I’ve been asked to do a tutorial of how I do my quilt binding. I don’t think it’s any different from everyone else’s method (except maybe lazier), but I don’t find it at all stressful to do, and hopefully lots of words and pictures will make the process a little easier to follow for someone else.
First, I always use a walking foot to attach binding. It prevents creep and keeps things moving through smoothly. If you find putting on binding difficult, anything that makes it easier is a bonus. Do yourself a favour, and if you have a walking foot, use it. Secondly, I enjoy hemming down the binding fold on the back of the quilt by hand. It’s a slow, meditative process, and while I work I think about how the quilt was made and for whom. Plus I like the way it looks. If you’d prefer to machine the binding down, the last part of this tutorial is not for you.
I cut my binding in 2½” strips on the straight grain, as I find it stronger and more durable than bias. If I’m binding on a curve, then of course it needs to be bias cut so it’ll stretch or compress around the curves. I join the pieces in straight lines too. I’m lazy, and the slight extra bulk of having the joining seams match up at front and back is not enough to make me do it the long, ‘right’ way. Once I’ve made enough length to go all the way round, allowing a little extra for corners and overlap where it starts and stops, I press the binding in half lengthwise, wrong side inside, and wind it around something to keep it straight and tidy.
Starting away from a corner, and usually at the bottom edge of the quilt, I start pinning the raw edge of the binding to the front edge of the quilt, matching quilt edge and binding edge. I pin and sew only one side at a time, and place a pin showing where to stop sewing, a ¼” from the corner. It’s important that you don’t carry on over the edge. Start sewing about an inch away from the beginning of the binding to allow overlap of the end once you’ve finished. Stop sewing at the ¼” marker pin and either backstitch a couple of stitches or use your machine’s knotting facility.
Take the quilt out of the machine and lay the corner flat. Fold up the binding at right angles to where you’ve sewn, ensuring the raw edge is in alignment with the raw edge on the next side of the quilt. Then fold the binding down so it aligns with the next edge, and the fold aligns with the raw edge you’ve just sewn. Sounds complicated, but the photo shows what I mean. That ¼” you left unsewn makes turning the corner out possible later on.
Pin again, stopping a ¼” from the corner. Start sewing at the top edge, and carry on till you get to the marker pin. Do this all the way round until you’ve completed the final corner and it’s time to join the two ends of the binding.
At this point, I generally trim the binding to size, fold under the end which hasn’t yet been sewn down, and press it flat. This end will then slide over the 1″ you’ve left loose at the start of the binding.
Pin everything together, and then stitch through both layers, overlapping the sewing you’ve already done a little. That’s the first bit done.
Now you get to pop the corners out and make them tidy. On the right side of the quilt lift the binding up, pushing out the corners, and fold over to the back. Turn the quilt over so you’re looking at the back. Starting on either the right or left of a corner, depending if you’re right or left handed, turn the folded edge of the binding down so the fold just covers the stitching on the reverse. Pin as you go.
When you get to a corner, push the binding for the next side flat so you end up with a flat point (see photo). Holding the edge down on the pinned side, fold the next edge back into the corner to form a mitre, and pin it flat. If it’s uneven, you may have to fiddle around a bit so the edges match. Carry on pinning and folding down the corners until it’s all pinned.
If you turn the quilt over now, you’ll see you have tidy mitres on front and back. Some people stitch the folds down. I don’t. It’s up to you.
Time to hem. Use a fine thread and a fine needle with a large eye. You’re going to be threading it a lot, you might as well make life easy for yourself. Make a knot in the the end of the thread, and push the needle through to the front of the binding from the back so the knot is hidden. Take a small stitch in place to lock the thread down, and then start hemming.
Be careful you don’t push the needle all the way through to the front fabric, or your stitches will show. Catch up the backing and batting only.
When you get to a corner, you can stitch the folds down, or just catch the two edges of the mitre together at the hemline, and do a small double stitch. Carry on till you’re done.
When you get to the end, you can also stitch down the overlap if you’re very tidy minded, but if you’ve left enough overlap, it won’t pop open, and I don’t bother.
That’s it. You’re done.