Top 10 Tips for New Quilters – Binding by Machine
Welcome to this, the final installment of the Top 10 Tips for new quilters – Binding by Machine. For the complete line up of weekly tips, please see this page.
Binding by Machine:
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. Rita’s method is accomplished by sewing the final seam from the front of the quilt, ditch quilting along the binding, and catching the binding that has been folded around to the back of the quilt, from underneath. This method involves the added step of pinning. Yet, I still missed some places on the back binding and it did not look straight. I was very disappointed with my first attempt at machine binding.
But I did not give up! I found out about the Flanged Binding method. And after using that method for a while, I mastered a machine binding method that works well for me. I topstitch the final seam from the front of the quilt. This method requires no pinning.
When I found out about the flanged binding method, 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. This 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.
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. Click here to go to the Flanged Binding tutorial.
When making binding there are two measurements you need to determine first – how long does your binding need to be and how wide do you want your binding to be.
To determine how long your binding needs to be:
Measure the perimeter of your quilting project. For our example 40″ x 60″.
40 + 40 + 60 + 60 = 200″
200″ divided by 42″ (the standard width of fabric) = 4.76 strips Rounded up = 5 strips
So I needed 5 width of fabric strips, cut on the crossgrain, to make enough binding for this runner.
For an explanation of what crossgrain is, please click here.
To determine how wide to make your binding:
For someone just starting out with machine finished binding, I recommend cutting your strips 2.5″ wide, as you would for a hand finished binding. After you have some experience, try cutting your strips 2.25″ wide. This will result in a finished binding that is more even in width on the front and back of your quilt. And if finishing with the topstitching method, the seam line will lie closer to the binding on the back of the quilt.
Joining the Binding Strips:
In our example, we have cut 5 binding strips from the crossgrain of the fabric. Remove the selvages ensuring the ends are cut at a 90 degree angle to the strip edges. Lay the binding strips in a pile, in front of your machine with the cut ends to the right and the folded ends to the left.
Take your first strip. Peel back the beginning end of your first strip, revealing the wrong side of fabric of the other end of your first strip.
Flip that end of your strip over so the right side of fabric is facing up.
Take the beginning end of your second strip….
And flip it back, placing it with right sides together on top of the first strip, with the ends overlapping at a 45 degree angle.
Since this is a directional print, I have flipped this second strip up to show how, when the miter join has been sewn, the print on each strip will be in the same direction.
Draw a diagonal seam line across end of this second strip.
Sew along this diagonal seam line from the corner of your top strip to the corner of your bottom strip.
Now arrange the end of your second strip in the same position as you did with the first strip.
Take the beginning end of your third strip….
And flip it back, placing it with right sides together on top of the second strip, with the ends overlapping at a 45 degree angle.
Draw a diagonal seam line across end of this third strip and sew along this diagonal seam line from the corner of your top strip to the corner of your bottom strip. Continue in this manner until all of your strips are joined.
Take your joined strips from the machine and bring them to your cutting mat.
Snip the threads between the joins.
Use your acrylic ruler and rotary cutter….
To trim the corners of the joins with a 1/4″ seam.
Press all the seams open.
Beginning at one end of your binding strip, fold with wrong sides together….
And press all the way along the length of your joined binding strip.
I like to use a piece of card stock to wrap my binding neatly until ready for use.
For instructions on how to apply the binding to your finished quilt, please follow the same instructions given in the Flanged Binding tutorial.
The binding shown in these instructions was applied to my Little Blooms quilt.
To make a scrappy binding, make your binding strips from the same fabric used in your quilt top. For this example, the Negative version of my Stepping Stones quilt, I used strips that were cut from the crossgrain and then cut them in half, using 21″ long strips rather than the 42″ lengths, to give it a more scrappy feel.
Little Bit Binding:
For when you want to add just a little bit of sparkle to your binding, the Little Bit binding method uses contrasting fabrics to add a little punch of colour. These little bits are added between each long binding strip.
To make the Little Bit binding, make your binding strips as usual. Also cut the same number of “little bits” from contrasting fabrics. The “little bits” each measure the same width of the binding strips and are 3.5″ long.
For my Elephant Parade quilt, I choose same fabrics used in the quilt top to make my little bits.
Step 1: Take your first little bit and your first full length binding strip.
Step 2: Draw a diagonal seam line, as shown in purple, and sew to make a miter join.
Step 3: Using your acrylic ruler and rotary cutter, trim a 1/4″ seam.
Step 4: Press the seam open and arrange your next little bit to be joined to the other end of that first strip.
Step 5: Draw a diagonal seam line, as shown in purple, and sew to make a miter join.
Step 6: Using your acrylic ruler and rotary cutter, trim a 1/4″ seam.
Step 7: Press the seam open.
Step 8: Arrange your next full binding strip to be joined, draw a diagonal seam line, as shown in purple, and sew to make a miter join. Use your acrylic ruler and rotary cutter to trim a 1/4″ seam.
Step 9: Press the seam open. Arrange your next little bit to be joined, draw a diagonal seam line, as shown in purple, and sew to make a miter join. Use your acrylic ruler and rotary cutter to trim a 1/4″ seam.
Step 10: Press the seam open. Continue alternating your remaining full length binding strips and little bits.
Binding Inside Corners:
There are a LOT of tutorials out there on how to make and apply binding to the outside corners of a quilt. But what do you do when you have inside corners like when I made this brightly coloured Scrappy Triangle quilt.
One word of advice I can share that will help you to become proficient at machine finished binding –
Practice makes perfect. And it is just so 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!
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 3.0 stitch length. I feel a longer stitch looks more attractive than the short piecing stitch length which is between 2.0 and 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.
The following are three other sources for binding instructions that I highly recommend.
1) Binding 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.
2) Binding tutorial by Rita of Red Pepper Quilts. Rita’s method is accomplished by sewing from the front of the quilt, while ditch quilting along the binding, and catching the binding folded around to the back from underneath. This method involves the added step of pinning.
3) Matched Binding tutorials by Debbie of A Quilter’s Table. A matched binding uses the same fabrics as the quilt top to continue the design right off the edge of the quilt. Here is her Straight Matched Binding tutorial. And here is her Angled Matched Binding tutorial.
Remember, there are many ways of doing things. And there are many great quilting bloggers who have shared their experiences by writing tutorials. Find the ones you like and Practice.