Raise your hand if you love binding quilts! The sheer thrill of finishing a project and seeing it bound is enough to make many quilters start dreaming of their next project. Still, others put off this practice, taking their sweet time to bind a quilt. When you’re ready to bind your quilt, here are all the basics you need for success.
What is quilt binding?
Binding is a long strip of fabric used to neatly cover raw fabric edges. In a quilt, specifically, it’s used to cover the outer raw edges while neatly holding the quilt top, batting and backing together along the edges. Binding happens after the quilt is already quilted and the edges are trimmed straight.
How to bind a quilt
After making a quilt sandwich, quilting your quilt and trimming the edges square, it’s time to bind your quilt!
First, you need to attach the binding to the quilt
Step 1: Square up the quilt
Trim off the excess backing and batting before you attach your binding. To square up quilts, you can use a large square ruler for the corners, and a long straight ruler for the sides. Squaring up your quilts before you start will help keep your binding from being puckered or wavy, so don’t skip this very important step.
Step 2: Sew along the raw edges
Quickly run your binding along the perimeter of your quilt to ensure you won’t have any seams falling in the corners. If you do, move the binding up or down a few inches to avoid seams at the corners.
Starting 6″ – 8″ away from the corner, place your binding on the front side of the quilt and leave a tail of 6″ – 8″. Line up the raw edges of the binding with the edge of your quilt. The folded edge should be facing toward the quilt. You can pin it if you want, but usually you can just hold the binding in place.
Stitch the binding onto the front of the quilt with ¼” seam allowance. Use a walking foot or even-feed foot if possible.
Step 3: Make the mitered corners
When you get to a corner, stop stitching ¼” away from the corner and sew off the corner.
Take the quilt off the machine and fold the binding up and away from the quilt as shown. Keep the edge of the binding in line with the edge of the quilt.
Bring the binding back down, creating a tuck of fabric underneath. This will form the miter on the front of the quilt.
Step 3: Sew the next side and repeat at all corners
Starting from the edge of the quilt, stitch the next side of binding down until you reach the next corner and repeat this process for all four corners.
Tip! For a really nice mitered corner, snip off the very tip of the corners. The entire snip should be about ¼” across, and should not come too close to your seams. You can do this on all four corners of the quilt. When you go to turn your binding around to the back side of the quilt, this will help the corners poke out nicely because you’ve eliminated some extra bulk.
Step 5: Join the ends of the quilt binding
Stop stitching 6″ – 8″ before you reach where you started, leaving a tail of binding. Trim off the excess, leaving a few inches of overlap to work with. Open up the end of binding and place the beginning tail inside it.
Using the cut and angled end as a guide, lightly mark a line right up next to it. Then cut ½” away from this measurement to account for seam allowances on both ends.
Put the two tail ends right sides together, and sew with ¼” seam to complete the continuous loop of binding.
Close up the binding and finish stitching it down on the front of the quilt. You are now ready to finish stitching the binding down on the back of the quilt.
How to join binding ends at an angle
Joining the tails at a 45-degree angle means that the seam will be virtually impossible to find once the binding is sewn down!
The key to making the strips the exact length to fit your quilt it to make sure they overlap each other by the same length that they are wide. For example, these two strips will be cut overlapping by 2″ because they are cut 2″ wide.
Lay the ends of the binding right sides together at a 45-degree angle, as shown.
Sew from one corner to the opposite corner, and then trim the excess triangles away. Finger press the seam open, then wrap it around the edge of the quilt. The binding will now lay flat along the edge of the quilt, sewn perfectly and without any lumps!
If you like, you can serge the edges of your quilt binding at this point
This step is completely optional. Serging can really help secure your quilts edges together so the binding wraps around nice and tight.
Using your serger and the previously stitched line as a guide, finish the raw edge of your quilt binding. This will trim your quilt binding evenly and securely stitch all fabric layers together in one easy step. You can use a four-thread overlock stitch with each of the four tension dials set to 4 (medium tension).
When you get near each of the corners, make sure to ease off before serging over the corner. Otherwise, you will nip off your binding’s mitered corner on the other side.
With a serged binding that’s a little thinner than ¼”, you should be able to neatly fold over your binding toward the back of the quilt. Press the binding to the other side.
With serged edges, you may not need to use any pins or clips to stitch the binding to the quilt back! Simply fold a small section and stitch it to the back of the quilt by hand or by machine. The result is an incredibly quick, even and easy-to-wrangle quilt binding!
Then, turn the binding and secure it in placeThere are plenty of ways to hold the turned quilt binding down — here are just a few of your options.
Use Clover Wonder Clips
You may wish to completely secure the binding to the back of the quilt with Clover Wonder Clips before you begin hand-stitching it down. For a throw-sized quilt, it takes about 100 clips to go all the way around the quilt. Sewing pins or hair clips work well, too.
If you don’t have clips, try sewing pins! Make sure to point them away from the edge so you can remove them easily without poking yourself.
Use glue to baste
There’s a long-held secret to creating a perfect quilt binding without having to use pins or quilting clips: glue! While the glue is wet, you can adjust the binding’s positioning so everything is lined up just right. Best of all, the glue will wash out, so you don’t have to worry about little messes.
Here’s how: Spread a thin layer of regular craft or school glue over 2″ – 3″ of the binding at a time, then finger press the binding to the quilt. Then, heat your iron and turn the steam off. Press the binding for a few seconds at a time to set the glue. It will feel slightly stiff when dry.
Finally, you can finish the quilt binding either by machine or by hand
Sewing the binding by hand
Put on a good movie and enjoy the relaxing process of hand work for a pretty finish.
You can thread several needles using the same thread you used to sew on the binding. Clip off about 18″ of thread to use at a time (or you can double your thread for extra strength and durability).
Wrap the thread around the needle three times and pull it to the end of you thread to create a quilter’s knot.
Tuck the knot underneath the binding, then grab a bite of the backing of the quilt and then a bite of the binding to complete each stitch.
Continue stitching by bringing the needle in behind each previous stitch and pushing it out ahead of the last stitch. You may want to use a thimble to help push the needle through the fabric when needed. Pull the thread slightly taut as you go.
When you get to the corners, be sure to sew them closed. Take a few stitches on the back to close the miter. Push the needle through to the front, stitch the front of the miter closed, then push the needle to the back again.
When you’re near the end of a length of thread, make a knot, then take a stitch through the backing and batting only, pop it through the backing and cut off the excess. Continue in this manner until you’ve sewn down the entire quilt.
Finish binding by machine
If you prefer to save time, you can your quilt binding by machine instead of sewing it by hand.
Use a bobbin thread that matches your quilt front and a top thread that matches the binding.
Begin stitching on any side, about halfway down one side of the quilt. Use your fingers to guide the binding just over top of the previous stitch line, so it completely covers that stitch line. Stitch until you are ¼” from a corner. Stop, backstitch and cut the threads.
Hold the quilt as pictured. Use your fingers to press the corner down and to the right, and then fold it back on itself (to the left) to make a mitered corner. Pinch the miter in place as you carefully move the quilt back to your sewing machine.
Lower the needle directly into the mitered corner, where the binding fabrics meet. Backstitch, then stitch forward. Again, guide the binding with your fingers, making sure the binding covers the previous stitch line completely.
When you get to the last side of the quilt, sew slightly over where you started, and backstitch to completely close the binding.
Use a binding foot to attach quilt binding
A binding foot is a specialty sewing machine foot used to add bias binding or straight-grain binding to finish the edges of any project. Unlike other sewing machine feet, the bias binding foot leaves you with a consistent, professional look, all in just one seam.
Before you start
- Finish off the raw edges that will go into the binding with a zigzag stitch or serging with a two- or three-thread stitch. This is to keep them aligned and less bulky.
- A universal adjustable binding foot can be used to attach the binding to a straight hem, to outside corners and to relatively wide curves. If your project has inside corner or steep curves, or if it’s a particularly bulky project (like a quilt with batting), you’re best off using an all-metal binder foot, to reduce the risk of getting stuck.
Slide the binding through the presser foot guides and turn the screw on the front of the foot until it barely touches the binding center fold. The left ends should sit perfectly in their guides (upper and lower), so it will feed straight.
This bias binding foot can be used with different widths of binding, as the small red markings labeled with numbers shows. You can ignore those numbers — they won’t match with binding measurements.
Snap the foot on and lower the needle. Adjust the second screw until the needle hits the binding tape in the right place.
If your sewing machine can move the needle left to right, you can further fine-tune the place mat.
Next, imagine a sandwich where the binding is the bread and the fabric you want to finish is the filling. Slide your to-be-finished fabric between the folded binding “bread.” (You can gently open the plastic portion of the foot so you have more room for it.)
Wrap the binding around the fabric so the center fold of the tape sits just along the edge and the two folded edges are on top of one another.
If you’re using a store-bought double-fold bias tape, place the wider half on the bottom of the fabric, toward the feed dogs, to make sure you’re catching the underside while stitching on top.
As you go, make sure that the serged edge is touching the center fold of the binding and that the binding’s left edges are sitting in both guides — one on top and the other on the bottom of the foot. Here’s how: For the top side, gently pull the binding up with your right hand, keeping your left index finger on the foot, where the black arrows point in the photos below.
For the bottom side, use a stiletto or a seam ripper to better guide the fabric in place.
Once everything is in place, you can start sewing, but don’t forget to hold the threads with your left hand so they don’t get tangled toward the throat plate.
Mitered corners with a bias binding foot
When you’re approaching a corner, sew the bias binding in place right up to the raw edge of the fabric, but not through. Backstitch just one stitch, take the fabric out of the sewing machine, cut the threads and go to your sewing board.
Align the center fold of the binding with the next side edge of your project, just past the corner. Make sure the backside fold is 45 degrees. Steam press (or finger press, if you prefer).
Create the front fold at 45 degrees, steam press (or finger press) again and pin to keep in place until you reach the sewing machine.
Working far from the corner, slip the fabric under the presser foot, then take the pins out and pull the fabric toward you so the needle is just on top the previous seam. Lower the needle so your fabulous 45-degree mitered corners won’t go anywhere.
Holding the threads with your left hand (so they don’t get tangled on the back side of your work), start the seam using a very short stitch length (<1) for the first two or three stitches to seal the seam. Then revert back to your favorite stitch length.
Lift the foot and adjust the binding fabric inside both guides. Use a stiletto for help — it’s like a tiny third hand that can guide the fabric right where it has to go.
Once you’re done, lower the bias binding foot again and go on sewing until you reach the next corner. I find it’s easier to start at the middle of one of the longer straight sides, so the other end of the binding will simply overlap.
How to overlap the ends
A nice way to finish off a binding is to overlap the ends. To do so, when you reach the start point, cut the binding 1/2″ longer, then fold it 1/4″ to the inside.
Swap the binding foot with a regular sewing foot or with a stitch guide foot (like I did) so you’re able to sew through the bulk created by the folds of fabric. Backstitch and you’re done!
Editor’s Note: This post is a compilation of posts written by Lauren Lang, Lindsay Conner, Diane Knott, Irene Valle and Christa Watson. It was compiled by Lindsay Conner in April 2018.