilt. (Pinning the binding before hand will make your sewing much faster and keep your quilt edge from getting wavy.)

When you get to a corner, put a pin in at the corner at a 45 degree angle.
Fold strip up at that same 45 degree angle
and fold back down again matching the folded edge with the edge of the quilt. Continue to pin.

You should have a little triangle flap between two 45 degree-angled pins. This is called “mitering your corners.” Pretty nifty, huh? This is going to be a snap to sew and will look so fancy when you’re done!
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 both ends to about 1/4″.
Bring the quilt back to the machine, pin ends and sew together on the pressed crease.

Press that final seam open, fold in half like the rest of the binding and pin raw edges to the raw edge of the quilt. Now you’re ready to sew the binding to the quilt.
Starting in the middle of one of the sides, sew the binding to the quilt using the edge of your presser foot (1/4″ seam allowance) as your guide.

I would highly recommend a walking foot at this point as it will make your edge a little nicer, but if this is your first quilt or you don’t plan on making a lot of them, a walking foot can be a pricey investment. Your regular foot will work well-enough.
When you get to the corner sew right up to the first corner pin. This should be about 1/4″ away from the edge of the quilt. Lift the foot and needle and turn the quilt. You don’t need to break the thread. *Important* Now, flip the little triangle flap so it lies the other direction. (See photo)
Begin sewing the next side at the very edge and continue with the 1/4″ seam allowance. (I know, some of you are panicking that I left my pins in. I just do that and seem to not break too many needles.)
When you have finished sewing all four sides, fold the folded edge of the binding over to the back of the quilt and pin it down, using those same pins. (You could also use those metal clips that look like hair clips if you don’t like the idea of hauling something around that could potentially impale you.)

Now you can begin to see what a pretty, crisp edge a double binding makes.
The corners on the back should automatically miter – looking like this.

Now it is hand sewing time. Please don’t get scared by this. It is so much easier and faster than you think – just put in a good movie, do some mindless sewing, and you’re done in no time – especially on this little baby quilt. This is another reason I pin (or clip) all at once before I start sewing. Makes the work so much faster.

(For this part of the demonstration I used white thread so you could see what’s happening. When I bound the quilt for real, I used brown thread to hide my stitches.)

Tie a knot at one end of your thread and pull through the backing fabric, under your folded-down binding, then bring the needle through the very bottom edge of the bias strip and tack it down on the backing fabric, right underneath where the needle came through. Then slide the needle through the backing fabric, behind the binding strip bringing the needle out the bottom edge again. This creates a blind stitch. Repeat!

Continue the blind stitch catching down the mitered corner as well.

This is how it will look using matching thread.

Now lets talk about bias binding.
Bias binding is made from 2 1/2″ strips cut on a 45 degree angle. There are lots of tutorials for cutting bias binding like here and here.

Technically, bias binding is a more durable binding because the grain of the fabric is running diagonally in stead of parallel to the edge of the quilt. (Don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense, just trust me on this one.) It also has more stretch – good for scalloped or rounded borders. (But for this reason, a bias binding does much better with a walking foot.)
It also looks nice with strips and checks.

Bias cut strips will have edges with a 45 degree angle.
To sew right sides together, pin ends like this, leaving little 1/4″ tips hanging off the ends.
Sew with a good old 1/4″ seam allowance.
Press seam open.
And fold in half, creating the long binding strip.
Once the bias strip is pieced, use the same method as above to sew the binding to the quilt.
And there you go.

Once my binding is completed I love to wash my quilt to give it that puckery, antiqued look. (Plus, machine quilting can make your quilt kind of stiff, until it is washed. And what person wants to wrap a baby in a stiff quilt?) I tend to not pre-wash my fabric (and if you are using a charm pack, definitely don’t pre-wash that or you will get a bunch of shriveled, unraveled squares.) With most higher-end quilting fabric the quality is good enough that you don’t need to pre-wash ahead of time. I do throw in a Shout Color-catcher sheet when I wash the finished quilt, just in case. (you can get those in your grocery store laundry aisle.)

If you are using fabric from the bigger chain stores, you probably should pre-wash.

And voila! Here is the finished Charm-square baby quilt!

Hopefully it was not too painful, and more hopefully it was a lot of fun and you can feel really proud of yourself!

Please don’t hesitate to leave feedback – especially if you have more questions or there are parts of this tutorial that need clarification.