Binding Details

Your quilt is quilted, the binding is made…now what?? If you read my earlier post, Musings on Bindings, you learned a few binding tips from me, but based on the response I got on Instagram, lots of you have more questions than just how I match my thread. In order to answer those questions, I promised to write a more thorough post the next time I bound a quilt. Luckily for the world, that glorious day is finally here! Before I share my process I want to once again direct you to what I consider the essential binding tutorial (not mine, duh). Red Pepper Quilts published her binding tutorial back in 2009 and it has served the quilting community well ever since. It’s how I learned my current method and I think she deserves all the credit! So please consider this post as a supplement to hers.

Since I seem to love bullet points so much, here’s what I’ll cover in this post:

  • Squaring up your quilt
  • Attaching the binding
  • Quality time with your iron
  • Topstitching 

Let’s take a journey through binding, shall we? Before we do though, please be warned that these pictures are nowhere close to professional! I was snapping them quickly as I finished the binding for my most recent quilt. Also, I’m probably going to add A LOT of pictures, but as a visual learner, this is kind of my default. Hopefully you find it helpful too!

Squaring Up Your Quilt

First I trimmed the top and bottom, and now will trim the sides

Before I say anything else on this topic, I’ll share a secret of mine: I’ve never made a perfectly square (or rectangular) quilt. Almost all quilts are a tiny bit wonky, but trust me when I say no one will notice but you (promise). Therefore, don’t stress out about this step too much. I’d say my most important tip here is that I don’t trim my quilt top until I’m done quilting. That means once I’m done piecing, I don’t mess with it no matter how tempted I might be! I baste and quilt and THEN trim. You never know how things might shift during quilting, and the section that used to seem too long is suddenly just right (and would have been too short had you trimmed it off before quilting). Depending on your quilt, you can use either your piecing or quilting as a guide for trimming. Since I often quilt straight lines, I use those lines as my guide when I trim. After all, you don’t want that bottom quilting looking crooked compared to your binding! When you begin trimming, I recommend doing the top/bottom or sides first, then switching. I usually do the top and bottom first, measuring if needed, and then trim the sides based on the newly cut top and bottom edges. This ensures a (mostly) even quilt! 

 Attaching the Binding

Once the quilt is trimmed, you’re ready to attach the binding. I break out my handy clover clips and clip the binding onto the quilt, with the raw edges of the quilt and binding together. I fold the corners and make sure to do the entire quilt so I can check and see if there are any seams in corners, and adjust as needed. Corners can be pretty bulky, and having a binding seam there would make your life way more stressful than it needs to be, so readjust the binding if that happens. This is always easier to do before you sew it on to the quilt! Once everything looks good, you can start sewing. I have a 1/4 inch foot that I use on for this purpose, to ensure I’m attaching the binding evenly. As directed in the tutorial, I leave a large gap between where I start stitching and where I end. I’ve found this makes it much easier to deal with joining the binding at the end. Once your binding ends are joined, and the whole binding is sewn to the quilt top, it’s time to fire up the iron.

Binding clipped on, ready for sewing
Corners prepped!
Sewing the binding onto the quilt

Quality Time With Your Iron

First step–ironing binding towards edge

This seems to be my big secret, and I guess I never realized it was a secret, because I thought all quilters were already doing it! But apparently not, so I’m happy to let you in on it. Once the binding is attached to the front, I drag the whole quilt over to my ironing board and press the binding towards the edge of the quilt, covering the stitches. I do this around the entire perimeter of the quilt. Then I turn the quilt over and iron the binding over the back of the quilt, making everything nice and crisp. I pay special attention to the corners, using my fingers or a point turner to make sure each corner lays flat. Hopefully my pictures will make this a little more clear! Then I use my clover clips again to clip the binding down. Once you get used to this process, it really doesn’t take too long, but makes a world of difference! I highly recommend doing this each time you bind, because it has always been how I get my binding so even, and my corners so crisp.

Then fold over the binding, iron again at the fold, and clip!
When you come to a corner, first press the corner in one direction
Then iron the other side down
Add a clip to make sure it stays in place
The top view of the quilt once it is ironed and ready for topstitching

Topstitching

The last step is topstitching. Or is it stitching in the ditch? I’m not sure what this qualifies as, but this is how you secure the binding to the back of the quilt. The only catch is that you’re stitching on the front of the quilt. This means you get to see where your stitches go, so they are effectively hiding in the ditch of the binding and don’t detract from your gorgeous quilting. Keep in mind it might not always look 100% perfect on the back (or the front!) and that’s totally fine. A few visible stitches on the front or crooked stitches on the back of the binding are no big deal, trust me. I increase my stitch length to 3.0, and as I said in my previous binding post, I will backstitch in the corners for added strength. I typically just keep going the entire way around without lifting my needle (unless I’m changing thread colors or made a mistake–which happens often). This is why my corners look how they do. Rather than sewing one corner to another corner, and then snipping the threads and starting on the next side, I just backstitch in the corner and pivot the quilt with the needle still down. Of course this is just personal preference but I enjoy doing that when possible.

Here the foot is up and I’ve turned the quilt with the needle down, to start the next side

After you’ve stitched on all sides of you’re quilt, the binding is done and you can sit back and admire your handiwork! I hope these binding details were helpful and I’d love to hear what tips you have!

Time to admire your hard work!
The crisp corners are worth all the ironing!

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