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The Mother Load – Machine Finished Binding Tips and Tutorials

Posted on: September 27th, 2013 by Lorna McMahon

One of my proudest accomplishments in learning how to make a quilt has been developing a machine finished binding method that works for me. But, believe me, this was not achieved without a lot of trial and error.

For my first attempt, on my Fall Leaves quilt, I followed the instructions given by Rita of Red Pepper Quilts.  She is a polished quilter who turns out the most beautiful quilts.  But her method, for me, was just not how I wanted my finish to look.  Rita’s method is accomplished by sewing from the back of the quilt, ditch quilting along the binding, and catching the binding folded around to the front from underneath.  This method involves the added step of pinning.  Yet, I still missed some places on the front binding and it did not look straight.  I would show you up close pictures of that hot mess, but I am no long in possession of that quilt.

Flowers in the Sun quilt with a flanged binding

Then I found a tutorial for Susie’s Magic Binding by the talented Aunt Marti of 52 Quilts in 52 Weeks.  I fell in love with this technique which uses two narrow complimentary strips to make the binding strip.  This method adds a little punch of colour and frames your quilt in style.  The binding method is accomplished by sewing from the front of the quilt, ditch quilting on top of the binding, along the seam where the two strips meet.  This will result in a seam line, next to the binding, on the reverse side of the quilt.  It does require an extra step in making the binding because you have to sew the two narrow strips together along the length of the binding strips.  When making your final joining seam, it can be a bit tricky to get the seam to match.  This method is known as flanged binding.

Sew Retro, Baby quilt with a flanged binding

After practicing the flanged binding method on many, many quilts, my confidence grew with experience.  And I was eager to attempt machine sewn binding without the extra step of sewing two narrow strips together to make the binding strip.

I highly recommend this tutorial by Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts.  Be sure to read her additional remarks at the end of the tutorial, which she has since edited to add.

Oh My, Scrappy Stars with machine finished binding made from 2.25″ binding strips

There is one thing I can say that will help you to become proficient at machine finished binding –


Practice makes perfect.  And it is just sew true.  There are a gazillion binding tutorials out there.  Read a few of them.  Bookmark the ones you think will work for you.  And practice.  Take it from me and my Fall Leaves quilt.  Don’t think you can’t do it just because it didn’t turn out perfect the first time.

Don’t give up – PRACTICE.  You can do it!

Broken Herringbone, Baby! quilt using 2.5″ binding

Here is a list of tips for mastering double fold machine sewn binding:

  • Cut your binding strips from the cross grain (selvage to selvage), across the width of the fabric.
  • Start out making your binding strips 2.5″ in width, then use 2.25″ when you are more confident.
  • ALWAYS measure your quilt’s sides and make a plan to ensure none of your binding seams will end up at the corner.  Or lay your binding around the edge to see if any seams land at the corners.
  • After attaching the binding to the back of the quilt, use a hot iron to press the binding back towards the front of your quilt.  This extra step is well worth the effort.
  • Increase your stitch length when top stitching the binding onto the front of your quilt.  I normally use a stitch length of 3 for small projects, 3.5 for baby quilts and 4 for bed quilts.  Except when I forget, like on the broken herringbone quilt above!  I feel a longer stitch looks more attractive than the short piecing stitch length which is between 2 to 2.2
  • I offset my needle, and line up the folded edge of the binding with my walking foot, to ensure a straight and even final seam line when top stitching the binding to the front of the quilt.
  • Although none of the above pictures show my final step, I also hand stitch the corners folds on all my bindings using a ladder stitch.


Gone Fishing quilt using matched binding

When you have mastered your machine finished binding, you may want to try your hand at making a matched binding.  Debbie of A Quilter’s Table has a great tutorial.  Matched binding uses the same fabrics as your quilt top.

What else can you do?  How about a scrappy binding?
Here is another excellent tutorial by Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts for scrappy binding.

Remember, there are many ways of doing things.  And there are many great quilting bloggers who have shared their experiences by writing tutorials.

You can master machine finished binding, too!  I believe in you!

Keep On, Quilting On!


31 Responses

  1. Thank you for this recap of all the binding tutes! To have them all in one post allows me to choose the details that suit me best. I'm saving to my computer!

  2. I really can't imagine mastering machine binding. I might try it someday on something small, like a mug rug. 🙂 Thanks for all the fine information in one place!

  3. Thanks so much for sharing! I haven't tried a machine binding yet. I so enjoy hand sewing bindings in the evening that I hate to give it up.Maybe I will try it one day on a small project. All of your suggestions sound great!

  4. Thank you for this list! I knew of some, others are NEW!!!Estheresthersipatchandquilt at yahoo dot comipatchandquilt dot wordpress dot com

  5. Vicki says:

    Thank you for all the links and advice, Lorna! Very interesting tips and tricks.

  6. Crazymomquilt's binding technique completely revolutionised binding for me! That's the only method I use nowadays!

  7. Renee says:

    I really like machine binding my quilts–totally agree with looking at several tutorials and figuring out what works best for you. I made a few mug rugs to practice first, and doll quilts are good too!

  8. Amy DeCesare says:

    Your examples are all stunning! I love machine binding for small projects like mug rugs, using the single folded binding, and have even made my own tutorial for that process. I think you're nudging me to try machine binding on a full quilt someday!

  9. Anne says:

    I find it depends what kind of mood I'm in which binding method I use. I do mostly tend to do it by machine but sometimes I feel the urge to handsew the binding down. Weird, I know! :oD

  10. It really does take a lot of practice to get comfortable with machine binding but it's so worth it! I attach mine just like the tutorial from Crazy Mom Quilts on all of my kid quilts. I like the hand sewn look for most others though.

  11. Georgi says:

    I'm inspired! I'm really new at this quilting, but I've pinned this post so I can refer back to it once I'm ready to tackle this method. Thanks for posting!

  12. Jackie says:

    Thanks for this information. My method is different than any shown, so now I have a few new things to try.

  13. Lisa says:

    You did such a great job! I need to learn this but for now I spend the hours hand stitching it to the back! I did bookmark your post great resources you have gathered here to share!

  14. Laura says:

    Lorna, I have not been able to quilt due to an illness and am starting to slowly jump back in I have two baby quilts that will benefit from the above methods. Can I say I love!!! I will be (crossing fingers)starting up again. I will use the flanged binding for one. I love the fabric you use, by the way especially for the flanged quilt.

  15. Practice makes perfect!

  16. Jacqui S. says:

    Just the thing a beginner like me could do with! Thank you, thank you!

  17. Lorna I totally need to learn to do this…as the only thing between me and my posting a finish right now is sewing the binding down!!!

  18. Jayne says:

    I love the 'magic' binding idea! I don't know if I will ever machine sew my bindings on though. I love hand sewing them and look forward to that process. I know it can be done and done well. Thank you for all the info for us who are behind the curve!

  19. Lynn says:

    Thanks for the 'flanged binding' I'd not heard of that before and might need to give it a try. Looks great.

  20. Lorna, this is great! Binding has been something I have struggled with from the beginning (OK that wasn't all that long ago but frustrating just the same!). Another tutorial that I found works well when the front and back of the quilt just will not look good with the same binding is the reversible binding technique by Sharon Pederson. Here are the links to her two part video and part two

  21. Rachel says:

    Many of these tips are useful for hand stitching a binding as well. I really like the matched binding, something to work my way towards. Maybe when I buy a new machine, this one doesn't handle binding very well as it is. 😛

  22. Kris says:

    Thanks for the tute Lorna. I \”do\” need to practice binding. I do lots of quilts for charity and they want a nice machine bound binding. I get that by doing the several stitch zigzag (stretch stitch zig zag I think is what it is called). It crinkles up so nice and gives extra hold to the edges that might get washed in a hospital many many times. However, for some of my own quilts I don't seem to have patience to try to machine bind straight so I hand sew. I will try one of these methods this year and see if I can do it. Thanks again.

  23. Sherry says:

    Very Good job on the binding tutorial. Binding is an area that often get neglected. Glad you are bringing attention to it.

  24. Erica says:

    I like most parts of the quilting process (except adding borders, I really don't like that) but binding is one of my favourites. I have tried the machine method a couple of times but I was never happy with it. I enjoy stitching down my bindings to the back of my quilts, though, so that's okay. I like the options you show in this post – options are always good and they give us chances to grow our skills!

  25. CeLynn says:

    This is so true,as with everything practice makes as close to perfect as possible. Thanks for the tips and links!

  26. Thanks for the tips! I'm always having issues with my binding.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the tips. The quilting looks lovely !Leena

  28. Lindsey says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I am working on my machine binding techniques–these are really helpful-LindseyWould love for you to link this up to Fabric Frenzy Friday!!-LindseyFabric Frenzy Friday

  29. Unknown says:

    I just stumbled across your blog and it has been so helpful. I've tried machine binding and it has always been a disaster. Now I know there is more than method to machine binding. Thank you so much, I can't wait to give it a try.

  30. Glad you found this information helpful, Michelle!

  31. Becky J. says:

    Great resource on binding! The part that throws me every quilt– not sure why I can't remember is which side do I sew the binding on and which side does it fold over too. Thanks for the reminder, again. 🙂