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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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!
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.
Once the bias strip is pieced, use the same method as above to sew the binding to the quilt.
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 binding a quilt 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 binding a quilt tutorial that need clarification.